Degeorge: FCS ON ESPN? Takeaways From College Football’s Wild Season Opener

The 2020 season kicked off Saturday with the Austin Peay Governors versus the Central Arkansas Bears. The game was played at a neutral site – the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Central Arkansas won 24-17. This game was whacky from the start; The football was sloppy, which is always expected in the first game of the season, especially with a shortened offseason and so much uncertainty around the season. The first play of the game was a 75-yard touchdown run by CJ Evans Jr. of the Governors. This game showed why we all love college football. Although the play was sloppy, it was still a thrilling game that had viewers on the edge of there seats.

Central Arkansas

Breylin Smith, QB- 26/49, 283 yards passing, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, -9 yards rushing, 1 fumble lost

Kierre Crossley, RB,- 12 carries, 110 yards, 1 touchdown

Cameron Myers, RB- 13 carries, 76 yards, 0 touchdowns

Tyler Hudson, WR- 5 receptions, 82 yards, 0 touchdowns

Lujuan Winningham, WR- 6 receptions, 80 yards, 1 touchdown

Central Arkansas came into the game as 4.5 point favorites. In an early season game, I predicted the team that turned the ball over the most would lose. Surprisingly, this was not the case, as the Bears lost the turnover battle 3-2, but still pulled out a thrilling victory. Junior quarterback Breylin Smith, who was outstanding last season, was not that sharp, particularly in the early going for Central Arkansas. Entering the contest, Smith was my key factor coming into this game because of the experience and body of work he has. He did not put forth his best performance, but I really credit the Bears’ coaching staff because they did not abandon the passing attack, and they tried to get Smith high percentage throws to shake the rust off.

I will especially credit Smith with performing like a good, experienced quarterback down the stretch – he kept throwing and continued to get better as the game went on. Also, with the game on the line, wow was he clutch. He hit Winningham in the end zone with 37 seconds left to score the game winning touchdown. He also made two big throws to Tyler Hudson on the game-winning drive. Smith’s performance was comparable him to a pitcher who did not have their best stuff, but battles to get a win. He was not very accurate or consistent throughout the game, but he stayed out of pressure, kept battling, and did what he had to do to keep his team in the game. And when it was crunch time, he was absolutely money.

I also want to highlight Hudson and Winningham. The Bears have some FBS-level talent at receiver in this duo. They were both phenomenal and are big time athletes. Meanwhile, the defense stepped up in a big way, limiting the Governors to 10 points after that initial 75-yard gutpunch to start the game. Evans was held to 23 yards on 9 more carries, while the Bears forced Austin Peay quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall into an ugly 14-31 performance, with an interception and fumble. All-in-all, I was very impressed with the talent and the grit of the Bears, pulling out a tough win in a nationally televised game, kicking off what is sure to be a strange and unique 2020 season. Central Arkansas has a short week with a game at UAB on Thursday, September 3rd. I look forward to see what they can do against a high level Conference USA team.

Austin Peay Key Stats

Jeremiah Oatsvall, QB- 14/31, 181 yards passing, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception, 37 yards rushing, 1 touchdown, 1 lost fumble

CJ Evans Jr, RB- 10 carries, 98 yards, 1 touchdown

Brian Snead, RB- 13 carries, 43 yards, 0 touchdowns

Jay Parker, WR- 3 receptions, 55 yards, 0 touchdowns

Mid-Major Top Returning Guards: #1 – Terry Taylor, Austin Peay

If you were to gaze at the Austin Peay men’s basketball statistical leaders in major categories, you may think you were simply looking at the statistics for Terry Taylor. The rising senior led his squad in points, rebounds, steals, and blocks as well as field goal percentage among regulars. Taylor has dominated the Ohio Valley Conference for two years now, and when he announced his decision to return to Austin Peay for his senior season, the Governors must have breathed a sigh of relief. With the announcement of his return, Taylor became our #1 returning mid-major guard in the country, finishing off our countdown. Although Taylor played minutes at forward, he is listed by ESPN as a guard, and he’s one of the most versatile players in the country. 

Taylor has been a difference-maker since his debut collegiate campaign, and his production has only increased in the subsequent seasons, improving from 15.6 points and 8.6 rebounds as a freshman to 21.8 points and 11 rebounds last year, fuelling the Governors as they battled in a heated three-team race of the Ohio Valley Conference. And it wasn’t just the OVC falling victim to Taylor’s talent, as the mid-major star proved himself against a bevy of Power-5 squads. He dropped 18 points and 9 rebounds on Georgia and combined for 39 points and 12 boards against West Virginia and Arkansas before entering conference play. Once there, Taylor was nearly automatic, as he racked up double-doubles, earning 18 on the year, a mark which ranked 7th in the nation.

 Against conference-leading Belmont, Taylor posted an absurd 26-point, 23-rebound effort in a tough road loss, and when it came time for the postseason, Taylor didn’t slow down; in two conference tournament games, the Bowling Green, Kentucky product poured in 27 points in both contests, to go with a combined 22 rebounds. A 55% shooter, Taylor did a lot of his damage inside the arc, but if he unlocks his shot from beyond the arc, he boasts All-American talent and versatility. On the defensive side of things, Taylor led the Governors in both steals and blocks per game, making him an impact player on both ends of the court. 

Taylor’s tremendous versatility and production on both offense and defense for one of the best teams in the Ohio Valley Conference earned him the #1 ranking in our top returning mid-major guard countdown.