Here we go with Week 3:
Samford @ #10 Appalachian State
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.91 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 14 ½ points (rounded).
Series: ASU leads 2-1
Last Meeting: ASU 35 Samford 24 October 11, 2008
This might have been the longest two weeks in a long while for Appalachian State fans, players and coaches. Another game passed us by with thoughts lingering of what could have been. It has been a while since the Mountaineers started 0-2. Its been a while since the Mountaineers have given up 500+ yards on defense. You get the point. The Mountaineers did plenty wrong against McNeese State, such as taking care of the football, tackling, coverage, getting enough men on the field, etc. A whole lot of things will have to be corrected to avoid going 0-3. Was two weeks off exactly what the Mountaineers needed? Will the Mountaineers take another opponent lightly? Will they understand that championships just don’t fall in your lap? Does this group know what it takes to win?
Samford University will be making its first trip to Kidd Brewer Stadium as a member of the Southern Conference. In the game last year, Samford set an attendance record for the largest crowd to see a game at Seibert Stadium with 10,670 spectators. Last year Samford went 3-1 on the road in league games, getting wins at Western Carolina, Chattanooga and Georgia Southern. They lost at Elon. There were 11,149 reported at the Elon game; 9,174 in Cullowhee; 4,068 in Chattanooga and 17,436 in Statesboro. Samford is going to find that Kidd Brewer Stadium is a different story. There are about 30,000 fans, give or take, that are extremely hungry for a Mountaineer win, and they will do whatever it takes to help their team do that.
Samford began the season with a tough loss to FBS opponent Central Florida. In that game, UCF turned the ball over twice and Samford controlled the clock like they usually do, without turning the ball over. UCF held on for a four point win with a touchdown in the fourth quarter for the comeback win. Samford followed that with wins over Jacksonville, 27-0, and Miles, 31-12. Samford had to come from behind to defeat Miles as that game was close until the fourth quarter. Sound familiar? Appalachian’s opponent this week is playing a team that struggled with a Division II team the week before. We have all heard this broken record.
Chris Evans is the guy the Bulldog offense will lean heavily on. Samford will give him the ball as many times as possible if he is moving the chains. Evans has carried 59 times for 311 yards and two touchdowns in 2009. He has also caught 6 passes for 38 yards. He is averaging roughly 22 touches a game and 116 yards of total offense. Dustin Taliaferro lines up under center for the Bulldogs. Taliaferro is your typical drop back passer, mostly on play action passes. His completion percentage, yards per pass and sacks per game are up from a year ago. Part of that is due to a very young left side of the offensive line. They will need to give Taliaferro time in the passing game to avoid the quickness of Appalachian’s defensive front.
As previously mentioned, not much has changed in the last week for Appalachian football. The loss to McNeese State still stings and the Apps are eager to hit the field to erase the memory of that loss. It has been reported that Appalachian’s defense was not lined up correctly on several plays against McNeese and on several occasions this year, there has not been enough men on the field during punt returns. These are mental mistakes, that are very correctable. Lining up correctly is the difference between a stopping a third down conversion and allowing another touchdown. Against McNeese, that might have been enough to cruise to a win. However, it didn’t happen. It doesn’t help when you can not force a punt and you are running backwards all day long, chasing the other team.
One topic that was not discussed in the past two weeks was about the offense. Armanti Edwards looked fine in his return from a freak accident in the offseason. The offensive line carved enough holes to allow Devon Moore to run for 155 yards and Edwards another 72 yards. Edwards completed 76% of his passes for 235 yards, as he was given time to complete at least four passes to four different receivers. In all the offense produced 493 total yards and 35 points, which should be enough to win a football game. One untimely fumble did cost Appalachian a touchdown in the second quarter, but, the offense played pretty solid overall.
Ring Game. That is phrase that is thrown around amongst players and coaches. This week against Samford is Ring Game #1 of the 2009 season. For the last four years, Appalachian State has claimed the Southern Conference championship. In that stretch the Mountaineers have only lost three conference games. Because of their work during league play, the Mountaineers have earned the right to host postseason football games for the past four years. In order to host playoff football games this year, the Apps must continue that trend. Eight up, eight down. It begins this weekend. Most Mountaineer fans have respect for the Samford program. They play an old school style of football that Appalachian used to. It works most of the time. Controlling the clock and the line play, and taking care of the ball is what the game of football was built on. Last year against Appalachian, Samford did just that. They had no turnovers, ran 78 offensive plays, and controlled the clock for 36:26 of the game. On top of that, Appalachian gave Samford the ball three times on fumbles. At the time last year, Appalachian was trying to find a running back after losing Devon Moore in the James Madison game. Samford knew they had to stop Armanti Edwards, and they could not do it. Edwards passed for 307 yards and three touchdowns, and was the only threat to run for Appalachian as he also ran for 63 yards and another touchdown on the ground. I think Appalachian’s offensive line is better than last years unit. I also think the Mountaineers are better off at running back with Devon Moore. I do not foresee Appalachian turning the ball over three times either. The receivers are basically the same and Brian Quick has progressed and is a threat now and holds a noticeable size advantage over the Samford secondary. I don’t think this game will be won or lost on a missed field goal. I think Appalachian will be more aggressive on offense this week and come out firing in the first half. Samford has only scored three points in the first quarter this year. Of course, I like Appalachian, but I don’t think we will see the game being as close as it was last year in Birmingham. The Mountaineers kind of fell asleep last year at the half. I think the Mountaineers will score early and often and crush the Bulldog spirit. The defense will have a better game, but that is not saying that Chris Evans will not run for 100 yards. I think if given the opportunity, Jerry Moore will choose to go for a first down on every fourth down in Samford territory and keep the pedal to the metal.
The First Pick:
Mayo in the Q sauce? 27
Corn in the Jar 42