Austin Peay has enjoyed a football renaissance over the past half-decade. After going winless in the 2015 and 2016 seasons, the Governors have a 24-14 record over the past three, including a shared conference championship last season.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has made for a tumultuous offseason throughout college football, Austin Peay’s included a sudden coaching change when Mark Hudspeth resigned in early July.
Interim head coach Marquase Lovings will depend on the return of quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall to make the coaching transition easier.
The 6-1, 210-pound signal-caller is one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks among the FCS ranks. He entered last season as the OVC’s Preseason Offensive Player of the Year but suffered a season-ending injury in the Governors’ second game of 2019.
His number one target will be 2020’s Preseason Player of the Year selection in wide receiver DeAngelo Wilson.
Last season, Wilson hauled in 89 passes for 1,564 yards and 15 touchdowns. Primarily a slot receiver, he’s caught the attention of NFL scouts with his route-running and potential to be clocked in the high 4.4’s in the 40-yard-dash.
On the defensive side of the ball, look for senior cornerback Kordell Jackson to lead the way. Jackson was an FCS All-American selection a season ago following a 2019 campaign that saw him record seven interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns and ten pass breakups.
An 11-point underdog in the season-opener at FBS Western Kentucky, the Bears rallied from a two-touchdown, fourth-quarter deficit to upset the Hilltoppers and earn a $350,000 check in the process.
That win spurred second-year head coach Nathan Brown and the Bears to a nine-win season and a share of the Southland Conference championship.
UCA is led on offense by one of the top FCS quarterbacks in Breylin Smith. The 6-3, 215-pound junior threw for a program-record 3,704 yards and 32 touchdowns in 2019. The contest against Austin Peay allows Smith to have a nationally-televised contest to showcase his talents as a potential NFL prospect in 2021.
The first-team all-Southland Conference selection played a massive role in last year’s upset of Western Kentucky, with an eight-catch, 222-yard performance and went over the century mark against Austin Peay in last year’s victory over the Governors.
On the other side of Winningham is FCS freshman All-American Tyler Hudson, who hauled in 55 catches and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman.
Defensively, look for cornerback Robert Rochell to be matched up with Austin Peay’s Wilson. The 6-2, 190-pound Rochell was an FCS All-American, who has ten interceptions in his three seasons at UCA.
With two of the top offenses in FCS football, expect a high-scoring affair between both teams, despite each having talent in their respective secondaries.
Look for Austin Peay to come out swinging, as they’re limited to a three-game season due to the OVC moving to a conference-only schedule in the spring. That aside, the trio of Smith, Winningham and Hudson on offense may be too much firepower for the Governors to keep up with.
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