While the Sunday, Feb. 21 spring opening loss for the Governors’ football team was far from a desired outcome, newly-hired defensive coordinator Chris Kappas and the APSU defense managed to make a historic impact in week one.
Kappas had spent the previous eight seasons at Division III powerhouse Mount Union before joining head coach Scotty Walden in his first year in Clarksville. The coordinator’s unique schemes and varying pressures even make it difficult for the Govs up-tempo offense in practice, according to Walden.
His consistent defensive intensity paid off in a big way from the start. The Governors tallied seven sacks on the afternoon, the most ever in a single game by an APSU defense. Their depth was displayed in their sack count as well, with all seven coming from different defenders.
The defense’s ability to tackle behind the line of scrimmage was also good for the second-most tackles for loss in a game with 16. In addition, Tennessee Tech was limited to just 50 yards rushing and 156 yards of total offense.
Walden attributed the record setting performance to both Kappas and the players, particularly highlighting the abilities of linebacker Jack McDonald and seniors Matthew Gayle and Elijah Shepard. McDonald finished the contest with eight total tackles and a sack. Despite their solid performance, the redshirt junior believes there is more to be seen out of the Govs’ defensive unit.
“Coach Kappas is an awesome coach,” McDonald said. “He brought forth an awesome gameplan for us, and it was our job to go out there and execute it. We were able to get back to the quarterback a few times but, altogether, we weren’t able to execute the entire gameplan like we should. He deserves a lot of the credit, and we just as a whole defense have to be better.”
Walden shared in giving Kappas credit and labeled the defensive potential of his team as “dominant.” According to the coach, the offensive and special teams aspects of the game only hindered their defensive opportunities on the afternoon.
“We have a really good defense,” he said. “We are really good on defense, and we can get after the pass rush, and we can stop the run. That’s what is so frustrating about [the] loss, is because we did everything besides one thing that led to problem number two: we didn’t take care of the football, and that led to problem number two, they started on the other side of the field.
“I give our defense all the credit in the world, and we’re going to be better for them. Coach Kappas is doing a great job on that side of the ball, and our players are buying in and playing extremely hard.”
Whether the APSU defense can keep up their impressive production is yet to be seen. However, if the first game is any indicator, Kappas’ defense could bring a record-shattering season to Clarksville.