After a brutal five weeks against three FBS opponents Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Ohio, along with Chattanooga, Austin Peay is set to open up Ohio Valley Conference play following a bye week on Saturday, Oct. 5 against Eastern Kentucky.
The Govs will come into Roy Kidd Stadium with a 0-4 record, while the Colonials have dropped below .500 (2-3, 0-1) after falling to Eastern Illinois 42-7.
Eastern Kentucky was picked to finish second in the OVC preseason rankings, just eight points behind Eastern Illinois in the poll after receiving four first-place votes.
Here are five story lines to watch against Eastern Kentucky.
1. Will the drought end?
The Govs have not been walked off a football field with a win since Nov. 17 of last year after defeating Tennessee Tech to close out the season. But this isn’t the only drought APSU is currently in. It has been three years since the Govs have won a road game (Sept. 18, 2010 at Tennessee State). As for their history against Eastern Kentucky, you have to go all the way back to 1977 when the Govs won at Richmond. Can the Govs put an end to two droughts in one day?
2. Can Spivey build off a 100+ yard performance against Ohio?
With longtime APSU quarterback Jake Ryan no longer under center, the Govs are trying to find the best replacement to lead the offense. Junior transfer Andrew Spivey is the starter, while Jacob Sexton and Timarious Mitchell have also gotten reps in the first four games with the game out of hand. Spivey has 306 yards with two interceptions for the season, and had his best outing as a Gov against Ohio by completing 50 percent of his passes for 114 yards. The California native now has a chance to top that in his first OVC match-up against a Colonel defense that allowed four touchdown passes last week.
3. Phillips/Williams running back duo
A positive note from week four for the Govs was the running back duo of senior Tim Phillips and freshman Omar Williams. The two combined for 29 carries, with Williams leading the way with 108 yards including a 57-yard run, while Phillips totaled 71 yards on the ground. Phillips will be the lead back behind Spivey in the backfield, but expect to see Williams receive touches as well after a great performance against Ohio. They will be the key for this offense as the backs will be relied on to move the football down field.
4. Will FBS experience lead to defensive improvement?
The Govs have faced three solid FBS offenses to begin the season — Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Ohio. The Govs have given up 38 or more points in each of those three contests, but the defense improved in that stretch. Against the Bobcats, APSU forced three fumbles, two of which by EnRiques Perry. It will be interesting to see how this defense fares against Eastern Kentucky after going up against high-level athletes to open up the season.
5. Special teams
If you are stopped inside your opponent’s territory on third down, you have to convert three points when faced with a field goal try. This season, the Govs are two for six on field goal opportunities. Junior Walter Spears missed two and had one blocked against Ohio, with all coming inside the 40-yard line. While the weather conditions weren’t the best due to rain and 15 MPH winds, they are still chances that will be needed for the Govs. The punting game will also be key on Saturday. Ben Campbell has attempted 31 punts in four games, and will called upon to pin the Colonels deep in their own territory. If the Govs can’t control the field position to give Campbell a chance to do so, it could be another long night.