Appalachian State (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) @ Idaho (2-3, 1-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday, October 14th, 2017 5pm 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
Surface: RealGrass Pro
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 68.09
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11.5 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -13
Series: App State leads 3-0
Last meeting: App State 37, Idaho 19, October 22nd, 2016
I’m still not quite sure what happened last Saturday. A game that was really sputtering along for three quarters suddenly became a shootout that was going to come down to one play made or not made by either side. Fortunately, Eric Boggs lays out to trip up a New Mexico State receiver on fourth down, a review finally favors the Mountaineers, and the ball changes hands and Jalin Moore ices it. There were several times in that fourth quarter that many fans surely had the same feeling in their gut that I did. “Uh, if we aren’t careful, we’re gonna lose this one.” Both teams seemed to be playing for the fourth quarter. New Mexico State went from a quick strike offense, to a ball controlling unit in hopes to wear out the App defense. The Mountaineer offense stubbornly kept forcing the ball to the running backs, in hopes that the big one would finally hit. Eventually they did, as Jalin Moore’s final six carries went for 129 yards, nearly half of his total. Next up is another team exiting the Sun Belt looking for their shot at the defending champ. Even worse, App has beaten these guys three times already, and perhaps, like New Mexico State, we’ll never play these guys again. This is Idaho’s last stand in big boy football and they’ll be looking to sack one last big time opponent before their days are numbered in the Sun Belt.
Idaho’s season in 2016 could not have been scripted any better, outside of the inevitable sendoff from the Sun Belt, the Vandals finished the regular season at 8-4 and went on to win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over Colorado State 61-50 in a non-overtime game. Things haven’t been as smooth in 2017, as the Vandals beat Sacramento State 28-6, but then fell to UNLV, who lost to Howard, and Western Michigan. After a double-overtime win over now 1-4 South Alabama, Idaho got two weeks to prepare for a Louisiana team that was giving up the most points in the FBS. Idaho managed just a touchdown and three field goals and fell to the Cajuns, a team they had beaten a year ago. Idaho is now floundering with a 2-3 record, and the path to six wins looks daunting. The Vandals still have to play App, and have road games at Mizzou, Troy and New Mexico State.
Matt Linehan has been the Idaho starting quarterback essentially since he stepped on campus. He’s been above average overall, but has not had the surrounding talent he deserves. This season is no different. Linehan has basically one receiver that over half his attempts go to and that’s Jacob Sannon. Linehan is up to 1075 passing yards on the season, which is well off pace for his previous three seasons. He’s averaging 215 yards a game in 2017, and his next lowest total was his freshman season, when he averaged 230 yards per game. His high water mark was when he threw for 273 yards in the win over South Alabama. He’ll have a shot to get to 10,000 career passing yards this weekend. In three games against the Mountaineers, Linehan has completed 61% of his passes for 745 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions.
Back to Jacob Sannon, his 33 catches leads the team by a good bit. His next closest competition is Alfonso Onunwor who has 17 catches. Sannon is a senior who is finally getting his chance to shine. Eventually, his final season in Moscow will be his most productive, as he has already achieved career marks in yards and receptions. Aaron Duckworth has also been around awhile for the Vandals. Also a senior, Duckworth is averaging six yards per carry on the ground and leads the team with 439 rushing yards. He’ll have an outside chance at rushing for 1,000 yards this year.
Hey, look, that Mountaineer running attack got its groove back a bit. The offensive line paved the way for 350 yards on the ground on just thirty-eight attempts. What it came down to was continuing to work on big plays. Of those thirty-eight attempts, nearly a third of them, thirteen to be exact, went for 10 yards or more. Moore had seven such runs, Taylor Lamb three, and Terrance Upshaw three. Seven of Moore’s carries went for ten or more yards and accounted for 212 of his 241 yard total. It might not have been pretty the entire game, but when the stars aligned, they did in a big way. I’d expect to see more of the same this weekend against the 91st ranked run defense in football.
Nobody could have said they had seen an App State football team successfully secure six interceptions in one game prior to last weekend. Unfortunately, the Apps needed every last one of those interceptions to win the game. That doesn’t happen often. The so-called “double hat trick” or “Six-Pick” game comes at a perfect time. Idaho, which likes to the throw the ball more than most in the Sun Belt, is reminded this week on film what can happen when you mess with the Legion of Boone. Last year, Clifton Duck snagged a pair of interceptions off of Linehan. Josh Thomas corralled the other. And now enter Tae Hayes, who was one acrobatic play away from an unheard of four interceptions last Saturday. Combine that with a Idaho passing that game looks a little off at the moment. Certainly they could get it together this weekend, but it doesn’t look promising. Idaho has struggled to score this season like they did in 2016, where they hit the 30 point mark on seven occasions. This season the Vandals have scored 16 points twice, 28 points twice, and needed nine overtime points in Mobile to get to 29 points in that win. In this series, App has won by margins of 17, 18 and 27 points. If anything, App has proven in it’s two Sun Belt wins that a lot can change in a years time, and that everything is earned on the football field. But, Idaho has not shown much of doing anything exceptionally well this season. They are a true middle of the road team in 2017, and I think Appalachian has more than enough firepower on both sides of the ball to win this one.
The First Pick