Here we go with Week 3:
Appalachian State (0-2) @ Elon (1-2)
Time: 6 pm EST
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 58.12
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 4.5 points (rounded).
5dimes.com: App State -5.5
Series: Appalachian leads 31-9-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Elon 23, October 6th 2012, Boone
WXAPP’s Burlington Gameday Weather Trends:
Gameday: Chance for a few showers through the day, but wouldn’t bet the farm on a washout
Kickoff: Temps near 80
End of Game: Temps in the mid 70’s
We could almost write the same paragraph today as we did two weeks ago. Luckily, we have all had time to mellow out after a surprising loss to North Carolina A&T. It was Appalachian’s first home loss to an in-state non-conference opponent in a very long time. It was nearly a repeat of the week before. A sluggish offense could only muster six first half points after missing a two point conversion attempt on its first touchdown drive. More importantly, a couple of poor coaching decisions put the Mountaineers in a do or die situation at the end of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, after the Appalachian defense had done their part to keep the Aggies off the scoreboard, the Mountaineer offense decided to go for it on fourth down near midfield. The offense couldn’t stay on the field, and gave up valuable field position at a critical point in the game. The defense forced a three and out, but Appalachian was given a long field. Had the field position been better, there might have been more time left in the game to attempt a shorter field goal or possibly get in position to go ahead with a touchdown. In the first half, the Mountaineers attempted to drive the length of the field in the closing minute, but Jamal Londry-Jackson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Perhaps the Mountaineers were better suited to take a 14-6 halftime deficit into halftime instead of forcing the issue which eventually backfired.
We have to come to a realization that something has to change. There may not be a championship banner to hang at the end of the season, or a playoff berth to deem success, but plenty can be lost, and gained, over the next ten weeks. Appalachian has scored nine points in the first half this season. It’s not easy coming from behind to win games. It simply is not a winning formula on a week to week basis. Appalachian has to get off to a better start in games. Whether Jamal-Londry Jackson has cured what has ailed him over the last two weeks remains to be seen. Frankly, we don’t care who plays, but whoever it is has to be ready to go without any hesitation. Londry-Jackson has been as scared as a mouse in the pocket, looking down and flinching at the closest defender. Once that happens, the play is over. Kam Bryant may have more flaws that are consistent with someone who has played as little as he has, but Bryant has stepped into his throws in the pocket, and delivered the ball with greater accuracy than his senior counterpart. Bryant is also the future, and the next ten games could give him the work he needs heading into Appalachian’s first year in FBS football in 2014.
We predicted a defensive shutout. It was quite a bold call that nearly came true. The Appalachian defense gave up ten points, and on most Saturday’s in the new era of college football, that is going to be enough to win to you a lot of games. The problem was the offense and special teams giving up fourteen points. We mentioned a “defensive or return touchdown” would be the way the Aggies got on the board, but unfortunately we were too good on this prediction as A&T scored two non-offensive touchdowns. The defense went on to give up only twelve first downs for the game, two of those coming by penalty. The defense also only allowed 244 total yards while only giving up 3.8 yards per play. Elon will provide a different challenge as they will test the Mountaineer secondary. The Phoenix prefers to throw the ball, averaging forty-one pass attempts a game.
Elon has had an up and down season, having played their money game, their cupcake, and then the in-state opponent that they also expected to beat, but did not. Not only did North Carolina A&T knock off Appalachian two weeks ago, but they went home on a high and beat Elon the following week, and did it in somewhat convincing fashion. The Aggies held the Phoenix to ten points and only twenty-three yards rushing. Elon did not gain a first down by running the ball the entire game, and averaged less than two yards per carry in the game. Elon has never been very successful in the run game, focusing more on the air attack, but what A&T did to Elon is impressive. In its other games, Elon was trounced by Georgia Tech 70-0 and then they picked up a win over West Virginia Wesleyan 49-7.
The Phoenix will certainly be up for Appalachian as they always have been, and might hope to catch the Mountaineers while they are down, but Elon has gone backwards since Pete Lembo left for Ball State. Current Head Coach Jason Swepson is 9-16 overall in now his third season, and has yet to record a winning season. Of his nine wins, you can count Western Carolina (2), NC Central (2), Concord, WV Wesleyan, WV State, Furman and The Citadel. The Furman win in 2011 represents his only win over a SoCon opponent with a winning record. Swepson could be on the chopping block if he cannot turn it around quickly this season.
Elon has been spreading the ball around well to begin their season. They have featured a three man rotation at running back between Tracey Coppedge, BJ Bennett and Karl Bostick. All three have rushed the ball between 27-29 times, with Coppedge carrying a 5.2 yard per carry average compared to Bennett (3.7), and Bostick (3.1). Coppedge also leads the team with 151 yards rushing. As a team, the Phoenix are averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Thirteen different receivers have caught a pass, with veterans Rasaun Rorie and Kierre Brown leading the way with over a dozen catches each. Six Elon receivers have caught seven passes or more. In comparison, only eight Mountaineers have caught a pass, with only four players catching more than six passes.
The typical statistics come up every year when Appalachian and Elon face off on the gridiron. Elon hasn’t beaten Appalachian since 1964, a span of seventeen games. This might be Elon’s last chance to beat the Mountaineers as both teams are changing conferences in the future and both schools future conferences take them in different geographical directions. In the SoCon era, Appalachian has scored no fewer than 24 points in every game against Elon, and has scored 34 points or more in seven of those ten games. The Phoenix have only managed 30 points on two occasions against Appalachian. Expect Elon to try and jump on Appalachian early like they did in 2011. The Phoenix raced out to a 21-0 lead before Appalachian eventually won 28-24. In that game, Elon tried to burn clock long before the game was over. Elon’s offensive line couldn’t hold up, and the Mountaineers covered better in the secondary, leading to five sacks. The Mountaineer defense could be the difference again this time in Burlington, assuming they can get some help. We still believe the Appalachian defense has held its own this season. Only ten points were given up two weeks ago, and the defense kept Appalachian in the game as long as they could in Missoula in the opening game. Elon looks average on paper and has not shown many signs of being all that competitive in the last season or so. Elon’s defense has yet to record a sack this season and only has one interception in three games, while only recording four quarterback hurries and have only forced one fumble. Appalachian should use that vanilla defense to their advantage and get the running game going. If the Mountaineers are going to struggle running the ball like they have thus far for the rest of the season, it could be a long final season in FCS. Scott Satterfield has some big decisions to make in the 72 hours or so. Does he go with Kam Bryant? Does he reinstate Sean Price if his punishment has been served? How does he treat the more recent off field issues of Ronald Blair? Does he make a change at running back? All of these questions will be answered by 6pm on Saturday, but the real quandary resides with how the players who are on the field respond when it is their time to shine.
The First Pick:
Ashy Birds 20