CLARKSVILLE – The 2022 college football season starts with the Austin Peay State University Governors.
The Govs and Western Kentucky kick off the season with two of the fastest offenses in the country at 11 a.m., Saturday at Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Austin Peay brings a three-game winning streak into head coach Scotty Walden‘s third year at the helm while the Hilltoppers won seven of their last eight games to end 2021 and are coming off a 59-38 win over Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl.
Offensively, the Governors are led by sophomore wide receiver Drae McCray, who is the team’s leading returner in catches (53), receiving yards (882), receiving touchdowns (8), and all-purpose yards (1,030). The Tallahassee, Florida product was a First Team All-Ohio Valley Conference selection and a HERO Sports Freshman All-America last season, before earning Preseason All-ASUN honors this year.
On the other side of the ball, defensive back Shamari Simmons earned Preseason All-ASUN honors after a 50-tackle, 10-pass breakup, and 4-interception season in 2021. Simmons is joined on the Preseason All-ASUN team by graduate transfer Chukwuemeka Manning Jr., who was a Third Team All-MEAC selection at North Carolina Central after posting 25 tackles, five tackles for loss, and a pair of sacks last season.
Sophomore kicker Maddux Trujillo also earned a Preseason All-ASUN selection after breaking the Austin Peay single-season field goal percentage record last season by going 14-for-18 to post a 77.78 mark.
Saturday’s game will be nationally televised on the digital CBS Sports Network. Fans also can tune into the Governors Sports Network on ESPN Clarksville (104.1 FM/540 AM) to hear Brian Rives and Van Stokes call all the action. ESPN Clarksville will have a morning of Austin Peay football, starting with the ASUN Conference preview at 8 a.m. followed by a re-airing of the Austin Peay Football Coaches Show at 9 a.m., and finally, the pregame coverage which begins an hour before kickoff.
INSIDE THE FILM ROOM
Check back next week for this year’s first edition of Inside The Film Room! Also be sure to visit the Governors official YouTube channel each week for highlights, previews, and more!
In the past five seasons, Austin Peay’s 34 victories are tied for 17th most in the FCS and are the most in a five-year stretch in program history. Awaiting the Governors in the ASUN Conference are three other teams that rank in the top 17 in the FCS in wins during the past five seasons – Kennesaw State (49, third), Jacksonville State (40, eighth), and Central Arkansas (35, t-14th).
WALDEN; OR, LIFE AT AUSTIN PEAY
In his first 390 days at Austin Peay, Scotty Walden coached the Govs through 17 games in a 273-day span. His ten wins during that time are tied with Watson Brown (10-7, 1979-80) and only College Football Hall of Fame coach Boots Donnelly (11-6, 1977-78) has more wins through his first 17 games at Austin Peay. Walden enters his third season in Clarksville after leading the Governors through spring practice and a true fall camp for the first time since his arrival.
In the inaugural ASUN Football Preseason Coaches Poll, Austin Peay received a first-place vote but was tabbed to finish fifth in the league with 15 points. Kennesaw State was picked atop the league with four first-place votes and 34 points, while Central Arkansas — who received a single first-place vote — and Eastern Kentucky were tied for second with 25 points. Fourth-place Jacksonville State received 19 points and North Alabama rounded out the poll with 8 points.
THE GANG GETS PRESEASON ALL-ASUN HONORS
Sophomore wide receiver Drae McCray, graduate transfer defensive lineman Chukwuemeka Manning Jr., junior defensive back Shamari Simmons, and sophomore kicker Maddux Trujillo were all named to the inaugural ASUN Football Preseason All-Conference team at Media Day in Atlanta. McCray and Trujillo earned First Team and Second Team All-OVC honors, respectively, last season, while Simmons’ four-interception, 50-tackle, and 10-PBU season somehow didn’t earn All-OVC recognition. Manning was a Third Team All-MEAC selection in 2021 after racking up 5.0 TFL and 2.0 sacks in his final season at North Carolina Central.
NEW KIDS IN STACHEVILLE
47 newcomers and 25 players that redshirted a season ago will combine with 40 returning letterwinners to make up the 2022 Austin Peay football roster. The 47 newcomers are made up of 22 transfers — with eight players having Group of Five experience and a pair of players having Power Five experience — and 25 true freshmen.
From 1958 to 1983 – including 19 matchups as Ohio Valley Conference members from 1963-81 – Austin Peay and Western Kentucky squared off annually. After a 13-3 Austin Peay win in 1983, the series took a two-year hiatus before returning to its annual schedule from 1986-89. Since 1990, the two schools – which are separated by just 61 miles – have only played nine times with only two contests coming after the turn of the century.
LAST TIME OUT
280 days ago, Drae McCray exploded for 237 receiving yards, 299 all-purpose yards, and four receiving touchdowns to lead the Governors to a 48-20 win over Tennessee Tech in the 2021 season finale at Fortera Stadium in Clarksville. Ahmaad Tanner added two more touchdowns and 93 yards on the ground for the Govs, On defense, Shamari Simmons led the way with a pair of interceptions while Kory Chapman racked up a career-best 10 tackles. Finally, Maddux Trujillo added a pair of 26-yard field goals to cap off the scoring.
SCOUTING WESTERN KENTUCKY
- This is the 43rd meeting all-time in a series that Western Kentucky leads 35-6-1.
- This is just the second meeting in the series between old Ohio Valley Conference rivals since Western Kentucky moved to the FBS in 2008.
- The Hilltoppers have won the last five meetings with the Govs’ last win in the series being a 38-34 victory on Sept. 16, 1995.
- Coming off a nine-win season, a C-USA East Division Championship, and a 59-38 win over Appalachian State in the Boca Raton Bowl, Western Kentucky was tabbed to finish third in the C-USA Preseason Poll. The Hilltoppers had five players named to the C-USA Preseason Watch List, with punter Brayden Narveson being named the C-USA Preseason Special Teams Player of the Year.
- There is no lack of recognition for the Western Kentucky offense with offensive lineman Quantavious Leslie being named to the Outland Trophy Watch List, tight end Joshua Simon being named to the Mackey Award Watch List, center Rusty Staats being named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List, and wide receiver Daewood Davis being named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List.
- Western Kentucky ranked second in the FBS in turnovers gained (31) and interceptions (21) last season. The Hilltoppers return 38 percent of those interceptions from last season, led by redshirt juniors Kahlef Hailassie (tied for a team-high 3 interceptions) and Davion Williams (2).
- The active NCAA leader in passing yards and touchdowns and a preseason selection for the Maxwell Award Watch List, quarterback Jarrett Doege was set to be WKU’s player to watch, but he entered the transfer portal just weeks before the season opener. Instead, graduate transfer quarterback Austin Reed will be under center for the Hilltoppers. He threw for 7,464 yards and 78 touchdowns in two seasons at West Florida while leading the Argonauts to the 2019 DII National Championship.
The home opener is on deck for the Governors when they host a 6 p.m., Sept. 3 contest against Presbyterian at Fortera Stadium. Austin Peay has won its home opener in five-straight seasons dating back to 2017, including a 24-0 win over the Blue Hose on Sept. 8, 2018. Jeremiah Oatsvall, Prince Momodu, and JaVaughn Craig all ran for touchdowns to go along with a Logan Birchfield field goal, as the defense shut out Presbyterian in the week two contest.