Austin Peay State 17 Troy 57
Austin Peay opened their season with a 57-17 loss on the road at Troy. This may sound like the same old story coming out of Clarksville: “Austin Peay lost, what else is new?”. They scored 17 points, racked up 254 yards, and came back from a 13 point deficit to lead briefly in the second quarter. Now 17 points and 254 yards may not sound too impressive, but considering they only passed the 17 point mark 6 times in the last three seasons, combined, this is a huge improvement when you consider that this was against an FBS opponent. Healy’s influence in the offense showed as Austin Peay’s quarterbacks went 14/22 for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns. Peay’s problem on offense was a lackluster rushing attack. The Govs had 41 rushes for only 93 yards, averaging to only 2.3 yards per carry. The biggest problem with Austin Peay was the defense. Three of Troy’s touchdown drives happened on drives of 4 plays or less and Troy had 190 yards between the 8 total plays. Troy was able to gash the Gov’s defense both passing and rushing. Austin Peay needs to work on limiting big plays on defense moving forward. Austin Peays defensive line allowed Troy to rush 43 times and averaged 8.9 yards per carry. Austin Peay’s secondary also allowed Troy to complete 29 of 36 passes for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns with no interceptions. The Gov’s showed they can find success through a Healy engineered aerial attack and are dedicated to the run, now they just have to play some defense.
Tennessee State 44 Arkansas- Pine Bluff 0
One word comes to mind: dominant. That’s how TSU looked as the posted their first shutout since the first round of the playoffs in 2013 when they shut down Butler. Tennessee State looked good on offense on stout on defense as they racked up 461 yards and held UAPB to 161 yards. Quarterback O’Shay Ackerman-Carter went 18/32 passing for 259 yards and two touchdowns and the Tigers rushed for 202 yards, three more touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards per carry. The defensive unit was perhaps the most impressive part of the Tigers rout was the play on the defensive side of the ball. All-OVC defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko picked up where he left off from last year, picking up 5 tackles and 2 sacks on the night. Overall the play from the TSU defensive line was top notch. The Tigers made the AUPB rushing attack a non-factor as they held them to just 49 yards on 23 carries. The secondary didn’t have a bad night either, only allowing 19 completions on 34 throws and holding AUPB to 119 passing yards. If Tennessee State builds on what they showed Saturday night they could prove to be one of the top OVC teams once again and fight for a share of the OVC championship. They’ve shown they have the tools to do so.
Tennessee Tech 7 Wofford 21
Marcus Satterfield’s first game as a Golden Eagle didn’t exactly go as planned. The offense looked lackluster and the defense couldn’t get off the field on third down. Wofford only had 42 yards passing but why pass when you can run for 346 yards? Tennessee Tech couldn’t contain Wofford’s rushing attack, at all. TTU gave up 6.4 yards per carry on 54 carries. If the Golden Eagles want to be successful this season they need to step up their game in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The offensive line must play better after giving up 5 sacks and only helping TTU’s running backs to 1.7 yards per carry. On defense it’s more of the same. TTU needs to control the line of scrimmage stop the run because giving up 346 yards isn’t going to cut it.
Murray State 3 Illinois 52
You could tell Murray State was playing a Big Ten team. The Illini led a balanced attack against the Racers, racking up 287 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns and 228 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns against a severely outmatch Racer’s defense. On the other side of the ball the story was more of the same. All-OVC quarterback KD Humphries, despite his best efforts, couldn’t keep the Racers in the game. He was intercepted on his first two drives and finished the game 18-31 for 163 yards and two interceptions. It’s hard to judge where Murray State is based on such a lopsided matchup but you can expect KD Humphries to be the team’s biggest threat as the Racers enter OVC play.
Southeast Missouri State 17 Memphis 35
SEMO had a respectable showing in the Liberty Bowl as they took on FBS team Memphis. Memphis jumped out to a quick 22-0 lead in the first quarter, however SEMO bounced back and outscored Memphis 17-13 in the last three quarters of the game. SEMO actually found more success in the running game than Memphis did averaging 3.8 yards per carry on 29 carries compared to 3.4 yards. The defense also forced three turnovers, however Memphis was able to pass for 295 yards and three touchdowns against the Redhawks secondary. Like most teams this early in the season, limiting turnovers and penalties is the biggest key to improving.
UT-Martin 7 Cincinnati 28
UT-Martin opened their season on the road with an impressive performance at Cincinnati. The Skyhawks led Cincinnati the entire first half, going into halftime 7-6 and kept their lead until 2 minutes left in the third and were the victim of two interceptions throw in the fourth quarter that allowed Cincinnati to push the score to 28-7. The biggest surprise for the Skyhawks was the outstanding play by the defense. Kahlid Hagens earned OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 15 tackle performance against Purdue. If Marshall quarterback transfer Gunnar Holcombe and his receivers can get comfortable in the passing game UTM could prove to be a dangerous team in the OVC.
Eastern Kentucky 24 Purdue 45
Eastern Kentucky went on the road and gave Purdue all they wanted. The Colonels entered the fourth quarter only 10 points down after rallying from 21-0 deficit but Purdue pulled away in the fourth quarter to secure their 45-24 victory. The Colonels looked good offensively against the Big Ten defense, racking up 398 yards and 3 touchdowns. There was chatter in the offseason about the acquisition of former Mizzou quarterback Maty Mauk and whether he would land the starting job over veteran starter Bennie Coney. The answer is NO! Mauk went 2 for 7 for 18 yards and two interceptions. By comparison Coney went 13 of 23 for 158 yards and a touchdown. Had Mauk not entered the game the final score in West Lafayette could have looked much different.
Eastern Illinois 21 #20 Western Illinois 38
Eastern Illinois started out the season with a sloppy performance that led to a Western Illinois win. The score tells one story where the stats tell a completely different one. Eastern Illinois had more first downs and more yards of total offense than the Leathernecks however the Panthers had 8 penalties for 66 yards and three turnovers that helped WIU secure the victory. Questions loomed at EIU about who would replace quarterback Jalen Whitlow in EIU’s pass happy offense and it seems that they have found their answer in redshirt Junior Mitch Kimble. Kimble finished the night 18 for 29 for 323 yards, 2 touchdowns and a pick. If the Panthers can eliminate the penalties and turnovers and improve their rushing attack they will be a strong contender in the OVC this year.
#3 Jacksonville State 31 North Alabama 12
Jacksonville State opened their season Thursday night with old Gulf South rival North Alabama. With 22,116 in attendance the Gamecocks racked up 502 yards of offense and 31 points to win the contest 31-12. Eli Jenkins showed poise as he led the Gamecocks to a 21-0 lead in the second quarter, however, the Gamecocks didn’t exactly look like themselves. The biggest issue of the night for the Gamecocks was penalties. There were 12 penalties for 106 yards. Penalties spent most of the night killing drives and helping UNA down the field. JSU hasn’t committed that many penalties since their 2014 loss to Sam Houston State in the second round of the playoffs and absolutely MUST clean up their act if they want to make another run at the national championship. One of the biggest questions for JSU entering the season was how the defense would rebound from losing 8 starters. The answer is surprisingly well. I was extremely impressed by the play of the defensive line in particular. They played like a group that had returned all seven rather than just two. They showed great ability to get to the ball, rush the passer, and stuff the run. There were some issues with missed tackles but overall I thought the defensive line was the most impressive unit for the Gamecocks Thursday night. The secondary is loaded with talent but it lacked in discipline. The secondary accounted for a bulk of the penalties and needs to play with more discipline if they want to be considered an elite unit. JSU put their stable of running backs on display as well. Auburn transfer Roc Thomas earned OVC Newcomer of the Week honors for his performance that included 3 rushing TDs, 71 rushing yards, and 4 catches for 53 yards. However, the surprise of the night came from true-freshman back Tyus Flakes. The Auburn High School star looked right at home in the offense, racking up 72 yards on just 12 carries. One concerning thing I saw Thursday was Roc Thomas’s ability to get upfield. Roc was unable to hit several holes and get upfield often opting to take an outside route to the edge of the field, resulting in a disappointing 3.5 yards per carry. Roc showed his spectacular athleticism, elusiveness, and explosiveness at times but needs to find a way to get out of the backfield faster and more consistently. The other concern for me on offense was the receiving corps. First off I’d like to say this group is talented and that I can’t wait to see what they looked like later in the season, however, Thursday they lacked a gel factor with Jenkins. Jenkins did not have a single familiar face on the field Thursday to throw to (as Josh Barge was held out with a foot injury) and it showed. The receiving group is arguably more talented than last year’s crew but they need to build more chemistry and gel more if they want to have the same kind of success that last year’s crew enjoyed. All things considered, it was a promising start for the Gamecocks. Most of the mistakes and issues are easily correctable or will improve as the season grinds on.
Jacksonville State Gamecocks
Eastern Kentucky Colonels
Eastern Illinois Panthers
Tennessee State Tigers
Southeast Missouri State Redhawks
Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles
Austin Peay Governors
Murray State Racers