By Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information
CLARKSVILLE – As the final whistle blew on Saturday, it was the end of one of the longest stretches of competition for the Tennessee Tech football team. In the span of nine months, two seasons were completed, 18 games played.
It was a gauntlet, a grueling one at that as the Golden Eagles had to battle injuries, illnesses but between February and Saturday's November afternoon, they got 18 games in. It was certainly a feat to do it that took a lot of monumental efforts to get there.
As the Golden Eagles took to the field on Saturday, those injuries and illnesses had taken their toll. With a few pieces missing from the lineup, the depleted Tech squad squared up with an Austin Peay squad that had been right in the mix for the Ohio Valley Conference race, including a narrow one-point loss to league champion UT Martin.
Tech came out on Saturday determined to finish 2021 on a high note. The first two quarters, the Golden Eagles rallied from an early deficit to make it a one-possession game just before halftime, but Drae McCray's monster night pushed Austin Peay out of reach, the Governors winning 48-20.
"The guys played hard," said head coach Dewayne Alexander. "They have all year. We played hard, but we made mistakes. We had a lot of guys out and had to put a lot of guys in, give them some experience and a chance to play. I'm proud of our seniors – they fought their way through and they battled.
"Austin Peay has a very talented football team. At the end of the day, we had opportunities and wasn't able to take advantage of them. There's really not much room for error."
The freshman receiver caught four touchdown passes out of his seven haul-ins for 237 total yards, just yards short of tying a single-game school record that has held since 1969. Draylen Ellis showed his arm as well, completing 16 of his 27 passes for 345 yards. Ahmaad Tanner rounded out the scoring for the Governors with two touchdown runs among his 13 carries for 93 yards.
Austin Peay closes out its final season in the OVC with a 6-5 mark, 4-2 in the conference.
Maddux Trujillo put the Govs up 3-0 on the first drive, then a 73-yard connection from Ellis to McCray put APSU up 10-0 early in the second quarter. Tech broke up the shutout on its next drive as Hayden Olsen hit a 23-yard field goal, but Peay used just three plays on the next drive to move the ball 64 yards, ending as Tanner scored the first of his two touchdowns.
The Golden Eagles responded as Davis Shanley completed a pass to Quinton Cross, who then outraced the Peay defenders on a 47-yard dash to the end zone. Olsen's PAT made it 17-10, then the freshman kicker added a 29-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining before the half, making it a 17-13 game.
Peay wasn't done yet. In 46 seconds, the Governors moved the ball 68 yards, ending the scoring drive with a 22-yard connection from Ellis to McCray for their second touchdown of the day and the first six of 18 unanswered points for McCray.
The receiver also had a 36-yard touchdown catch with 1:38 left in the third quarter, then a 47-yard score with 14:09 remaining in the contest following an interception for his final TD on the day.
Trujillo hit a 26-yard field goal, then, after a Tech turnover on downs, Tanner ended the final Peay scoring drive with a 57-yard rush.
Tech was able to score once more as the clock wound down as Lem Wash threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ashton Maples with 10 seconds remaining in the contest. Olsen was true with his 42nd consecutive PAT in his career.
The Golden Eagles ended the game with 405 yards of offense to Peay's 478 as Tech ran for 149 yards and passed for 256. Davis Shanley was 22-for-36 with a touchdown pass and 231 yards, while Wash was 2-for-3 for 25 yards.
Maples had a fantastic game, collecting his first career 100-plus-yard game with 108 yards and a touchdown on nine catches.
"He made some big plays for us and I'm really, really proud of him," Alexander said. "Davis stepped in once we found out Willie (Miller) wouldn't be available and had a great effort. Lem Wash played well late in the game."
Jalal Dean had 51 yards on three catches, while Cross had the 47-yard touchdown catch to his ledger.
On the ground, David Gist ran for 72 yards on 17 carries.
For Austin Peay, Koby Perry had 11 tackles, Kory Chapman had 10 and Shamari Simmons had both interceptions.
The Golden Eagles finish the 2021 campaign with a 3-8 record, 1-5 in the OVC.
Photo | Thomas Corhern, TTU Sports Information