Twelve chapters filled the 2014 book of Austin Peay Football.
It certainly wasn’t an award-winning novel, with several pages often repeating themselves. However, despite the misfortunes the Governors faced this season, it was a ground-breaking campaign for the future.
A $19 million facility opened on Sept. 13, and a pair of memorable games for different reasons were on display at Goverors Stadium. Obviously, beating Murray State in Clarksville for the first time since 1991 is bittersweet, and the Racers eventually finished at the bottom of the totem pole in the Ohio Valley Conference. Then there’s the homecoming loss to Tennessee State, which is self-explanatory, but the atmosphere on that day was unforgettable.
When people think back to this season, the stat of being outscored 365-48 away from home will certainly stand out. But when you look at the young core of players still developing on this team, it’s clear that APSU Football is on the rise.
Athletics Director Derek van der Merwe patted players’ back following Saturday’s loss to Tennessee Tech, encouraging them to work even harder this offseason. I keep saying this over and over, but head coach Kirby Cannon has the team trending in the right direction. His first recruiting class has seen several contributors emerge into quality players, and it’s only the beginning as Cannon was notified after the game that he’d gotten a new commitment.
“Our freshman class is full of OVC-level players,” Cannon said. “Now we’ve got to get another class right next to it, and then another one after that. This program is in good shape right now. We’ve got a disciplined team, and we give great effort in everything we do.”
Replacing 18 seniors, seven of which are defensive players, will be difficult. But out of the 18 names, I bet you wouldn’t say a punter would be the most difficult to replace.
Senior Ben Campbell left his mark on the program in a big way, but leaves with records that prove how treacherous of a season it was. On Saturday, Campbell broke the single-season punts record in both APSU and OVC history, booting the ball an astounding 93 times in 12 games. While the stock put into punters isn’t normally high, Campbell was as good as they come when you look at his ability to pin opponents deep.
“That’s the senior who will be toughest to replace,” Cannon said. “He didn’t hit every one of them 50 yards, but his consistency gave us a chance to improve defensively. A lot of that has to do with our punter in flipping the field. We’re really going to miss Ben Campbell.”
Going into the spring camp in 2015, the biggest question mark will be at quarterback. Three different players took a significant amount of snaps for the Govs this season, with each guy — Darrien Boone, Mickey Macius, and Trey Taylor — showing signs of steady play. It was Taylor who led APSU against the Golden Eagles, passing for 224 yards with a 80-yard touchdown bomb to Wesley Thomas.
But even with the redshirt junior emerging late in the season, Cannon emphasized that the job is open to anyone once next season comes.
“In no way, shape, or form would I say he (Taylor) has captured a job,” Cannon said. “I think there’s a lot of things he can do better, as well as our other quarterbacks. That job is completely up for grabs, and he’s going to need to improve his game to be on the field. We need more consistent quarterback play to take that next step.”
While that position sorts itself, as a fan of APSU Football, you have to be impressed with the young skill players. I noticed from day one that there were several talented receivers, and it showed as Thomas and Malik Boynton became vital parts of the offense. Also, Rashaan Coleman will be back for a full season at slot receiver, while the running back spot will have plenty of depth once again.
Freshman walk-on Otis Gerron was definitely the biggest surprise of the season. Not because he wasn’t capable of becoming a work horse, but the fact that he totaled just under 600 yards in seven games where he received a heavy dosage of carries. Justin Roberson played all 12 games for the Govs at tailback, having a solid first season on the offensive side of the ball for 484 yards.
Another season of APSU Football has come to an end, leaving us with a mix of questions and anticipation.
Don’t worry, though.
Only nine more months until we kick off once again.
Photo by Chris Malone/The All State