Austin Peay brings young team to O’Brien Field


Jason Howell

Redshirt senior running back Jimmy Lera carries the ball at practice Tuesday on O'Brien Field. The Panthers take on Austin Peay at 1:30 p.m. at O'Brien Field.

Aldo Soto, Sports Editor

Kirby Cannon is in his second year coaching the Austin Peay football team and after a 0-14 record to begin his tenure he is not sugar coating anything.

“We’re going to suffer for a while, but I think what is positive about Austin Peay is that we’re going to get better,” Cannon said.

The Governors are 0-2 this season, averaging three points per game, while allowing an average of 52.

Entering its 1:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday at O’Brien Field against Eastern, Austin Peay features several freshmen that are receiving most of the playing time this season. Cannon said there are anywhere from 15 to 19 freshmen playing on both sides of the ball for the Governors this year.

Experience is not a strength for Austin Peay, but Cannon said he is willing to take the lows now to improve in the future.

“Freshmen are freshman, anytime they do something positive it makes you feel really really good and then in the next second they can get worse,” he said. “But we’re going to play them. That’s our secret to our future is that we have to get those guys out there used to playing because some of our best players are freshmen.”

Following their season-opening 63-0 loss against Memphis, the Governors lost to FCS-ranked Chattanooga at home 42-6 on Saturday. Austin Peay ranks last in offensive yards gained and yards allowed in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“We’re going to take on water for quite a while with a lineup that plays 15 to 19 freshmen at times out on the field,” Cannon said.

Quarterback Darrien Boone is one of the many freshmen starting for Cannon this season. Boone has completed 17-of-27 pass attempts for 134 yards through his first two games, and has Austin Peay’s only touchdown of the year.

Eastern head coach Kim Dameron has had his own experience with having to play several freshmen before. In 2000, when he was the defensive coordinator for the Panthers, Dameron said he had many freshmen starting on his defensive unit.

“We started a true freshman inside backer, a true freshman corner, a true freshman safety and we ended up 8-3 and went to the playoffs,” Dameron said.

Dameron understands the predicament Cannon is currently in with the Governors.

“I don’t have a problem playing freshmen if they’re the best players you have, but you do have to be patient with them,” Dameron said. “That’s something we’ve all been through, but once you put them out there and crank them up and let them go if they’re the best players you got they just have to go play.”

From game to game, Cannon said he is looking for his team to show some improvement and he did see it against Chattanooga on the defensive side of the ball.

After allowing more than 300 rushing yards against Memphis, which averaged 5.5 yards per carry, the Mocs only rushed for 2.2 yards per carry on Saturday on 42 rushing attempts.

It has been a mix of good and bad in the running game, though, as Austin Peay’s rushing offense has sputtered thus far. The Governors have only averaged 79 yards on the ground per game, which is last in the OVC.

Cannon said he has to take the positive with the negatives fielding a young team.

“Again, the bright spot of it is we have a future with those guys playing,” he said. “The bad part is we’ll have some wild inconsistencies that are just freshman-prone.”

Aldo Soto can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]