CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — With other teams failing to seize their chances to clinch a playoff bid, it potentially gave the Eastern Illinois football team a glimmer of hope going into Saturday’s game at Austin Peay.
But Austin Peay had playoffs dreams of its own. The Governors came in as one of the Cinderella stories this season. After snapping a 29-game losing streak earlier this season, the Governors came in with a 7-4 overall record, 6-1 in the Ohio Valley Conference, and a win over EIU could give Austin Peay a solid chance at getting into the FCS playoffs for the first time in the program’s history.
The Panthers saw their playoff dreams, which were slim coming into the game, slip away as Austin Peay strengthened its potential playoff resume with a 28-13 win.
“We couldn’t get anything going offensively really – and credit to (Austin Peay), their defense did a good job, and their offense, it’s hard because they give you a lot of different looks and their quarterback is really good,” EIU coach Kim Dameron said. “I am proud of the way our kids fought. They fought for about two-and-a-half quarters and then we just started to wear out.”
Austin Peay was one of the first teams out of the playoffs when the bracket was announced on Sunday morning.
EIU finished with a 6-5 overall record, a 5-3 Ohio Valley Conference record and missed the playoffs for the second straight season. The Panthers were without starting quarterback Mitch Kimble throughout all of Ohio Valley Conference play.
All six of EIU’s wins came by three points or fewer this season.
“I am really proud of how we found a way to win games,” Dameron said. “We said going into fall camp, if we have Mitch Kimble, that we felt we were going to be a pretty good offense. He struggled early and got hurt and for the rest of the year, it was quarterback by committee. But defensively, we did some good things, found a way to win games and I am proud of these kids.”
Austin Peay tried to score on its opening drive and converted on a fake punt that moved the ball to the EIU 28-yard line. But EIU’s defense made the stop to keep the Governors off the board.
Then a 40-yard run by Isaiah Johnson put the ball at the Austin Peay 30-yard line, but Johnson later fumbled and the Governors recovered.
Austin Peay faced third-and-8 right away when Jeremiah Oatsvall made a player miss and got 8 yards. Later on third-and-3, Ahmaad Tanner broke free for a 22-yard run to make it 7-0 with 11 seconds left in the first quarter.
EIU’s offense responded and Alexander Hollins went around the edge for 55 yards to the Austin Peay 9-yard line. Johnson scored on a 1-yard run, but EIU missed the extra point and trailed 7-6.
Austin Peay came right back and converted a fourth-and-1 and later scored on a 10-yard touchdown run by Kyran Moore to go up 14-6 with 9:13 left in the half.
The Panthers converted two third downs on the next drive but were stopped on third-and-9 at the Austin Peay 21-yard line. EIU tried a fake field goal, but Austin Peay wasn’t fooled and stopped it for a big loss.
EIU had another chance before the end of the half but turned the ball over on downs at the Austin Peay 47-yard line as the Governors held onto the 14-6 lead.
EIU’s offense couldn’t move the ball down the field in the second half, and Austin Peay took advantage. Oatsvall broke free for a 26-yard touchdown run for a 21-6 lead.
Then Gilkey threw an interception and Austin Peay later scored on Tanner’s 1-yard run to put the game out of reach at 28-6 with 14:54 left in the game.
The Panthers scored with 2:52 left when Bud Martin hit Andre Harris in the middle of the field for a 19-yard score to make it 28-13.