Here we go with Week 6:
Elon (2-3, 0-2) @ #15 Appalachian State (3-2, 1-1)
TV/Video: GoASU TV
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 2.53 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 13 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 30-9-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 28, Elon 24, November 19, 2011, Elon, NC
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
Increasing clouds, chance for shower late afternoon.
Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s
End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 50’s, shower possible
After a one week hiatus from conference play, Appalachian will finish the season with a run of six straight conference games. Three of those games will be on the road and three will be at home, but its starts this weekend against Elon for Homecoming. This date of this matchup has taken place more times in the last weekend of September or first weekend in October than at any other time of the year. Since Elon joined the SoCon in 2003, six of the nine matchups have taken place in November, with the other three landing in the same familiar weekend. In the last nine years, Appalachian has preferred Homecoming to fall on this weekend, but it does not happen all the time. Despite the obvious coincidence, this will be only the third time that Appalachian has hosted Elon for Homecoming, both being Mountaineer wins. The extremely obvious fact that Elon has not won in Boone since 1964, a string that includes sixteen straight Mountaineer wins overall, should make Elon the safe choice for this game. Most teams prefer “scheduling a win”, for this game, but Southern Conference opponents seem to prefer Appalachian to be their opponent for their Homecoming game. It makes a little bit of sense, but not a lot. Regardless, Elon coach Jason Swepson will make his first visit to Boone as a head coach this weekend. Swepson is notorious for announcing in his press conference when he was hired, that his job was to beat Appalachian State. One twenty year win streak over an opponent has already fallen in Boone this year, and its Swepson’s job to bring down a streak that has lasted forty-eight years and sixteen games.
Elon is a little bit confusing. Seems they can find a quarterback and a couple receivers almost anywhere when they recruit, but for whatever reason, finding a quality running back seems to escape them. We all know their offense is predicated in the passing game, and it isn’t a place high school running backs want to venture to for their college careers. The past four seasons, at this point in the campaign, Elon has ranked generally in the mid 70’s out of roughly 120 FCS teams in rushing the football. However, the Phoenix have not been this bad running the football since 2007, when they were ranked 106th nationally, averaging 92 yards a game on the ground. This season, the Phoenix are 101st nationally with a 100 yard a game average, which is most likely worse than it actually looks. Elon has played five games, and only in the West Virginia State game, did they rush for any significant yardage. Elon ran for 301 yards in that game against Division II West Virginia State. So, in four other games, Elon has rushed for 199 yards. The Phoenix have always been somewhat one dimensional, but this could pass as heavy of an Elon team we have seen in several years.
So what does Elon’s poor rushing attack mean? It all works back to their quarterback and their main weapons on offense. Quarterback Thomas Wilson threw for just over 3,000 yards last season in eleven games, averaging 277 yards a game. This year, Wilson is averaging 232 yards a game, which is not bad until you really think about it. Appalachian likes a very balanced attack, but would definitely prefer to run the ball, and does so pretty well. Jamal Jackson, in a balanced attack has put up 255 yards passing a game. The forty-three yards per game decline from one year to the next for Elon is suddenly a little eye-opening. Wilson has done a much better job taking care of the football this season. His twenty-one interceptions led the SoCon last year by a wide margin. This season, Wilson has only had four of his passes intercepted, however, all of them have been in road games.
All-American Aaron Mellete, who is a highly touted NFL prospect, has also seen his production fall off. Mellete averaged a little over 10 catches per game last season, with 113 receptions, 1,639 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season, Mellete is pulling in 7.4 passes per game, for almost 85 yards a game. Mellete remains a red zone threat with seven touchdowns in only five games. Mellete has warmed up the last two weeks against conference foes Georgia Southern and Wofford. Mellete has caught 22/245/4 in those last two games. Mellete went over 100 yards receiving nine times last year, as he saved his best game to close the season against Appalachian. He had slightly better statistics against North Carolina Central in 2011, than he did against Appalachian, but when you think about the talent gap between opponents, it is easy to see that Mellete’s best game came against the Mountaineers. Mellete abused Appalachian, mostly in the first half for 14 catches and 236 yards receiving and one touchdown. Elon ran out to a quick lead last year before Appalachian eventually rallied. A couple more quick stats on Mellete, he scored two touchdowns in a game only twice last season, while doing it three straight games for the Phoenix. Mellete was held under 100 yards receiving only twice last season, but three times season has he failed to hit the century mark in receiving yards.
Appalachian finally found their offensive stride last weekend with a whopping 648 yards of total offense, which is a little over a third of a mile. Jamal Jackson provided 285 passing yards and 54 yards rushing to go along with four total touchdowns. However, Jackson provided his token interception, which it seems he has to get out of his system every game to get warmed up. Because we have been keeping track, Jackson is now 8-1 as a starter when throwing a touchdown pass in a game, and has thrown an interception in eight of his eleven career starts. Jackson leads the SoCon in total yardage and passing yardage and ranks 15th in rushing yardage in a very run heavy conference.
The main offensive weapons in the Mountaineer were on display once again in the big win over Coastal Carolina. Stephen Miller ran the ball seventeen times for 202 yards and two touchdowns, with included a 75 yard touchdown run in the second half. Miller recorded the 25th all time rushing game of 200 or more yards by a Mountaineer. Of the previous 200 yard rushing games, only DeAndre Presley accomplished the feat in fewer carries than Miller. Now with 601 yards on the season, Miller is on pace to become the first Mountaineer running back to hit 1,000 yards since Devon Moore in 2009. Sean Price continues to amaze after only three games in uniform. The redshirt freshman is averaging 120 yards a game receiving and leads the Mountaineers in receptions with 26 despite playing in two fewer games. Price hauled in two touchdown passes against Coastal Carolina, including an acrobatic 69 yard reception where he nearly lost his balance before racing past the entire Chanticleer secondary to the end zone.
Last week, I was looking for a hard fought game, and did not want to see a blowout at all. However, looking back, I may have rethought those sentiments. Even though the Mountaineers rolled up a massive day of offense and lit up the scoreboard for 55 points, I was equally as impressed with the defense. In the past, games like last weekend, the Mountaineers would have allowed another touchdown or two in garbage time. I think what may set the tone for the rest of the season was a play that may have gone forgotten. With the game already in hand and Appalachian kicking off after a score, the Coastal Carolina kick returner cleared the Mountaineer special teams and it appeared he was going to score. Punter and kickoff specialist Sam Martin was beat on the play, but found a gear and made the touchdown saving tackle. Plays later, the Appalachian defense forced a fumble and thwarted the scoring threat. I really think those moments, when a score by Coastal Carolina would not have mattered in the final outcome, made a statement. We have seen shades of the team playing for sixty minutes for two consecutive games. Whether the game was on the line like Chattanooga, or out of hand like last weekend, I think we have seen something from the defensive side of the ball. I am sure this weekend, Demetrius McCray wants to put forth an extra effort in slowing down Aaron Mellete. The NFL scouts will be watching both players and this game will carry significant weight to their playing careers after college. Otherwise, I think Appalachian might be finding a groove as far as their offense is concerned. I think the Appalachian defense will also shine this weekend. Only Georgia Southern has lost more fumbles than Elon this season and the Phoenix are also dead last in the conference in punting and in conference games, turnovers and field position are critical.
The First Pick:
Knee Benders 27