Here we go with Week 6:
Gardner Webb (2-2) @ #5 Appalachian State (4-1)
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.93 points
ASU is favored to win by 29 ½ points
Series: ASU leads 6-0
Last Meeting: ASU 41, GW 6
The wonderful time of the year has finally arrived. The Apps will be back in Boone for the first time in three weeks, and since then, the weather has snapped cooler in the mornings. This time of the year has brought Homecoming, where some fans make their only trip of the year to Boone, with plans of seeing old classmates and get the first look of the changes that have been made to campus since their last visit. The Homecoming games brings a totally different feel to the college football setting. No longer are fans trying to get back into the swing of tailgating, but starting to get back to mid-season tailgating form. Anyone can put some burgers and dogs on the grill, but the real test is trying to bring in some different entrees and beverages. Homecoming is also special at Appalachian because of the values that the campus are built around: Family. Homecoming has become another Parents weekend. It is usually the highest attended game of the year, and this Saturday should be no different. For Appalachian’s opponent, it will be their game of the year. Appalachian State should make it their game of the year because it is the next game on the schedule.
This game is most likely the easiest game Appalachian will have for the rest of the season. It is the final non-conference game before the bye week. Luckily, ASU will catch a bye week when it is most needed. ASU is still hurting physically from the effects of the Michigan game, and emotionally from the Wofford game. The Mountaineers need a breather and the cure will be Homecoming and a bye week before facing long time conference rivals in Georgia Southern, Furman and The Citadel in consecutive weeks.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs have had an up and down season thus far. They have conveniently won their home games(Jacksonville and Austin Peay), and lost their road games (Mississippi State and Ohio). Gardner Webb has continued to use a two quarterback game plan for the most of the season. Devin Campbell started against ASU last year and finished the game with 96 years passing with three interceptions and three sacks. Sophomore Stan Doolittle did just that against the ASU defense. Doolittle finished the game with two carries for negative seven years, completed zero passes and was sacked once. Doolittle’s best play of the day was a quick punt that went 41 yards and landed inside the ASU 20. This year, both players are competing just under 60% of their passes. Doolittle has thrown two interceptions and Campbell has 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Both signal callers prefer throwing to Duvaughn Flagler who has 29 catches for 374 yards and three touchdowns.
Like I said last week, I could look good by saying that Kevin Richardson and the running game would find their groove against Elon. It just so happened as Richardson went for 158 yards and inched even closer to the ASU all time record. Richardson needs only 602 yards to break John Settle’s record and looks to feast on Gardner Webb again this week. Richardson went for 64 yards and one touchdown against GW last year, as Armanti Edwards stole the show with 101 yards rushing and 195 yards passing and three total touchdowns. Chances are that Trey Elder will lead the Mountaineers as Edwards continues to rest a sore shoulder. Elder ran for 115 yards and three rushing touchdowns to go along with 161 yards passing in the victory over Elon. While Elder has started, it is obvious that his favorite target is Hans Batichon. In the past two games, Batichon has caught 11 passes for 167 yards, which averages to a very clutch 15 yards per catch.
Now is my time to sound off a little bit. The ASU defense has been catching some serious grief in the last couple weeks. Most of the problems have come in stopping the running game, which many have blamed for the loss to Wofford. Against Elon, on their Family Day and in front of a Rhodes Stadium record crowd of 13,100, the App defense played much better. Elon came out with all their emotions worn on their sleeve. They sent a statement in the first quarter that said they were not going to go down without giving it their all. ASU survived a missed field goal and 200 yards passing in the fist quarter alone by the Phoenix offense. ASU was trailing in time of possession by 4 minutes going into halftime. In the second half, the running game got going and the defense was able to rest as Elon couldn’t stop the Mountaineers. ASU was able to make up the lost time in first half by running the football and eventually ended the game Beating Elon by five minutes. Do the math. Elon had the ball for just over 11 minutes in the second half. The ASU defense played better by not playing at all. In the fourth quarter, the defense was fresh enough to intercept an errant Elon pass and return it for a touchdown. Whenever the defense can put points on the board, any team stands a good chance to win. My point is, despite giving up rushing yards to Mike Hart, and letting Lance Kriesien run out of the pocket, the App defense was fine. The heat played into the beginning of the Elon game, and basically all of the Wofford game. When the ASU ofdefense starts getting back into form, it will have a direct correlation with the ASU running game controlling the clock and putting points on the board.
When it comes down to it, ASU must control the clock on offense. The Elon defense looked pitiful in the second half last week. It was not because they are a bad unit, but because ASU had set the tempo. ASU carried the ball 62 times for 365 yards rushing. The Mountaineer offense is best when it throws the ball around 20-25 times a game. This week, a young Gardner Webb defense will have trouble containing Elder, Richardson, and Devon Moore(172 yards, 2 touchdowns). It seems as if the Apps wanted to keep Moore a secret until later in the year, but felt the time was now to develop a player who will likely start in the 2008 campaign. Gardner Webb may have some success passing the ball as the game wears on, but it will not be a real factor in the game. The Mountaineer fans are eager to see their team at home. The Mountaineer team is also ready to get back to friendly confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium. Shouldn’t be a problem rolling in this game, but ASU will make sure they are super sound before they start pulling starters. ASU has an all time record of 32-11-2 in Homecoming games but have won 21 of the last 25 Homecoming games. The trend should continue.
The First Pick:
Yosef 007 40
Running Dawgs 7