Chuck Martin needs a do-over.
The Miami football coach spent hours this summer preparing for Saturday’s game against Austin Peay watching the Governors’ 2016 football games. He’d love to have that time back.
“They’re a different team,” Martin said. “They really struggled last year. I wasted a lot of time watching (11) games last season. They added some transfers. They have some returning starters who aren’t starting because they added transfers who are more talented, but the returning guys who are starting are way better.”
That’s what Martin noticed while watching Austin Peay’s 2017 season-opener at Cincinnati on Aug. 31. The Clarksville, Tennessee-based Governors, a Football Championship Subdivision program that plays in the Ohio Valley Conference, limited the Bearcats to 248 yards of offense, 97 on the ground, while sophomore quarterback JaVaughn Craig finished with 155 yards of offense on his own in a 26-14 loss.
“Look at how they played Cincinnati,” Martin said. “You see the same kids with the same (jersey) numbers from last year, but they’re a year older and a year more confident. They played good football. They’re bigger, stronger, faster, more confident and more experienced. Their defense is pretty much the same, but they’re playing at a much higher level.”
Austin Peay limited an opponent to fewer than 300 yards of offense for the first time since 2015 and to fewer than 100 yards rushing for the first time since 2012. The 26 points were the fewest allowed by the Governors since 2015 and the fewest scored by a Football Bowl Subdivision team against them since Sept. 7, 1996.
The much-improved Austin Peay defense was led by linebackers Gunnar Scholato and Malik Boynton, who each finished with nine tackles.
“I don’t think we were surprised by what we did defensively,” Scholato told LetsGoPeay.com. “We know what we’re capable of. When everyone is executing and doing their job, we can be special.
“This was just a matter of time. We just had to show it on the field, because we know what we can do. We fed off each other, and it’s something you’re going to get used to seeing. This year, we’ve got talent everywhere. Everyone can make plays. Everyone can tackle. Teams shouldn’t be able to run on this defense. When we’re executing and hitting gaps, there’s nowhere to go.”
“I feel like we could’ve been better,” Boynton told the website. “The pieces are here for this defense to play with anybody in the country.”
If nothing else, Cincinnati’s struggles against Austin Peay should serve as a wake-up call for the RedHawks.
“A lot of people thought it would be an easy game,” Martin said. “They thought it wouldn’t be competitive, but it was a well-contested football game. Austin Peay carved out a nice experience with a gifted quarterback. It was much different when I tuned in on Thursday night. If you didn’t know the names on the jerseys, you thought it was a very fair fight – and it was.”
Miami is coming off losing what, to many, was a game equally as winnable as Austin Peay’s against the Bearcats. The RedHawks almost doubled Marshall’s total offense, 429-267, and possessed the ball more than 11 minutes longer than the Thundering Herd but gave up two kickoff returns and an interception return for a touchdown in a 31-26 loss at Huntington, West Virginia. Miami limited Marshall to 59 yards rushing and 15 first downs while Miami rushed for 131 yards and picked up 26 first downs.