Here we go with Week 8:
#18 Furman (6-2, 3-1 4th) @ #2 Appalachian State (5-2, 3-0 T1)
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.79 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 10 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Furman leads 21-14-3
Last Meeting: ASU 34, FU 27; October 27th 2007
Last week, we talked about rivalries and the fans got exactly what they paid for. Two teams with no desire to lose, fighting to the last play. No sooner can the media, fans and coaches rehash what some have called one of the most exciting games in the existent of the Southern Conference, the Mountaineers have to get right back to work as another rival, the Furman Paladins come to Boone for “Black Saturday”. You want close football games? Look no further than the series between Furman and Appalachian State. Eight of the past nine games have been decided by one possession. In many instances, just like last week against Georgia Southern, the games have been decided in closing moments. Corey Lynch sealed a victory in 2007 with a last minute interception. In 2005, Furman was able to block an ASU field goal attempt in the regular season, while Jason Hunter knocked the ball loose from Ingle Martin’s grasp in the National Semifinal game in the closing moments. In 2004, Richie Williams scored a touchdown with thirty seconds left to secure a one point win. And in 2002, Derrick Black and Josh Jeffries combined for a defensive two-point conversion return that has gone down in ASU history as the “Miracle on the Mountain”. It seems each year in this rivalry writes a new heart throbbing chapter that tries to top the last one. As always, these two schools fight for conference supremacy and playoff positioning. Appalachian hopes to keep pace with Wofford and Elon while Furman hopes to get a much needed “quality win” in their chase to make the playoffs. Furman. Appalachian State. Late October. Kidd Brewer Stadium. Black Saturday. What else is there?
Similar to Georgia Southern, Furman has installed a very non-traditional offensive attack. Furman, which has always been a team that runs first and passes second, has gained roughly 60% of their total offense through the air by way of Jordan Sorrells. In eight games, the junior has completed 62% of his passes for 1764 yards and 15 touchdowns, second in the conference to Elon’s Scott Riddle. Sorrells main target is Adam Mims who has 36 catches for 418 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mims is also Furman’s leader in punt return yards, with eight returns for 114 yards. That is a 14.2 yard per return average that is slightly skewed by a game against Colgate, where he had 3 returns for 92 yards. Take that out and his average drops to 4.4 per return.
Despite being a tad overshadowed by the passing game, you must always respect the Furman running attack. Mike Brown is the Paladins leading rusher and is as fast as any back in the conference. Brown leads the team with a 621 yards and five touchdowns. Brown is a versatile back who will remind Appalachian fans of Kevin Richardson, as he has also caught 22 passes for 242 yards. Behind Brown, there is not much depth to the Furman running game. Replacing a Paladin legend like Jerome Felton is hard to do, but that job falls in the hands of freshman Tersoo Uhaa, who has 188 yards on 48 attempts. Uhaa is tough to tackle as he stands at 5’8” and 200 pounds, and can get tough yardage when needed. Uhaa had a career high 11 carries against The Citadel last week.
Furman has always had pretty good defenses, even when their teams were young. Furman has given up only 327 yards and 20.2 points per game which is good enough for third best in the conference in both categories. Furman switched defensive philosophies last year to a 4-2-5 alignment. Basically, there are two inside linebackers and two cornerbacks with three safeties. Three defensive starters for the Paladins rank in the top 10 in tackles in the conference. They are led by defensive back William Middleton who as 66 total tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and nine defended passes. Linebacker Brandon Williams is leading tackler with 68 total tackles, 31 solo stops, and 8.5 tackles for loss.
It may sound like a broken record, but it’s a record that keeps playing over and over again for Appalachian. Armanti Edwards has shown for the last three weeks why he is one of the best football players anywhere. Edwards accounted for another 333 total yards, five more total touchdowns and maybe most importantly, zero turnovers in the win against Georgia Southern. In three conference games this year, Edwards has totaled 1008 yards and has been responsible for 15 touchdowns. Edwards has not thrown an interception in 97 attempts and became the first player since Adrian Peterson to win three straight conference offensive player of the week awards.
With each passing week, Appalachian has found a play or two on offense that they felt could exploit opposing defenses. Against Georgia Southern, to keep from the Eagles from stuffing the box, Appalachian threw four out patterns to Josh Johnson, which went for 49 yards. On each completion, they chains moved for a first down. Those four plays and Johnson’s sure hands were enough to give Appalachian some room in between the tackles to keep the defense guessing. Last year, against Furman, Appalachian had Armanti Edwards and Kevin Richardson run for over 100 yards on the way to 300 total rushing yards. I think Furman is suspect to the middle of the field. The five defensive backs have accounted for a total of 10 interceptions but their job is to keep the offense in front of them. You might see more short passes from the Mountaineers this week in order to keep the Paladins from feasting on errant passes in the secondary.
The last time these two schools met in Boone, the game was somewhat of an aberration. The Mountaineers gave Furman a 40-7 loss that stands as the most lopsided victory for the Mountaineers in series history. The game was knotted up just before half as Furman lined up for a field goal attempt. Corey Lynch blocked the kick and scooped the ball up and raced to the end zone for a seven point Mountaineer advantage. Furman was too deflated after halftime to muster a charge. I do not imagine a similar result this time around. Furman will be very steady on offense and will use the clock to their advantage. Furman leads the conference in red zone touchdowns, which is a compliment to how stable their offense has been. Bobby Lamb has seen enough videotape of the Appalachian offense and knows keeping Armanti Edwards off the field will be to his advantage. As has been in past Furman games, turnovers will be very important. Although both teams are in the positive in terms of turnover margin, Furman has lost 10 of 14 fumbles and Appalachian leads the conference with 12 interceptions. Appalachian has only turned the ball over 10 times this year to Furman’s 15 total turnovers. The Appalachian secondary must be up to the challenge as Furman has only given up 7 sacks on the season. Appalachian showed an inability to consistently get to the passer against Georgia Southern as Antonio Henton racked up close to 300 yards passing. This game is probably biggest for the Mountaineer linebackers. Furman likes to throw underneath crossing routes and short hooks. The linebackers will also be held accountable to make plays in the running game. The defense showed tremendous heart against Georgia Southern and I think it will carry over against Furman. Jerry Moore will be gunning for his 200th career win and there is not a sweeter victory for Appalachian fans than to beat Furman. This game will be close throughout, but I think Armanti Edwards is too much for the Paladins to handle in the end.
The First Pick:
Purple Pansies 27
Golden Rods 38