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Ohio Valley: Week 1 Recap and Power Rankings

While the majority of the OVC opened their seasons with either cupcakes or money games there were still several great games this past week.  Including a few better than expected performances from Austin Peay and Tennessee State.  The Tigers were the first FCS team of the year to get themselves an FBS scalp when they opened up Georgia State’s new stadium by handing them a loss, Jacksonville State showed they have the defensive firepower to make a return trip deep into the playoffs, and Eastern Illinois had a thrilling win as they won their game over Indiana State with no time left on the clock.

 

#5 JSU 27 

#15 UTC 13

Jacksonville State kicked off the FCS season last weekend on ESPN in dominating fashion as they rolled to a 27-13 win over the Chattanooga Mocs.  This marks the fifth consecutive win in the series for JSU and the largest margin of victory during the Gamecocks’ winning streak.

Offensively the headline was Roc Thomas’ 190 yards of offense.  The senior running back went for 122 rushing yards on 19 carries, 68 receiving yards, and a TD against the Mocs defense. Bryant Horn also showed a lot of promise after a rough first half.  He finished the game completing 14 of his 20 attempts for 182 yards, a TD, and two picks.  After settling down in the second half Horn was 6 for 6 for 85 yards and a TD.  If JSU can get steady and quality play out of their offensive line this offense could see a lot of improvement from last year despite not having #7 and #12 on the field.

Defense is where the Gamecocks really shine.  Darius Jackson spent most of his evening in the UTC backfield terrorizing everyone.  Jonathan Hagler had himself a big game topped off by a 52 yard pick six. The defense overall only allowed UTC to muster 6 points, 13 rushing yards, and 153 yards of total offense before the starters were pulled early in the fourth quarter.  The Mocs finished the night with 13 points and 294 yards of total offense.

The Gamecocks travel to Atlanta this Saturday to take on the Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech.

 

 

#28 TSU 17

Georgia State 10

The Tennessee State Tigers opened the season with an impressive win over FBS Georgia State.  The game was the first to be played in the Panthers’ new home stadium formerly Turner Field.

Offensively the headliner was Florida transfer quarterback Treon Harris as he accounted for 236 of TSU’s 383 total yards.  In addition to his 145 passing yards, Harris was also the Tigers’ leading rusher with 91 yards on 11 carries.  However, what impressed me the most about the Tigers’ offensive performance wasn’t Harris, it was the amount of help he was getting.  Patrick Smith showed why he was the Preseason OVC Offensive Player of the Year as he hauled in 6 catches for 70 yards and the offensive line paved the way for a rushing attack that put up 238 yards and averaged 5.7 YPC.  The only complaint I have is the Tigers HAVE to start finishing drives.  Missing two field goals is a good way to get yourself beat. Just ask Georgia Tech.

The defensive side of the ball is where I was REALLY impressed.  Despite Ogundeko being fairly bottled up most of the night the Tiger defense had a fantastic showing in their debut.  The star of the night was senior linebacker Chris Collins who racked up 12 total tackles (9 solo), 3 TFLs, a sack, AND the forced fumble that allowed TSU to get their first points of the night.  Collins also picked up FCS Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.  I thought the defensive line as a whole played a great game as they held the Panthers to just 1.7 yards per rush on 29 carries.  Those are JSU type numbers and if this team can continue to improve they may be taking home some hardware on November 16th.

 

 

Congratulations to the Tennessee State Tigers on their first ever win over an FBS program. You guys played well and earned it.

 

 

 

UT-Martin 36

Clarion 0

Tennessee-Martin opened their season with the creamiest of creampuffs as they took on DII Clarion.  This game marks the first time UTM has shut out an opponent since 2011 when the Skyhawks dropped 63 on NAIA team Union (KY).

Normally games against lesser opponents don’t really tell us much but there were a couple red flags when examining UTM’s offense.  First off, Troy Cook only completed 13/28 of his passes which was likely because of the downpour that the game was played in, so that’s not something to worry about yet.  Second, it seems like the only consistent thing on the offense is Jr RB Ladarius Galloway and his 9.2 YPC, once again probably because of the monsoon.  Third, the Skyhawks racked up TWELVE penalties for 110 yards and three turnovers.  More often than not that’s a death sentence for teams playing tough competition but thankfully for the Skyhawks Clarion doesn’t fit that description.  As I said at first though, these games often don’t give us much useful info and rain doesn’t help either so I’m really hoping that’s the case here.

Defensive performance was as you would expect against a lower division opponent.  The UTM defense held Clarion to 147 total yards, 0 points, and 2.6 yards per rush.  One stat line that did surprise me was that Clarion’s QB only completed 4 of his 22 pass attempts, unfortunately 2 of those competitions were to guys in Skyhawks jerseys. As said before, maybe it was the rain, or maybe UTMs secondary is good.  We will find out this Saturday as the Skyhawks travel to Oxford, MS to take on the Ole Miss Rebels.  Hopefully it won’t rain.

 

Did I mention the rain?

 

 

Austin Peay 14

Cincinnati 26

Bold Prediction: Austin Peay is going to win some games this year.

Bolder Prediction: The Govs finish .500 or above in OVC play.

Yup. I said it.  Fight me.

 

The Govs were another team that impressed me in their season opener.  On offense, they ran. A lot. Austin Peay’s 60 rushing attempts garnered them 224 rushing yards and 37:41 of the play clock.  Unfortunately for the Govs two turnovers thwarted what could have been a MASSIVE upset.

The Govs offense racked up 313 total yards against Cincy but there were still issues that were apparent. For one, the third down conversion rate needs to be addressed.  3 of 16 on third down isn’t going to win you any games. Second, sophomore quarterback JaVaughn Craig looked unimpressive throwing the football as he completed just half of his 14 attempts for just 63 yards, a TD, and a pick.

The Govs defense was the surprising thing to me.  The Govs only allowed Cincy to get 248 yards of total offense, limited them to 3.3 yards per rush on 29 carries, and held the Bearcats to 3-11 on third down.  That stat line should be very encouraging considering the program has lost 28 games straight.  Healy’s hard work is starting to pay off and we will likely start seeing the fruits of his labor around week 3.

 

 

Tennessee Tech 14

#18 Western Illinois 41

I’m not sugar coating it… that was a mess.  I thought coming into the season losing Birdsong would be the biggest issue for Tennessee Tech, turns out it’s just one of several issues.

The Tennessee Tech offense was held to ZERO rushing yards. Zip. Nada. None. On 21 attempts! I get that WIU is a great team but if Austin Peay can put up 224 rushing yards against an FBS team then TTU should have gotten at least a yard.  The passing game, however, did get more than a yard.  252 of them in fact.  Which doesn’t sound bad until you consider only half of the attempts were completions and they matched their 2 TDs with 2 picks.  I’m going to reserve further judgment of the offense until Kennesaw State because I think Tech is better than what we saw this past weekend.

Defensively, it went about as I expected it to go.  They defense wore down in the second half gave up 298 rushing yards but that’s a fairly regular occurrence against Missouri Valley teams.  However, one nugget that can be improved going forward is working to not give up explosive plays.  WIU had multiple runs longer than 20 yards and those were the plays that allowed WIU to pretty much blow the doors off in the second half.  If TTU can have performance like they did in the first half they will be fine, but they have to cut down and limit the big plays.

 

 

Murray State 67

Kentucky Wesleyan 7

Murray State was one screwed up punt attempt away from their first shutout since 2011.  Murray opened their season by playing local Jr. High Kentucky Wesleyan (They aren’t actually a junior high, they were just 3-8 last year in DII).  This game won’t tell us exactly where Murray stands but it tells us a little.

First off, Brently looked solid while filling in KD’s shoes, even in the rain.  He completed 18 of 26 passes for 162 yards, 4 TDs, and 1 pick.  They also ran 40 times for 243 yards, three more TDs, and averaged 6.1 yards a carry.  Murray doesn’t normally run that much but they don’t normally blow teams out either.

Defensively, the Racers seemed solid as they limited KWU to zero first downs, 159 total yards of offense, and 30 rushing yards on 31 carries.  They also got 4 picks.

We will learn a lot more about where this team stands on Saturday when they take on #16 Central Arkansas.

 

 

Eastern Kentucky 17

Western Kentucky 31

And

SEMO 16

Kansas 38

I’m lumping these two together because these were two more money games that went about as you’d expect but I’ll go ahead and highlight some of the standout things from each game.

First off for SEMO, they were able to limit the Jayhawks to just 73 rushing yards on 25 carries and were able to force three turnovers.  If they can continue to stop the run they may see some success in the OVC this year.  I’m sure we will see their offensive numbers pick back up once they start playing FCS competition. They finished with just 253 yards of offense and had 83 rushing yards on 34 carries.

For EKU, playing old time rival WKU was good to see.  However, the Hilltoppers were able to stuff EKUs rushing attack and only allowed 25 yards on 22 carries.  Fortunately for EKU, that didn’t bother senior quarterback Tim Boyle.  Boyle completed 29 of his 46 passes for 320 yards and 2 TDs.  Also, while WKU was able to take away EKUs run game, the Colonels were able to return the favor as they only allowed the Hilltoppers to gain an average 2.5 yards per rush.  Unfortunately, the Colonels had trouble getting off the field on third and fourth down and that allowed the Hilltoppers to wear them down.

 

#32 Eastern Illinois 22

Indiana State 20

Eastern Illinois started their season off in thrilling fashion as Mitch Kimble threw the game winning touchdown pass with no time left on the clock. The Panthers were also able to capitalize on a pick six in the first quarter to jump out to lead they would keep until late in the fourth quarter when a 32 yard return by ISU’s Dimitri Taylor set the Sycamores up on the EIU 14 yard line, which the Sycamores turned into a TD.

Offensively, the Panthers were able to run the ball against the Indiana State front, but 5 sacks for a loss of 35 yards made the final rushing stat line 76 yards and a TD on 33 carries. Mitch Kimble looked solid and should be in for a great senior campaign.  If I had one quibble with the offense it would be I wish they ran more. 15 carriers for Johnson wasn’t enough for me but we will see what happens this weekend with NIU before I make a big deal out of it.

Defensively, holding Indiana State to less than 300 yards of offense and 2 of 11 on third down is impressive. The secondary limited Indiana State to just 7 completions on 19 attempts and 133 yards between ISU’s two quarterbacks and if EIU can continue to work on stopping the run and keep forcing turnovers this could be a stout ballclub in the OVC this season.

 

 

Power Rankings

  1. JSU
  2. TSU
  3. UTM
  4. EIU
  5. EKU
  6. APSU  (Deal with it)
  7. TTU
  8. SEMO
  9. Murray State

Written by 

Engineering student and Marching Southerner at Jacksonville State University

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