Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs Gardner Webb (1-2, 0-0 Big South)
Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 3:30pm 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: 75.86
Gardner Webb: 30.45
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 48 points (rounded)
Series: App State leads 7-0
Last meeting: App State 45, Gardner Webb 7, October 6, 2007
WxCrum Forecast: Increasing Clouds, with chances of rain, Temps in the Mid 70’s
As a fan, dealing with a bye week is brutal enough. This past weekend was worse. Watching college football on television is usually fun, but when your team is not playing when they were scheduled to, just steps from your own doorstep? Just about as bad as it gets. Football fans have that every week routine. It begins on Monday with teleconferences and news articles, and progresses throughout the week with coaches shows and practice reports. Next thing you know, its Thursday, the day before you might travel to a game. And you do it over and over again. Week after week, the players, coaches, fans, journalists, equipment managers and everyone in between, embrace that grind. There are not many more magical times of the year than football season. September without a football game is like Easter without eggs, Christmas with no ham, and Kool-Aid without sugar. It just isn’t the same. Eventually we all move on, and the games return and its all forgotten, but it was a grim time for several days. Hopefully, when toe meets leather on Saturday afternoon, we’ll all be back in our happy place: the win column.
The head coach of the Runnin’ Bulldogs is 1983 alum Carroll McCray, who is in his sixth season in Boiling Springs. Previously, McCray was in charge at Austin Peay from 2003-06. McCray spent his first four years in the coaching world under one Sparky Woods from 1983-87 in Boone, NC at App State. McCray carries a 38-77 all time record, and more recently is 22-38 at his alma mater. His lone winning season in his ten year head coaching career came in his first season at Gardner-Webb, where his team went 7-5. The Runnin’ Bulldogs play a tougher than usual schedule for a Big South squad. Besides their first two losses of the season coming to North Carolina A&T and Western Carolina, Gardner-Webb also faces off against 2017 FCS playoff participants Monmouth and Charleston Southern to close the season. Currently ranked in the top ten of the FCS polls, Wofford and Kennesaw State also loom on the horizon for Gardner-Webb.
Although it has been a short time since App State has been in FBS, it feels like ages ago. Watching film of Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina brought back a lot of memories. A smattering of fans, 2,257 “attended” the game, that was moved up one day to avoid Hurricane Florence. Gardner-Webb racked up 246 total yards of offense on 70 plays. For much of the game, these two teams didn’t seem like they were very far off in regards to talent, but the box score paints a different story. The Bulldogs gained 145 yards rushing, but also lost 48 yards on the ground. All in all, they gained 2.4 yards per rush on their forty attempts.
No longer feeling sorry for Zac Thomas, the sophomore was perfect against UNC-Charlotte. No, seriously, he completed all fourteen of his passes, for 295 yards and three scores. Very tidy numbers. Two of his scores, to Corey Sutton and Dominique Heath were absolute dimes, right on the pylons. Thomas added twenty-nine yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. His next incomplete pass will draw groans and boos from the crowd. Kidding aside, Thomas has exceeded expectations quickly, and fans are chomping at the bit to see what he can do next.
Maybe the next thing that Zac Thomas will do is throw a pass to Corey Sutton and let him leave defenders sprawled out in his wake. Oh, sorry, that has already happened and we’ll probably see it again before too long. Thomas hit eight receivers against UNCC, with Sutton being the main beneficiary. Sutton’s catches went for 27, 38 and 90 yards. That gives him a decent slash line for two games at 9/242/2 on the season. Also benefiting is Malik Williams, who snagged three passes for 51 yards, including a big catch and run for 38 yards that set up App State’s third touchdown of the day in the 45-6 trouncing of the 49ers.
There have been few murmurs of football the last two weeks with much of the focus being placed on hurricane relief. Sure, we stomped the mud a few times over the last several days over the assumed unwillingness of our last scheduled opponent’s desire to play the Mountaineers anywhere. It was an emotional time for all involved. But alas, here we are, with what seems like a second beginning to the football season. Gardner-Webb provides one final tuneup prior to hitting the conference slate for eight straight games. I want that twelfth game back as much as anyone, and we’ll get it back, and hopefully at home if we take care of what is ahead of us for the next two-plus months. Gardner-Webb’s roster is mostly homegrown and very young. Leading rusher Jayln Cagle is from Kannapolis. Leading receiver Kyle Horton played high school at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek. Four of their top six tacklers are also from North and South Carolina. Even their kickoff specialist is from Newland. This team will have something to prove, despite nearly two dozen freshman seeing game action this year. They have not had much offense to speak of, but they get up, wipe themselves off and continue to play. The effort is there, the execution, not so much. Gardner-Webb has not scored at all in the second half this year in either loss, and have just managed 16 points in their last 120 minutes of football. Additionally, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have never scored more than 17 points on Appalachian, while the Mountaineers have scored 30 or more in five straight games. By the time Saturday is over, it should be six in a row.
The First Pick
Runnin’ on Fumes 10