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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cortland Finnegan no longer patrols the secondary for Tennessee, gone for a bigger paycheck in St. Louis. That leaves the current Titans looking forward to the chance of facing – and trying to slow – Houston’s Andre Johnson.
And everyone likely will get a chance at defending the 6-foot-3 receiver.
Cornerback Alterraun Verner, who wrested a ball away from Detroit tight end Brandon Pettigrew last week and ran it back for his first career touchdown, says he’s excited by the challenge of defending Johnson a week after going up against Lions receiver Calvin Johnson.
“These are the type of games that DBs look forward to,” Verner said. “We thrive under these conditions because you know you’re going to get tested and you’re going to see balls thrown your way. You can’t make a play unless you see a football thrown at you. That’s why I’m excited.”
Cornerback Jason McCourty said defensive backs definitely relish the chance to play against one of the NFL’s top receivers. Johnson is averaging 78.9 yards per game through his career, the highest among any player with at least 100 games. Johnson has 13 catches for 212 yards with two TDs this season.
The Titans (1-2) managed to double-team Calvin Johnson last week, and the Lions receiver still finished with 10 catches for 164 yards with only one touchdown when no TDs or big yards are the goals.
“You get to this week, and you talk about a team with Arian Foster in the backfield and along with Ben Tate,” McCourty said. “They do a lot of runs and a lot of misdirections and boots. You definitely can’t focus on just Andre Johnson because their offense as a whole is a very tough one.”
The Titans are near the bottom in many defensive categories. They are 31st giving up 463 yards per game, 30th allowing 312.7 yards passing so far, and 28th giving up an average of 8 yards per pass play. They’ve only gotten one interception through three games, with Verner picking off a Philip Rivers pass in a 38-10 loss on Sept. 16.
Houston (3-0) is averaging a middling 244.3 yards passing this season only because the Texans’ run game is so good. Titans coach Mike Munchak said the Texans also have moved Johnson around to get him open. That’s why everyone in the secondary has to be ready to defend Johnson while also staying disciplined to help against the run.
Johnson, who once got so ticked off at Finnegan pushing at his face mask that he slugged away at the cornerback, has been in this AFC South rivalry long enough not to be fooled by statistics.
“They know us, we know them and it’s just a game where you get after each other, so it’s a very physical game,” Johnson said. “They have a great front. They get after the quarterback real well. They have a good back end so what they do, they do it very well.”
Texans coach Gary Kubiak isn’t eyeing the stats much, either, after watching the Titans play against Tom Brady, Rivers and Matthew Stafford. He also sees little difference in the Tennessee defense without Finnegan in coordinator Jerry Gray’s schemes, where aggressiveness is key.
“It’s just obviously doing it with a different corner out there,” Kubiak said. “We see the same group, see them getting after the quarterback extremely well, really causing a lot of havoc there in the pocket. It’s always a good battle when we get together. It’s always a dang good physical contest when we play.”
Both McCourty and Verner are a bit more cerebral in their approach to playing defensive back than the feisty Finnegan, but no less physical. Verner said Finnegan tends to irritate receivers by being physical and in their face each and every play, something Johnson doesn’t appear to like.
That doesn’t mean the Titans want to goad Johnson too far.
“Hopefully, we can stay away from any brawls and just go out there and play tough football,” McCourty said.
NOTES: MLB Colin McCarthy (right ankle) and WR Kenny Britt (ankle) did not practice. McCarthy could miss a third straight game if he can’t practice some Friday. Britt said he hopes to play Sunday if he can push off his ankle. LG Steve Hutchinson did not practice due to a day of rest. TE Jared Cook (left shoulder) was limited.
RICHMOND, Ky. – Austin Peay State University’s volleyball team will look to maintain the early pace when it travels Saturday to Eastern Kentucky for a 1 p.m. Ohio Valley Conference match.
Austin Peay (8-10, 2-1 OVC West) sits one game behind Southeast Missouri for the divisional lead entering the second weekend of conference play. The Lady Govs have won two straight since losing its OVC opener, including a key four-set victory at Murray State, Tuesday.
In the win at Murray State, the Lady Govs showed off a nice offensive balance with senior Nikki Doyle leading the team with 17 kills while sophomores Jada Stotts and Liz Landon also breached the double-digit kills mark. That balance will be critical as the team enters the heart of the conference slate and opponents begin to focus on Stotts, the team’s leading hitter (3.78 kills per set) through five weeks.
“Having balance offensively is something we have talked about as team,” said Lady Govs head coach Taylor Mott. “Teams are going to focus on both of our outsides and if our middles can’t be productive we’re going to struggle. Against Murray State our middles were able to perform and do their job and that’s something we need to do consistently.”
Eastern Kentucky (3-10, 0-3 OVC East) is wrapping up a four-match homestand and seeking its first OVC win. The Colonels put up a fight against Belmont one week ago, losing a three-set match by seven total points. Eastern Kentucky then stole a set from East Division leading Morehead State, Tuesday, before falling in four sets.
Ashley Edmond (2.69 kills per set) leads Eastern Kentucky’s offense, but has been supported by Alexis Plagens (2.44 kps) and Kelsey Kuehner(2.24 kps) . The Colonels offense has struggled as a whole, ranking 12th among OVC teams in attack percentage (.108) and 11th in kills per set (10.86) through three conference matches.
CHARLESTON, Ill. – After the past 25 years with legendary Bob Spoo leading the program, a new face is in charge of the Eastern Illinois program that will face Austin Peay at 1:30 p.m. today. Not only is Dino Babers the new coach but he also has brought along a different offensive style.
Historically, Eastern Illinois has had superb quarterbacks, like former Walter Payton Award recipient and current Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. But Babers brought an offense with him from Baylor that is reminiscent of the one run by 2011 Heisman Trophy recipient Robert Griffin III.
In other words, the offense has been put in the hands of junior quarterback Jimmy Garrapolo, who has completed 123 of 202 passes (60.9 percent) for 1374 yards and 13 TDs. He is ranked third in the nation in total offense and has thrown five single-game TD passes twice this season.
What has resulted is Eastern Illinois being the early surprise of the OVC season. The Panthers are a misleading 2-2 this season, with one of the losses coming to FBS Western Michigan and the other to No. 15 FCS-ranked Illinois State in overtime. Last week, the Panthers stunned Murray State, 50-49, in overtime.
In three games against FCS clubs, the Panthers have scored 49 points or better. In two home games this season the Panthers have amassed 99 points. They rank fourth nationally in passing offense, seventh in scoring offense and eighth in total offense.
Redshirt junior Erik Lora is leading the nation in pass receptions with 48 catches, 21 in last week’s game against Murray State to break APSU legend Red Roberts’ record (20) for receptions. His 269 yards also set the school record for single-game receiving yards. He earned National Player of the Week honors.
As good as Lora is, it is fellow receiver Chris Wright (23 catches) who was preseason All-OVC
And as much focus centers on the passing game, Jake Walker had 102 yards rushing against the Racers last week.
That’s the daunting road task facing the Govs this week. Austin Peay enters the weekend having 37 total points in its four games, including just six in the Govs 31-6 loss against UT Martin last week.
The Govs will need not only greater offensive balance against Eastern Illinois, it will need more consistency as well. APSU has relied greatly on the rush, with senior tailback Wesley Kitts ranking 20th nationally at 105.7 yards per game.
But the Governors are ranked 111 out of 121 teams in passing. In addition, penalties have sidetracked APSU’s offense in the past two weeks. The Govs have been slapped with nearly 250 yards and 25 penalties in their two OVC losses.
Those penalties also have hampered a Govs defense that has permitted more than 30 points in each league game.
Senior kicker Stephen Stansell will look to continue building on his APSU record for field goals. He broke Tom McMillan’s mark of 34, set in 1986-89.
Fort Campbell (5-2 overall, 2-0 district) won a thrilling District 1-3A game 43-14 over Paducah Tilghman (4-3overall, 1-1 district) Friday night at Fryar Stadium on Senior Night.
The Blue Tornadoes won the toss and chose to receive the second half, but little did they know it was a mistake that cost them the game.
Because it took Fort Campbell until 10:34 was left in the first quarter to score and it happened when Falcons quarterback Jaylen Williams handed to running back Triston Luke for 3-yard touchdown. After the extra point by David Sams, Fort Campbell lead 7-0. It took 5 plays and a total of 80 yards.
Fort Campbell’s Dustin Armendariz snagged an interception from Tornado quarterback Jordan Tyler with 7:21 in the first quarter and that gave the Falcons even more momentum.
As the clock read 5:21 in the first quarter Williams scored a 5-yard touchdown run and the extra point good was good by Sams. It extended Falcons lead to 14-0. It took 6 plays and total of 36 yards.
The Falcons continued their push in the first with 3:07 left as Williams found tight end Isaiah Washington for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked and made the score 20-0. The scoring drive took 3 plays and a total of 3 yards.
Williams scored again, on a 2-yard touchdown with 44.7 seconds in the first quarter. After the extra point by Sams, Fort Campbell lead 27-0. The scoring drive took 4 plays and a total of 46 yards.
The Falcons defense took over in the second quarter and with 6:38 in the second quarter Fort Campbell’s Nygel Bradley intercepted Jordan Tyler returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. he extra point was no good, but the Falcons a 33-0 lead at halftime.
With 47.5 seconds left in the third quarter the Tornadoes got on the borad when Jordan kept the ball for a 26 yard touchdown. After the extra point by Miles Butler, it cut Fort Campbell’s lead to 33-7. The scoring drive took 7 plays and 87 yards.
Fort Campbell opened the fourth quarter with 9:09 with a 33-yard field goal by David Sams. It gave the Falcons an extended lead of 36-7.
With 7:20 left in the fourth quarter, Fort Campbell’s Jonathan Jethroe handed Luke the ball for a 10-yard touchdown run. Sams’ extra point made it the final.
Friday Night High School Football Scores
Dickson County 42 , West Creek 12
Kenwood 52 , Clarksville Northwest 6
Springfield 49 , Rossview 42
Fort Campbell 43, Paducah-Tilghman 14
Harpeth 44, Montgomery Central 7Clarksville Academy 34, White House Heritage 21Clarksville High off
Two quick turnovers by Montgomery Central led to a pair of short-field touchdowns for Harpeth, Friday night at Phillip Horsey Stadium, as the visitors broke open a halftime tie to defeat the Indians, 44-7, in a District 11-AA contest.
The first turnover of the second half for Montgomery Central (0-7, 0-3 District 11-AA) came in its third play from scrimmage, with quarterback Peyton Delvendahl being picked off by Harpeth’s Brent Burger at the Central 29.
Burger would return the pick 27 yards down to the Montgomery Central two-yard line to set up Harpeth (3-3, 3-0 District 11-AA) with a first-and-goal.
Bryce Baker would score the go-head touchdown on Harpeth’s first play, but the extra point was missed and the visitors led 13-7 just 1:14 into the final half.
Baker would finish the night with four touchdowns – all rushing – and 151 yards on 15 carries.
Central was looking to respond after the Harpeth score, getting into the visitor’s territory, but Elmer Smith would have the ball knocked out of the hands from behind by a Harpeth defender, as he was running down the field after he caught a pass from Delvendahl.
Harpeth would return the fumble to the Central 26-yard line to give themselves another short-field scoring opportunity.
Three plays later, Baker would take it in from 11 yards out to extent Harpeth’s lead out to 19-7, with 7:12 left in the third quarter.
The score would remain that way until the fourth quarter, when Harpeth would pull away with four touchdowns in the final 12 minutes of play.
The first came on a 28-yard run by Baker, 48 seconds into the quarter, followed by an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Marlow from Jett Binkley, with 8:38 left, after a failed pass attempt on a fake punt on fourth down.
Montgomery Central would fumble the ensuing kickoff return and Harpeth would score its third touchdown of the quarter on a 1-yard run by Jacob Dillon, with 6:26 left in the game.
Harpeth’s final score came with 1:54 left, on a 6-yard run by James Meeks, after Central came up short on a fourth-and-one at its own 30-yard line.
In the first half, it looked like Montgomery Central would get the first break of the game with Austin Downey recovering what looked like a fumble by Brinkley on the Harpeth 26-yard line.
But after the Central offense came on the field the officials got together and after a few minutes of discussion changed the call to an incomplete pass and returning the ball back to Harpeth.
The visitors took advantage of the ruling three plays later, with Baker breaking through the Central defense for a 74-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
Montgomery Central would tie the game late in the second quarter, going 92 yards on seven plays, highlighted by a 36-yard scoring run by Smith with 3:20 left before intermission.
Smith would lead Central with 71 yards rushing.
Central had a chance to take a lead before the end of the opening half, after recovering an on-side kick following the tying score, but Delvendahl threw an interception on a first-and-goal from the Harpeth 6-yard line, with 44.2 seconds left before intermission.
Delvendahl would finish the game completing 7-of-17 pass attempts for 89 yards and three interceptions.