Where: Governors Stadium, Clarksville, Tenn.
Radio: 91.9 FM (Jacksonville), 97.9 FM (Oxford)
1. Road warriors: Playing away from home hasn’t been a bad deal for the Gamecocks. In fact, it has been quite favorable for them. The Gamecocks are 4-0 on the road this year (2-0 in the OVC), which is “a huge deal” to JSU head coach Bill Clark. They were 1-5 last year in the final year of the former staff. Winning today will extend their school-record streak of 11 straight winning seasons. They haven’t lost to Austin Peay since the Govs rejoined the OVC as a scholarship team in 2007 and haven’t lost in Clarksville since 1960.
2. Score early, often: Considering the struggles Austin Peay has incurred in what coach Kirby Cannon called “one of these total rebuilds,” it would be easy to dismiss the Governors. The longer you keep a team like that around in a game, the more dangerous they become. The best way to avoid the complacency is to jump on them early, which seems to have been everyone’s approach. The Govs have been outscored 230-17 in the first half this year. If the Gamecocks, who’ve outscored their opponents only 118-85 in the first half, can enjoy that kind of success, it could turn into a full-fledged rout. They’ve outscored teams 78-16 in the third quarter.
3. Small victories: When you’ve had the type season Austin Peay has had, you look for small victories. The Govs did some things last week in a loss to Tennessee-Martin that gave coach Kirby Cannon hope for the future. They ran the ball better than they had all year (37-218), had more sustained drives than they had all year and showed some ability handling pressure defensive calls. They also saw some backups step up as quarterback Timarious Mitchell threw for 100 yards and two touchdowns and running back Omar Williams ran for 120 yards. “Just because you lose Player A doesn’t mean you’re going to lose,” Cannon said.
4. They can relate: The Gamecocks can appreciate that last statement. They were down to their third quarterback last week and still rolled over Tennessee Tech. Kyle West could draw the start today, but Eli Jenkins is back from his sore rips and should be available to play. Max Shortell “made big strides” coming back from his knee injury, and the Gamecocks hoped to have him back, but head coach Bill Clark said earlier in the week if the Minnesota transfer wasn’t 100 percent he probably wouldn’t play.
APSU leading receiver Darryl Clack vs. JSU’s secondary: It’s a matter of size. Clack, a junior with 23 catches, is 6-foot-6, while the Gamecocks’ tallest starting defensive back is 6-2 Pierre Warren. The others are 5-9 or shorter, although 6-1 Jamaal Johnson will draw a start Saturday as Brandon Bender sits the first half for his targeting penalty against Tennessee Tech. Cannon recognizes the mismatch as a “viable option” in the red zone, but figures the Gamecocks can devise some kind of coverage to neutralize Clack over the rest of the field.
Pick a score. ... Jacksonville State 34, Austin Peay 7.