Appalachian State (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs UNC-Charlotte (1-0, 0-0 C-USA)
Saturday, September 8th, 2018 6:00pm 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
Jerry Richardson Stadium
Surface: Matrix artificial turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 71.30
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -13.5
Series: First Meeting
Last meeting: n/a
WxCrum Forecast: Partly Cloudy, chance for a shower, Temps in 80’s
For sixty minutes, the Mountaineers and Nittany Lions traded blows like two heavyweights in a twelve round bout. As the game progressed to overtime, it was Penn State who landed the final flurry that would complete the most exciting game of the college football’s introductory weekend. A loss is not just always a loss. This was not a game where the out-of-towners simply hung around. Our team not only battled to take the lead twice against Penn State, they also persevered through multiple two touchdown deficits in the fourth quarter. Any other foe may have folded, but not the Mountaineers. Throughout time, Appalachian has faced many long odds in football games, but one thing always rings true. App State is going to give you four quarters. They are going to give you an honest days work. They are going to give you everything they have, because anything less is unacceptable. Now, the scene changes, from one of the largest venues in the sport, to the smallest. Facing a program with twenty-two wins the last two seasons, to one that has eighteen wins, all time. A wanna-be fledgling upstart versus an established storied powerhouse. The roles will have been flipped, and this weekend App State plays the role of the hunted.
The 49ers are in their sixth season of football existence. Brad Lambert has been the head coach for all six seasons as he was lured away from Wake Forest where he previously served as an assistant, including three seasons as the Deacons defensive coordinator. In the first two years of transitional play before diving into Conference USA in 2015, the 49ers averaged 33 points per game in 2013 and 38 points per game in 2014. During those seasons, the 49ers sported identical 5-6 records. Since Conference USA play has commenced, those numbers have taken a slide. Charlotte averaged 17.5 points a game in a two-win 2015 season, 25.2 points which gave them four wins in 2016, and then completely bottomed out last season averaging 14.2 points in a one-win season. Scoring is not completely indicative of wins and losses in FBS football, but two seasons scoring under 2o points a game is not going to cut it in today’s high scoring college football world.
Charlotte has already matched their win total from a season ago. It helps when you play an FCS opponent at home and benefit from two significant weather delays. Fordham’s lack of a run game forced their hand. Eventually Charlotte began attacking the passing game, which led to the Rams gaining just 287 yards on the day, the lowest total that Charlotte had given up since 2015. Fordham was a combined 3/20 on third and fourth down for the contest. Charlotte gained 488 yards against Fordham, a balanced total of 221 on the ground and 267 in the air. Charlotte passed just twenty times, completing thirteen passes. Three passes went for big gainers, a 60-yarder to Victor Tucker, a 71 yard connection to running back Benny Lemay and 45 yard gain for Workpeh Kofa. The 49ers took their shots downfield, but was a very pedestrian 10/17 passing for 91 yards excluding those big plays. Appalachian did give up one big pass play to Penn State last week and its well known that the Mountaineer defense prefers not to give up such plays.
Last week, we felt sorry for Zac Thomas for one reason; his constant comparisons to his predecessor. Apparently Thomas likes the pressure, as his future performances will only be compared to his very first career start. Thomas was virtually flawless in regulation passing for 270 yards and two touchdowns, all while completing 67.5% of his passes. That’s forgetting 43 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. Sure, his one interception was the final nail in the coffin as the game ended on that play, but without Thomas’ performance, App State is not in that position late in the game. Thomas flashed a wide arsenal of skill, from toughness to touch, and remember, that was his first start.
The Mountaineer receiving group did not disappoint. Corey Sutton somewhat quietly led the team with six catches for 87 yards. Malik Williams’ route running was considered his most improved aspect of his game. Williams was able to slip behind the Penn State defense on two occasions to score fourth quarter touchdowns, catching beautifully thrown balls from his quarterback. Thomas Hennigan was consistent with four catches for twenty-eight yards, despite being constantly harassed by defenders for most of the game. Jalin Moore also added five receptions for thirty-six yards, working mostly from the backfield on swing passes. This newly found receiving threat provides another element in which opposing defenses will have to defend Moore, who only had seventeen career receptions to his name prior to this season.
Beyond the bad blood and back and forth jawing between fan bases for the past several years, we finally have a football game that will be played this weekend. All the extracurricular jargon has somewhat overshadowed the meat of the real story. In an effort to save his job, Mike Lambert fired both coordinators on his coaching staff this past offseason. Offensive Coordinator Shane Montgomery came from Youngstown where he was known as a balanced play caller. Defensive Coordinator Glenn Spencer left Oklahoma State to get back to the southeast. His Cowboy teams were in the top half of the conference in the very offensively loaded Big 12 conference. The 49ers showed balanced in offensive yardage on Saturday against Fordham, but they ran the ball 47 times compared to just 20 passing plays. Will Charlotte attempt to employ a game of keep away? Benny Lemay received the majority of the carries, toting it 25 times for 135 yards and 5.4 yards per carry average. That has been consistent with Lemay’s career attempts, averaging in the mid 5.0 range for three seasons. Lemay is well built at 5’9 and 218 pounds. He might lack the speed that Troy’s Jordan Chunn had, but their makeup seems comparable. Speaking of speed, that is where I expect App State to excel. Charlotte often had issues in the first half against Fordham getting separation in the passing game. The two teams actually looked pretty evenly matched early on. I don’t expect many match ups to be even this weekend. This will be a different animal for Charlotte. They will feel like visitors in their own stadium. However geeked they might be for this game, and the crowd they’ll get to play in front of, adrenaline can only go so far. App State was the better fourth quarter team nearly a week ago, and I expect them to be the better team for four quarters on Saturday.
The First Pick
Digging for Gold 9