Valparaiso scored first, but Austin Peay rallied behind 184 yards rushing by Chris Fletcher to defeat the Crusaders 30-20 on Saturday afternoon on a warm, 85-degree sunny day in Clarksville, Tenn.
The Crusaders have now dropped four straight after opening the season with a victory at Wisconsin Lutheran.
Valpo took the opening kickoff and marched down field. The Crusaders went 65 yards in 11 plays in 5:50, using a mix of the run and pass. Jeff Horton (Saint Louis, Mo./Lutheran North H.S.) capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown run through the right side of the line. Valpo, which came in just 9-of-47 on the season converting third downs, made good on a pair on the drive. Ryan Doerffler (Fort Wayne, Ind./Concordia H.S.) found Wade Overton (Indianapolis, Ind./Lawrence North H.S.) for 17 yards down to the Governor 21 and the connected with Joel Cyrier (Mishawaka, Ind./Mishawaka H.S.) for nine more to make it first and goal inside of the ten.
The Crusaders' defense held Austin Peay three and out on the first possession, however, on the second play of the Governors' second drive Chris Fletcher broke free and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. A bad snap on the point after attempt prevented the conversion and Valpo held on to a 7-6 advantage with 5:25 left in the first quarter.
Austin Peay took the lead with 55 seconds remaining in the first quarter. On a third-and-nine play, Jesse Kellogg found Kevin Carter on a screen pass to the left side and Carter scored from 26 yards out. The two-point conversion pass was broken up by Mike Jones (Lake Zurich, Ill./Lake Zurich H.S.) in the corner of the end zone and the Governors led 12-7 after one quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, Doerffler was intercepted for the second time in the first half. Randall Odell picked off the pass at the Governor 43 yard line and returned in 57 yards for the touchdown to go in front by 12 points.
Valpo used a little trickery to set up the Crusaders' second touchdown. Joe Blahowicz (Buffalo, N.Y./Alden H.S.) dropped back to punt but took off with the ball, rushing 20 yards for a first down at the Governors' 29 yard line. The fake punt set up a 13-yard touchdown run by Sal Washington (East Saint Louis, Ill./Prospect H.S.), his first TD scamper of the season, with 5:26 showing on the first half clock.
Late in the half, Blahowicz had a punt partially blocked, setting up Austin Peay at the Valpo 34 yard line. The Governors drove to the Crusaders' nine, but Kellogg fumbled the ball and Doug Howard (Cudahy, Wis./Cudahy H.S.) fell on the football to give Valpo the ball with 39 seconds left in the half and the Crusaders went into the locker room trailing 19-14.
Valpo tallied 245 yards of total offense in the first half, 15 more than they had all last week against Davidson. Horton led Crusader rushers with 90 yards on 13 carries, as Valpo rushed for 186 yards in the first half. Austin Peay tallied 133 yards in the opening stanza.
The first drive of the third quarter saw Austin Peay move down field in just 3:14. Kellogg found Emmanuel Yancey from 35 yards on in the left side of the end zone for his second touchdown toss of the afternoon. The duo connected again on the next play for the two-point conversion to push the lead to 27-14.
Late in the third quarter, Austin Peay blocked another Crusader punt, setting the Governors up at the Valpo 30. The Crusader defense stiffened and Matt Mancl (Neenah, Wis./Neenah H.S.) knocked down a fourth down pass attempt at the 22 and keep the deficit at 13 heading into the fourth quarter.
Valpo drove down deep into Austin Peay territory before Horton was stopped a yard short at the 15-yard line on a fourth and two play, ending a 12-play drive.
Bradley Wilson added a 21-yard field goal with just 1:42 left to complete the scoring for Austin Peay.
Valpo drove late, completing three passes of nearly 20 yards each to move deep into Governors territory. Horton took a lateral from Doerffler and scored going into the right corner of the end zone with just 30 seconds left. For Horton it was his sixth touchdown of the season, fifth on the ground. The Crusaders ran a similar play for the two-point conversion, but Horton was stopped just shy of the goal line.
The Governors held Valpo to just 141 second half yards on the way to the win. Horton carried 21 times for 107 yards for the Crusaders while Washington added 66 on the ground on just 11 carries. Doerffler was 15-of-33 for 169 yards while Blahowicz led the receivers with five catches for 75 yards.
Fletcher had 21 carries on his way to the 184 yards for an 8.8 yard average. Austin Peay (2-3) finished with 366 total yards while Valpo had 386.
Valparaiso (1-4) will look to snap the losing streak when the Brown and Gold return to Brown Field next Saturday, October 8, for its annual Homecoming game against Saint Joseph's (Ind.). Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m.