Here we go with Week 5:
North Carolina Central @ #9 Appalachian State (2-2, 2-0 T1)
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.91 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 36 points (rounded).
Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
The last time I checked, any win on the road in conference play is a good win. Whether you win by a point or forty, it is still the same. I am having a hard time understanding why there are some out there, who felt last Saturday’s game was in any way a negative result. According to Sagarin, the Mountaineers were supposed to lose. Should it have been considered an upset? I don’t think so. After studying the result all weekend, some interesting nuggets were discovered. The senior class at The Citadel had beaten every team in the conference, except Appalachian. The Citadel dominated the time of possession, did not turn the ball over, and still lost. The Citadel hit two long field goals, while two Appalachian field goal attempts were not successful. Everything I could see added up to The Citadel winning the war on the stat sheet, but they did not win the game. Personally, I think The Citadel played the best game they possibly could have, and still it was not enough to beat Appalachian at home. That says something to me about this Appalachian team. Despite being dominated in the first half, they came out in the second half and overcame their mistakes, persevered and finished on top in overtime. When it counted, Appalachian made the plays. That is what is most important about last Saturday.
There is always that one game a year, where you know absolutely nothing about the upcoming opponent. Appalachian had a similar game against McNeese, where the two schools had never met on the gridiron, but they knew about each other. Granted, North Carolina Central probably knows more about Appalachian than vice versa. Central is winless, despite three of their games decided by a touchdown or less. Their two lopsided losses were to Liberty and Duke. The close calls include losses to Morehead State, Hampton and an overtime loss to NC A&T last week.
The Central roster is loaded with experience on both sides of the ball. The Eagle starting “22” includes 14 juniors and four seniors. Nine of those juniors are on the defensive side of the ball as Central runs a 3-4 defense, which is very rare in college football. The defensive line is smallish for your typical 3-4 line, going less than 280 pounds across the board. The Eagles have three linebackers that are right around 6’1” and 240 pounds and another that figures to be much quicker. One would come to the conclusion that this defense can run and it will hit you as well. The defense is not to be overlooked. However the Eagles did give up 321 yards rushing to Liberty, a team that probably resembles Appalachian the most of the teams they have played.
The Central offensive attack is lacking, to be brutally honest. Through five games, they have turned the ball over 15 times. Seven of those turnovers were interceptions thrown by quarterback Michael Johnson. The sophomore quarterback is only completing 49% of his passes and has only thrown five touchdown passes. Johnson is a big player at 6’2” and 222 pounds as he and fellow quarterback Keon Williams have been sacked ten times. They have only converted an atrocious 23% of their third downs and only average 262 total yards a game.
As usual when Armanti Edwards plays The Citadel he takes it out on them. Edwards threw for 327 yards, ran for another 80 and was responsible for three touchdowns. Edwards had to play well as The Citadel actually cured their defensive woes in a week. The Citadel held Devon Moore to only 2.5 yards per carry, but Edwards and the offense adjusted. The Mountaineer offense went to screen passes and bubble screens to the outside and were able to pick up yardage by stretching out the Bulldog defense. The Mountaineers continued to spread the ball among its backs and receivers, with 5 players catching three or more passes. The play of the day was made when Edwards found an open Brian Quick down the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown that tied the game with only 4:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Appalachian kicker Jason Vitaris has caught some heat recently for some untimely field goal misses, that may have changed the outcome in the two losses. Place kicking is very similar to a shooting guard in basketball. There is only one way to get out of a bad stretch, and that is to shoot, or kick your way out of it. However, the kick in overtime to win the game may have just been the trick to get Vitaris back on track. Is there more of a pressure situation than having the game rest on the inside of your right foot? That may have been the biggest kick of his career. Missing that kick would have put the Appalachian offense back on the field, and given the upper hand back to The Citadel in the second overtime. That kick may be what gets everything clicking for this Mountaineer team.
I am not going to go into a long analysis of what I think will happen on Saturday. I feel pretty confident that the Mountaineers can take this one out. Central has plenty of athletes, but there is a reason they have not won a game this year. What is most important this week is that everyone have a great time. Homecoming is time for friends of old to meet again and enjoy college athletics. Everyone who reads this looks forward to football season like it is Christmas. We should also all enjoy it like it is as well. We as fans can not control everything that happens on the football field, but we sure can try. We cheer when good things happen, but we shouldn’t grumble and pout when bad things happen. Fans should cherish every win. Some Appalachian fans are having a hard time doing that of late. The Mountaineers will not win every game they play. We should always celebrate the win instead of griping over a loss. Mountaineer athletics is an important part of my life, but it is not everything. Let each and every Saturday be a day of fun, especially on Homecoming. Enjoy your tailgates, even if the weather does not cooperate. It sure as hell beats being at work. Go Mountaineers!! Beat the Eagles now, and the ones from Statesboro in two weeks.
The First Pick:
Eaglets Part 1 7