Tech has had its way with Austin Peay in recent years.
Sans a seven-point loss in 2012, the Golden Eagles have won six of its last seven meetings with the Governors, the most recent a 42-24, second-half shutout win in last Saturday’s Homecoming game.
The winless Governors (0-11, 0-8 OVC) gave the Golden Eagles fits throughout the first half, forcing Tech to rally after halftime and earn the win.
Tech tasted victory for the first time in seven weeks, but the first bite on Saturday didn’t taste so sweet.
“It didn’t at the half,” said Tech head coach Watson Brown. “We played really poor on defense in the first half.”
The Golden Eagles had to overcome several setbacks early on, which included an early 7-0 APSU lead and a pair of three-and-outs against the Tech offense, which gained 5 yards on its first six plays.
Quarterback Jared Davis’ slow start forced his quick halt Saturday, as Brown opted to sub in redshirt sophomore receiver Brock McCoin. Davis got the start after missing some time from a broken hand injured in the Golden Eagles’ last win on Sept. 26 at Murray State, and the poise just wasn’t there from the start.
“We went with Jared all week, and he wasn’t sharp (on Saturday),” Brown said. “Y’all don’t wanna know this cause it just shows you what coaching is sometimes, but I bet Brock didn’t even practice quarterback 30 plays (during the week). We thought Jared was fine, and he was just not sharp at all. We put (McCoin) in there, and he and (Ladarius) Vanlier and (Krys) Cates just had great games. They’ve kinda been the three all year that have made the plays for us anyway.”
McCoin impressed in the showing, giving the Golden Eagles gains in both the pass and run attack. He finished the day passing 8-of-12 for 206 yards and three touchdowns, adding 115 yards rushing on 19 attempts.
“We just put the ball in his hands,” Brown explained. “We pretty much let three people touch it. That’s what we did, and all three of them just came through. You’ve got to have playmakers in college football today. Three yards and a cloud of dust just will not score you enough points as wide open as football is.”
McCoin’s final stats produced one of the best performances for a Tech quarterback of all time. His 200-plus passing, 100-plus rushing numbers were only the second combination of its kind in school history, the first time after Darian Stone’s 277 and 190 in an overtime win over UT-Martin Nov. 10, 2012.
“He’s had two really good quarterback games and hasn’t practiced that much,” Brown said. “Maybe I should just do that again with him this week. Don’t put him at quarterback, just let him play it on Saturday and he’ll give me a third one when we play TSU.”
After giving up 24 points and a three-point lead before halftime, Tech’s defense responded to its wake-up call during the break by shutting out the Governor offense to just 58 total yards, putting its own offense in position to rout and put up 21 unanswered points.
“I’m proud of our defense,” Brown said. “We played with a bunch of young ones everywhere, and to shut them out in the second half after playing so poor, I thought that was the difference in the game. We only had 52 plays (on offense), so they kept the ball. But we had a ton of big plays, so that cuts your play total down because you’re scoring in a few plays. Sometimes stats can be misleading.”
Per usual, the term “big plays” for Tech can’t be mentioned without being preceded by “explosive weapon, senior running back Ladarius Vanlier made,” who finished his final Homecoming game with 131 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 11 carries — his longest a 51-yard, third-quarter touchdown run — and 74 receiving yards and a touchdown on two catches, including a 69-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
Early in his career performance on Saturday, which earned him Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors from the Ohio Valley Conference, Vanlier marked his name in the school record books. Late in the first quarter, after a 10-yard run, the senior back passed former Tech receiver Larry Shipp (2004-07) on Tech’s list of all-purpose yard leaders for a single career. Vanlier’s 272 on Saturday currently ranks second on the list at 5,196.
“Well, when he gets loose, he is hard to catch,” Brown said. “Ladarius has been good all year. We don’t have very many seniors, but there’s one we will miss. He’s made a lot of big plays in his career for us in a lot of different ways.”
Krys Cates, 92 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three catches, led the Golden Eagles’ receiving effort, while Tim Collins dominated on defense for 11 total tackles (five solo) and a forced fumble.
The Golden Eagles (3-7, 2-5 OVC) close the 2015 season on Saturday as they play host to the Tennessee State Tigers (4-5, 1-5) at 2:30 p.m. at Tucker Stadium.