After falling 45-0 in the opening game on Saturday, Aug. 31 against Tennessee, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Austin Peay.
The Govs will travel to Nashville on Sept. 7 to challenge the Vanderbilt Commodores for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. This will be another tough test for APSU by squaring off with a Southeastern Conference team for the second week in a row.
Vanderbilt began their season Thursday night, losing to Ole Miss 39-35 in a back-and-forth game. The Commodore offense finished with 426 yards in the thriller (300 passing, 126 rushing), with senior wide receiver Jordan Matthews leading the way with 10 catches for 178 yards and a touchdown.
As the Govs prepare this week in practice, Matthews will be the focus for the defense to game plan for. It could be another 150+ yard game for Matthews if the APSU secondary cannot contain the 6’3, 200 pound receiver.
Even if the Govs choose to double team Matthews on the outside, there are other weapons on the Vandy offense that can give APSU fits. Jerron Seymour (five carries, 43 yards, TD vs. Ole Miss) and Wesley Tate (17 carries, 39 yards, two TD) are the go-to weapons for the Commodores when reaching the goalline, and also have another solid receiver in Jonathan Krause on the opposite side of Matthews. Chris Boyd was another key part to the offense, but was suspended from the team following an indictment involving the rape case that occured on campus, resulting in four players taken into custodity.
For the Govs, the offense showed some promise following the loss to Tennessee last week. Junior Andrew Spivey played the majority of the game, completing 11 of 22 passes for 94 yards and an interception. Jacob Sexton also received playing time, passing for 38 yards and an interception while also rushing for 25 yards. Against one of the best defensive lines in the SEC, the Govs offensive played solid by allowing just two sacks in the game. The offensive line is the backbone of this team, so it was promising for them to play well as a whole.
Darryl Clack appears to be the top offensive weapon for the Govs going forward as the junior had three catches for 80 yards on Saturday, including a 35-yard reception. Clack has shown he has big play potential, which was lost from APSU after Devin Stark graduated. Look for Spivey and Clack to become more in sync as the season moves into week two.
When the Govs do reach Vanderbilt territory, they will need a better game out of the special teams. Junior kicker Walter Spears missed a 31-yard field goal wide right against the Vols. To avoid being shutout in back-to-back weeks, APSU will need Spears deliver when called upon.
The key to the game will without a doubt be the defense. Tennessee was able to drive down the field at will on the Govs, and now with Vandy next, APSU is arguably taking on an even better overall offense. Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley was able to sit back and find open receivers for three touchdowns, and if they allow Austyn Carta-Samuels of Vandy to do the same, it could be another long night for the Govs.
Everyone knows APSU will be a heavy underdog against Vanderbilt, but look at what has happened recently around college football. In week one, North Dakota State — an FCS like APSU — knocked off Kansas State of the Big 12. Anything can happen in sports. We have learned that over the years.
Will the Govs shock the state by defeating a school with great prestige like Vanderbilt? That remains to be seen, but APSU has pieces in place to have success. It will be another hostile environement going into Vanderbilt Stadium, but the jitters should be cleared after playing in front of almost 100,000 fans at Neyland Stadium.
Win or lose, the goal of the Govs has to be improving from last week and giving 100 percent to have a chance at turning heads in Nashville.