Here we go with Week 2:
#16 McNeese State @ #2 Appalachian State
TV: WMYA 40
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.62 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 18 points (rounded).
Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
As soon as the clocks read zeroes this past Saturday, every Mountaineer fan at Dowdy Ficklen Stadium probably had one thing on their mind. They were excited about the next game. The Mountaineers put on a show in the second half with their improbable comeback against East Carolina. Although that comeback fell short, it could not have felt any better to many fans. The Mountaineers played with a never say die attitude and was clearly the more physical team in the second half. The East Carolina players were dropping like flies while Appalachian players were jumping up and down, cheering their teammates to make one more stop on defense, or another first down on offense. A lot was learned against East Carolina. We now know as fans, that this group of Mountaineers believe that they can be successful. We also know that Travaris Cadet is no longer a third-stringer, but more like the future at quarterback for the black and gold. The defense was as good as advertised, despite some missed assignments in the first half. As for the fans, they are still hungry. The Mountaineer fans stayed until the end because they also believe. They believe something special might happen again, right before their eyes. The exhibition is over. The next game counts for something.
For the first time, two traditional FCS powers will face off when McNeese State travels up to Boone, NC to face Appalachian State. The two schools have been lined up several times to meet in the FCS playoffs, but never has both teams advanced far enough to face each other. The two schools have a contract to meet twice in the future, with a game in 2013 to be played in Lake Charles and a return trip in 2014 in Boone.
McNeese State will bring to Kidd Brewer Stadium a very veteran laden lineup on the offensive side of the ball. McNeese has eight senior players listed as starters on offense, including one lineman, tight end, fullback, three wide receivers, running back and quarterback. They are lead by All-Southland quarterback Derrick Fourroux and Todd Pendland. Joining them on the all conference selections are tight end Wes Mangan and right tackle Casey Richter. Fourroux needs only 2400 yards to become all time leader in total offense at McNeese and could also challenge for career leader spots in completions, passing yards and touchdowns. Pendland is seventh all time on the McNeese leader board for career touchdowns and he added two more touchdowns to that total last week against Henderson State. Both players will need good games for McNeese to beat Appalachian State.
Defensively in 2009, McNeese State knew they had a lot of holes to fill. Against Henderson State, McNeese had eight defensive starters out due to injury and not many are expected to return this week against Appalachian. That is a recipe for disaster when you figure Appalachian’s speed on offense. When you mix inexperienced players starting and then having those same inexperienced players being replaced by players who are even less experienced, it does not make for a good defense. Henderson State ran for 286 yards on McNeese last week. If McNeese is unable to get some players healthy, I don’t expect those rushing numbers to improve against the Appalachian spread attack.
The story in the East Carolina game for the Mountaineers was backup quarterback Travaris Cadet. The Mountaineers offense was nearly non-existent in the first half. DeAndre Presley appeared rushed at times and was unable to provide a spark for the Mountaineers. Cadet entered in the second half and with the help of the Mountaineer defense was able to start moving the ball and eventually scored 17 unanswered points. Cadet finished the game with 35 yards rushing and 55 passing. Although those numbers are rather pedestrian, it was more about the field position and moving the chains. Cadet and the Mountaineers slowly took the life out of the ECU defense with short passes and effective rushes. The Mountaineers actually cheated themselves out of at least a tie, with a missed field goal and botched snap that went for a safety. If one of those plays went the other way, we could be talking about a totally different outcome.
The Mountaineers got great performances defensively from linebackers Jacques Roman and DJ Smith. Roman with a record 11 tackles and a half tackles for loss while Smith was credited with 13 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Jared Reine recorded his first interception while Cortez Gilbert had eight tackles and an interception. Ed Gainey made six tackles and also had one pass breakup.
One week ago, I was not sure what to think about the McNeese State game. The uncertainty of the health of Armanti Edwards let most fans wondering the same. In a week, it has all changed. After an inspiring loss to East Carolina, Armanti Edwards has been inserted back into the starting lineup and has a backup that is very capable of spelling him if needed. McNeese struggled mightily against a team that should have been terribly inferior. McNeese has plenty of reason why they struggled. Their defense is decimated and couldn’t get off the field, which is not good for a team that was already going to depend heavily on its offense to win games. Appalachian will technically be opening up a new stadium and the excitement of the first home game for Mountaineer fans is always something to look forward to. However I get this funny feeling that I have dismissed McNeese prematurely. Maybe they were not prepared for Henderson State. Maybe they were looking ahead to this weekend. That happens a lot with young athletes. Regardless, the Appalachian defense will need to have the same kind of intensity it had in the second half against East Carolina. The Cowboys have plenty of weapons on offense to make a game of it and they all are experienced, so an early knockout punch will not be enough to scare them away. I do think McNeese holds an advantage at running back. Todd Pendland is a small back and Appalachian has not fared well against smaller, speedy backs. He reminds me so much of Jayson Foster of Georgia Southern and Mike Brown of Furman. Once those guys get an opening, its over. But, we have to go back the McNeese defense. They obviously had plenty of work to do this week. Their assignment will be to stop one of the most prolific scoring offenses in recent FCS history. That is certainly not an easy task for anyone. I don’t think it matters how long Armanti Edwards plays, because Travaris Cadet will surely see some field time and their running abilities are somewhat similar. Both like to get downfield in a hurry. If Appalachian can control the offensive line, this one could be over in a hurry. McNeese allowed two backs to gain over 90 yards last week and if their troubles persist, I could easily see Appalachian with three guys over 90 yards.
The First Pick: