Here we go with Week 2
Old Dominion (1-0) @ Appalachian State (0-1)
Saturday, September 10th, 2016 3:30 EST
TV/Video: American Sports Network, ESPN3, WCCB (Charlotte), WRDC (Triangle)
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, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 70.28
Old Dominion: 51.99
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -21
Series: App State leads 1-0
Last meeting: App State 49, Old Dominion 0, September 26th, 2016, Norfolk, Va
Everyone has a story about the big fish that jumped off the hook, that you know, was like, “this long”. Oddly enough, one never has any video evidence of how big that fish was or how close it was to really being in the boat. The analogy seems fitting for what occured last week in Knoxville, but DVR’s all across App Nation will have the evidence for years to come. Orange clad fans sang a similar song for those rooting for Appalachian in the parking lots afterwards. Condolences of “good game”, “ya’ll got a great team”, “I’m a huge fan”, “Win the rest of them”, have been heard on the plains in Auburn, the river banks in Chattanooga and the hills of southern Michigan. Nobody likes hearing those words after the toughest of losses, because it sure doesn’t make you feel any better. Those kind words were met with blank stares and utter exhaustion, but after the agony subsides, one realizes what they witnessed and what is to come. It is truly amazing how the lowest of lows can quickly be turned into oodles of optimism and anticipation.
Tennessee has been beat to death. We’ve all had an extra two days to discuss, so it’s time to turn our attention to Old Dominion, and the Monarchs will have plenty of reason to get excited. A lot has been thrown around regarding the 49-0 thumping the Mountaineers dished out not even a year ago. Much like the second quarter from Clemson in 2015, Appalachian returned the favor in a 28-point second frame that gave the Mountaineers a five touchdown lead at half. The Mountaineers had two weeks to prepare for the Monarchs in 2015, and will have that advantage in 2016 as well. Due to weather, Old Dominion’s game with Hampton was delayed to Sunday afternoon.
The Monarch faithful really like their chances in 2016 to breakthrough in Conference USA and earn their first bowl bid in school history. ODU will host CUSA heavy hitters Marshall and Southern Miss in consecutive weeks in November. A non-conference win over UMass in October would put them in striking distance for at least a 6 win season. The Monarchs return enough weapons on the offensive side of the ball to keep them in many games, but will hope a young defense can mature quickly.
In a effort to keep their starting runningback fresh, Old Dominion handed off to Ray Lawry only 14 times in the opening win over Hampton. By the time Lawry had faced Appalachian in 2015, Lawry had nearly 60 carries in two games. Lawry looked solid in his limited role, eclipsing 100 yards and scoring one touchdown on the ground and finishing off a catch and run 59-yard touchdown score in the first quarter. Lawry is a workhouse and when healthy, ODU has shown it isn’t scared to give him ball continuously. Six times in 2015, Lawry went over twenty carries, but ODU was only 3-3 in those games.
The quarterback Appalachian faced last year has now been relegated to a backup role and it was clear he was not ready in 2015 to handle the pressure. Shuler Bentley threw for only 133 yards and added two interceptions. This season, converted wide receiver David Washington appears to have a handle on the starting duties. Washington began his career at ODU as a quarterback, converted to receiver for most of 2014, and is now back under center. Many claim Washington is the best athlete on the Monarch roster. Washington is mobile and will run when called upon. Luckily for the Appalachian defense, they are familar with backfields that feature an athletic quarterback and a powerful tailback.
The Mountaineer offense was not called on to make many plays last week. Their job was to control the clock, give the defense a blow or two and take care of the ball. Despite the conservative game plan, Appalachian had every opportunity to pull it out. Marcus Cox was his typical steady self, pacing the rushing attack with 115 yards, while also making a spectacular move to stay on his feet to lead to the second, and final, touchdown for the Mountaineers. Deltron Hopkins was used in misdirection plays successfully. Although his statistics counted as receptions, those plays are really runs by design.
How about that Mountaineer defense? I am not sure anyone expected that level of quickness, discipline and gang tackling from that group. Jalen Hurd might not get 28 carries in a game for the remainder of the season for Tennessee. Hurd had two games where he amassed 28 carries or more last season, and in those games he averaged 3.6 ypc against Florida and 4.4 ypc versus Missouri. Appalachian held Hurd to 3.9 yards per carry. Joshua Dobbs did not have a negative rushing yard day in all of 2015, yet the Apps held him to -4 yards on nine carries and was also sacked twice and pressured on two other occasions.
Nobody is expecting a sequel in 2016, but to imagine anything different with the effort the Mountaineers displayed in Knoxville last week would be laughable. This game could be uglier than last year in Norfolk, but the scoreboard is unlikely to represent it. Last year, the Apps were just seven point favorites on the road, but the feelings of the players after a less than stellar result at Clemson, and the attitude that has been displayed this week are reciprocal. Not only will the Mountaineers respond to the current challenge, but they must. An unfavorable result this weekend is hard to imagine and the thoughts of being 0-2 early in the season could be dangerous. Old Dominion has a much better offense than they displayed in 2015, but it will always be tough to gauge early results against lesser teams. Their weakness relies in the back seven of their defense. The Monarchs cannot afford to sell out and stop the run. They just don’t have the options to defend off the play action pass. Old Dominion will have to play a massive game in the trenches to keep it close. All the pressure is on their defensive line to defend the multiple looks Appalachian will throw at them and even their best is likely insufficient.
The First Pick