Austin Peay holds off Central Arkansas in 14-12 win, paving way to FCS playoff game

CLARKSVILLE, TN (CLARKSVILLE NOW) – An all-out defensive brawl saw the No. 12 Austin Peay State University football team hold on for a 14-12 United Athletic Conference victory against No. 20 Central Arkansas on Saturday at Fortera Stadium.

With the win, Austin Peay (9-2, 6-0 UAC) finishes the UAC’s inaugural season unbeaten in league play and claims the league’s automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. The NCAA will announce the 2023 FCS Playoff Bracket with an 11:30 a.m. Sunday announcement on ESPNU.

Austin Peay will host a selection show viewing party beginning at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at F&M Bank Arena in downtown Clarksville. Admission to that event is free to the public.


Neither team’s offense put points on the board until Central Arkansas (7-4, 4-2 UAC) broke through with a 21-yard field goal 20 minutes into the game. The Govs offense made its breakthrough with 59 seconds left in the first half as Kenny Odom’s three-yard jet-sweep found the end zone to give Austin Peay a 7-3 halftime lead.

Austin Peay extended its lead on the second half’s opening drive. A Jaden Barnes’ 35-yard kick return set up the APSU offense on its 43-yard line. A couple of Central Arkansas penalties got the drive started, and Jevon Jackson carried the ball on seven of the next eight plays, including a seven-yard touchdown drive to give APSU a 14-3 lead.

Central Arkansas chipped away at the lead before the third quarter ended, settling for a 28-yard field goal with 4:36 left in the third to cut the deficit to 14-6. Another long scoring drought ensued, with 12 minutes of scoreless action. The Bears finally broke the drought with a 10-play, 67-yard scoring drive that McElvain capped with a three-yard touchdown pass to Barnes. However, UCA’s two-point conversion attempt went begging as the Govs defense batted away the pass.

The Bears had two more possessions before the game ended, but the Govs defense proved up to the task. Austin Peay forced a three-and-out, aided by a pair of UCA penalties, and closed the game with a drive that resulted in a turnover on downs that saw the defense break up two passes and pressure the quarterback into another incomplete pass.

Key stats

Austin Peay’s defense held Central Arkansas to 234 yards and only 66 rushing yards – the fourth straight game the APSU defense has held an opponent to fewer than 100 rushing yards. Sam Howard led the defense with a career-high tying 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss, and Xavier Smith chipped in 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

The Govs offense finished with 244 yards, Mike DiLiello pacing that effort with a 19-of-26, 189-yard passing performance. Jevon Jackson finished with 70 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.

Will McElvain completed 23-of-42 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown with an interception to lead Central Arkansas’ offense. Jake Golday’s led the Bears’ defense with a 12-tackle effort that included a tackle for loss and a half sack.

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