Here we go with Week 7
Appalachian State (1-5, 0-2 Sun Belt) @ Troy (1-5, 1-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday, October 18th, 3:00pm EST
TV/LIve Video: ESPN3
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WGVZ ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville
Veterans Memorial Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 49.78
Troy is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 3.5 points
Sportsbook: Troy -7, O/U 63.5
Series: Troy leads 2-1
Last Meeting: App State 33, Troy 30, November 25, 2000
That feeling probably has yet to wear off from the last time. The feeling of another game ending on the game’s final play. Luckily this time it was not a kick that was the final play, but that could have been. Bentlee Critcher’s field goal attempt was just wide enough to cause speculation and an instant replay booth review. Overtime was not friendly for the Mountaineers. Liberty scored easily like they had all afternoon long. The Mountaineers ran for a big gain on their first play and then decided the test the middle of the field at an intermediate distance for the first time all game. Finally, the game did end on the last play, and those who were remaining in the stands, once again left wondering what had happened. Used to be that many Appalachian football games were over at halftime. Fans were leaving Kidd Brewer Stadium because it was the Mountaineers who were rolling. Now fans leave when the Mountaineers are getting pummeled or because a little bit of drizzle is just enough of an excuse. Now its just the diehards who stick it out. The ones who are so anxious to see the next victory, whenever it may come. A very young offense is now turning the ball over at bad times which does not mix well with a defense that barely gets in the way of opposing offenses. The Mountaineer offense will either get left behind or keep up with opposing teams. Unfortunately, there has not been much “keeping up” this season. At the midpoint of the season, the Mountaineers have regressed from their 1-2 mark at the quarter pole. Without a win this weekend, the Mountaineers will match a losing streak not seen since 1977, which is older than then the average age of an Appalachian alum. A win is desperately needed before things really get ugly on the mountain.
Troy is not going to feel bad for Appalachian. They were also recently dumbfounded by a loss to Abilene Christian nearly a month ago. It was not until last weekend that Troy broke through on their Homecoming game to defeat New Mexico State 41-27, by rushing for a season high 360 yards rushing. This number is especially troubling to Appalachian, a team that has given up enormous rushing totals to Michigan (350), Georgia Southern (408) and South Alabama (243). Troy also forced four turnovers, the same number that the Mountaineers gave away last weekend.
The rushing statistic posted by Troy was even more surprising as the Trojans had only rushed for 488 yards on 168 attempts in the previous five games this season, which was good for 2.9 yards per carry on the season, which is absolutely pitiful. Add Saturdays statistics, and the Troy increased their yards per carry for the season by almost an entire yard to 3.8 ypc. A lot of those yards had to do with New Mexico State, which is being torched on the ground even worse than Appalachian has this year. The win last weekend, regardless of how it happened, may have given Troy all the confidence they needed to turn their season around.
Brandon Burks was the man who had the most rushing yards in the last weeks win. On only ten carries, Burks hauled the mail for 176 yards without a touchdown. Burks only had 114 yards on the season going into New Mexico State. Burks is not a guy who carries the ball a lot, now with only 48 carries in six games. His season high for carries was eleven against Duke and his low was three carries against Georgia. Burks only had nineteen carries for 20 yards combined in the prior three games, so his breakout against the Aggies was surprising.
Quarterback Brandon Silvers has started five games this season for the Trojans. Silvers suffered a concussion in the loss to Abilene Christian which forced him to miss the Georgia game. Since returning, Silvers has oddly played better since returning to the lineup. His rushing and passing numbers have improved in each game. He has run 34 times in the past two games compared to the 24 times in the seasons first three games. He has also posted nearly half of his passing yards for the season in the last two games compared to the first three. He has thrown 4 TD passes in the last two games compared to just one in the first three games. Silvers is a high percentage passer at close to a 70% completion rate and has only thrown one interception on the season. Silvers four rushing touchdowns tie for the team lead and his 131 rushing yards are good enough for third on the team.
Forgotten in the gloominess of last week’s loss was excellent statistical performances by the Appalachian offense. Liberty’s best defense was the Mountaineers committing turnovers. The Mountaineers rolled up 637 yards and gained 9.2 yards per snap but the red zone problems continued to plague the offense. The Mountaineers converted one possession into points on four attempts. That possession yielded one field goal. The Mountaineers scored all five offensive touchdowns from distance. It’s great to have the big play become a part of the offense, but the long strikes led to the Mountaineer defense getting left on the field for over 35 minutes. That is the exact definition of a double edge sword. A coach is going to take those big plays all day if they are available. It’s just sad that they basically went to waste.
In my opinion, the red zone is an overrated term used to describe what is basically a scoring chance. The ball being in the red zone certainly means that scoring is more likely, but as Appalachian has shown this year, it is not a guarantee. More importantly, being in position to score points is completely underrated. In the second quarter, Appalachian had a fourth down and five yards to go at the twenty-three yard line. A field goal attempt would have been forty yards with the Mountaineers down a touchdown. Appalachian elected to run an offensive play instead of the field goal attempt with a backup kicker and holder. Taylor Lamb threw an interception on the play but the Mountaineer defense was able to hold, which eventually led the Mountaineers to actually attempt and make a field goal with under ten seconds left in the half. Now imagine, the original field goal being attempted on fourth and five from the twenty-three yard line. Then, after kicking off to Liberty, the Mountaineers held the Flames to three and out and got the ball back in decent field position, and had another opportunity to add a score before the half. That sequence could have changed the game. That is one many examples of the number of segments of the game that could have changed the result. It was at minimum, a lost opportunity to score points. I believe it caused an overcorrection by the coaching staff to play conservative at the end of regulation and attempt a field goal instead of pushing forward for a potential go ahead score. What it essentially comes down to is passing up a scoring chance, and at this point in the season, this team needs as many points on the board in the first half as it can possibly get.
Last week we talked about getting Marcus Cox and Terrance Upshaw going in the running game. Their numbers were called and they responded. The duo combined for 32 carries and 222 yards and two touchdowns. Both are now over five yards per carry on the season. It was third time season Cox has eclipsed the 100 yard mark on the season and the second such outing for Upshaw.
The Mountaineer receivers posted good nights as well. Four Mountaineers averaged over 20 yards per catch with Malachi Jones leading the group. Jones caught five balls for 105 yards. Simms McElfresh and Bobo Beathard both posted touchdowns catches from sixty yards or more. True freshman Shaedon Meadors made collegiate debut with a dazzling four catches for 90 yards, which included a 48-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
This is the time where I tell you what Appalachian needs to do to win. The Mountaineers are averaging 30.5 points per game, but most of that has come in two big games, in which they scored 114 points. The real statistic is that the Mountaineers have scored just a shade over 17 points per game against FBS programs. Troy has averaged about 20.5 points per game with one less fluff game than the Mountaineers. Vegas thinks this game will be high scoring, but I do not agree. These teams have combined for fourteen interceptions on the year defensively. I also feel that both teams will try to establish the running game as they were both successful last weekend. More running leads to the clock running more often, which will eventually to a lower scoring game. Mistakes are obviously a huge deal in any football game. The mistakes I am talking about are not turnovers, but missed opportunities. Both teams will need to score when they have a chance, not just in the red zone. The Appalachian kicking game is well documented. Troy, on the other hand has only attempted six field goals on the season, making four. Troy has been perfect on defense when the opponent has been in the red zone, as in they have allowed every red zone possession by the opponent to score. I’ll bet good money that Appalachian will break that streak for them. The Mountaineers may have more yards on offense and look like winners during the game, but until we can see proof that the small things can be corrected, I cannot feel comfortable that the Mountaineers can get out of their own way.
The First Pick
Troy State 28