Two teams sitting in a three-way tie for second in the Ohio Valley Conference standings — No. 25 Austin Peay and Eastern Kentucky University — faced off on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.
The Colonels rallied from an 11-point, second-half deficit, but the Governors came out with the 28-21 overtime victory.
It was a game of mistakes and turnovers for both teams.
EKU quarterback Parker McKinney threw three interceptions and the Colonels committed nine penalties for 80 yards.
“We have to protect the football better,” EKU coach Mark Elder said. “I think that was a key component of things. We lost the turnover battle by two. It’s hard to win any games when you lose the turnover battle.”
The loss was costly for the Colonels.
UT-Martin (5-1) beat Jacksonville State to keep a hold of first place. SEMO (4-1) beat Tennessee State, to remain tied for second place.
The loss to Peay dropped the Colonels to fourth place with three games left in the regular season.
EKU (5-4, 3-2) came out of the gates hot as running back Daryl McCleskey scored from 12 yards outs, just 1:21 into the OVC matchup.
McCleskey would lead the Colonels with 150 rushing yards on 21 carries and two touchdowns.
“Daryl had a great day. Down the stretch in the second half we were trying to feed him the football. He was playing really well. Our offensive line did a good job making some holes for him,” Elder said.
Austin Peay (6-3, 4-1) took their first lead in the third quarter after Ahmaad Tanner rushed into the end zone from one yard out, making the score 14-10.
The Governors extend their lead to 21-10 in the fourth quarter, but EKU fought back to bring the game within three after McCleskey rushed for a 9- yard touchdown and Keyion Dixon passed to McKinney for the two point conversion.
“That was huge because we were down 11 and it was a clear go for two,” Elder said.
The Colonels tied it up at 21 after Samuel Hayworth connected with a 28-yard field goal in the fourth.
“To come back, it showed our endless fight,” McCleskey said. “We never gave up even when everything was going against us. We fought back into the game and almost won. I love that about our team, they never gave up.”
In overtime, Austin Peay’s JaVaughn Craig connected with Kentel Williams for a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play.
“When it comes down to a play or two and we come up short, it’s gut-wrenching,” Elder said.
The wind limited the Colonels passing attack according to Elder and EKU had to rely on the rushing attack from McCleskey and Alonzo Booth on offense.
McKinney would finish with 111 yards on 16-of-31 passing attempts, three interceptions and one sack.
Coming into the contest, Austin Peay ranked sixth in the country and first in the OVC in rush defense, allowing only 84 yards per game. EKU rushed for 70 yards in the first quarter and finished with 192 yards on the ground.
The EKU defense shut down Austin Peay’s running backs only allowing 63 yards.
“It’s crushing,” McCleskey said. “We put in our all and to not get the outcome that we wanted was tough. The ball didn't bounce our way. It’s definitely going to make us a tougher and stronger team.”
Eastern Kentucky will travel to No. 18 Southeast Missouri State next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. in Cape Girardeau.