Parker: The Governors of Austin Peay (pronounced pee) have pulled off the improbable. This program has ascended from a non-scholarship team 6 years ago, to a squad, that despite their weak conference and bubble team status entering the playoffs, looks like they are exactly where they should be. It’s hard to root against a team with such an exciting story and bravado. Their swagger and effort proved to be the reason for the beat down they put on Sac State last week, much to the excitement of Cats fans who bring the energy to Bobcat Stadium. The Govs enter this contest ranked 7th in rush defense in the country at 91.6 yards per game, while also ranked 12th in scoring offense at 36.3 points per game. They have the talent on this team to compete with just about anyone…but what about these Bobcats?!
With all this excitement around the Govs, the Cats performances have slid somewhat under the radar on the national level. Despite having one of the best home field environments, a highly creative offense, and a feisty defense filled with talent, the Cats are the only team with their game on ESPN3 rather than national TV. Since the Cats hit the reset button after the UND game, this team has looked unbelievable, and the stats prove it. With the starting defense on the field, teams are averaging 8 points a game over the last 5 matchups. The offense has also put on a show, averaging 41.8 points per game over the same stretch! On top of that, sophomore quarterback Tucker Rovig has emerged over the same stretch. Last week’s he threw 3 TDs with an 80% completion rate. MSU looks like a team that’s hungry and confident for more football.
Austin Peay has weapons of their own, including senior quarterback Javaughn Craig, who could best be compared to former Bobcat quarterback Chris Murray, although Craig is a better passer. A huge key for the Cats' success will be containing Craig in the pocket, while simultaneously hurrying throws.. On the flipside, the stout run defense of the Govs versus the prolific rushing attack of MSU will be the matchup to watch. Early in the first half I will be watching to see how much push we can get on inside zone plays. This will play a big factor in our play calling later in the game. Overall, both offenses are remarkably similar (Never thought I’d say that about a Cats opponent); run-heavy offenses that use multiple personnel groups, creative option plays, and multiple players under center. I am excited to see this matchup, but the travel, short week, weather, and overall effort level from the Cats will prove to be an avalanche for the Govs. Few people have given Cats the credit they deserve for their play at the end of this season, so I am here to get the word out! The Cats will dominate this team after a slow first half.
MSU 38, Austin Peay (Pee) Boys 17
Caleb: Austin Peay is coming into this weekend’s matchup confident. They have won seven straight games and throughout their season they have outscored opponents 508-285. Their senior quarterback Javaughn Craig has been the difference maker. During his time behind center this season, Craig has accounted for 3,783 of the team’s total 4,679 yards — nearly 81% of the Govs’ total offense. His abilities to pass and scramble make him a true dual-threat quarterback and a nightmare for opposing teams.
While the Govs have been riding high, so have the Cats. After stumbling against North Dakota, the Cats have won five straight. In that time, they have beat their opponents by a combined 209-73. Over the last five weeks, the Bobcats have added more wrinkles to their offense and figured out how to get the ball in playmakers’ hands — putting opponents on their heels. After last week’s win, sophomore quarterback Tucker Rovig pointed out that the Cats have focused on spreading out the field horizontally, opening up vertical seams for deep shots and explosive run plays. Rovig also said that he was “confident and comfortable” in the pocket. This is the first time I’ve heard Rovig say something like that, and it made me more confident in him leading the Cats moving forward.
These teams are both strong, obviously. I think the keys for a Cats victory lies in their ability to pressure Craig and then contain him. The Govs are going to put points on the board, but I think the Cats wear them down and by mid third quarter you see Austin Peay start to break and the Cats pull away.
MSU 38 Austin Peay 24
Cameron: This game is the epitome of why the fcs football playoff is by far superior to the fbs system. The Montana State Fighting Bobcats are back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2012 when current running backs coach Denarius McGee was the QB for highly ranked MSU. Though it has been quite a few years coming for MSU, most fans expected the blue blood program to return to this level sooner rather than later. For the visiting Austin Peay Governors this is completely uncharted territory. They are hot off the programs first two ever playoff games and come into Bobcat stadium after defeating a Sacramento State team that toyed with fifth ranked MSU in Bozeman on homecoming weekend. One of the players behind the Govs’ success is Senior QB Javaughn Craig a 6’2 210 pound force to be reckoned with. He leads an Austin Peay offense that somewhat resembles MSU’s as they have multiple athletes taking snaps and taking advantage of multiple running styles. Gov Senior RB Kentel Williams is also a dynamic player who is now less than one hundred yards away from rushing over a thousand this season. But coming to Bozeman for a friday night game in december is no simple test. To add, Montana State has been dominant as of late, proving to the rest of the country that they are truly built for the postseason. While MSU is once again beginning to find familiarity in the playoffs, could this team still have a let down game or focus issue? One thing that I wonder is if this team will continue to prosper as the stakes rise. The Sac State and UND losses were two of the biggest games on this years schedule yet the Cats’ lacked their programs defining characteristics. I think this weekend will give us a better idea of this teams confidence and dedication to the process. While the MSU defense is one of the nations best, they will still likely have a bit of trouble with an AP offense that was good enough to win the Ohio Valley Conference. Though fans should expect Tucker Rovig to continue to manage an offense in a fashion that simply wins games. As Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate would say, who’s going to play unsatisfied? I say now is the time and this is the place. Go Cats Go.
Montana State 24 Austin Peay 21