ETSU overcame a quick-strike score and throttled Austin Peay’s offense to record a 20-14 victory in a nonconference college football game Saturday night at Greene Stadium.
ETSU (2-2) shook off a demoralizing overtime loss to VMI in a game that was delayed by lightning.
The Governors (2-2), who scored 48 points a week ago against Mercer, got a touchdown on a long pass 2:19 into the game, but saw the end zone only one more time.
ETSU got two sacks and two interceptions, all in the second half, to keep Austin Peay at bay.
Quay Holmes scored from 2 yards out with 6:58 left in the game to put the Bucs up 17-14.
Holmes’ touchdown capped the kind of drive coaches love. Using a variety of passes and runs, ETSU covered 85 yards in 12 plays while taking 5:53 off of the clock.
The big play on the drive was a fingertip catch by tight end Nate Adkins, who gained 24 yards.
That put the onus on the Bucs’ defense and after giving up a couple of first downs, they got a big play when MJ Woods picked off a pass for ETSU’s first interception of the year.
Woods didn’t have to move to catch the ball thrown directly at him. He returned it 39 yards to the Austin Peay 35-yard line.
That set up a 37-yard field goal by Tyler Keltner that made it 20-14 with 1:38 remaining.
Artevius Smith made an acrobatic, juggling interception on the next possession to ice the victory. Smith’s pick was initially ruled incomplete but was called an interception after a replay review.
The Governors struck first when DeAngelo Wilson caught a 54-yard touchdown pass from JaVaughn Craig. Craig avoided the blitz and lofted a perfectly placed spiral into the waiting arms of Wilson, who took the ball in stride and sprinted to the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead.
Keltner got the Bucs on the scoreboard with a 48-yard field goal, the longest of his young career.
The Bucs took a 10-7 lead with a sustained scoring drive that ended in Malik McGue’s 6-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
McGue, the former Science Hill star, scored out of the wildcat formation, taking the direct snap and sidestepping defenders right up the middle for his first touchdown since he played for Army in 2016.
The drive was kept alive by a pair of key third-down conversions. Quarterback Trey Mitchell ran for 21 yards on one and he hit his backup, Cameron Lewis, on a 21-yard pass play on the other.
Kente Williams put Austin Peay back on top with a 1-yard touchdown run that capped a 75-yard drive right before halftime for a 14-10 advantage.
BY THE NUMBERS
Mitchell completed 17 of 33 passes for 176 yards. He was intercepted once.
Holmes led the Bucs with 60 yards on 17 carries. Jacob Saylors added 58 yards on 12 tries and also caught seven passes.
Craig was 18-of-36 passing for 218 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Wilson was his favorite target with nine catches for 137 yards.
Austin Peay went into the game as one of four FCS teams to not have allowed a sack, and quarterback Craig had been the main reason. The athletic senior is mobile and elusive and the Bucs had trouble tracking him down in the first half.
Blake Blockrath and Trey Middleton finally got to Craig, bringing him down as the pocket collapsed in the third quarter. The Governors had run 276 plays before allowing their first sack of the season.
Jared Folks then got the Bucs’ second sack in his first appearance.
Austin Peay’s kicker and punter are from Northeast Tennessee.
Elizabethton’s Logan Birchfield kicked two extra points and came up short on a 44-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter. Birchfield came into the game averaging 11 points per game, ranking ninth in the FCS.
Kingsport’s Devin Stuart punted six times for a 36.7-yard average.
The attendance of 9,333 was the second highest in Greene Stadium history. It was the 11th sellout in 15 games played at the facility.
The Bucs return to Southern Conference action Saturday when they visit at Furman. Kickoff at Paladin Stadium in Greenville, South Carolina, is set for 1 p.m.
Austin Peay hosts Jacksonville State — the team that knocked ETSU out of the FCS playoffs last season — in its Ohio Valley Conference opener.