Peay has big night despite rout at Neyland

Peay has big night despite rout at Neyland

September 1st, 2013 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - College

Tennessee's Marlin Lane (15) breaks past Austin Peay's Johnathan Shuler (26), Josh Owens (35) and Corey Teague (40) in route to a touchdown during their NCAA college football game on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013 in Knoxville.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

KNOXVILLE - On the job less than two months, Austin Peay athletic director Derek van de Merwe helped schedule none of the three FBS opponents the FCS level Governors will play this season.

But in the final minutes before visiting APSU faced Tennessee on Saturday evening, van de Merwe already considered his program a big winner, regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

"We're getting $450,000 for this game," he said. "The three [FBS] games combined (UT, at Vanderbilt this Saturday and at Ohio on Sept. 21) will generate $1 million for our program. That money is designated for our $17 million stadium renovation."

Mindful that 61 members of the Govs' 89-player roster are from Tennessee -- including starting defensive tackle Malcolm Goines from Red Bank High and reserve wide receiver Mikhail Creech from Ooltewah -- van de Merwe quickly added, "It's not just about dollars, though. It's a dream of every one of our kids to run into Neyland Stadium. Right now, this program is about building opportunity."

Fans of the UT-Chattanooga Mocs will get an opportunity to see the Governors at Finley Stadium on Sept. 14. It will be the third of five straight road games APSU will endure to start the season. Due to its three guarantee games, the Clarksville school will play just four times at home in its 12-game schedule.

Not exactly the best way to improve on the Govs' 2-9 overall record in 2012, including a 1-6 mark in the Ohio Valley Conference.

"Our kids understand," the AD said. "They know we're playing for the ghosts of Governors Stadium and the future of Governors Stadium."

Van de Merwe said the renovations are expected to be completed in time for the 2014 season.

Even without making the schedule, van de Merwe understands better than most both the obstacles and opportunities in playing a more decorated opponent with larger resources.

As a walk-on defensive lineman who became a scholarshipped offensive lineman at Central Michigan, van de Merwe played on the first Chippewas team to knock off a BCS opponent when CMU drove 61 miles down U.S. Route 127 in 1991 and shocked Michigan State 20-3. The game was seen as so lopsided beforehand that Las Vegas wouldn't even post a betting line on it.

"One of those moments you never forget," he said.

Down 42-0 at halftime Saturday, the Governors probably couldn't wait to forget their visit across Interstate 40 to Knoxville. But that doesn't mean van de Merwe necessarily wants to curtail such guarantee games in the future.

Speaking of APSU's players, he said, "They all have dreams."

Even if those dreams sometimes turn to nightmares.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com