Here we go with Week 5:
#19 Elon (2-3, 1-1 T3rd) @ #1 Appalachian State (4-0, 2-0 1st)
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home advantage: 3.01 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 14 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 28-9-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 27, Elon 10, November 14, 2009
A little over a month ago, the Homecoming game against Elon was one that fans and prognosticators circled as a challenge for Appalachian. Some people may have labeled it as a “big game.” Despite the Elon win-loss record, it still should be considered a tough game. Some of the places that Elon has played and lost are not easy wins by any stretch. Their schedule has been much tougher than the Mountaineer schedule. However you slice it, Elon plans to come to Boone and do something they have not done since 1964, and that is win a football game. The motivation to win this game for Elon has mounted with each passing week. Appalachian is the five time defending conference champion. This is also Homecoming at Appalachian, and the Mountaineers also climbed to the top of the major polls due to the results from last weekend. Nothing would be sweeter for Pete Lembo and Scott Riddle than to beat Appalachian under these circumstances. The challenge is for the Appalachian faithful. Do not get caught up in a win-loss record, in the festivities, or the fact that some sports writers think you are the best in the country. Remain hungry. Be loud. Be proud. Go Apps!!
The face of the Elon football program the last four years has been that of Scott Riddle. There are many titles that have been bestowed upon him in his time at Elon. Riddle will ultimately break almost every significant Southern Conference record in the passing department. Despite his lofty numbers, many critics have labeled him as a system quarterback. It is a fact. Elon likes to pass the ball up and down the field, and run the ball just enough to keep a pass rush honest. Riddle has benefited through that strategy, but that is not to say just anyone could do it. Riddle has also benefited from having a wide receiver that will go down as one the all time best in NCAA history, in Terrell Hudgins, who graduated last year. Riddle has stats this year that mirror his career marks, including a 65% completion rate. Riddle is averaging his most yards per game passing since his freshman season. His touchdown passes are also on pace to match that of his freshman season as well. Riddle may miss Hudgins on the field, but his numbers are not showing it. However, last year Riddle only had four interceptions through nine game before meeting Appalachian. This year, he has thrown five interceptions in as many games.
The Elon defense was rated tops in the country last year for most of the season, and then they met Appalachian. The tables have been turned upside down quickly for the Phoenix. Through last week, Elon was ranked 98th in the nation in total defense, and has been giving up over 30 points per game. They are very young in the secondary starting three freshmen and a sophomore that played linebacker last year. Their cornerbacks average 5’8” tall and 160 pounds. Across the board, Elon is starting only five upperclassmen on defense. Simply, they have not played enough college football to be consistent. It will be very difficult for Elon to match up against a very explosive Mountaineer offense, especially in the secondary.
Despite a very lackluster second half against Samford ten days ago, the Mountaineers went to Birmingham and brought back with them they needed, another conference win. The heat had a huge affect on both teams, to the point where playing the second half was almost unnecessary. The Appalachian offense did run up 459 yards of offense against Samford, but it was well under the previous three games of the season. DeAndre Presley continued to be very effective with 97 yards on the ground rushing and another 176 yards passing and four total touchdowns. Just another day at the office for DeAndre.
The defense came out of its shell against Samford and forced Dustin Taliaferro into throwing three interceptions, all which gave Appalachian excellent field position in the second quarter. The Mountaineers held Samford to 323 total yards, but are still vulnerable to the big play. Samford was able to connect on a 36 yards touchdown pass, and Fabian Truss broke free on a 74 yard touchdown run. Take out those plays, and Appalachian held Samford to 213 yards on 70 plays. Appalachian kept all conference running back Chris Evans in check as well, only allowing 42 yards on thirteen carries.
To revisit something I was talking about earlier, I keep thinking about how Elon has won both their games at home, against Shaw and Samford, but has lost all of their road games, at “hostile environments” I will give them Georgia Southern. Hostile is being very generous when you talk about Georgia Southern, but I don’t know how hostile they can be toward a team that they are not rivals with. I could be wrong, those two schools could hate each other, but I doubt it reaches the levels of Southern and Appalachian. Richmond opened their new on campus stadium against Elon, in front of about 8,700 fans. I have been to many games with less then 10,000 fans, and never was it hostile. Elon also lost at Duke. Did they play in Cameron Indoor? Once again, never thought of using Duke football and rabid fan base in the same sentence until now. Enter Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appalachian fans can be hostile. Appalachian fans like to take offense to teams trying to take something from them, like a conference championship. Appalachian fans also don’t like certain teams that employ certain strategies that can be considered borderline unethical. I guarantee, to all those Elon players, who are underclassmen, and were not on the travel squad in 2008, that Kidd Brewer will be like nothing you have ever seen. Kidd Brewer is not Wallace Wade. Our coach broke a Wallace Wade record, twice. Anyway, back to the game. Elon has done their talking recently. Scott Riddle and wide receiver Sean Jeffcoat have mentioned how they want payback, or to stick it to Appalachian in their last chance as seniors. I read just about every article about Appalachian football during the week. Last year, before the Elon game, you did not hear a word from an Appalachian player. In the last two weeks, I have not read or heard a word from an Appalachian football player about Elon. The Mountaineers are focused. They knew the task and will do the talking with their play. Elon in simply too young and unhealthy. Their top running back, center, and wide receiver are out with injuries. It just does not add up to much of a game, much less an Elon win. Appalachian has had two weeks to prepare, but sometimes it can also be looked at as two weeks to get rusty. I will expect some rust on offense, but it will not take too long for the Mountaineers to find the end zone.
The First Pick:
Burning Birds 17