A fourth and inches play by APSU basically told the home side of the story as the Govs fell to Eastern Kentucky 31-0 on Saturday.
After missing a touchdown by less than a yard, quarterback Darrien Boone rushed his team to the line looking to dive across the goal line. However, as the snap was given to him from the center, the pigskin slipped off Boone’s fingertips, resulting in a turnover on downs.
For the second time this season, APSU (0-5, 0-2 OVC) has been held to zeros on the scoreboard, with just 19 points scored in five games. While there were improvements which stood out for the Govs – I’ll touch on those in a second. But first, let’s discuss the lack of offensive efficiency to open my four thoughts from the weekend.
Field position unkind to Govs
With the exception of one spot in the fourth quarter, APSU started each drive backed up in their own territory, with six series beginning inside the 20.
The reason for this could be the ability of EKU to pin the Govs deep, but in reality, you have to look at the number of turnovers APSU forced: zero.
This allowed the Colonels to put together long drives, and while the APSU defense held the visitors at times – an upcoming topic to be discussed – EKU did a good job of turning the tables on the Govs offense. This put the pressure on the home sideline to dig themselves out of the hole, and it led to one of two things: a turnover, or a punt by senior Ben Campbell as he totaled a new career-high with 11 boots.
“It’s a matter of exchanges on punts, and we need to get off quicker on defense,” APSU head coach Kirby Cannon said. “But I think the real missing link on that is we need to get some turnovers. We need to put ourselves in a position to get some turnovers and shorten the field for, what is right now, a struggling, struggling offense.”
No separation between quarterbacks thus far
On Saturday, it was an interchanging of parts as Boone and Mickey Macius alternated under center for the Govs.
For the most part, Boone took snaps on first downs in primarily running situations, while the pocket-passer Macius entered on passing downs to open the playbook a bit. Early on, Macius took aggressive shots down field, which was a good sign to see, but then there were the instances where the freshman tried to thread a fine needle into holes.
Macius finished 11-for-22 on passes for 53 yards and two interceptions, while Boone went 3-for-4 through the air for 34 yards, while also picking up 30 yards with his legs. With the improvements still not shining bright five games into the season, don’t expect a full-time starter to emerge as both guys continue to share reps.
“You have to develop them both,” Cannon said. “I thought Mickey threw a couple good balls, and he threw a couple horrific balls. We can’t turn it over, and we definitely can’t turn it over on a short field.”
A committee of running backs just got deeper
One positive on the offensive side of the ball was sophomore Julian Franklin, rushing for a team-high 39 yards on nine carries.
The tailback position has a lot of depth with Justin Roberson, Rashaan Coleman, and Otis Gerron, who emerged last week against Illinois State, all receiving touches. Franklin has gone under the radar a bit, but stated his case against the Colonels why he should get more carries with some nice runs behind his offensive line on Saturday.
“In practice, I always play my heart out and give my best effort, and when I got a chance to go on the field, I took those opportunities,” Franklin said. “Our problem, or at least we thought, was our offensive line, but today I thought they did a good job.”
I’d still put Roberson at the top of the depth chart alongside the signal caller. However, even with that said, any of the other three names have the ability to break big gains when his number is called.
Defense showing improvements each week
Sure, giving up 31 points on 354 yards of offense isn’t what you hope for, but the APSU defense is showing improvements in each game.
The defense forced the Colonels into punting eight times, and if two touchdowns didn’t occur in a span of 44 seconds, the second half would have gone a lot differently. Coach Cannon said with the exception of the hail mary right before half, he saw a lot of good things on that side of the ball, including the pressure on the quarterback.
Once again, a player from the secondary recorded, or tied, for the most tackles. This time, it was sophomore Damien Whitfield who had 10 stops, along with Antonio Turner, while also jumping the passing lanes to bat down two balls.
“Coach Cannon puts us in good situations,” Whitfield said. “In our defense, we like to flow to the ball and hit people. To me, we’ve got a good defense.”
The Govs also held EKU’s Dy’Shawn Mobley to just 55 yards, a player who came into the game ranked third in the FCS with 8.6 yards per carry.