Tennessee Tech converted its first two third down attempts during Saturday’s game against Eastern Illinois. From there, the Panthers only allowed one third down conversion the rest of the game and Tech finished 3-of-13 on third downs in the game.

It’s a trend that continues this season as EIU has only allowed teams to convert 25-of-87 (28.7 percent) of third down attempts, the best rate in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“Coach (Cary) Fowler and the defensive staff are doing an excellent job. We are big on situational defense,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “I don’t look at total yards, I look at takeaways and red zone defense. Those are two things we are doing well and we are in the top 15 in two categories, takeaways and third-down defense. I like how our kids are responding and getting off the field on third downs.”

No. 3 Jacksonville State (4-1, 2-0)

The Gamecocks jumped out to a 20-0 lead on Austin Peay thanks to its ground game on Saturday as JSU ended Austin Peay’s three-game winning streak with a 34-14 win.

Roc Thomas had touchdown runs of 23 yards and 3 yards and finished with 136 yards on 18 carries. He was named the OVC Offensive Player of the Game.

Quarterback Bryant Horn added a 4-yard touchdown run and the Gamecocks rushed for 296 yards on 51 carries as a team for a 5.8 yards per carry average. JSU is averaging 207 rushing yards per game.

“The guys up front are doing a good job and Roc is running the ball well and getting to the perimeter,” JSU coach John Grass said. “I thought our two quarterbacks are doing a nice job and can run the ball so you have to account to them in the run game. We have to continue to make plays in both phases of the game, run and throw the ball. Roc is having a really good year.”

The Governors did make it a 27-13 game with 12:38 left when De’Marcus Flowers broke free for an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to seal the game. Flowers was named the OVC co-Specialist of the Week.

“It was a great return. You have to flip momentum and that was one of those times,” Grass said. “They scored and we needed some momentum to shift and he broke one. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. He has speed and can break tackles. That was our first kickoff return touchdown since 2011, so that was big.”

Tennessee State (4-2, 1-2)

The Tigers jumped out to a 17-0 halftime lead against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday, but gave up 21 straight points and trailed 21-17 early in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Michael Hughes scored on a 1-yard run and the defense took over. Vincent Sellers picked off a pass and went 34 yards for the score. Then Sellers intercepted a pass and went 44 yards for a touchdown. That tied the NCAA FCS record with two interceptions returned for a touchdown. Sellers is the 29th person in FCS history to achieve the feat. He also had eight tackles and a pass breakup to be named the OVC Defensive and Newcomer of the Week.

Then Terrell Bonds came up with a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown to give TSU the 45-21 win.

“The best pass defense is a good pass rush and a couple of those picks, the quarterback was under duress,” TSU coach Rod Reed said. “We were fortunate to get those. We were in a dogfight and that really sparked us. Anytime you get a pick six and get another one, that’s a big spark.”

TSU’s offense was inconsistent in the win as the Tigers only had one touchdown in the second half.

“You want to win the first and third quarters and then finish off the fourth quarter. We wanted to muster up offense out of the chute and EKU did some good things to stop what we were doing,” Reed said. “We have to adjust better and put up points quickly. I have a lot of confidence in this staff and I am so excited to move on to the rest of the season.”

Austin Peay (3-3, 2-1)

Austin Peay coach Will Healy said there were a number of teachable moments for his young team on Saturday in the 34-14 loss to No. 4 Jacksonville State.

The Governors fell behind 20-0 in the first half, but battled back to 27-14. But a kickoff return for a touchdown sealed the game in favor of JSU, 34-14.

“They established their will early on. There were a lot of learning opportunities. You can’t panic and that’s what good football teams do and have to respond,” Healy said. “We fought back on the defensive side to keep us in it. We learned a lot from how they play the game. That’s how good teams finish it and executed really well and there’s a reason why they have the success they have had and we want to try and emulate what they have done. Going down 20-0 when trying to get back on that defense, best of luck.”

UT Martin (3-3, 1-2)

For the second straight game, the Skyhawks had problems offensive that cost them the game, this time a 13-10 loss to Murray State on Saturday.

UT Martin was held to 229 yards of total offense, turned the ball over three times, had 14 penalties for 104 yards and missed two field goals.

“With all that being said, we are working on special teams and offense,” UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. “The players hung in there and gave us a chance to with. We are 3-3 and gotta find out what kind of coaches we are and the tough-minded kids that we have and fight through adversity.”

Murray State (2-4, 1-1)

Kicker Gabriel Vicente came through at a critical time on Saturday. As time expired, the junior hit a 32-yard field goal to give the Racers the upset 13-10 win over No. 25 UT Martin.

Murray State played in rainy conditions for most of the game and Vicente hit a 22-yard field goal earlier in the game.

Vicente did miss a field goal earlier, though. Murray State’s regular holder, it punter, got knocked out of the game and the backup quarterback was the holder. It led to a 41-yard attempt that Vicente missed.

However, Vicente recovered to hit the game-winner and is 8-of-9 on field goal attempts this season. Vicente was named the OVC co-Specialist of the Week.

“He’s doing a fabulous job. I put him in a bad situation where I could’ve taken the delay and pinned them back with a put, but he’s been good and has all of the confidence in the world,” Murray State coach Mitch Stewart said. “It didn’t kill his confidence and and the comes back and won the game. He did a tremendous job.”

Southeast Missouri State (1-4, 1-1)

SEMO is third in the OVC with 182.4 passing yards per game, but is last in pass efficiency with a 98.4 rating. SEMO has five passing touchdowns compared to six interceptions for 912 yards this season. SEMO is only completing 53.3 percent of its passes this season.

“Passing is an issue and we have to get it fixed,” SEMO coach Tom Matukewicz said. “We have to continue to work on our protection and quick passing game and connect on deep balls. We just aren’t very good at it. But at the same time, I don’t think we have a big play issue, we just  need reps and will end up hopefully finishing the year better than where we are at.”

Eastern Kentucky (1-4, 1-2)

EKU went into halftime down 17-0 to Tennessee State, but the Colonels started a comeback in the second half. EKU scored 21 straight points to take a 21-17 lead with 13:27 left in the game.

Then it all fell apart. TSU retook the lead with a 1-yard touchdown from quarterback Michael Hughes.

EKU responded by throwing a pick-six to Vincent Sellers on back-to-back possessions. Then another interception returned for a touchdown gave TSU a 38-21 lead with 3:47 left. TSU went on to in 45-21.

“It was encouraging to see the resolve of the team, but then interceptions, you can’t come back from that,” EKU coach Mark Elder said. “We can’t make those mistakes and will get it corrected. We did some really good things to make it a tight game. Just have to clean some of those things up and not have catastrophic issues come up and we will be a very good football team.”

Tennessee Tech (0-6, 0-3)

The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but they couldn’t find the end zone again in a 24-23 loss. Tech did get three field goals, but missed the game-winner.

“We knew when we weren’t getting in the end zone, that would get us,” Tech coach Marcus Satterfield said. “We gave up five sacks and none were on the offensive line. We gotta get the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. It’s little things like that, that’s coaching and not having them prepared. Everyone played a part and it comes down to us having them prepared and we failed miserably at that this past weekend.”

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Mike Monahan covers area sports for the JG-TC.

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