Here we go with Week 7:
Samford (4-2, 2-2 T4) @ #6 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1 3rd)
Live Video: GoASU TV
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3.08 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 5 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 4-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Samford 17, September 25, 2010, Birmingham, AL
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
8 AM – Mostly Sunny, mid 30’s
Kickoff: Mostly Sunny, mid 50’s
End of Game: Mostly clear to clear, mid to lower 50’s
APPSTANDING Homecoming weather!!!
After defeating The Citadel last Saturday, it seems the Appalachian football team answered the questions of the critics, but at the same time, added more questions to the mix. It is obvious: Jamal Jackson was ready to run the offense. Against Wofford, the Mountaineers had eight possessions for the entire game. Against The Citadel, the Apps scored on seven of their first eight possessions. The one possession that did not result in the score was at the end of the first half. On the other hand, The Citadel exposed Appalachian like they always have. The numbers may not be there to support it, but one would think that the Bulldogs have run more fake punts and trick plays on Appalachian than any other team in the conference combined in the last ten years. They used those plays to stay in the game and keep it interesting into the fourth quarter. Sam Martin might be the best punter/kicker at our level, but has had two punts blocked for defensive touchdowns this season. Jamal Jackson went down with cramps in the third quarter and that injury basically forced another turnover for The Citadel that turned into points. Jackson’s skill set may have been ready for the starting job, but the conditioning was not there. It nearly cost Appalachian the game. To keep hope alive for a seventh straight conference title, the Mountaineers must correct these costly mistakes.
The Samford Bulldogs should be a team that Appalachian faithful should be familiar with by now, but most likely, are not. This will be only the second trip to Boone for Samford and the first game was an absolute washout. Samford has played Appalachian as close anyone in the last three years within the Southern Conference. Only Elon has allowed fewer points to Appalachian in the last three seasons (2008-2010). Samford has also allowed the third lowest point total against Appalachian (20 in 2009), falling short just to Western Carolina’s 19 points in 2009 and Georgia Southern’s 14 in 2010 in the same time frame.
In year past, I have really dogged on Samford quarterback Dustin Taliaferro, pun intended. In his first three years as the signal caller for the Bulldogs, his passing yards per year actually regressed, from 1,745 yards his freshman year, to 1,692 yards his sophomore season, and finally to his junior season where he threw for 1,427 yards. Taliaferro did miss the better part of two games last season, but we are still talking about a guy who had thrown 27 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions coming into this season, and had only thrown for 200 yards only four times in his career. All of those stats are long gone. Taliaferro has already thrown for 1,273 yards this year, to go along with 10 touchdown passes and only four interceptions. Based on his past, he is throwing it all over the field.
One reason for Taliaferro’s success is his supporting cast. He has multiple weapons besides the dependable Riley Hawkins. The Bulldogs have seen the emergence of young players such as Fabian Truss, who averages 98 yards rushing a game. Truss as lit up Furman and Elon the last two weeks to the tune of 327 yards on 52 carries. Kelsey Pope averages 6.5 catches and 75 yards receiving per game. Pope also garners anywhere from three to five rushing attempts per game, and is a threat to score whenever the ball is in his hands.
We touched on the great performance put on Jamal Jackson last week, but in case you have not seen it through some medium this week, I will repeat. Jackson in first career start on the road in a conference game completed his first 15 passes in a row. He finished the day completing 21 of 27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also ran eight times for another 40 yards. It was a no brainer to start him this week against Samford. This Mountaineer team appeared to lack a spark this season, and Jackson worked wonders. His accuracy allowed the Mountaineer running game to also take off. Travaris Cadet ran 18 times for 133 yards and Stephen Miller also added another 102 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.
Now that two of three triple option teams from the Southern Conference are behind us, the Mountaineer defense can get back to aggressive football by attacking the passer. Samford has a very balanced offense, but Taliaferro is nowhere near the talent of BJ Coleman of Chattanooga. The two offenses of Samford and Chattanooga are very alike and I expect to see very similar results. Samford prefers a bit more of run oriented game than the Mocs and will force the issue, especially in a close game. The Mountaineer defense will be successful if they can contain the Bulldog rushing attack and force third down and long situations. We all remember the beating that the BJ Coleman received from Appalachian four weeks ago.
Although the first half against the Citadel was great, Appalachian came down to earth a bit in the second half. I left the game not sure whether the win on the scoreboard should really count. Sure, the Mountaineers won, but it felt like we escaped danger more than won the game. This Appalachian team is still young and there is quite a bit of learning to come. I am not going to get too excited about a 49 point effort against The Citadel. This Samford team is coming into this game having beaten Furman and Elon and is riding a wave of confidence right now. Their losses do not even look that bad, to Georgia Southern and Wofford. They have won games running and passing. They are a very complete team. They have scored more points per game and also allowed fewer than Appalachian has this season. They have made more and attempted more field goals than any team in the conference and also lead the conference in kick returns and punt returns. This Samford team is not a pushover. This is not your typical Homecoming opponent. It is going to take a complete sixty minute effort from Appalachian to win this game. The Mountaineers are going to need to take care of the football most importantly. Samford leads the conference in interceptions with ten. Appalachian lost both fumbles they put on the ground last week. The Mountaineers must be prepared. We must remember the fake punts and halfback passes from last weekend. In 2008, Samford pulled out all the stops in trying to beat Appalachian at home with attempting an onsides kick, a fake field goal, and direct snaps to the halfback. I truly believe Appalachian has the better team, but Samford is playing really well right now. Home field should be enough to win this one.
The First Pick: