Clarksville, TN – Austin Peay head football coach Kirby Cannon felt his team may have lost the battle, August 30th in their season-opener versus Memphis University, but despite the 63-0 final margin saw more than a few good things that they will build on as they move forward into the season.The game allowed the coaches to play most of the 40-plus new and red-shirt freshmen on the roster for the first time against someone other than a teammate and gave them their first true baseline of what those young players need to improve on.
“I told our coaches throughout the game that this game is bigger than just this game and we had to look at this as a chance to get as many kids as we could into the game and build their experience level and not waste this opportunity,” Cannon said. “We did that and now we have a chance to get better quicker. It’s a process in getting better and getting to that championship level.”
One thing that Cannon liked was that his Govs were more physical overall than they were last year and did a better job of tackling.
“I would feel a lot worst this morning if I woke up and felt that we were dominated, or mauled,” Cannon said. “We lost our battles here and there, but still there were enough positive things that the kids saw that we’ll move on into the bye week and get better.
“I saw us make some negative plays on defense and I saw us create a turnover and pop four balls loose that just didn’t bounce our way.”
Despite having to play 55 plays on defense, just in the first half, the Governors got solid play from several players – including having six different freshmen splitting time in the secondary.
“Johnathan Shuler, Damien Whitfield and Mikhail Creech – who was in his first game as a defense player — did a pretty good job in the tackling department, Cannon said. “Zach Stuart and Benedict Louis at linebacker did some nice things, while Nicholis Matiere-Bey at defensive tackle and Tyler Schneider at defensive end did good jobs in their first games.”
Sophomore cornerback Rod Owens also had a solid game with an interception and a forced fumble against the Tigers.
On offense, junior transfer Trey Taylor and freshman Darrien Boone took their first snaps under center as quarterback for the Governors and combined to complete only 6-of-16 of their pass attempts for 30 yards, with Boone breaking away for a 39-yard run in the second half.
“I wasn’t disappointed,” Cannon said. “But it was pretty obvious that they were in their first games. Darrien broke loose on a 39-yard run and outran most of their team and finally one of their defensive back get an angle on him and got him down. Against a lot of football teams he would have scored and that would have been an incredible play.”
The running game was highlighted by sophomore Justin Roberson, who finished with 50 yards on eight rushes.
“Our running game had to be dominate because of the weather conditions early and it isn’t at that point,” Cannon said. “It’s just going to take time to develop that type of offensive line and running backs that can just move the football, without the threat of a pass.
Justin was a highlight of the game in that aspect. He’s a very powerful, explosive running back and he broke out a couple of times and looked the better football player on the field at times that anyone at the running back position.”
Now with a game under their belts, and heading into a bye week before playing their first home game of the season on September 13th, the Governors coaching staff and players have a lot of new information to digest and work on before the University of Tennessee Chattanooga comes to town for the first game in the new Governors Stadium.
“We’re determined that we’re going to continue to develop every phase of our game until we find the right combination to see who’s going to be one of those exceptional guys that can be productive as freshmen or an inexperienced player,” Cannon said. “Game mistakes and game good plays are what you build on and I just feel like our team understands a lot better now that margin of error and that level of performance that you have to have to win games and that will make us a far better team when we play in two weeks.”