Knoxville, TN – The curtain will rise on the Kirby Cannon Era, 5:00pm, Saturday, when Austin Peay State University plays Tennessee for the first time in program history.
Cannon, who was hired as Austin Peay’s 18th head coach in mid-March, is only the third APSU coach hired in the last 50 years that owned previous college-coaching head-coaching experience.
Although the preparation will be no different from his first head-coaching game in 2009 against Central Missouri, the setting and atmosphere will be. Walton Stadium in Warrensburg, MO, seats 12,000. Neyland seats 100,000 more than that.
“I don’t if it is any different at all as far as being in charge of everything,” Cannon said. “You want everything to go right—the bus trip, equipment issues, winning the ballgame to just getting home safe—all those things are on your mind as a head coach.
“Right before the kickoff you can totally lock into coaching and coaching the game. I look forward to that.”
When the Govs do step onto Neyland, Saturday they not only will be playing Tennessee for the first time in University history but they will be playing a Southeastern Conference team for the first time as well. It will be a short time for the next one—the Govs play at Vanderbilt in Week 2. Against Tennessee, Cannon will face Butch Jones who also will be in his head-coaching debut. Cannon was on the Central Michigan State that succeeded Jones staff.
“The ultimate challenge,” Cannon said. “The SEC is the hottest conference in Division I—massive resources in every program that is in the SEC. It is an incredible challenge to start off a rebuilding process with an SEC school.
“We are looking forward to the game. One of the things in coaching football is you cannot get better until you play some games. Then you know what areas you need to work on, your strengths and weaknesses are as a team.”
The Governors are one of just three Football Championship Subdivision teams that are playing a trio of Football Bowl Subdivision programs this season. In addition to Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the Govs travel to Ohio, September 21st.
“We know these games are out there,” Cannon said. “As a staff we have discussed many times. We know we have to use these games to sell our program. We are on television, we are talked about a great deal. We are in a position where the name Austin Peay is going to be out there and potential recruits and supporters are paying attention to it. We also want to use the games themselves—attempt to win, do everything you can to win, have a winning game plan but put yourself in a position after you play the game you are more likely to win the next game because of what you have done in that game.”.
“I think our guys have worked very hard—they are in good condition,” Cannon said. “But we are in a position in camp where they need to play. You need to play where they can evaluate themselves and they will hear coaching better after they play a game and you have been able to point out mistakes.
“There is clarity after they have played some where they will take coaching, respond in a positive way and put themselves in a better position.”
Austin Peay will play a school-record three FBS programs in 2013, including opening the season against a pair of SEC and BCS schools in Tennessee (August 31st) and Vanderbilt (September 7th). The Govs also will play at Ohio (September 21st).
The Governors open the season playing four straight non-conference road games–Tennessee (August 31st), Vanderbilt (September 7th), Chattanooga (September 14th) and Ohio (September 21st). After a week off, the Govs then will open Ohio Valley Conference play on the road at Eastern Kentucky, October 5th. The Govs’ first home game will be October 12th against Eastern Illinois.
This will be the first respective game as head coach for both Austin Peay’s Kirby Cannon and Tennessee’s Butch Jones. Cannon was on the coaching staff at Central Michigan that succeeded Jones when the latter left that program to become Cincinnati’s head man for the 2010 season.
This is Austin Peay’s 77th season of college football, including nine non-scholarship seasons (1997-2005).
Austin Peay is 27-47-2 in openers in its previous 76 years of football, including last season’s 49-10 road loss at Western Kentucky. The Govs have won the season opener five times in the last 18 seasons, the last time being when they beat Cumberland, 38-6, to open the 2010 season.
This is the third straight season the Governors have opened against an Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team. In 2011, the Govs lost at Cincinnati, 72-10, and then 49-10 last season at Western Kentucky.
The Governors enter the contest with 16 straight road losses. Their last road victory came against Tennessee State, a 26-23 verdict, September 18th, 2010.
Austin Peay has enjoyed only 18 winning seasons in 76 years of football and 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.
Austin Peay enters the season with a streak of scoring in 84 straight games. The last time APSU was shutout was by Drake, 54-0, September 24th, 2005.
Austin Peay led the OVC in fewest sacks allowed with just 10 in 11 games in 2012. In fact, that number was two better than Jacksonville State and UT Martin.
Senior offensive tackle Ben Stansfield was named Preseason All-OVC in a vote of league by league coaches and sports information directors.
Senior running back Terrence Oliver totaled 669 yards combined rushing (341) and receiving (328) in 2012. Oliver had a season-best 67 yards rushing against Culver-Stockton and a 100-yard (nine catches) receiving against Ohio Valley Conference foe Eastern Kentucky. Oliver is the Govs leading returning receiver with 38 catches in 2012,
finishing only behind departed senior Devin Stark (67 catches).
Senior Chris Hartman entered the 2013 season with 27 consecutive starts at guard but a freak weight-lifting accident late in the summer saw the veteran Gov out with a surgery-necessitating back injury.
Senior tackles Gavin Willisson and Ben Stansfield combined for 21 starts at their respective left and right tackle spots in 2012 (Willisson opened the season at left guard). Guard Nathan Sanders finished 2012 with four straight starts. Center Isaiah Tuisasosopo had a trio of starts at guard last season.
Austin Peay quarterbacks have seven pass attempts between the three eligible ones–Jacob Sexton, Andrew Spivey and Timarious Mitchell. Sexton, the redshirt sophomore, has all the attempts and completions (2) for 31 yards and a TD.
Starting quarterback Andrew Spivey transferred to Austin Peay from the College of San Francisco, where he threw for 3,014 yards while completing 224 of 386 passes, Both his brother Ben (San Jose State) and father Greg (Idaho) played Division I college football while his uncle Ted Connolly played guard in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers.
Senior running back Tim Phillips joined teammate Leron Eaddy and head coach Kirby Cannon in the move south from Central Michigan. The Louisville native, who once had 10 straight playoff 100-yard rush performance for Trinity High School, rushed for 289 career yards for the Chippewas during his FBS career.
Although all are not listed as starters on the 2013 depth chart, Austin Peay returns nine starters on defense from 2012. Only defensive end Earnest Smith, who tore an Achilles tendon during the summer, and cornerback Steven Ragin are not back this season.
Austin Peay returns 10 of its top 11 tacklers (injured Earnest Smith being the 11th) from the 2012 season, including three Govs– linebacker Craig Salley (72), safety Steven Rich (68), safety Johnathan Shuler (66) and linebacker Josh Carroll (62)–with more than 50 tackles.
Senior defensive end Iosua Siliva was named first-team All-OVC by Phil Steele Magazine Preseason College Football Preview.
The game will be played, Saturday, January 25th, 2014, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, in Mobile, AL Fifth-year senior defensive end Earnest Smith suffered a torn Achilles tendon during summer workouts and will miss the 2013 season. He led the Governors with 9.0 tackles for loss in 2012, including a team-best four sacks.
Earnest Smith and sophomore linebacker Adam Noble tied for the 2012 OVC lead in fumbles created (0.27 pg).
Former walk-on linebacker Craig Salley led the Governors in tackles in 2012 with 72 stops. The senior had 35 tackles in 2011, mostly as a reserve.
When then-sophomore free safety Johnathan Shuler recorded 19 tackles against Southeast Missouri, October 27th, 2012, it was most the most stops by a Governor since Daniel Becker had 19 vs. Tennessee State, September 15th, 2007.
Nose tackle Reese Bulmash doesn’t gain a lot of notice playing his position but the senior from Marietta, GA (Sprayberry HS) is considered the defense’s anchor. He has started 20 games during his career. He was a key reserve as a freshman in 2010 but moved into the starting lineup as a sophomore.
Austin Peay redshirt sophomore defensive lineman John Houston Jr. may meet his cousin on the football field when the Governors play Vanderbilt, September 7th. Senior Wesley Tate is a running back for the Commodores. His grandfather is the father of the late Reggie White, the former Tennessee and NFL star.
Three returning Governors, safety Johnathan Shuler (19 vs. SEMO), Josh Carroll (15 vs. Murray State) and Craig Salley (11 vs. Tennessee State) tallied double-digit tackling performances in 2012.
Defensive back Leron Eaddy, who played for Kirby Cannon when the Governors’ head man was secondary coach at Central Michigan, joined his former position coach at APSU. After earning his undergraduate degree at Central Michigan he is enrolled in grad school
Reserve defensive lineman Preston Gilbreath is the half brother of former Alabama star linebacker Dont’a Hightower, currently a member of the New England Patriots after an All-America career for the Tide.
Special Teams Notes
For a third straight season Ben Campbell is slated to be Austin Peay’s punter. The Johnson City native displayed much improvement in 2012, averaging 38.7 yards per punt–more than a yard better than the previous season. He had 20 punts downed inside the 20-yard line with 17 boots being fair caught.
Junior Walter Spears and freshman Chase Dunlap conducted a fall battle for the placekicking job. Spears has made just one placekick–an extra point–in two previous seasons.
It is old home week for redshirt freshman Evan Toby, who is expected to serve as APSU’s kickoff specialist. Toby came to APSU a year ago from prep powerhouse Maryville High School, located some 30 minutes down the road from Knoxville.
Senior Michael Dunphy will serve as APSU’s long snapper for a second straight season. A Long Beach, CA, native via Franklin, TN, Dunphy will be backed up by freshman Reed Montgomery, from Bardstown, KY.
A year ago, placekicking candidate Walter Spears not only served as APSU’s backup punter, he also was the holder for Stephen Stansell and the backup deep snapper for Michael Dunphy.
Governors Radio Network
WVRY 105.1 FM serves as the Governors Sports Network in 2013-14. David Loos, who also handles play-by-play for Lady Govs basketball and color for the Govs, is in his 12th season as football play-by-play voice while Van Stokes, a veteran broadcaster with a diverse background adds the color. Govs Game Day will begin one hour before game time followed by the pre-game show 30 minutes prior to kickoff each week.
APSU’s first contest at Tennessee will be available on a Pay-Per-View basis. Tennessee customers can order the pay-per-view game on DISH Network, DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse channel 103, respectively.
The APSU-Vanderbilt game, September 7th, will be televised by CSS while the Govs’ October 19th contest against Murray State will be presented online by ESPN3.
OVC Digital Network
All Ohio Valley Conference football games plus home non-conference contests will be televised in HD by the new OVC Digital Network. The OVC is excited to offer LIVE and on-demand streaming video and audio straight to your computer, tablet or smart phone.
APSU’s webcast is produced by APSU’s Mass Communications department.
Govs Social Media
All things related to Austin Peay Athletics can be found on Twitter @LetsGoPeay and through Facebook at www.facebook.com/apsugovs. 
For all your APSU athletics needs, be sure to visit www.LetsGoPeay.com