Pride. Dignity. Excitement.
All feelings the Governors had coming into Saturday’s homecoming game against Tennessee State.
With 9:33 left to play, it appeared the built up emotions would unleash in a celebration with an 11-point lead. Suddenly, the lead was trimmed to three after a TSU touchdown with four minutes to play, but the Govs retained possession. However, the drive stalled. APSU punted. All of a sudden, the Tigers were marching down the field in prime position to spoil the evening for APSU fans.
They did just that, scoring with 35 seconds remaining, to win 31-27.
The life was sucked out of the home sideline, with a full capacity crowd quickly turning into empty bleachers in a matter of minutes. It was a stunning loss, plain and simple.
The hashtag explains it all.
I wish I could say there was a feeling of confidence from my seat, but that isn’t the case. Credit to those who stayed the entire duration and made it a very impressive atmosphere. The Military Appreciation events were also outstanding, from the decision to wear the jerseys to the recognition throughout the game.
APSU head coach Kirby Cannon was very moved by it all, as well.
“Certainly, the benefit of wearing the jerseys was watching some of those soldiers with smiles on their faces,” he said. “I was really impressed with the whole atmosphere tonight, and that had as much to do with why we played well along with other things. This is getting to be a great atmosphere to play in, and it lifts our play and performance.”
Here are three takeaways from the game.
Rough night for the secondary
My number one pregame concern for APSU was how the five defensive backs would handle the passing game the Tigers brought to the table. In the first half, the defense played very well to hold TSU to 171 yards of offense, but it was only a matter of time before they were able to spot holes in the camo-covered secondary.
The Govs played two freshmen in the secondary — Kyran Moore and David Wall — about 90 percent of the time. There were bright spots for the newcomers as Moore recovered two fumbles, one of which was forced by Wall. However, when it came to one-on-one coverage, TSU held a significant advantage.
Wide receiver Weldon Garlington was held without a catch in the first half, but quarterback Michael German quickly changed that. German, who passed for 395 yards, tossed three touchdowns to Garlington in the second half, including a 58-yard score that saw him exploit his man to break into open space.
“We don’t have the man match-up,” Cannon said. “We’re down two starters, and there’s some mismatches there. The only way you can win those is by having pass pressure, and we had none. Our defensive line was absolutely dominated. We played a lot of zone in those final few plays, just hoping we’d play zone well enough, they’d run out of time, and we’d get an interception.”
It didn’t happen, but in a situation like that, the Govs really had no choice.
Taylor becomes ‘hot hand’ at quarterback
Before the season started, I had high hopes that redshirt junior Trey Taylor was going to be APSU’s answer at quarterback.
Then he struggled in the opener at Memphis, going 4-for-9, 30 yards, and a pick. A shoulder injury proceeded to keep out of action for four weeks, but it wasn’t until Saturday that he received extended time as the signal caller.
Darrien Boone started the game for the Govs, going 6-for-7 on passes for 85 yards, but Cannon elected to go with Taylor as it was planned ahead of time. Boone didn’t suffer an injury or anything. It was just a situation where they wanted to see what Taylor had to offer.
“I thought Darrien played very well,” Cannon said. “We had planned on playing Trey in the third or fourth series, because we feel like he’s our must throw the ball to get back in the game guy, and he went out there and executed our offense. He really gave us a big lift, and there was no need to change that. Darrien understands, because at times, we’ve used him in that regard.”
Taylor finished 8-of-17 for 104 yards and a touchdown, while also rushing for 49 yards. While Boone is arguably the better runner of the two in terms of speed, Taylor is superior at running read option sets where he’s on the run with an opportunity to either tuck it or pitch it to a back.
“Coach always tells me to stay prepared, because you never know when you’re opportunity is going to come,” Taylor said. “That’s what I’ve been doing in practice. I just want to be able to compete and lead my team to victory.”
As for the 10-yard touchdown he threw to Rashaan Coleman in the first quarter, I think it was actually incomplete. Sorry to play the bad cop here, but I’ve seen visual evidence and it looked like Coleman trapped up. Just throwing that out there.
The question now is, who starts at quarterback next week at SEMO? Will Boone get the nod again? Or has Taylor earned the right? Also, don’t forget about Mickey Macius, who is recovering from a thumb injury. I don’t know the answer to these questions, but hope to have an answer this week.
Gold star to special teams unit
After 570 minutes of football, the Governors finally(!) attempted a field goal. In fact, they attempted two, and made both from 30 and 22 yards out.
The first one didn’t come without drama, though.
With less than 20 seconds remaining until half, the Govs were out of timeouts as the clock ran. Credit to the coaching staff for sending the field goal team out as quickly as they did. Dakota Vincil took a deep breath and drilled it between the uprights, giving APSU a 17-3 lead.
“I thought we did a good job with our special teams,” Cannon said. “It was nice to get those field goals, because we had not even attempted one until this game. But more than anything else, I was happy with our execution on the first field goal. It certainly gave us a big boost going into halftime.”
Also, the kickoff team had its moment following Otis Gerron’s eight-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Instead of booting it deep, Evan Toby elected to use a pooch kick, and it was well-executed as the ball bounced off a TSU player and into the arms of Moore.
The only downside to a close game is senior punter Ben Campbell didn’t make a huge dent towards breaking the single-season record at APSU for most punts in a season. The record is 91, and currently, Campbell has 83. So, if my math is correct, he’ll need at least four attempts in each of the final two games to either break or tie it.
Photo by Chris Malone/The All State