Last Updated 1:04 AM, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas edges Austin Peay in first game of college football season

4:48 am, August 30, 2020

How Central Arkansas came back to beat Austin Peay

Central Arkansas rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat Austin Peay 24-17 in the first DI college football game this season. The Bears outgained the Governors 296-170 in the second half, going ahead for good of Breylin Smith's 10-yard strike to Lujuan Winningham with 34 seconds to go. Austin Peay was driving in the closing seconds before Tamaurian Wilson intercepted Jeremiah Oatsvall to seal the win.

Saturday's contest was also the first collegiate sporting since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Here are some ways this game was different:

  • Capacity at the Cramton Bowl was 2,000 fans. Spectators wore masks entering and walking around the stadium.
  • Team benches were extended from 50 to 70 feet.
  • Spirit squads sat in the stands and bands did not travel.
  • Coaches and players wore masks or gaiters on the sidelines.
  • Teams used disposable cups for water instead of bottles. 
4:36 am, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas 24, Austin Peay 17 | Final

The Breylin Smith to Lujuan Winningham connection was the difference for a second year in a row as Central Arkansas knocked off Austin Peay 24-17 in the first DI college football game this season.

Here are the final stats:

  • Yards: Austin Peay 332, Central Arkansas 458
  • Turnovers: Austin Peay 2, Central Arkansas 3
  • Penalties: Austin Peay 8-77, Central Arkansas 7-59
  • QBs: Oatsvall (Austin Peay) 14-for-30, 181 yards, 1 INT; Smith (UCA): 26-for-49, 283 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
  • Lujuan Winningham (UCA): game-winning receiving TD with :34 remaining
4:30 am, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas 24, Austin Peay 17 | 0:34 4Q

Breylin Smith wastes no time getting Central Arkansas back in front, finding Lujuan Winningham for the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute. If that sounds familiar to UCA fans, it should. These two linked up for the game-winning score against Austin Peay a year ago and may have just done it again.
4:17 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 17, Central Arkansas 16 | 1:40 4Q

Austin Peay has its points since the second quarter and regains the lead with just under two minutes to play. Jeremiah Oatsvall capped a 7-play drive by plunging into the endzone on a one-yard run after keeping the ball on an option call. Despite starting at their own 40-yard line, the Governors worked upfield quickly after Oatsvall found Jay Parker for 43 yards to begin the drive.
4:03 am, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas 16, Austin Peay 10 | 7:44 4Q

Central Arkansas extends the lead behind the leg of Hayden Ray, whose 32-yarder make puts him at 3-for-3 against Austin Peay. The Bears benefitted from another short field in the second half, starting their drive at midfield after a short punt from Jeremiah Oatsvall. 
3:37 am, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas 13, Austin Peay 10 | End 3Q

Crossley's touchdown a minute into the quarter put Central Arkansas ahead, but that it was it for points in the frame. UCA and Austin Peay combined for five punts in the third quarter. The Bears' were gaining momentum in Governor territory midway through the period before an off-target pitch from Breylin Smith was recovered by Austin Peay.
3:04 am, August 30, 2020

Central Arkansas 13, Austin Peay 10 | 14:00 3Q

Central Arkansas strikes quickly out of the break, taking their first lead of the game on a 34-yard touchdown run by Kierre Crossley. The Bears' running back picked up 51 total yards on the drive after Christian Richmond sparked the offense with a 39-yard return on the second half kickoff. 
2:44 am, August 30, 2020

How officials and media are social distancing at Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas

Practicing social distancing also impacts how officials and media work during college football. Take a look at a few examples here:

  • Per ESPN's broadcast, referees are using electronic whistles to officiate the game.
  • ESPN's Lauren Sisler conducted a socially-distant halftime interview with Austin Peay head coach Marquase Lovings.
2:32 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 10, Central Arkansas 6 | Half

Austin Peay and Central Arkansas combine for three field goals in the second quarter as the Governors head to the locker room in front. Here are some numbers from the first half.

  • Yards: Austin Peay 162, Central Arkansas 162
  • Turnovers: Austin Peay 1, Central Arkansas 2
  • Penalties: Austin Peay 5-52, Central Arkansas 4-40
  • QBs: Oatsvall (Austin Peay) 5-for-9, 69 yards; Smith (UCA): 10-for-25, 92 yards, 2 INT
  • CJ Evans (Austin Peay) 75-yard rushing TD on first play of game
2:21 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 10, Central Arkansas 6 | 3:38 2Q

After Austin Peay's punt team struggled to execute once again, Central Arkansas chips further into the lead with another field goal as Hayden Ray is good from 26 yards out. Austin Peay's defense came up big in the red zone, keeping UCA out of the endzone after holding the Bears to two yards on four plays after its special teams error.
2:10 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 10, Central Arkansas 3 | 7:37 2Q

Central Arkansas is on the board after ending its first three drives with turnovers. Hayden Ray converted a 30-yard field goal to cap off a 12-play drive that lasted just over four minutes. Breylin Smith guided the Bears downfield with two chunk plays β€” a 27-yard completion to Jack Short and an 18-yard gain to Tyler Hudson.

2:09 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 10, Central Arkansas 0 | 11:38 2Q

The Governors add to their lead as Grant Paulette converts on his first field goal attempt this season, splitting the uprights from 28 yards out. Paulette's kick capped a 6-play, 42-yard drive for Austin Peay. Oatsvall and Geordon Pollard linked up for nearly all of the drive's offense on one play with a 37-yard completion.

1:51 am, August 30, 2020

Social distancing at Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas

Here are some examples of social distancing we've seen during the 2020 FCS Kickoff:

In the stands

  • Fans are six feet apart throughout the Cramton Bowl, distancedΒ from one another.
  • Cheerleaders are seated in the stands while wearing masks.

On the sidelines

  • The benches for each team were extended from 50 yards to 70 yards to allow for additional distancing.
    • Coaches and players on both teams have been seen wearing masks or gaiters while on the sidelines.
  • To eliminate the possibility of sharing water bottles, both teams are instead using disposable plastic cups for water.Β 
Social distancing in college football Austin Peay warms up for its season opener while wearing facemasks.

Austin Peay 7, Central Arkansas 0 | END 1Q

CJ Evans' 75-yard touchdown is the difference for Austin Peay after one quarter. Following Evans' massive run, yards were much harder to come by as Austin Peay and Central Arkansas combined for 56 total the rest of the quarter. UCA had two turnovers on downs for the quarter while Austin Peay mishandled a punt on fourth down. Both teams appear still looking to find a rhythm on offense.

1:08 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay 7, Central Arkansas 0 | 14:44 1Q

Austin Peay makes a huge statement on the first play of the season. Running back CJ Evans wastes no time in finding the end zone as the true freshman handles an option in the backfield and finds daylight down the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown run on his first collegiate touch.

12:27 am, August 30, 2020

Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas β€”Β Pregame

College football is back as two top 15 FCS teams take center stage on ESPN, kicking off the season while looking to build off of strong campaigns a year ago. Austin Peay, ranked No. 13 in the STATS FCS poll, won 11 games in 2019 and made the quarterfinals of the postseason β€” all without quarterback Jeremiah Oatsvall, the Ohio Valley Conference's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Oatsvall is back under center and will try to lead the Governors past No. 11 Central Arkansas. The Bears reached the second round of the FCS Playoffs last season with nine wins on the season, including a Sept. 7 comeback at Austin Peay capped by a fourth-quarter rally and All-American defensive back Robert Rochell's game-sealing interception. Rochell is back to anchor the Bears' defense while quarterback Breylin Smith also returns for UCA after throwing for 32 touchdowns and just over 3,700 yards in 2019.

12:00 am, August 30, 2020

What to know about Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas before kickoff

Austin Peay and Central Arkansas kick off the 2020 college football season at 9 p.m. tonight on ESPN. Here's what you need to know before kickoff:

  • The Cramton Bowl is the host of the FCS Kickoff. It can hold up to 25,000 fans but is limiting attendance because of COVID-19
  • To effectively practice social distancing, team benches were extended on both sidelines.
    • As a result, spirit squads will be seated in the stands while neither band made the trip.
  • Austin Peay and Central Arkansas are both ranked in the top 15 of the FCS Stats poll at No. 13 and No. 11 respectively.
  • Both schools are coming off of appearances in the 2019 FCS Playoffs
    • Austin Peay won 11 games and reached the quarterfinals in its first appearance in the FCS Playoffs
    • Central Arkansas went 9-4 and advanced to the second round.
    • There will be no FCS Playoffs this fall. 
  • Saturday is one of three scheduled games this fall for Austin Peay while Central Arkansas has nine games planned and will play a hybrid non-conference slate of FCS and FBS opponents.
3:40 pm, August 27, 2020

πŸ“Ί How to watch Austin Peay vs. Central Arkansas

College football is back β€” and it's a primetime spotlight for an FCS showcase.

The 2020 season officially starts when Austin Peay plays Central Arkansas in the FCS Kickoff from the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. The FBS season starts next week on Thursday, Sept. 3.

Though there are no FCS Playoffs this fall, the NCAA is looking into holding DI fall championships in the spring. But Austin Peay and Central Arkansas are playing nonconference games this fall.

Here's how to watch the game:

Time: 9 p.m. ET
Date: Saturday, Aug. 29
Place: Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama


2:13 pm, August 28, 2020

Here's how Austin Peay and Central Arkansas are handling COVID-19

This is the first college football game to be played since the COVID-19 pandemic began. As you might expect, it's not going to be treated like any other game by colleges and student-athletes.

George Robinson of the Clarksville (Tennessee) Leaf-Chronicle, wrote this helpful explainer on the precautions Austin Peay (based in Clarksville) is taking ahead of the game, which will be played in Montgomery, Alabama. It's worth reading in full. Here are some key points from Robinson's piece:

  • Montgomery's Cramton Bowl, which holds 25,000, will be capped at 25 percent capacity
  • Austin Peay is taking four buses to road games this season instead of the usual three. Buses will be half full, with one person per row and masks worn at all times.

USA Today's Paul Myerberg fills in some more details here (also worth a read) including that Central Arkansas gave every student-athlete a test for the coronavirus when they returned to campus. 

3:58 pm, August 27, 2020

Here's a preview of Central Arkansas, No. 11 in STATS FCS Top 25

Central Arkansas (9-4 in 2019, FCS second round)

Coach: Nathan Brown (15-9, third season)
2020 fall schedule: Austin Peay in Montgomery, Alabama (Aug. 29); at UAB (Sept. 3); at Arkansas State (Sept. 19); Missouri State (Sept. 26); at North Dakota State (Oct. 3); at Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 10); at Missouri State (Oct. 17); Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 31); at Louisiana (Nov. 21)

Get ready for passing yards.

QB Breylin Smith is back following a 2019 season where he had 3,704 passing yards and 32 touchdowns. The next step is to cut down on the interceptions β€” he threw 16 last season.

Smith's favorite targets are back: Tyler Hudson and Lujuan Winningham. Hudson posted 975 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns and averaged 17.7 yards per catch; Winningham had 814 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

Defensively, the Bears lean on Robert Rochell in the secondary. A first team All-American selection, Rochell led the Bears with 5 interceptions and 13 passes broken up.

3:57 pm, August 27, 2020

Here's a preview of Austin Peay, which is No. 13 in STATS FCS Top 25

Austin Peay (11-4 in 2019, FCS quarterfinals)

Coach: Marquase Lovings (first season)
2020 fall schedule: Central Arkansas in Montgomery, Alabama (Aug. 29); at Pittsburgh (Sept. 12); at Cincinnati (Sept. 19)

The Governors' historic 2019 season came after the Preseason OVC Offensive Player of the Year missed most of the year. QB Jeremiah Oatsvall (2,148 total offensive yards in 2018) led Austin Peay to a 31-point win against North Carolina Central in the opener before getting injured in the second game (against Central Arkansas, oddly enough) to a season-ending injury. In stepped JaVaughn Craig, who passed for 3,208 yards and 28 touchdowns while rushing for 714 yards and nine scores. But Oatsvall is back and gets to throw to Deangelo Wilson, who led all FCS with 1,564 receiving yards a season ago.

A bunch of optimism centers on the offensive line, too β€” the Govs bring back four players who made at least nine starts last season. The unit also surrendered only 14 sacks despite playing in 15 games.

Defensively, focus on the line. Austin Peay allowed only 104.1 rushing yards per game on 3.1 per attempt while also totaling 31 sacks. The star is Josephus Smith and his 18.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks last season, but he doesn't do it alone. John Whiteside finished with 53 tackles and seven tackles for loss.

In the secondary, look to Kordell Jackson after his 2019 season of seven interceptions, two of which he returned for touchdowns.

4:05 pm, August 27, 2020

Austin Peay QB Jeremiah Oatsvall is back after missing nearly all of last season

Jeremiah Oatsvall was the 2017 OVC Freshman of the Year and the 2018 Preseason OVC Offensive Player of the Year.

He opened the 2019 season by going 24-for-39 for 232 yards and three touchdowns in a win against North Carolina Central. But he got injured on the Governors' ninth play from scrimmage against Central Arkansas in Week 2.

Now he's back β€” and he's up against Central Arkansas again. Here's a look at the Govs' QBs:


7:09 pm, August 27, 2020

These are the top 25 teams in FCS football

Though there will be no FCS championship this fall, there is a preseason poll.

Defending champion North Dakota State is the clear No. 1, but both of Saturday's participants are ranked in the Top 15:





1 North Dakota State (147) 16-0 3,675
2 James Madison 14-2 3,411
3 Northern Iowa 10-5 3,269
4 Weber State 11-4 3,198
5 South Dakota State 8-5 2,911
6 Montana State 11-4 2,884
7 Montana 10-4 2,753
8 Villanova 9-4 2,499
9 Illinois State 10-5 2,471
10 Kennesaw State 11-3 2,178
11 Central Arkansas 9-4 2,093
12 Sacramento State 9-4 2,085
13 Austin Peay 11-4 2,030
14 Nicholls 9-5 1,392
15 Furman 8-5 1,239
16 Wofford 8-4 1,089
17 Albany 9-5 825
18 Eastern Washington 7-5 817
19 North Carolina A&T 9-3 809
20 New Hampshire 6-5 759
21 Southeastern Louisiana 8-5 652
22 Sam Houston State 7-5 597
23 Monmouth 11-3 577
24 Southern Illinois 7-5 568
25 Southeast Missouri 9-4 499
7:12 pm, August 27, 2020

How this year's FCS season is different from every other season

This fall won't be typical.

There will be no FCS Playoffs this fall, though the NCAA is looking into holding one in the spring. Also, though there won't be any conference (or national championships) won this fall, some of the nation's top teams will be playing nonconference games.

  • Any FCS list must include North Dakota State. The Bison have won an FCS-record 37 games in a row and have earned eight of the last nine FCS national titles. NDSU has one game scheduled for this fall: vs. Central Arkansas on Oct. 3.
  • NDSU's eight titles lead all FCS programs. Georgia Southern, which is now in the FBS, is second with six. The last non-NDSU team to win? James Madison in 2016.
  • The Walter Payton Award goes to the most outstanding offensive player in FCS. NDSU QB Trey Lance won it in 2019. Jeremiah Briscoe of Sam Houston State is the most recent player to win it twice (2016 and 2017).
9:10 pm, August 27, 2020

Central Arkansas figures in some 2020 college football schedule oddities

COVID-19 has altered the NCAA fall sports calendar. This means there are some scheduling quirks.

A few involve Central Arkansas:

  • First, Central Arkansas is playing in the first FCS/DI college football game of the season β€” against Austin Peay this Saturday, Aug. 29
  • Second, Central Arkansas is playing in the first FBS day of the season (or the first game that involves an FBS team) β€” at UAB on Thursday, Sept. 3. Southern Miss plays South Alabama that same night in the first FBS vs. FBS game.
  • North Dakota State, winners of eight of the last nine FCS titles, is playing only one game this fall. You can probably guess the opponent: Central Arkansas. That's scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 3.
  • Central Arkansas won't be a stranger to FBS teams. The Bears are scheduled to face three this season: at UAB (Sept. 3); at Arkansas State (Sept. 19); at Louisiana (Nov. 21).
9:28 pm, August 27, 2020

What the 2020 FCS fall season will look like

There won't be FCS playoffs this fall, or conference championships. But there will be games.

Though all 13 conferences postponed league games due to COVID-19 concerns and a majority of teams hope to play their schedule in the spring, more than a dozen teams will play fall games.

For live stats throughout the season, click or tap here.

For a complete list of the FCS fall nonconference schedule, click or tap here.