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Football Govs set to open season at former OVC rival WKU | Austin Peay

 

Austin Peay

Austin Peay

A pair of former rivals will open the 2012 season, 6 p.m., Saturday, when Austin Peay travels to Bowling Green, Ky., to play Western Kentucky.

 

Western Kentucky was a charter member of the Ohio Valley Conference from 1948-81 before becoming a football independent. They rejoined the OVC briefly as an associate member before moving to the Gateway Football Conference-that run included the 2002 I-AA National Championship.

However, Western Kentucky elected to move to Football Bowl Subdivision Subdivision and started that transition in 2007. They became Sun Belt members in 2009.

Austin Peay, meanwhile, joined the OVC in 1963 and remained until going to non-scholarship football in 1997. The Governors returned to scholarship football a decade later and returned to the OVC in 2007.

Western Kentucky holds a decision edge in the series (34-6-1), with the Governors still seeking  their first win in Bowling Green (0-20-1).

Austin Peay is coming a 3-8 season, but are loaded with returning starters. The Govs have seven starters back on offense and nine on defense.

Defensively, senior safety Antwaun Majors and junior linebacker Josh Carroll are expected to lead the way. Majors has been APSU’s leading tackler for the last two seasons. Carroll moved into the starting lineup early last season and ended as APSU’s third-leading tackler with 76.

Offensively, the Govs must replace 1,000-yard rusher Ryan White, who left as APSU’s second all-time leading rusher. Quarterback Jake Ryan is back for his fourth season as starter. However, he has been hampered by injuries in each of the last two seasons and it is imperative to keep him healthy.

Wide receiver Devin Stark was enjoying a superb 2011 season until Ryan was injured. He still finished with 53 catches, the most by a Govs since the 2006 season.

Western Kentucky, meanwhile, is coming off a 7-5 season that saw the Hilltoppers with seven of their final eight games after starting 0-4.

Like Ryan, Kawuan Jakes is back for his fourth season as Hilltopper starting quarterback. He too will be without top running back Bobby Rainey, the ‘Toppers all-time rusher lead who had nearly 1,7000 yards rushing a year ago and was ranked second nationally.

But Jakes does have tight end Jack Doyle, who had 52 catches a year ago.

On defense, junior Andrew Jackson finished with a team-best 109 stops.

Both head coaches, the Govs’ Rick Christophel (1971-74) and the Hilltoppers’ Willie Taggart (1995-98) served as quarterbacks of their respective alma maters.

-AP-

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