It’s been a long wait for the Austin Peay Governors; 42 years to be exact. But that wait is finally over as the Govs (9-3, 7-1) topped Eastern Illinois (1-11, 1-7) 35-7 on Saturday, winning the school’s first Ohio Valley Conference championship since 1977.
“Thank you to Gov nation for believing in us,” first-year APSU coach Mark Hudspeth tweeted after the game. “So thankful for this group of players that have worked so hard to bring an OVC championship to Austin Peay and Clarksville.”
In his first year, Hudspeth has guided the Govs to a school-record nine wins, that first OVC title in 42 years and the school’s first FCS playoff appearance. With the immediate success and now Austin Peay getting some national attention, Hudspeth has taken what former coach Will Healy built and transcended it.
The conference championship is quite the turnaround from a 1-45 record from 2013-2016 that included a 29-game losing streak. At the time, the Govs were widely considered the worst team in college football.
Senior quarterback JaVaughn Craig had a standout game on Saturday, passing for 235 yards and three touchdowns while running for another 57 yards and two more scores.
Craig was with the Govs for some of that losing streak — he was a freshman on APSU’s 0-11 team in 2016 — so he knows all too well how much the conference title means to the team and its fans. This may be the best team Austin Peay has ever had and it will be making the school’s first-ever FCS playoff appearance when it hosts Furman on Saturday at noon at Fortera Stadium.
“I was really proud to see Austin Peay up on the national stage,” Hudspeth said. “That means a lot to us, this program and this community.”
No. 16 Furman comes to Clarksville winners in four of its last five games. The Paladins (8-4) are coming off a dominating 64-7 win over Point University and are making their 18th FCS playoff appearance.
APSU team well-represented by county
Austin Peay has a number of WillCo alums on its roster.
For Brentwood High School, former offensive lineman Hunter Schmeisser is on the team and is a redshirt senior. Franklin High School sees former wideout J.P. Batarseh with APSU.
Brentwood Academy sees former linebacker Chris Hopkins, running back Prince Momodu, quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall, linebacker Jack McDonald and defensive back Trent Taylor playing for the Govs.
Former Centennial running back Jariel Wilson is a freshman, and Brentwood native and Ensworth offensive lineman Blake Mitchell on the team as well.
Father Ryan grad David Russell III is a freshman lineman with the team.
This story originally ran in our sister publication, the Nashville Post.