ST. GEORGE — Utah Tech University gave No. 14 Austin Peay all it could handle, but the Trailblazers came up short in the end, falling 30-17 in their final road game of the season on Saturday afternoon at Fortera Stadium.

Utah Tech defender Jayden Sheridan prepares to tackle Austin Peay’s Trey Shackleford during the Trailblazers’ 30-17 loss to the Governors in Clarksville, Tennessee, Nov. 11, 2023 | Photo courtesy of Maddie Rose, Austin Peay Athletics, St. George News

A news release from Utah Tech (2-8 overall, 1-4 United Athletic Conference) said that after the Trailblazer defense held the high-power Governors offense to a first-quarter field goal, the Utah Tech offense scored the game’s first touchdown on the opening play of the second to bolt to a 7-3 lead.

Facing second down and 6 at their own 32, Kobe Tracy found Jaivion Lofton at the Austin Peay 48. Lofton then turned upfield and saw nothing but the end zone the rest of the way to complete the 68-yard pass play to put the Blazers on the scoreboard.

The Utah Tech defense quickly gave the ball to the offense on Austin Peay’s next possession when Jordan Scott stepped in front of a Mike DiLiello pass at the Utah Tech 47 for his first interception of the season. However, the Blazers missed their chance to build upon their lead as they could not turn the turnover into points on a missed field goal try.

Austin Peay (8-2, 5-0) took advantage on its next drive as the Governors went 80 yards on 13 plays, with DiLiello throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Trey Goodman to put his side back on top at 10-7.

Chart shows statistics from the Utah Tech-Austin Peay football game, Nov. 11, 2023 | Image courtesy of Utah Tech Athletics, St. George News

The Governors would tack on a 22-yard Maddux Trujillo 22-yard field goal with just over 2 minutes to play and took a 13-7 lead into the halftime break.

Utah Tech came away with points on the opening drive of the second with a Connor Brooksby 52-yard field goal that cut the Blazers’ deficit in half at 13-10. It was Brooksby’s third 50-plus field goal of the season and the fifth of his career. But Austin Peay clapped back with a DiLiello 52-yard TD connection to Tre Shackleford, only to see the Trailblazers answer with a touchdown of their own on Utah Tech’s ensuing possession.

Tracy led the Blazers on an eight-play drive, 86-yard drive, throwing for 85 of those yards, 34 of which came on a flip to Rickie Johnson. Tracy then found Daniel Thomason in the corner of the end zone on the very next play to again pull Utah Tech to within a field goal at 20-17.

That would be as close as the Trailblazers would get as the Governors got a Trujillo 34-yard field goal near the end of the third, and a Kam Thomas 4-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run to extend to a 30-17 lead with just over 11 minutes remaining.

The Austin Peay defense made that lead stand as the Govs forced one turnover and stopped the Blazers on fourth down on their final possession to escape with the win and clinch the inaugural United Athletic Conference regular season title.

Utah Tech finished with 443 yards of total offense, with Tracy accounting for 376 yards in the air on 31-of-52 passing and two touchdowns. The junior signal caller posted career highs in both completions and attempts, while he posted his third 300-yard passing game and the seventh of his career.

Johnson added to his career accolades as he tied a school single-game record for receptions with 14 for 126 yards. Johnson (2,020 yards) also became the third receiver in program history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau and moved into second place all-time on the career receiving yards list.

Thompson also enjoyed a banner day as he notched his first 100-yard game as he caught six balls for an even 100 yards to go with his touchdown.

Defensively, junior Syrus Webster sacked DiLiello twice to become Utah Tech’s career leader in sacks, tying the mark in the second quarter, before collecting his 14.5 career sack in the third quarter. Sophomore Brandy Okeke also collected a pair of sacks and finished with career highs of nine total tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss.

In addition, junior linebacker Will Leota racked up a game-high 12 tackles, and in the process became the ninth player in program history to surpass 200 career tackles and moved into seventh in career tackles (208) overall.

Utah Tech will wrap up the 2023 season on Saturday, Nov. 18, with the now annual “Battle For The Axe”  showdown vs. in-state rival Southern Utah. Kickoff at  Greater Zion Stadium is set for 5 p.m.