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.
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