MACON, Ga. — Youth was served on Saturday as the Govs received big contributions from freshmen.
Despite a 49-21 defeat at the hands of the Mercer Bears, all three touchdowns scored by APSU came from newcomers to the program. A walk-on running back, Otis Gerron, exploded for the Govs out of the backfield, rushing for an astounding 196 yards, including an 89-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Gerron was stacked up at the line of scrimmage, but managed to dodge traffic and race down the far sideline. The native of Dickson County took advantage of the reps received following the Illinois State contest, and is now becoming a key contributor as a back who isn’t afraid to take contact.
“I see things from him every day,” head coach Kirby Cannon said. “He’s probably one of the best personalities on the team, and he’s a great kid. He sees a great opportunity here, and he’s taking advantage of it. What a pleasure to coach. That kid’s a man.”
At quarterback, a knee injury to Darrien Boone forced freshman Mickey Macius to lead the offense from the second quarter on. As Gerron set the Govs up across midfield, Macius came out firing with a renewed focus on attacking more often.
An interception in the third quarter was costly as APSU looked to pull within reach of the Bears, but prior to that, Macius was efficient. He finished 6-for-11 on passes for 86 yards, along with throwing two touchdowns for the first points of his career. The theme of freshmen contributing continued on, as a pair of young wide receivers made the grabs in the end zone. The first came on a simple screen pass to Malik Boynton, while the other took a lot of effort as Jared Beard made a juggling catch from 32 yards out.”
The performances by freshmen give plenty of hope for the Govs’ future, but Macius is eager to see positive results immediately.
“It’s good for the future, but it’s not good for now,” he said. “We’ve got a bright future as a team, but right now, we need to learn how to play together.”
Early in the second quarter, the Govs came to life as Gerron jolted up the middle for a gain of 37 yards, putting the football inside the opponent’s territory for the first time. APSU crept closer to the end zone with a third down reception by Rashaan Coleman, which set up the score by Boynton.
On the ensuing Mercer possession, the Bears were able to move the ball slowly, yet effectively. A six-play drive would result in a third touchdown pass for Mercer quarterback John Russ, this time finding JT Palmer on a slant. Mercer began a series late in the second quarter, but Malcolm Goines halted any further damage to head to the locker room down 35-6.
Mercer put up 28 points in the first quarter, though, and the early deficit was insurmountable for the Govs.
“It was the start you can’t overcome,” Cannon said. “We made mistakes with penalties, mistakes in coverage, and did some new things we haven’t done. I am somewhat happy we stabilized it with some competitive series, but you can’t win ball games if you make those mistakes.”
APSU received the football to begin the second half, and answered the call beginning with a 22-yard burst by Gerron. The Govs reached striking distance, and Macius tossed his second touchdown of the evening with the help of his receiver, Beard. The pass was tipped by a defensive back, but Beard stayed composed to make an impressive grab to get his feet down.
The APSU defense took a complete 180 in the third quarter, holding the Bears under 40 yards during the 15 minute period. A sack by Tyler Schneider, another freshman, set the tone, and the unit as a whole shut down Mercer until five minutes into the fourth.
Alex Lakes, who rushed for 98 yards, scampered for a 17-yard touchdown. Then, with four minutes remaining, the Bears gave the second unit some snaps, with Michael Haynes passing to Derek Owins for a five yard pitch and catch.
The Govs will return home next Saturday, playing host to rival Murray State for a 6 p.m. kickoff.
Photo: Tyler Schneider tries to beat his man off the line (Bailey Jones/The All State)