Austin Peay and Pittsburgh do not have a lot in common, but one thing they do share is a desire for more offensive production entering their meeting on Saturday at Pittsburgh.
It will be the season opener and only nonconference game in this shortened season for the Panthers, who are coming off an 8-5 season that was capped off by a 34-30 win over Eastern Michigan in the Quick Lane Bowl.
On the other side, it will be the second game of the season for Austin Peay, an FCS program which is coming off of a 24-17 loss in its season opener to Central Arkansas on Aug. 29 at a neutral site in Montgomery, Ala.
For Pittsburgh, it hopes an offseason’s worth of work can help rectify an offense last year that ranked 112th in the nation in total points per game (21.2).
The good news is that the Panthers have a luxury in an experienced senior quarterback, as Kenny Pickett returns after throwing for 3,098 yards last year.
Pittsburgh also returns two of its top running backs in senior A.J. Davis and sophomore Vincent Davis.
“We have really high expectations for ourselves,” Pickett said. “We underperformed last season. We have put a lot of work in since the winter. We are playing with a chip on our shoulder definitely this season.”
Pittsburgh was dealt a blow before the season when star defensive lineman Jaylen Twyman opted out of the season to prepare for the NFL Draft, but the cupboard is not bare.
The Panthers still should be imposing up front with senior defensive tackles Keyshon Camp and Devin Danielson, along with senior defensive ends Patrick Jones II and Rashad Weaver.
Pittsburgh was picked to finish eighth in the preseason ACC poll, but before getting into conference play, head coach Pat Narduzzi doesn’t want to overlook Austin Peay.
“They are very athletic,” Narduzzi said. “They fly around and play hard. They’re playing fast.”
Much like Pittsburgh, Austin Peay hopes to see improvement from its offense following its loss to Central Arkansas.
The Governors got off to a fast start, taking an early 7-0 lead when freshman C.J. Evans Jr. scored on an explosive 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game.
“He will always remember scoring on his first collegiate rushing attempt and scoring the first touchdown of the 2020 college football season,” said Austin Peay interim head coach Marquase Lovings.
However, the Governors couldn’t get much going after that initial strike.
Austin Peay finished with 333 yards of total offense and didn’t score another touchdown until there was 1:40 remaining in the game.
The Governors played their season opener without star wideout DeAngelo Wilson, who missed the game for an undisclosed reason.
His status for Saturday is uncertain. “That’s the plan, to have everybody,” Lovings told reporters.
This is the second of only three games Austin Peay will play this fall because of the Ohio Valley Conference’s decision to postpone fall sports. The team also is scheduled to play Sept. 19 at Cincinnati.
–Field Level Media