Appalachian Football @ Wofford
Here we go with Week 11:
Appalachian State (2-8, 2-4 SoCon) @ Wofford (5-4, 4-2 SoCon)
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
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 44.15
Wofford is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 17-12
Last Meeting: Wofford 38, Appalachian 28, Oct. 20, 2012, Boone
WXAPP’s Spartanburg Gameday Weather Trends
Mostly Cloudy with temperatures in the lower 60’s. Chance for a shower or two.
For the first time since that gorgeous day in Ann Arbor, six years, the Mountaineers played a game against an FBS opponent and had the home fans booing their team when the players exited the field at halftime. We have always had a comment or a theme about these games when our team is outnumbered and outgunned. We might not win the game, but the ultimate goal is to let everyone know in Athens, (Ann Arbor, Auburn, etc) that the Mountaineers were here. Obviously this sounds better in a parking lot before or after a game versus the written word, but the point is made. Georgia might have run a fake punt against Appalachian because Chattanooga was successful the week before. It’s also quite possible that the Bulldogs were slightly worried in the second quarter that the Mountaineers were hanging around a little longer than they had hoped. We’ll never know what thoughts were running through the minds of coaches wearing red and black this past Saturday. I doubt it would surprise anyone if just one of them was thinking about being on the wrong end of a lead story on just about every sports show for the next week. The final score may have resulted in a loss, but the gain was the confidence in the minds of the players that they have the talents and the minds to do something that nobody expected. The first half was just that. It was only a fraction of the story on Saturday. But for an hour or so, Appalachian players and fans had forgotten their record, and were sitting on the edge of their seats with each play. Sometimes, the game is not always about winning, and that is certainly true this season. But the fact remains: Nothing beats being a Mountaineer.
There is only so much that can be drawn from such a lopsided score than everyone expects. Georgia and their depth eventually powered through in the second half, while the Mountaineers could not overcome missed opportunities in the first half. Appalachian was in position to score on four of their six first half possessions. Four times they advanced the ball from their end of the field into Bulldog territory. And coincidentally, four times they lined up to kick a field goal, struggling to score a touchdown. The chance to give Georgia a big scare was there, but the Mountaineers could not convert. On those four drives, prior to attempting the field goals, the Mountaineers averaged 13.7 yards to gain to convert the third down. All those series of downs began just like every other drive starts, with a first down, and ten yards to gain. On three of the four drives, the offensive line was responsible for the lost yardage due to false starts. App was penalized in all, on four of their six first half drives, and sometimes twice on a couple drives. Eliminating penalties is asking too much. Imagine just cutting those yellow flags in half, and the Mountaineers would have been in better position to convert those third downs, and maybe, score one touchdown in the first half.
Mentioning the second half is virtually pointless. Georgia scored on its first five possessions of the second half and put the game away. The one possession game slowly turned into the anticipated bloodbath. On those five possessions in which Georgia scored in the second half, the Bulldogs had at least one play of over 20 yards on every single drive. It didn’t matter who was in at quarterback for Georgia. The Mountaineers didn’t help their cause, as Marcus Cox and Kam Bryant were both responsible for an ugly fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter. At that point the game was decided. Appalachian could only muster 44 total yards in the second half. Three drives lost yards in the second half. Georgia clamped down on defense and avoided any potential upset.
There were very few highlight performances from the Mountaineers in the game. The running game was difficult as we expected. Marcus Cox somehow grinded out a very tough 59 yards on twenty-three carries. Kam Bryant completed below 60% of his passes. Andrew Peacock was the benefactor of the short passing game the Mountaineers employed, catching twelve passes for 90 yards. Tony Washington was the deep threat to an extent, averaging 15.6 yards per catch for 78 yards in all. The defense made a couple big plays with Karl Anderson and John Law intercepting passes. Anderson’s pick was a big part of the Mountaineers sticking around in the first half. Law’s pick came late, but gave him his team-leading third interception of the year.
The beauty of SoCon football returns to the schedule this week, as the Mountaineers will play in a stadium with less than ten percent of the fans than the previous game. The Mountaineer defense will also have to adjust after facing a traditional I-formation to the infamous wingbone that Wofford runs. The Terriers were right in the middle of the SoCon title hunt before facing Samford and Chattanooga in their last two games, both losses. The Terriers could possibly still clinch a share of the title, but lose tiebreakers to both Samford and Chattanooga due to losses in the last two weekends. Depending on the last two games, Wofford could finish anywhere from a tie for first to fourth place. Wofford will need a win in both of its last two games, against Appalachian and Furman to even give themselves a chance to make the playoffs. The next Wofford loss will decide their postseason fate in any fashion.
In the last month, the Terriers have not only lost to Samford and Chattanooga, but have also snuck out wins over the bottom of the SoCon barrel in Western Carolina and Elon. The Terriers trailed Elon 24-7 at the half before rallying for 24 second half points and winning by four at home. In Cullowhee, the Terriers score fourteen second half points while shutting out Western in the second half to win once again by four points. The difference in those two wins was keeping the opponent off the board. Western and Elon combined for one measly field goal in the second half of their games against Wofford. It will be another long Saturday for Mountaineer faithful if Wofford has similar success as they did against Western and Elon.
It may seem simple to understand what needs to be accomplished to hold back the Wofford offense. We all know about how much they like to run the ball. Their rushing attack, if successful, sets up their unpredictable passing game. The key is that simple. Just like any other option attack, you have to keep them behind the chains on first and second down and force those long yardage situations. That is a given, and its no secret. Looking deeper, the success of their running game has directly led the Terriers to their wins and losses. The cutoff line for Wofford is right at 250 total rushing yards. There are some slight outliers, in that they rushed for 258 yards against Samford in a loss, and 249 yards were gained on the ground against Elon in a win. In the other seven games they have played, the 250 rushing yards is the line in which Wofford wins and loses. Against Baylor, Gardner-Webb, and Chattanooga, the Terriers averaged 163 yards rushing. In their four wins outside of the Elon result, Wofford rolled up 340 yards rushing per game. The Mountaineers must be disruptive in the Wofford backfield. That is their chance to beat the Terriers. Appalachian played well against Georgia Southern and Chattanooga recently, outside of letting Jacob Huesman run wild for the Mocs. Donavan Johnson has been the workhorse for Wofford, almost to his detriment. Johnson averaged 26.4 carries a game in the first five games of the season, before accumulating no stats against Western and Elon, presumably to an injury. In the last two games, he averaged 26.5 carries per game. So if he is out there, he is getting the ball, no question about it. In his absence, Jonny Martin, who is the team leader in rushing touchdowns, averaged over 20 carries and 107 yards against Western and Elon. The difficult part for Appalachian in planning for the Wofford rushing attack is determining which quarterback will play. Wofford has had four quarterbacks see significant time this season on the field. Will Gay is the only quarterback to play in every game and he leads the group with highest yards per rush. However, Gay appears to be the least accomplished passer, attempting only three passes on the season. In the end, as much as this game is about stopping Wofford, it is most important for Appalachian to score when they have the ball. That is simply what the season has come down to. If the Apps can score, they give themselves a chance. If they don’t, Wofford will slowly beat down the Appalachian defense for an easy win.
The First Pick:
Ankle Biters 21