KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – The Kirby Cannon era got underway with Austin Peay State University’s football visiting Rocky Top, Saturday, and suffering a season-opening 45-0 loss to Football Subdivision foe Tennessee.
It’s the third consecutive season-opening loss for the Govs (0-1), dating back to the 2010 campaign. Tennessee (1-0) won its first game under new head coach Butch Jones – its 800th victory all-time – and improved to 7-0 all-time against Ohio Valley Conference foes.
The Volunteers got out to a host start and never looked back. Tennessee set the tone early, scoring on each of its six first-half drives. Austin Peay surrendering scoring drives of 64, 25, 61, 49, 80 and 68 yards as Tennessee took a commanding 42-0 lead into halftime.
Austin Peay junior quarterback Andrew Spivey suffered through feast or famine in the early going. He missed on his first three pass attempts, including his first career interception, before completing eight consecutive passes on the Govs first extended drive – a 10-play, 65-yard push that opened the second quarter. However, he missed on his final five attempts of the first half.
Austin Peay’s second quarter 65-yard drive was highlight by a pair of receptions by junior Darryl Clack, including a 35-yarder that put Austin Peay into Tennessee territory for the first time. The Govs drive stalled inside the Volunteer red zone and junior Walter Spears pushed his 31-yard field goal attempt wide to the right denying Austin Peay a score.
Tennessee got a Michael Palardy field goal to open the second half, but Austin Peay forced the Volunteers to punt for the first time at the seven-minute mark of the third quarter.
A 33-yard Clack reception was part of the Govs second extended drive – a 14-play, 72-yard effort that put the Govs in Tennessee territory for the second time, this time with Jacob Sexton under center. A Tim Phillips rush that was ruled a fumble on the field was overturned, giving the Govs a break deep in Volunteer territory.
Phillips broke a run to the two yard-line on the very next play, but a holding penalty wiped out the majority of ground gained and put the Govs back at the 24-yard line. Three Sexton runs, including a gutsy fourth-and-one keeper, gave Austin Peay a red-zone first down to start the fourth-quarter. However, Sexton’s pass to Clack was intercepted by Malik Foreman at the six yard line to snuff out a fantastic chance for the Govs.
After being outgained by a 317-99 margin in the first half, Austin Peay recovered and narrowed the yardage deficit to 447-211. Austin Peay matched Tennessee through the air, each team amassing 132 passing yards, but Tennessee dominated the ground with 315 rushing yards.
Clack led Austin Peay’s offense with three receptions for a career-high 80 yards. Phillips was the Govs ground leader with eight carries for 37 net yards. Junior punter Ben Campbell averaged 45 yards on six punts.
Tennessee senior tailback Rajion Neal rolled to 142 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries – all in the first half. Junior Deanthonie Summerhill took over in the second half and added 67 yards on nine carries.
Austin Peay will get a week to prepare for its next Southeastern Conference test when it meets Vanderbilt in a 6:30 p.m., Saturday contest that can be seen on regional television.