Here we go with Week 10:
Western Carolina (1-8, 0-7 9th) @ #10 Appalachian State (6-3, 4-2 4th)
Live Video: GoASU TV
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 2.55 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 25 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 56-18-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, Furman 214, October 23, 2010, Cullowhee, NC
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
9 AM: Mostly Clear Upper 30’s
Kickoff: Mostly Sunny Mid 50’s
End of Game: Mid to upper 40’s
For the second time this season in South Carolina, Appalachian could not capitalize in the red zone and found itself driving back to Boone with dreams of a seventh conference title almost certainly dashed. In both situations, their opponents, Wofford and Furman were not flashy in victory, but scored just enough points to keep a turnover prone Appalachian State team from winning the game. It was almost the exact same circumstance. Four trips inside the twenty yard line against Wofford scored two touchdowns. Three missed field goals did not help either. Against Furman, it was six possessions inside the Furman twenty-five yard line that scored ten points and gave up the ball four times. I am convinced that this Appalachian can beat anyone in the country on any Saturday afternoon. I am also certain that if this team continues to turn the ball over and misses short field goals, that any decent team can return the favor. Talent can only take a team so far. In the end you have to play well. Hopefully, with the Old Mountain Jug on the line, the team that wears black puts a few points on the board.
Just when you think the going could not get any tougher for Western Carolina, it seems they always surprise you with another awful football team. Western has one win this season, which was in September over Mars Hill. The Lions are 7-2 on the season and were just this past week ranked as the #22 team in Division II football. The last time Western defeated any college football team that ended the season with a winning record was Shorter, in August of 2008. A win over Eastern Kentucky in September of 2006 was the last time Western defeated a Division I team that finished with a winning record.
The Catamount offense is sometimes the best part of their team, and can also be the worst part, which sounds similar to Appalachian. The Western offense is modestly ranked seventh in the SoCon, at 364 yards a game, and has the second best passing offense in the conference. The problem for the Catamounts is they have turned the ball over 23 times this season. This has held the Catamounts to only scoring 28 touchdowns in nine games. Seven of those touchdowns came against Mars Hill. The Catamounts have used two quarterbacks this season to score those touchdowns. Senior Zac Brindise has played exclusively the last three games without relief. Brindise has thrown for 622 of his 780 yards on the season in those three games, with all six of his touchdown passes also coming in the last three weeks. Sophomore Brandon Pechloff received the majority of the playing time in the first six games for Western. Pechloff is a lanky 6’7” weighing in at 220 lbs. Pechloff has 1280 yards on the season, but throws his interceptions in bunches. All nine of his interceptions were thrown in a four game stretch against Georgia Southern, Furman, Elon and Chattanooga. Brindise offers more mobility for the Cats and runs their pistol offense much better than the slow-footed, statuesque Pechloff.
Beyond the turning the ball over, the other Achilles heel for Western is their defense. They have given up at least five touchdowns in every game this season besides Mars Hill. In only two games have they held their opponents under 400 yards of total offense. They have allowed 250 yards rushing or more in eight of their nine games while giving up 634 yards to Georgia Southern, 500 to Wofford, and 435 yards on the ground to the Citadel. Statistically, they are the nation’s worst rushing defense, and only Valparaiso gives up more points (45.6) or yards (506.7) per game. The Catamounts are also last in the conference in tackles for loss, sacks, interceptions, third down conversions allowed, time of possession and penalties.
We have already discussed what put Appalachian in the loss column for the third time this season, so I will not force us all to relive it again. I’ll try and focus on the positives. Quarterback Jamal Jackson set a career high in completions (29), attempts (44) and yards (312) against Furman, but did not record a touchdown pass. That gives Jackson 1184 yards passing on the season with nine touchdowns and five interceptions. Jackson also has 241 yards rushing this season on 57 attempts, and five rushing touchdowns. Receiver Brian Quick needs just nine yards to break Rick Beasley’s school record for receiving yards in a career. Hopefully, Quick will break that record on the first offensive play for the Mountaineers. Quick already holds the school record for touchdown receptions and is dangerously closed to breaking Appalachian’s yards per catch record as well. Quick has averaged 17.5 yards per catch through his career, while Beasley averaged 17.6 yards per catch.
The Appalachian defense did about all it could do on Saturday minus a couple of big mistakes. They held Furman to 365 total yards, which was below their average. They held the SoCon’s second leading rusher to 48 yards and 3.7 yards per carry. The defense forced two turnovers and only allowed four third down conversions, which were all later in the game. Appalachian should have been credited for a third turnover, but a very controversial call at their own one yard line kept the ball in Furman’s possession, which led to a Paladin touchdown. Sederrik Cunningham’s long touchdown reception proved to be too much for the Mountaineer offense to overcome. Douglas Middleton bit hard on a play action fake from Chris Forcier and didn’t have enough speed to catch one of the SoCon’s leading kickoff returners. Furman was also able to hit their tight ends repeatedly for big plays.
It should not take too much of an effort from Appalachian to dispose of Western Carolina. If we were playing this game in Cullowhee I would really be concerned. Most likely it would be senior day for Western, with their biggest rival coming to town, who is reeling from an unexpected loss. Appalachian is 1-3 on the road this year, and did everything they could to give away that one road victory. However, Appalachian is playing in Boone, where Western Carolina has not won since 1984. Western has not even won in the establishment currently named Kidd Brewer Stadium. Western Carolina’s football program is in bad shape currently. The interim athletic director recently fired the defensive coordinator, for good reasons, and current head Dennis Wagner’s job will only be saved for another year if Western Carolina can not come up with the funds to buyout his contract. Football has not been pretty left of Asheville for some time now. Western’s last win in this series was in 2004, when Appalachian football was arguably at its lowest point in the Jerry Moore era. As good as Appalachian has played at home for the past several seasons, Western has been equally bad on the road. In four road defeats this season, the Catamounts have been defeated by an average of 36.5 points. On top of that, they have also given up 57 points a game on the road. I can not describe it many more ways. Western is not very good, but they will be playing for the Jug, and nothing would be sweeter for Western Carolina in any season to capture it in Boone.
The First Pick:
Mount a Cat 17