One win may not seem like a big deal, but for Austin Peay Football, a victory goes a long way.
“It was a special night for a lot of people,” head coach Kirby Cannon said, reflecting on his first victory. One of those individuals is Cannon himself, who went through a treacherous season a year ago without his own full recruiting class, and started off the 2014 season with six losses. Many people had written off APSU Football despite all of the improvements being made to the program, but Cannon never stopped believing.
During Saturday’s 20-13 win over Murray State, he watched three offensive playmakers recruited by his staff make the biggest contributions. While a winning record is mathematically impossible to occur this season, one win moves them a step further in the process to hoist APSU Football out of the bottom of the barrel.
“It proves the investment will pay off,” Cannon said. “The kids deserve a great deal of credit. There’s nothing worse than going a whole season without winning. Just to be able to come back and play your best game, by far, after an 0-6 start just shows we’re doing something right. It shows we’ve got good kids who can get over disappointment, and that’s one of the life lessons football is supposed to teach.”
Will this lead to other wins this season? I don’t know, but at the very least, it allows the players to grasp what winning feels like. Everyone celebrating in that home locker room remained confident that this day, Oct. 18, would come sooner than later.
I thought the recipient of all three touchdowns, freshman wide receiver Jared Beard, said it best in delivering arguably the best interview I’ve ever conducted.
“Honestly, it takes it to a whole other level,” he said. “We came in with expectations of being this great team. We knew it was going to be tough coming in with a lot of young players against a lot of players who are older and stronger. But as you know, football is about heart. It’s not about coming out and being the bigger, better, stronger team. I think for this program, it has allowed us to see who we can be as a unit. There’s no possible way that anyone can deny us that we played as team, and it starts with individuals doing their job. I think this allows us to see we can be great.”
At quarterback, you couldn’t ask for anything more out of freshman Mickey Macius. After fall camp concluded, Macius was on the outside looking in behind Trey Taylor and Darrien Boone, and it appeared he would sit out a season. Things quickly changed in a blink of an eye for Macius, though, and while it took him a few weeks to adjust at the collegiate level, Saturday’s performance was one to be proud of.
The Arlington Heights, Ill., product went 18-for-22 on passes for 201 yards, along with the three touchdowns to Beard. His completion percentage of 81.8 percent is the first time a Gov has gone above the 80 mark since 2003, and for his efforts, Macius earned OVC Co-Newcomer of the Week.
“I definitely feel a lot more comfortable,” he said. “Coach (Josh) Richards is doing a great job of adapting the offense to our players and what we need. I feel very confident with all of his play calls out there.”
And that defense, though.
Without a doubt, it’s the best I’ve seen the Govs defense play. The last time APSU has given up 13 points or less was against Culver-Stockton in 2012, and if you would have told me Murray quarterback KD Humphries was going to throw two interceptions with no touchdowns, I certainly wouldn’t believe it. However the Govs shut down a guy who had six scores last week against SEMO, and if you have to compliment an individual, look no further than cornerback Roderick Owens.
The sophomore picked off both of Humphries’ passes, recovered a fumble on special teams, and also made key stops to force the Racers to turn the ball over. As a whole, Murray committed five turnovers, and much of that can be attributed to the different looks Cannon and his defense gave Humphries.
“We changed the whole defensive line up with a three-man front,” Owens said. “We knew they were going to try us, not down field, but with screens, and we just adapted to it.”
When the team meets again on Tuesday, the level of confidence will be at an all-time high. However, the celebration is over. The Govs are now in a rare position of practicing coming off a win, and the players and coaches both know that it’s time to move on to UT Martin next Saturday.
“Now that we have the victory, don’t forget who allowed you to have it,” Beard said. “Being a child of God, I’ve learned that humility is key. I would say as someone who could be a leader on this team, I will preach to everybody not to be overly arrogant and so excited that you forget who gave you the ‘W’.”
Photo by Chris Malone/The All State