Here we go with Week 7:
Appalachian State (1-4, 1-2) @ Furman (2-4, 1-2)
Time: 1:30 pm
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/Fieldturf?
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 47.61
Furman is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1 ½ points (rounded).
Series: Furman leads 22-18-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 33, Furman 28, November 10, 2012, Boone
WXAPP’s Furple Gameday Weather Trends:
Mostly Cloudy skies with upper 60’s for the kickoff.
Earlier this year, we talked about how much change was occurring around the Appalachian State football program. From conferences to coaches, it has all been covered, but perhaps the last talked about topic of discussion was the small matter of discipline. We didn’t expect much change from one head coach to the next, considering the new kid on the block had learned from the man who was also his own head coach. None thought that player behavior was going to be an issue until it awoke from a hibernation from nearly a decade ago. Student athlete behaviors will always be ridiculed because they are the ones in the spotlight, playing in front of crowds that pay to watch them play. Hollywood actors get their play in national magazines while mostly football and basketball players are gossiped about at the local coffee shops. While these celebrities are in their prime, many look the other way and give those who foul up a second chance. But, when one misstep leads to another and the games or shows are not what they used to be, the public is quick to judge. The behavior never changed, it just became tolerable to extent. The actions of a football player in Boone have hopefully changed for the better. Our former coach was always an apologist, willing to take a negative event and turn it into a positive. Most of the time it worked out, as players got their second chance. However, a new sheriff is in town, and he has simple rules, which unfortunately not adhered to by a former star. But on the back side, there might always be a safety net, for a troubled student athlete to fall into. In an eerily quiet silence in a courtroom in Watauga County this week, a court official directed the alleged: “Son, if you have not had a chance to talk with Coach Moore, I believe he would like to speak with you.”
Finally, we get back to football, after a few days which may have felt like an eternity. Bad football is better than none at all, and that is what we will continue to do here. Appalachian is on the brink of a very unprecedented season for all the wrong reasons. The Mountaineers are breaking offensive records in the worst possible way. Appalachian fans are used to halves of football with 223 yards gained, not full games. A first down is not what it used to be in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The bell tolls on third down and you can actually hear it, compared to not hearing anything. An anemic offense is averaging just over 18 points a game at The Rock. It is something this blogger has never witnessed in over twenty five years of Appalachian fandom.
With such a low offensive numbers, there is not much to review from the week before. The Mountaineers continue to rely almost solely on a true freshman running back to provide some offense. Opposing teams might now be catching up to Marcus Cox. Despite going over the century mark in combined rushing and receiving yards for the fourth straight game, it was his lowest mark of the stretch. Cox averaged just a hair less than five yards a carry on the ground, but could not find a crease in the passing game to break a long one. He was also held without a touchdown for only the second time this season. Cox will be tested once again this week as Furman sports the SoCon’s leading rushing defense, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry.
Looking solely at the final score, you would think the Appalachian defense was dominated all game long. The Mountaineers held Samford at bay as long as possible in the first half before giving up a two late touchdowns in the second quarter. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, Samford punted on four straight possessions. Those punts accounted for all but two of the Samford punts on the game. On those four possessions that ended with punts, Samford could only manage one first down. The flip side is that Appalachian went three and out on three of those four possessions. Nine plays for twenty yards. The defense had to run back on the field quickly way too many times in the first half. The score may have still been in reach at 21-3 at the half, but everyone in the stadium knew that game was over.
Appalachian might be able to learn a lesson from Furman this weekend. The Paladins have talent in spots, but not in a lot of places. Their coaches know it, and have used an approach on offense to play to their strengths. Furman has always been a power running team to their core. They continue those ways even with a somewhat smaller than usual offensive line. On the right side, the Paladins are especially thin, with a 253-pound tackle and a 260-pound guard. That is made up for on the left side of the line with preseason All American tackle Dakota Dozier who is a solid 6’5 and 303 pounds and appropriately named Tank Phillips at right guard, who is 6’1 and 290 pounds. They have been able to clear enough room to run for their leading rusher Hank McCloud, who is well on his way to a 1,000 yard season. McCloud is a traditional running back who has a little bit of everything. He will surprise you with his quickness and his power and knows when to use it at the right time. Appalachian will best served to get him to second guess himself behind the line so the Mountaineers can attack from the linebacker level.
Furman has used three different quarterbacks in its six games this season. Neither has been particularly adept throwing the ball which is dandy for Furman. Reese Hannon is the preference for the Paladins, but has only played in three games this season, all of which he has started in. Hannon has 409 yards passing on the season, with one interception and two touchdown passes. Hannon is not a threat to run on designed plays, and would rather throw an incompletion than to force something that is not there. The Paladins will throw the ball out of necessity, only to keep the linebackers from sneaking up at the line, but they would rather not. Hannon threw two interceptions to the Mountaineers last year while completing nineteen of his thirty six pass attempts.
Furman probably requested one game tape to study the Mountaineer defense. They wanted the tape from the Charleston Southern game, one that fits their offensive strategy like a glove. The Paladins simply put, want to control the clock by keeping it out of its opponents hands. They want to shorten the game, mainly by giving the opposition fewer times with the football in their hands in which to score. It worked well two years ago in Greenville, when the Mountaineers fell 20-10. Appalachian turned the ball over repeatedly and couldn’t score when it counted. This Mountaineer team can’t score either and will be pressed to on each possession if the Paladins have their way. We believe an old school low scoring game will be fitting to end one of the SoCon’s better rivalries over the years. We are hoping the Mountaineers can find their way on offense. Rhythm is the key word for Appalachian on offense. The timing has to be right with the offensive line, quarterbacks and the receivers. One way to keep that timing right is stay disciplined. Too many times last week, the Mountaineers found themselves gaining momentum slowly, until a penalty, or a bad sack forced them into a tough situation. The ball must be moving forward at all times, with an attacking mentality versus a side to side approach. The easiest way to gain ten yards is shortest way, not the longest. Appalachian has a chance to win if they can score, which is a must. We have not seen it yet, or enough, but this Appalachian defense can play better with a lead, and some support, and believe it can happen this weekend. Furman was held in check last year by the Mountaineers in the run game. The Paladins ran for 97 yards on 26 attempts. Appalachian gifted Furman two defensive touchdowns and a kickoff return last year. Otherwise, the Mountaineer defense played well. At times, a punting contest could take place in this game, which will be low scoring. Eventually the Mountaineers are going to come to their senses. A win over Furman seems like as good a time as any to do it.
The First Pick: