Here we go with Week 5:
#3 Appalachian State (3-1, 1-0 T2) @ #8 Wofford (2-1, 1-0 T2)
TV: SoCon Sports Network on PBS
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3.08 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1 point (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 17-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 43, Wofford 13, November 13, 2010, Boone, NC
WXAPP’s Spartanburg Gameday Weather Trends:
Sunny, Mid to upper 60’s
Funny thing happened last Saturday. The Mountaineer offense forgot to score any points. The last time Appalachian was shut out offensively, the entire country turned their heads and noticed a Mountaineer team that was ready for the big stage. That game was played in Baton Rouge, LA against the Louisiana State Tigers. The Mountaineers lost that game 24-0, but it was a statement loss, if there is such a thing. One can argue that the win over Chattanooga was a statement win; for the Appalachian defense. For the first time, Appalachian unleashed its blitz package from the new base 3-4 defense. And once they were done blitzing, they blitzed some more. Moc quarterback BJ Coleman was hurried seven times, sacked four times, intercepted twice, one returned for the game clinching touchdown, and had ten of his passes defended. The Mountaineer defense did all the work. That recipe will not work this weekend. The Appalachian offense must show up and Wofford’s defense should be the cure to what ails the black and gold attack.
The Wofford Terriers are coming off a very impressive home victory over Samford. No, it was not a surprise that Wofford beat the Bulldogs, but it was the matter in which they won that was eye-opening. The Terriers controlled the clock for just under 38 minutes and amassed three 100-yard performances from their ground game. Quarterback Mitch Allen ran 16 times for 110 yards and a touchdown. Boone native and fullback Eric Breitenstein ran 29 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns. Backup fullback Donovan Johnson ran ten times for 173 yards and a touchdown. That is 410 yards between three players. Those three are in the top seven in the conference in rushing. On the season, Breitenstein has averaged just over 4 yards a carry, and usually runs in between the tackles. Johnson is a little bit smaller, but quicker, and averaging 9.7 yards a carry. As a team, Wofford is second in the nation in rushing, averaging 355 yards a game on the ground.
It seems pretty simple. Contain the running game of Wofford and you can be successful. It is not that simple. For the first time in recent memory, Wofford has an all conference receiver in Brenton Bersin. The Terriers have made an effort to throw the ball a little more this year, and with that brings more uncertainty. No matter how hard any team tries, whenever Wofford is ready to throw, they always seem to have a player wide open behind every defender. It happened against Clemson. Wofford only completed two passes against Clemson, both of which went to Bersin, who took one of those in for a touchdown. Bersin caught those two passes for 127 yards. For the season, Bersin has caught seven of Wofford’s fifteen completions.
For the past three seasons, Appalachian wide receiver Brian Quick has absolutely crushed the Terrier secondary. In three games, Quick has 17 catches, 426 yards and seven touchdowns. To compare, there are four conference schools that Quick has yet to score a touchdown against. Thirteen of Quick’s twenty four career touchdowns have come against conference opponents. It does not matter which defensive back or backs Wofford deploys on Quick, it is a physical mismatch against the smaller secondary of the Terriers.
As much as there was a lack of offense for Appalachian last week, when the Mountaineers needed to grind some clock, they did. The late drive by Appalachian that consumed 4:26 of clock was most crucial. At the beginning of that drive, Chattanooga had two timeouts, and needed to force a three and out in the worst way. Appalachian converted two third downs into first downs, and forced the Mocs to use the last of their timeouts. When Appalachian punted, the Mocs received the ball on the 20 yard line and most likely had to go about 55 yards in 42 seconds, without a timeout, to attempt a game winning field goal. Without those timeouts, Chattanooga was forced to throw the ball near the sidelines, or for first downs, which meant longer routes for the Moc receivers. The Appalachian defense dialed up the pressure as Dan Wylie tipped Coleman’s final pass which hung in the air forever, long enough for Doug Middleton to cradle it and end the game. In all, you can say in a very perverted way that Appalachian’s offense played a pivotal part in securing the win on Saturday.
We all know what Wofford is going to do. They are going to do their best to control the clock by running the football and making this game very short. The fewer possessions for Appalachian, the better Wofford’s chances are of winning. That is basic football knowledge, but we have to examine this a little further. Turnovers have killed Wofford in their last three games against the Mountaineers. Wofford lost four fumbles last year in Boone, with three of them leading to three Mountaineer touchdowns. In 2009, after gaining a fourteen point second half lead, Wofford once again turned the ball over twice in the second half that led to two touchdowns for Appalachian. And finally in 2008, Wofford turned the ball over on downs once, fumbled once and had two interceptions that Appalachian turned into twenty eight points. We just saw it last week. Two turnovers by Chattanooga were all Appalachian needed to win the game. The Mountaineer defense has always been an opportunistic bunch, and has scored just about every way you can think of recent history. Even last year, the Chris Aiken blocked a Wofford extra point and Troy Sanders returned it for two points. I believe the point has been made. Wofford must take care of the football and they must move the chains. Wofford does lead the conference in third down conversions, but their lack of discipline is completely uncharacteristic of a Wofford team. The Terriers have committed a league high, 26 penalties for 250 yards, while their opponents have been flagged only 13 times for 109 yards. Wofford can not afford to have costly penalties that set them back on offense. It is an offense that is based on getting positive yardage on each play. Another concern I have is for the Wofford defense. We touched on this briefly in the opening statements. The Terriers have only played three games, against Clemson, Samford and Presbyterian, but have given up points in each game. They allowed 28 to the Blue Hose, 35 to Clemson, which really isn’t that bad, and 23 to Samford. That is bad enough for 8th in the conference. Only Western Carolina has allowed more points. The Mountaineer offense will get back on track this week. Last week was extremely uncharacteristic of the Mountaineers, and maybe there was not enough credit given to the Chattanooga defense. If I were Wofford, I would not feel good about Appalachian having a bad offensive game last week, and surely would not feel good about Appalachian’s ability to score points in bunches on Wofford in the past. I also wouldn’t feel good about how well Appalachian held down the Chattanooga rushing attack. The Mocs only gained 32 yards on 30 carries. Appalachian held Wofford to 113 yards below their average on the ground in 2010. I really believe the offense will begin to find its groove this week, and there is no way Wofford is as successful running the ball as they were last week against Samford.
The First Pick: