Here we go with Week 8:
#24 Georgia Southern (4-2, 2-2) @ Appalachian State (1-6, 1-3)
Time: 3:30 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
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 45.00
Georgia Southern is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 15 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 15-12-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 31, Georgia Southern 28, November 3, 2012, Statesboro
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
Mostly sunny skies
Tailgate: Warming through the 30’s to lower 40’s
Kickoff: Temps in the mid to upper 40’s
End of game: Temps in the mid to low 40’s
It was not the most perfect of scenarios for the Mountaineers in their last football game at Paladin Stadium. The atmosphere was wretched, the skies gray and the only moment where things seemed like they were going well was when you pulled into the parking lot. As soon as the game started, it just felt all types of wrong. Furman’s first five plays were runs, as expected, and covered a quick forty eight yards. Two penalties, a short run, and a couple completed passes later, Furman lined up for a fifty yard field goal. The kick was good which gave Furman a lead in the game it would never relinquish. That is what it has come to this season. The field goal has haunted the Mountaineers this season, losing three times by that margin. Now, the field goals are back breaking scores that doom the attitude and passion of this young Mountaineer team. It doesn’t take much anymore for some to just go through the motions. There are plenty who still care, but they are blinded by the ones who are just ready for it to be over. We can’t blame them. Players and coaches alike decided to bring their futures to Boone to be a part of winning tradition, some just have not realized that they have to sacrifice everything thing for it. The fans who continue to show up are making sacrifices. They are committing to the product, and it is past time for the product to make the same investment in return.
In all fairness, outside of fumble after fumble, the Mountaineers were still in the game late in the half and things were looking up. It was a similar situation to the Citadel game. You were thinking the Mountaineers were going to learn from their mistakes. They were driving late in the second quarter, and although trailing 6-3, were in position to tie or take the lead. The ball was coming back to the Mountaineers to open the second half, as they had won the opening coin flip and deferred their option. Although the situation was not exactly identical to the end of the first half in Charleston, it was close. The idea was a score, a defensive hold, get the ball back early in third quarter and score again. Both situations would have given the Mountaineers some slight breathing room. But once again, with time ticking away, Appalachian made another huge mistake that flipped all the momentum to the other side of the field. Oddly, a play was called, that was the same play that Appalachian had run the previous year against Furman. As we all know, the result was not the same, Furman took a double digit lead into halftime, and the Mountaineers were finished. The drive to start the third quarter for Appalachian also ended in the worst possible way, with another fumble, that Furman pounced and ensued to drive down the field to extend their lead to 20-3.
That might have been one of the last games this season that this group of Mountaineers had a legitimate shot to win for the remainder of the season. Western Carolina still looms as well, but there is not one Appalachian Mountaineer looking forward to that game right now. The next challenge is Georgia Southern who is up to their usual high point scoring ways. As the Mountaineers have had their unlucky breaks this season, so have the Eagles. Georgia Southern is having their own bumpy ride on their way to the FBS and the Sun Belt conference. Southern has been hampered by the injuries to point they have lost over 20% of their scholarship players for the year. Luckily for the Eagles, they have added a few scholarships during their transition to FBS, so the health of their team is better than it could be had they had they been under the FCS scholarship limitations.
Heading into this season, Appalachian and Georgia Southern were headed for a colossal matchup. Two programs that were both leaving the SoCon for the Sun Belt, adding a few scholarships, were going to play a game with the bragging rights, whatever they were worth, of winning the last game between the two schools in the FCS ranks. The magnitude of this game has taken a turn that no one could have predicted. The Mountaineers are lucky to have won a game to be honest. The Eagles have underachieved this season as well with two losses to SoCon opponents, both on the road, and both by ten points. Their two conference wins were over Citadel by a touchdown and Chattanooga by two points. The Mocs and the Eagles have been playing good games for years, but seem to always go unnoticed. Georgia Southern has been outscored in conference play 116-105, and has averaged just a little over 26 points per game in their last four. That makes their season average of 40 points per game quite deceiving. This is a team that is having a similar problem as Appalachian, which is not being able to put the ball in the end zone when they have been close. The Eagles have scored touchdowns on 22 of 29 red zone possessions, but the opportunities are also down. Three other teams in conference play have visited the red zone more often the Eagles. Their offense still has Georgia Southern written all over it; it just isn’t the same Georgia Southern you are used to seeing.
Appalachian’s season statistics are similar to what you could see in the box score on Saturday. There were plenty of bright spots such as running more plays, gaining more first downs, and having more yards overall. Appalachian has plenty of players that are at or near the top in several categories within in the conference, but it is the little ones that have them where they are. Plenty has been mentioned about Marcus Cox, who is second in the conference in scoring and sixth among the leagues leading rushers. Andrew Peacock leads the conference in receptions per game while Kam Bryant leads the conference in passer efficiency. Bentlee Critcher even leads the conference in total punting. Unfortunately it is the small things, one play here and there that have kept the Mountaineers out of the winners circle. Scoring points is the obvious outlier. The inopportune turnovers have also hamstrung the Mountaineers, along with an offense that has sputtered enough to keep the defense on the field for long spells. A lot of things work well most of the time, but it is always that one play or one bad bounce that has killed everything they have worked for in a game.
So what is it this week that has to change in order to beat Georgia Southern? We don’t necessarily feel like something has to or must change. The formula is close to working, it just has not added up. It is similar to a chef in the kitchen. You may have great ingredients, and all the potential for a final product to delicious, but if you leave out one or two ingredients, it changes everything. Appalachian can take care of the ball better this week, but it doesn’t mean that will be the reason they win or lose. The Mountaineers could avoid giving up the big play at the wrong time, but that also will not make the entire difference. It all has to come together at once. Eventually it will, but that might not be in 2013. If the Mountaineers are up to the challenge, they can beat the Eagles this Saturday. Southern has put the ball on the turf an average of three times a game, but have luckily fell on all but four of them. The temperature on Saturday is going to be typical for late October in Boone, and perfect recipe for cold hands to hold onto a football. The Southern defense has given up close to 400 yards a game on defense this season, so moving the ball on them isn’t extremely difficult. The Eagles are suspect to the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry to opponents. The Eagles also lead the conference in penalty yards per game. The Mountaineers don’t have to take advantage of all of the Georgia Southern shortcomings, but they must do it selectively and carefully. The Eagles surely do not care what Appalachian’s record is, and it is their turn to steal one from the Mountaineers.
The First Pick:
Eagle Creek 27