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September 7, 2012

Know Your Enemy: Austin Peay

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Each game, we'll get the inside look at Virginia Tech's opponent by talking with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, we spoke with The Leaf-Chronicle staff writer Luke Thompson to get the skinny on Austin Peay.

1) What's the biggest reason for Saturday's ugly 49-10 loss at Western Kentucky?

Thompson: It's hard to know on that one. Probably the defense and the secondary especially. They gave up 276 yards passing in the first half. That was a career-high for the WKU quarterback.

They had guys falling down in the secondary, no pass rush to speak of. Austin Peay just couldn't do anything to stop them.

2) With only 11 yards passing, is there any concern with senior quarterback Jake Ryan?

Thompson: He didn't have any time to throw at all. The offensive line could not give him any sort of pocket. Even when he did, he actually had a couple of passes to Devin Stark, who's supposed to be his No. 1 receiver, dropped.

He had one interception and it was a bad decision because he didn't see the safety coming over. But I don't think it's a huge concern with Ryan.

3) Especially with 37 rushing attempts against WKU, is AP's offense run-first?

Thompson: This week, the offensive line is going to have to mature in a hurry. They lost three starters there and that showed last week. If Ryan doesn't have any time to throw, he's not gonna do much.

I think the key might be Wesley Kitts. He had that 68-yard touchdown run last week. The big question for him is just how many carries he can take. He's always had injury problems and never been able to handle a full work load. They need him to step up and do that.

I think they'll always be a run-first team under coach Rick Christophel. They led the league in time of possession last year. Right now, they're hoping quantity is better than quality for the running backs. Terrence Oliver, the guy who took 12 carries, he was a wide receiver and those are the first 12 of his career. That was a surprise. They moved him to running back the last week of camp. The Governors don't have Reco Williams, so the depth is hurting this weekend.

4) What does Austin Peay have to do to hang with Virginia Tech and be competitive?

Thompson: I talked to a couple of the linebackers this week and I think they both talked about getting to the ball. They're gonna have to make gang tackles because I don't know if any guys on this defense can bring down Logan Thomas by themselves.

The linebackers have to be flying to the ball and have better coverage in the secondary. I think it starts on defense. Coach Christophel said Thomas is bigger than most of their defensive line. When I saw that he runs a 4.5 40, I was like, 'Wow.'

5) Coming off that big loss at WKU, how are the players/coaches talking about and preparing for Virginia Tech?

Thompson: Honestly, I thought they were surprisingly upbeat. After the game, Christophel said he saw some good things out there. I think they can correct a lot of the mistakes they made. I don't think anyone is expecting to win at Virginia Tech but they're hoping to hang int he game and make some plays.

They're definitely amped up to play in Lane Stadium and in front of that crowd. I was talking to one of the Ausin Peay linebackers and he told me that his freshman year, they lost 70-3 at Wisconsin, but that was one of his fondest memories. It's just the whole experience of playing.

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