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Hudspeth era begins with North Carolina Central

APSU Athletics Communications

By Colby Wilson

APSU Athletics Communications

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. —It’s finally here.

After more than nine months of anticipation, the hiring of a highly-respected head coach, two quality signing days, an aggressive spring session and immersive summer camp, the 2019 football season kicks off under the lights for Austin Peay in a 7 p.m., Thursday, contest against North Carolina Central.

Year One of the Mark Hudspeth era begins, but many of the key faces on both sides of the ball are veterans familiar to Governor fans. On offense, Jeremiah Oatsvall returns firmly entrenched as QB1, and will be responsible for getting preseason All-American back Kentel Williams, along with leading returning receiver DeAngelo Wilson, the ball with plenty of space to work. Defensively, walk-on turned All-OVC standout Juantarius Bryant captains an elite secondary stuffed with veteran playmakers, while Pat Walker will be tasked with replacing three-time All-OVC choice Gunnar Scholato’s production at linebacker.

Scouting the Eagles

While Austin Peay is implementing plenty of new things with an entirely new coaching staff, things are sure to look different for North Carolina Central under first-year head coach Trei Oliver, who was hired as the program’s 24th head coach in December. Oliver—who replaced interim head coach and former Austin Peay defensive coordinator Granville Eastman—made his bones as Southern’s defensive coordinator and has a wrecking machine on the defensive line in All-MEAC holdover Darius Royster, who collected 17.0 TFL and forced four fumbles a year ago. On offense, incumbent lead back Isaiah Totten (768 yards, seven touchdowns) leads the way for a unit that averaged 168.7 rushing yards per game a year ago.

Last time out against North Carolina Central

This will be the first battle between the Govs and Eagles. Not only is this the first matchup between the two teams, it’s Austin Peay’s first matchup against a MEAC foe.

Notably

  • This is Austin Peay’s first regular-season opener at home since 2015. The Govs look to win the home opener for the third consecutive season—Austin Peay last won three straight home openers in 2009-11.
  • Perhaps even more than in a typical game, this will be won or lost on third down. Last season, North Carolina Central converted just 25.2 percent of third-down attempts, ranking 123rd nationally among FCS teams. However, the Eagles stymied opposing offenses on third down, surrendering conversions at a 28.2 percent clip which ranked sixth.
  • Kentel Williams needs two rushing touchdowns to tie Ryan White and Mike Lewis for fifth all-time with 17.
  • Mark Hudspeth looks to become the first Austin Peay head coach to win his debut since Rick Christophel in 2007.
  • This is Austin Peay’s first Thursday night home contest since Oct. 10, 2013—which also served as that season’s home opener.
  • The Govs have surrendered just 13 points in the last two home openers, and are allowing 17.5 ppg in their last 10 home contests.
  • Jeremiah Oatsvall needs 77 passing yards to pass Dale Edwards for seventh all-time. He also needs 30 rushing yards to become the third quarterback in Austin Peay history with 1,000 career rushing yards.
  • The Govs seek their first win in the regular season opener since 2010.
  • In addition to preseason All-America honors, Williams was one of two Govs named preseason All-OVC, joining offensive lineman Kyle Anderton, who will anchor a line that lost four starters to graduation. Oatsvall was named to the College Football Performance Awards Performer of the Year preseason watch list.
  • Six PATs by Logan Birchfield would tie him with Stephen Stansell for second all-time with 98. With eight, he’d become just the second player in program history to reach the century mark.
  • In addition to the traditional fare along Tailgate Alley, fans are invited to visit Stache Street, located along Marion Street in front of Fortera Stadium and the Foy Fitness Center, along with an expanded VIPeay End Zone Experience for 2019.

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