Austin Peay Governors vs. Western Kentucky
September 1st, 2012 • 6:00pm CDT
Bowling Green, Ky. • Houchens Industries-Smith Stadium (22,113)
Bowling Green, KY – A pair of former rivals will open the 2012 season, 6:00pm, Saturday, when Austin Peay travels to Bowling Green, KY, to play Western Kentucky.
Western Kentucky was a charter member of the Ohio Valley Conference from 1948-81 before becoming a football independent. They rejoined the OVC briefly as an associate member before moving to the Gateway Football Conference-that run included the 2002 I-AA National Championship.However, Western Kentucky elected to move to Football Bowl Subdivision Subdivision and started that transition in 2007. They became Sun Belt members in 2009.
Austin Peay, meanwhile, joined the OVC in 1963 and remained until going to non-scholarship football in 1997. The Governors returned to scholarship football a decade later and returned to the OVC in 2007.
Western Kentucky holds a decision edge in the series (34-6-1), with the Governors still seeking their first win in Bowling Green (0-20-1).
Austin Peay is coming a 3-8 season, but are loaded with returning starters. The Govs have seven starters back on offense and nine on defense.
Defensively, senior safety Antwaun Majors and junior linebacker Josh Carroll are expected to lead the way. Majors has been APSU’s leading tackler for the last two seasons. Carroll moved into the starting lineup early last season and ended as APSU’s third-leading tackler with 76.
Offensively, the Govs must replace 1,000-yard rusher Ryan White, who left as APSU’s second all-time leading rusher. Quarterback Jake Ryan is back for his fourth season as starter. However, he has been hampered by injuries in each of the last two seasons and it is imperative to keep him healthy.
Wide receiver Devin Stark was enjoying a superb 2011 season until Ryan was injured. He still finished with 53 catches, the most by a Govs since the 2006 season.
Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is coming off a 7-5 season that saw the Hilltoppers with seven of their final eight games after starting 0-4.
But Jakes does have tight end Jack Doyle, who had 52 catches a year ago.
On defense, junior Andrew Jackson finished with a team-best 109 stops.
Both head coaches, the Govs’ Rick Christophel (1971-74) and the Hilltoppers’ Willie Taggart (1995-98) served as quarterbacks of their respective alma maters.
This is Austin Peay’s 76th season of college football, including nine non-scholarship seasons (1997-2005).
Austin Peay is 27-46-2 in openers in its previous 75 years of football, including last season’s 72-10 road loss at Cincinnati. The Govs have won the season opener five times in the last 17 seasons.
This is the third time Austin Peay has opened the season with Western Kentucky, splitting the two previous season-opening meetings, losing 38-0 in 1946 and winning 18-14 in 1991.
A victory at Western Kentucky would give APSU three wins in their last four season-opening games. APSU won against Newberry in 2009 and Cumberland a year later before losing at Cincinnati last year.
Only 11 times in those 27 years when Austin Peay has won its season opener have the Governors gone on to record a winning season.
Austin Peay has enjoyed only 18 winning seasons in 75 years of football and only two winning seasons since the turn of the century–a 7-5 mark in 2002 as a non-scholarship program and a 7-4 record in 2007 in Rick Christophel’s first season.
After owning a school-record 26 seniors in 2009, the Govs had half that many (13) in 2010. This season the Govs have 15.
Fifth-year seniors Antwaun Majors, Jake Ryan, Preston Frye, Preston Rouse and Zac Burkhart are in graduate school after receiving respective degrees either in May or August.
APSU head coach Rick Christophel (1971-74) was the first of three brothers who migrated from Reading, Ohio, to play quarterback at Austin Peay. Randy Christophel played quarterback at APSU from 1975-78 while Rob played the position from 1981-82.
APSU was 0-4 against Western Kentucky when Christophel was a member of the Govs.
Western Kentucky offensive line coach and running game coordinator Walter Wells played his college career at Austin Peay, starting at center in 1988-89.
APSU finished the 2011 season ranked 13th in the FCS in sacks allowed per game (1.0). It is the second straight year the Governors were ranked in the Top 15 in fewest sacks allowed per game. They were 8th in 2010.
Senior quarterback Jake Ryan enters his senior season fourth all-time in pass completions with 290 and fifth in passing yards (3,191). Jesse Kellogg left APSU the all-time completions leader with 504 while Brian Baker ended with 5,587 passing yards–both marks set during its non-scholarship years.
Senior wide receiver Devin Stark finished 2011 with 53 receptions on the season, the most by a Gov since Lanis Frederick grabbed a career-best 77 in the 2006 season. His 53 catches ranked third in the OVC for total receptions a year ago.
Devin Stark’s seven TD receptions in 2011 were the most by a Govs receiver since Frederick had seven in 2006. Those tied for the sixth-most TD catches in school history.
Wide receiver Devin Stark was named Preseason second-team All-America offense by the FCS Senior Bowl. Stark also was been named to the 2012 College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Watch List for FCS receivers. In addition, he was selected preaseason All-OVC by website College Sports Madness while senior tight end Ashlon Adams was named third team.
Running back Wesley Kitts is expected to make his first career start against Western Kentucky after serving as the third-string backup for two seasons to Terrence Holt and Ryan White and the back up to White a year ago. He finished the 2011 season with 495 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He owned the Govs’ longest TD run of 37 yards.
Senior wide receiver Devin Stark had 53 catches a year ago, but the next closest returning receiver as far as catches are concerned is junior Terrence Oliver, who had 15. Sophomore Jamaar Embry had 11 catches as a freshman.
Although the Governors lost a trio of veteran starters from the starting offensive line, they still return 38 career starts. In fact, senior Jacob Langston, who is taking over for a three-year starter Tim Schmid at center, has 18 career starts at guard while junior Chris Hartman has 14. Junior tackle Ben Stansfield (5) and tackle Kyle Harrison (1) have the other starts.
A pair of redshirt freshmen left tackles figure prominently into the offensive line scheme heading into the season opener. With Kyle Harrison missing practices with a medical condition, Julian Virgo has taken over as the starter at that position while walk-on Melvin McDaniel is his backup.
Austin Peay led the OVC in time of possession in 2011, holding the ball an average of 31:33 minutes per game.
Austin Peay recorded two drives of 90 yards or more in 2011, a 13-play, 95-yard drive against Southeast Missouri and a 5-play, 98-yarder vs. Central State.
Although all are not listed as starters on the 2012 depth chart, Austin Peay returns nine on defense from 2011. Gone are the graduated Amius Smith and cornerback Sheldon Wade, who left the program last winter.
Although the Governors defense will be more experienced in 2012, the depth chart still reveals much youth. In fact, only three seniors, safety Antwaun Majors, tackle Anthony Marion and linebacker Darrick Dillard are listed on the two-deep entering the season.
Austin Peay returns 11 of its top 12 tacklers from the 2011 season, including three Govs– free safety Antwaun Majors (88), linebacker Josh Carroll (75) and linebacker Darrick Dillard (52) with more than 50 tackles.
A former walk on, senior safety Antwaun Majors has had 80 or more tackles in each of the last two seasons, finishing with 84 tackles in 2010 and 88 in 2011.
Junior cornerback Steven Ragin finished tied for second in the OVC in interceptions with three.
When senior weak safety Amius Smith ended with 82 tackles a year ago, it was the second straight season he ended with 80 or more tackles. He had 88 in 2009 in his first season as a starter.
Austin Peay defenders recorded nine double-digit tackle performances in 2011, with six coming from players returning in 2012. Senior Antwaun Majors collected four of them, including a 14-tackle performance against Tennessee Tech while the other two came from linebacker Darrick Dillard (11 tackles versus Tennessee Tech) and safety Johnathan Shuler, who had 11 stops at Murray State.
Senior safety Antwaun Majors was named preseason first-team All-OVC by Phil Steele Magazine in its Fall 2012 Preview. Majors, who led Austin Peay in tackles last season with 88, was the Governors only first-team selection.
Junior defensive lineman Reese Bulmash was named second-team preseason All-OVC by the Phil Steele publication. Bulmash again is expected to anchor the Govs’ interior defense in 2012. After gaining much experience in 2010, the Marietta, GA, native moved into the starting lineup in 2011, being credited with 21 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.
Antwaun Majors was named second-team preseason All-OVC by the website College Sports Madness. Junior linebackers Josh Carroll and Rip Rowan were named third-team preseason All-OVC.
After playing two seasons as a defensive end, Iosua Siliva, of Vailoa, America Samoa, has shifted down to defensive tackle.
Special Teams Notes
Senior kicker Stephen Stansell enters his final campaign needing just three field goals made to pass Tom McMillan (33) to become the school’s all-time leader in that category.
Senior Stephen Stansell also enters his final season ranked third all-time in point-after-touchdowns made with 71
Senior kicker Stephen Stansell was the only OVC kicker to be perfect in point-after-touchdown attempts. He ended the season 22 of 22. In his career he is 71 of 73 (97.3 percent) in extra-point attempts, ranking No. 1 in career extra-point percentage.
Stansell likes kicking against Tennessee State. A year after earning OVC Specialist of the Week and College Football Performance Awards Place-Kicker Co-Performer of the Week after a four field-goal performance against Tennessee State in 2010, he earned the OVC award again by connecting on three field goals against the Tigers in 2011, including game winner with 3:07 left.
Stansell will have both a new holder and snapper in 2012. After Nick Newsome served as APSU’s long snapper for four seasons, the Govs will turned to redshirt sophomore Michael Dunphy in 2012. In addition, back-up kicker and long snapper Walter Spears now is serving as holder for Stansell after Jake Ryan handled much of the duties a year ago.
Back at punter is sophomore Ben Campbell, who is exclusively playing the position after also serving as a tight end last season. Campbell averaged 37.6 yards per punt in 2011. He had five punts better than 50 yards, including a season-best 59 yarder. He also dropped 11 inside the 20.
Two seasons after losing All-America kick return specialist Terrence Holt, Austin Peay still is seeking a permanent replacement for both the kickoff and punt returns.