After an 0-3 start against non-conference opponents, APSU Football opens Ohio Valley Conference play on Saturday against the defending champs.

The Govs travel to Charleston, Ill., to take on the Panthers of Eastern Illinois, who rolled through conference foes last year to compile an undefeated record of 8-0.

Kickoff for APSU vs. EIU will be at 1:30 p.m. from O’Brien Field. If the trip isn’t on your to-do list for the weekend, you can get updates on the game in many different ways. On Twitter, you can follow @TheAllState or @corey_adams, while also visiting the The All State Facebook page for quarter-by-quarter check-ins. And as always, a full recap of the contest with quotes from players and head coach Kirby Cannon will be published.

Quick Hits

Series record: EIU leads 11-3
Last meeting: Oct. 10, 2013 – EIU 63-7
Last APSU win over Panthers: Nov. 15, 2008 – APSU 15-13
Live video: OVC Digital Network
Live audio: Governors Sports Network

What to watch for: Austin Peay

  • How a young APSU team handles the first conference match-up on the road. The Govs haven’t won a road OVC opening game since 2010 at TSU, while Eastern Illinois has claimed 12 conference wins in a row dating back to 2012. This will be freshman Darrien Boone’s second start at quarterback, so it will be interesting to see how he has adjusted to the collegiate level now in a game with higher stakes.
  • Running game. After rushing for 116 yards against Memphis, APSU could not move the ball on the ground against the Mocs, recording just 42 yards. The longest run from scrimmage was from just nine yards out, so to be able to open up the passing game for Boone, Rashaan Coleman and Justin Roberson will need to rely on their offensive line to gain chunks of yardage.
  • Javier Booker. How will the senior wide receiver respond after a career-high performance against Chattanooga? Booker caught six balls for 88 yards, while also being the recipient of a 45-yard touchdown from Boone. He and his quarterback found a rhythm in the first quarter with quick routes, leading to the pass down the sideline on a free play. Freshman receivers Malik Boynton and Jared Beard combined for eight catches in the game, and the offense would love to get those two involved more as well.
  • Continued improvement on stopping the run. The opener at Memphis was a track meet for the Tigers, rushing for 303 yards and seven touchdowns. However, the front six on defense played much better against UTC, totaling nine tackles for losses in the contest. Antonio Turner had a quiet game against Memphis, but still proved he’s the leader of the defense with a team-high nine tackles last weekend.

What to watch for: Eastern Illinois

  • Overcoming an 0-3 start. Winless in three games isn’t how the Panthers planned their season to start, but did face quality competition in that span. Opening up the season at FBS opponent Minnesota was an expected loss, but losing to in-state rivals Southern Illinois and Illinois State came as a surprise. Now that conference play has started, look for EIU to come out more energized looking for their first win.
  • Air it out. They may be without Jimmy Garoppolo, and Coach Cannon is certainly glad he has moved on to the NFL, but the Panthers still have the same mindset: air it out. They’ll rush to the line looking to get off as many plays as possible, so the Govs defense will have to be on their toes. EIU leads the OVC in passing yards with 840, using two quarterbacks in Andrew Manley and Jalen Whitlow. They also have the ability to run, combining for three touchdowns, with Whitlow being the team’s leading rusher at 146 yards.
  • Adam Drake. Twenty-six of EIU’s 76 completions have come from Drake, the redshirt senior who stands at 6-foot-2. It’s not necessarily big plays that makes him special, but has the ability to beat the Govs secondary, as shown by Tommy Hudson last week against UTC. Drake averages 114 yards per game, so don’t be surprised to see him make a big impact in the game.