Here we go with Week 4:
#10 Appalachian State (1-2, 1-0 T1) @ The Citadel (2-1, 0-0)
Stadium: Johnson Hagood Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
Home advantage: 2.91 points
The Citadel is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 2 points (rounded).
Series: ASU leads 26-11
Last Meeting: ASU 47, The Citadel 21, October 4, 2008
Getting back in the winners column sure felt nice, even if it had to occur during a Boone downpour. A win is a win, whether its wet, windy or warm, no matter how you slice it, it’s still a win. Appalachian took out its first conference opponent and did so in convincing fashion. The Mountaineer defense shut down the Samford running game and their passing game was nearly non-existent. It wasn’t flashy, but you don’t need to look pretty to win a conference game. The next task at hand is a familiar opponent. One we have seen every year for quite a while, not once every thirty years(ECU), or for the first time(McNeese),or the fourth time(Samford). Familiar is good. It gives you an idea of what the other team is going to bring to the table. It also gives you some good notes to reflect on from the previous year. That is the best thing about the rest of the schedule. We are familiar with the rest of our opponents. Maybe the results can start looking familiar as well.
It seems like Citadel wide receiver Andre Roberts has been around forever. He has some ridiculous career numbers. He has scored 37 career touchdowns in almost every way imaginable, besides passing the ball. Roberts recorded three return touchdowns in 2008 to go along with 14 receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He also caught 95 passes for 1,334 yards. He can simply do it all. Roberts has scored three of his touchdowns against Appalachian. In 2006, he scored a junk touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 42-13 Mountaineer beat down and in 2007 he scored in the first quarter on a 30 yard pass from Bart Blanchard. In 2008, Roberts scored on a punt return in the third quarter to cut the ASU lead to 41-14. Even with Cortez Gilbert matched up on Roberts in 2008, Roberts got his touches, as he had six catches for 52 yards. That is the most important thing to remember. They will get Roberts the ball and the Appalachian defense must have the same intensity as it did against Samford to corral him. He can, and will, hurt a team all by himself.
Bulldog junior quarterback Bart Blanchard threw six touchdown passes last week in the 46-21 win over Presbyterian, including four to Roberts. Blanchard first start came against Appalachian in 2007. In his career he has 33 touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns. He will run if the pocket collapses and is an accurate passer. Blanchard has completed right at 60% of his career completions, despite 16 interceptions. However, against Appalachian Blanchard has completed only 48% of his attempts including two interceptions and was sacked five times in 2007.
The theme of the article thus far has been about familiarity and past history. The most staggering numbers heading into this game are the numbers that have been put up by Armanti Edwards against The Citadel. The last time Edwards visited Johnson Hagood Stadium, he only ran for 291 yards, averaging 13.9 yards per attempt. I don’t think anyone expects a performance like that this weekend, but if it happened, it wouldn’t surprise you. Edwards has scored more on The Citadel than any other team in his career. His 953 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns against the Bulldogs speaks for itself. The Mountaineers have scored 45 points a game against The Citadel in the Edwards era. The Bulldogs know Edwards is coming, but they have not come close to stopping him in three years.
The most noticeable improvement last week for Appalachian came on the defensive side of the ball. After giving up nearly a third of a mile in offense to McNeese, Appalachian responded by limiting Samford to 192 yards and came as close as one unfortunate penalty of keeping the shutout in tack. Samford’s Chris Evans got his yards, but he was well contained from making any big plays. Dustin Taliaferro never got comfortable and rarely gave his receivers a chance to make a play. The Appalachian coaching staff simplified the defensive play calling and let the defense rely more on instinct. That is something that I think was the most key to the victory. Appalachian has tremendously skilled players at many positions on defense and they need to take advantage of that raw talent. There are not many offenses in the Southern Conference that can match up athlete for athlete with the Mountaineers and they need to make the most of their opponents weaknesses.
The Sagarin rankings confuse me to no end this week. Generally, the rankings do not give fans a good idea of what teams really have until about midway through the season. In fact, in the previous three seasons, Appalachian has only been a single digit favorite to win in each game. However, predicting a Citadel win is interesting. There can be only one explanation. There is simply not enough data. I am not saying that there is no way the Bulldogs can win, but I see it as highly unlikely. The Bulldogs have given up 197 yards a game on the ground and had a tough time of slowing down the spread offense of Presbyterian. The difference between Presbyterian and Appalachian’s version of the spread is enormous. Appalachian defeated The Blue Hose last year quite handily and the Mountaineers most certainly have better athletes across the board. Presbyterian tailback Trandon Dendy ran for 147 yards by himself against the Bulldogs. Dendy ran for 143 yards in his three previous games against Furman, Elon and Chattanooga. Stopping the run is not something that can be cured overnight, or in one week, especially not against Appalachian. Take out Armanti Edwards and Appalachian will throw Devon Moore at you. Moore has only gone for over 100 yards in two straight games, while averaging 6.5 yards a carry. He is well on his way to a 1,000 yard season. The better Appalachian can run the ball, the easier it will be to throw. Appalachian has spread the ball around well this season with three players having caught ten or more passes. Appalachian can pick apart the Citadel defense as they have shown for the past three years. I think The Citadel will be able to score some points, but I don’t think their defense is stout enough to stop Appalachian on a consistent basis. Appalachian’s offense will only stop itself.
The First Pick:
Bullpups Part 2 21