Here we go with Week 6:
#7 Appalachian State (3-2, 1-1 5th) @ The Citadel (2-3, 1-3 7th)
Live Video: www.citadelsports.com
Johnson Hagood Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3.08 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 10.5 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 28-11
Last Meeting: Appalachian 39, The Citadel 10, October 16, 2010, Boone, NC
WXAPP’s Charleston Gameday Weather Trends:
Sunny, Upper 70’s
The open week probably came at the best time for the Appalachian football team, coaches and fans. It has given fans time to sound off and get past a somewhat disappointing loss to Wofford two weeks ago. It has given the coaches time to reflect on what has and has not been working, and more importantly, given the players an extra week to rest, relax and focus on the remainder of the season. All is not lost on this season even at the midway point. Six conference games remain and last week we saw the results that prove just that. Chattanooga, a team that has lost all of its conference games by four combined points, gave everyone in the conference the blueprint on how to beat Georgia Southern. Samford travelled to Paladin Stadium, which was once a tough place to play, and picked up a statement win over Furman. The conference race will be the tightest one we have seen in awhile, and one measly conference loss is not going to knock anyone out of a race that will most likely be decided on the last week of the season.
The Citadel has always given Appalachian teams trouble in Charleston, especially in the last ten years. Despite owning a 4-1 record against the Cadets in that time frame, only the 2006 win can be categorized as being an easy win for the Mountaineers. Two years ago, Jason Vitaris saved Appalachian by kicking three field goals in the second half and overtime to seal the win. Four years ago, The Citadel scored ten third quarter points to pull within a touchdown before Armanti Edwards finished off the Bulldogs with his 291 rushing yards. In 2004, Appalachian had just switched offenses and lost all of their road games. In 2002, place kicker Erik Rockhold led Appalachian with his right foot to an 8-6 victory.
The 2011 Citadel Bulldogs are nothing to laugh at either. In the second year of going back to the triple option offense, they have held Pioneer League front runner Jacksonville to their lowest scoring output of the season. Two weeks ago, they stormed back from being down 27 points at Chattanooga and won 28-27. They also lost to Furman where they were only down one touchdown in the fourth quarter and also lost a tough one in overtime at Elon. The Bulldogs tout the fourth best rushing offense in the nation, behind only Georgia Southern, Wofford and Portland State. The difference between those four schools is putting the ball in the end zone. The Bulldogs have only scored eleven touchdowns on offense and average only 18.8 points per game and have yet to score in the first quarter all season long.
Preparing for Wofford and The Citadel are two different animals. Wofford runs a wingbone offense, which has some spread tendencies with shotgun formations, while The Citadel is strictly a triple option attack that resembles Georgia Southern. If you are on the roster, chances are you are going to get a couple carries. The triple option depends heavily on quarterback Ben Dupree of The Citadel. Dupree has carried the ball twice as much as any other teammate, with 431 yards and four touchdowns on the season, despite only gaining 4.1 yards per carry. Darien Robinson is the “B” back, which generally lines up directly behind the quarterback when under center, for the Bulldogs and has rushed 320 yards at 7.4 yards per carry and three touchdowns.
For Appalachian, another good omen for the timing of the bye week, was to forget about distractions that caused several defensive players to miss some time. Ed Gainey and Lanston Tanyi emerged in the second half against Wofford after being sidelined by off the field accusations. Jeremy Kimbrough served his time for an ejection way back in the win over Chattanooga. Having those three veteran players back, especially linebackers Tanyi and Kimbrough will certainly be a boon to the Mountaineer defense.
The Mountaineer offense has been a different story, if you can call it that. For the first time in the spread era, Appalachian is averaging less than 400 yards offense a game. Against quality opponents, the Apps have only scored 13.6 points per game. Across the board, the Mountaineer offense has just looked average. The inexperience of the left side of the offensive line has yet to open enough holes in the running game or provide enough protection in the passing game. Outside of Brian Quick (26 catches, 384 yards 4 TD’s), and maybe Andrew Peacock (13-163-1), the receiving corps has yet to live up to lofty expectations. On top of that, mix in the inconsistency of DeAndre Presley, and that is a recipe for blandness. Presley has been unable to run the ball like last year and his passes have been erratic all season long. Now, there is doubt about who starts at quarterback this weekend as well. In garbage time, redshirt sophomore Jamal Jackson has not been impressive, but neither has he been unimpressive. We all know he can run well, and has the frame to stand in the pocket, but what we do not know is if he can handle the pressure. For his career he is 12 of 28 passing for 270 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has 180 yards rushing on 39 carries and five touchdowns on the ground. Yet it still remains, that Jackson has yet to take a meaningful snap in his career. The uncertainty of Presley’s injury and Jackson’s inexperience is very troubling. If Presley has not practiced, he should not play. However, it is a scary thought to add yet another young player on an offense that has been downright tough to watch.
With The Citadel’s history of playing Appalachian tough in Charleston, and the Mountaineers recent offensive struggles, this is almost a very tough game to pick. The Citadel has only been running the triple option for two years now, and it shows. The Bulldogs are last in the conference in third downs, fourth downs, first downs gained, red zone scoring and red zone touchdowns. Appalachian’s defense will play better, based on having an extra week to prepare and getting back the services of Tanyi, Gainey and Kimbrough. Appalachian has not been scoring a lot, we all know that. The Citadel has been scoring a lot less. It is tough to look at common opponents sometimes and judge scores and statistics based on matchups, but is what we have to compare with. Chattanooga had the Citadel beat, but let them back in the game. Wofford never let Citadel in the game. Appalachian was able to defeat Chattanooga, despite an interesting method to reach the result. Appalachian was in the game with Wofford until the fourth quarter, but could not overcome being dominated at line of scrimmage and in time of possession. Appalachian had its chances against Wofford with several possessions inside the Wofford 20 yard line. Sam Martin uncharacteristically missed all three of his field goal attempts. When you only have eight possessions like Appalachian had against Wofford, you must take advantage of your opportunities. Appalachian cannot allow another team with a running mission to simply eat up clock and shorten the game. This Appalachian team, whether it is Presley or Jackson starting at quarterback on Saturday will need possessions in order to find a rhythm and hopefully put points on the board. I think this game simply comes down to the Citadel’s offense against Appalachian’s defense. Until further convinced, every game from here on out will be a tight one.
The First Pick:
El Citadel 15