Here we go with Week 11
Louisiana-Monroe (4-6, 3-3 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (7-3, 5-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 19th, 2016 2:30 est
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: 71.65
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 25 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -25.5
Series: App State leads 2-0
Last meeting: App State 59, ULM 14, October 17th, 2015, Monroe, LA
Last weekend was not an ideal situation. There are plenty of situations that happened during the game that could have flipped the script, and put Appalachian in the position they would prefer to be in. Alas, we all must wait and watch and take care of the business that we can control. We can make sure that we appreciate another set of seniors who sacrificed two years of postseason football with our presence on Saturday. It’s the last home game of the season, and it will be a long winter before we enter the gates at Kidd Brewer in 2017. A ten win season is still well within reach. A second bowl apperance in as many years is also on the horizon. But, before we get ahead of ourselves, an improving Monroe squad comes to Boone with all the confidence in the world after consecutive victories over South Alabama and Georgia State. These Warhawks need a win to keep their slim bowl hopes alive, and you can guarantee they’ll try anything to make that happen. The Mountaineers’ job is to keep that from happening. Putting aside a tough loss is hard, but its time to move on and get back on track.
First year Monroe head coach Matt Viator is one of three Sun Belt head coaches to get a win in Boone, it just happens that his win came in 2009 as head coach of McNeese State. Viator left his alma mater after ten years as head coach and seven seasons as an assistant. This season will be his first as a head coach with six losses, as he never finished below .500 while in Lake Charles. Viator was actually recruited by Monroe, formerly Northeast Louisiana, out of high school as a quarterback, but instead chose to stay close to home, and went to McNeese State.
Prior to last weekend, Monroe had lost every road game in the 2016 season. The Warhawks are forced to play an unbalanced out of conference schedule in order to pay the bills, by visiting two Power Five schools. They had been outscored in those games by 178 points combined with four of those opponents scoring over 0ver fifty points. Luckily, Monroe was handed the gift of a Georgia State program that checked out, and subsequently fired their coach. Monroe grounded out the win last week the same way most teams beat the Panthers this season, by sticking to the running game and wearing a defense out that was always on the field.
Monroe teams from the past have not been able to run the ball effectively, but Matt Viator has quickly remedied that deficiency. The Warhawks have not been incredible on the ground this season, but they have committed to that being a big part of their offense. They have run for over 100 yards in eight of their ten games, and have eclipsed 200 yards on four occasions. Eight of their nineteen rushing touchdowns this season have come in the last two games. New starting quarterback Caleb Evans has been effective running the read option with 80 yards rushing in the last weeks, while Thomas Koufie had a breakout game against Georgia State with five rushing touchdowns and 201 yards. Evans replaced Garrett Smith, who was lost for the year to injury during the Texas State game.
The Mountaineer offense will look to get its groove back, and the Monroe defense might be the cure. The Warhawks are 121st nationally defensively and allow 245 yards on the ground. Additionally, the Warhawks have surrendered twenty touchdown passes while only intercepting four passes all season long. The big story this weekend is obviously whether or not Marcus Cox will break Kevin Richardson’s school rushing record in his final home game. Needing 137 yards, Cox would have to surpass his season average of 96.5 yards per game, and his 108 yard average against Monroe in two career games. Factor in that Jalin Moore and Cox have pretty much split carries the last three weeks, chances are Cox will need a long run to get to 137 this weekend.
We shouldn’t look past Monroe this weekend. They are playing better and really starting to find themselves. The difference for them in the last two weeks has been staying in games. Georgia State answered Monroe scores on several occasions, but instead of rushing to panic, they stuck to their game plan and it worked. The same thing happened against South Alabama when they trailed by a touchdown on three different occasions. They have improved, but maybe not enough for this weekend. The outside chance of getting bowl eligible is a nice story. That ends soon. Appalachian is going to give it to Monroe where it hurts. The Warhawk offense might stick around longer than the Mountaineers want them to by refusing to look at the scoreboard and playing with their heads down. The Warhawks have been terribly slow starters this season, scoring a mere 47 first quarter points. Appalachian counters, with the second quarter being their highest scoring quarter, while also allowing the fewest points in the second frame. This sets up for the typical, get a lead at half and cruise to the finish game for the Mountaineers. However, I can see a few late scores for Monroe if they can handle the possible snow flurries and quick temperature change from Friday to Saturday.
The First Pick
Aces and Eights 19