Here we go with Week 4:
Presbyterian @ #3 Appalachian State
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.87 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 34 points (rounded).
Series: Presbyterian leads 9-7
Last Meeting: PC 27 ASU 25, November 8th, 1969
It has been awhile since an Appalachian team in any decade has taken a three touchdown lead into halftime and lost the game. I don’t think I am old enough to remember any type of game, so I will let some of the more veteran Mountaineer fans answer that. Jerry Moore coached teams rarely give up any type of lead in the second half. It had been since 2003 when ASU had given up leads at halftime to Chattanooga and in the third quarter to Western Carolina before what transpired last Saturday. Hats off to James Madison. They did what they had to do and Appalachian did not. That however was just one game and one game does not make a season. The rest of the season starts this weekend as the Mountaineers host their first regular season night game since defeating Liberty in 2001. Presbyterian’s colors are similar to those of the Liberty Flames. Hopefully, the result will also bear some type of resemblance, a twenty point victory for the Apps.
Presbyterian can say something about Appalachian that not many FCS football programs can. The Blue Hose have beaten Appalachian nine times to only seven Mountaineers wins. That puts the Blue Hose in the same category as Furman and Northwestern State. I could name a few others, but for arguments sake let us limit that statistic to a minimum five games played and schools that have active football programs.
Luckily, for Mountaineer coaches, the films they received from Presbyterian included three conference opponents, Wofford, Elon and Western Carolina. The staff should have a pretty good idea of what will and won’t work against the Hose. To no surprise, Wofford ran all over them to the tune of 367 yards, and Elon passed over them for 421 yards. Western Carolina couldn’t have been more balanced, rushing for 242 yards and passing for 241 yards. All in all, Presbyterian gave up an average of 285 yards rushing and 269 yards passing to Southern Conference schools. Seems as if anything will work against the Blue Hose. Maybe the real question is what can the Hose do to Appalachian? In the same three games, the Hose scored 18 points a game and averaged 225 yards passing and 68 yards on the ground. When I think of the best defensive teams in the Southern Conference, Elon and Western Carolina certainly don’t come to mind. And for Wofford, their best defense is their offense. The numbers surely are not in favor of Presbyterian as they get ready to play a national contender under the lights.
If there is a bright spot for Presbyterian heading into this weekend, its their quarterback Tim Webb. Last year, in Presbyterian’s transitional year to Division I, Webb threw for 648 yards against North Greenville. This season, Webb has thrown for 956 yards and seven touchdowns in the Blue Hose’s spread attack. The primary beneficiaries of the Webb’s 91 completions on the season have been Terrance Butler(24 catches, 317 yards) and running back Stanley Worrell (20 catches, 148 yards). Worrell is also the teams leading rusher with 40 carries for 146 yards (3.7 ypc).
For the Appalachian offense, the story is simple. Right now, Armanti Edwards is a one man show, and that is not a good thing. Edwards, pound for pound is one of the best players in FCS football, but he needs help. Eventually, Edwards is going to need some blocking and some open receivers, or else defenses will key in on him and whoever Appalachian lines up at running back. As a team, throwing for 140 yards a game isn’t that bad, however, completing more passes is important. To date, Appalachian quarterbacks have completed only 49% of their attempts and are averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. The completion number needs to be closer to 60% and averaging 8 yards per attempt will keep linebackers and linemen from pinning their ears back and chasing the quarterback. That in turn, makes the running game much more successful. The theme at practice this week should have been about protecting the quarterback. If Edwards has time to throw, receivers will get open.
The Mountaineer defense and special teams did its job for the first half against JMU. After that, not so much can be said. One bad kick return was followed by a couple missed assignments and the next thing you knew, the game was back on. A gut-wrenching 10 play, 87 yard drive in the fourth quarter where JMU converted three straight third downs and pushed the lead to eleven points was more than the Mountaineers could handle. They simple did not come out of the gates in the second half with the same intensity as they did in the opening quarters. The defense must find a desire from deep within before the conference slate starts. A kick return and punt return in the last two games also does not bode well for the special teams. You can be sure if the special teams are not shored up soon, teams like Georgia Southern and Elon, who have speed in those positions will take advantage when they can.
A night game at Kidd Brewer Stadium is an exciting time. The most exciting game last year was the Richmond game by far. Although there were only a little more than 24,000 fans in the stands, it seemed like twice as many. The Hose played in front of just over 7,000 fans in road night games at Wofford and Elon this year. Kidd Brewer Stadium is sold out and I expect nothing short of 32,000 fans for this contest. How will Presbyterian handle the pressure of facing the three-time defending champs in an atmosphere as electric as “The Rock”? I am not sure that they can. They certainly have not proved it thus far against other Southern Conference teams. If they do have one thing going for them, it is the injury situation on the ASU defensive line. Tony Robertson could be out up to six weeks and Quavian Lewis will likely sit this one out with a knee bruise. That leaves Appalachian very young at the defensive end position. Presbyterian will try to exploit the inexperience with screen passes to the running backs. The linebackers for ASU must be ready to make open field tackles. Appalachian must find a rhythm in this game and the passing game must get on track. Nobody is going to wait for the Mountaineers to find their groove. The Blue Hose will be overpowered by the ASU running game eventually and look for close to 600 yards total offense for the Apps.
The First Pick: