Appalachian State (3-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) @ Arkansas State (3-2, 0-1 Sun Belt)
Tuesday, October 9th, 2018 8:00pm 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
Centennial Bank Stadium
Surface: GEO Surfaces Field turf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 78.48
Arkansas State: 64.77
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11.5 points (rounded)
VegasInsider: App State -9
Series: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: Arkansas State 40, App State 27, November 5th, 2015, Boone, NC
WxCrum Forecast: Partly cloudy with light wind, Temps in upper 70’s
It’s been almost three years. Over a thousand days. A budding rivalry that has barely gotten off the ground will finally go up, on a Tuesday. For the Mountaineers, it will be their first game played on the second night of the work week. Arkansas State is no stranger to Tuesday’s, having played eight such games. This game sits out on an island, or a cape, perhaps an isthmus, as App’s only game in twenty calendar days. Whichever your water feature of choice, this game has been landlocked as a premier match up in conference play. Both schools want to host the initial conference championship game and a win by either would go a long way in securing that honor. Only one of the two can host the game, but both could potentially participate. Beyond the importance of Tuesday night, is the possible chess match that could unfold if both teams played again. Before we get ahead of ourselves, we’ll remind you how both teams have won on each other’s field in the two games that have been played, and although not many players remain on each side, the head coaches do. That’s a feat in itself. Their conflicting styles will factor into this result. Whether it be slow and steady or uptempo and aggressive, one team will be ahead of the curve by the time that Tuesday is gone.
The feeling in Jonesboro, is that Arkansas State has their most talented offense ever, led by a senior quarterback that throws for a lot of yards and touchdowns. The Red Wolves have been abysmal in non-conference play since Appalachian joined the conference, but that changed in 2018. Arkansas State grabbed peer wins over Tulsa and UNLV that looked good on paper. However, Tulsa is now 1-4 with their only win over, (laughs) Central Arkansas who, famously beat Ark State in 2016. UNLV is currently 2-3, with a wins over Prairie View A&M and 0-5 UTEP. You get the idea. Arkansas State grabbed a couple non-conference wins, but not much to write home about.
Those wins were enough to keep everyone calm in Jonesboro for the time being, and then they played Georgia Southern, looked the same as they did in their previous two games, and lost. Then all heck broke loose. Hit the panic button. Something has to change. It’s possible that loss was the perfect wake up call for the Red Wolves. They get to play at home, sleep in their own beds for an odd gameday, and they got a couple more days to prepare.
The conference tabbed Justice Hansen as its preseason offensive player of the year. Hansen also won the award in 2017 with just shy of 4000 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. In 2018, his completion percentage is at the highest its been in his career and his interceptions are down, but his yards per attempt (7.5) is at a career low. Hansen has also run the ball 43 times for 152 yards in his last three games, a 3.5 yard per carry average. He’s on pace to be sacked more times than any other year in his career as well. What does all this mean? Hansen has been asked to do a lot and his team has not responded well to it.
The Red Wolves rushing attack is spread out. Hansen leads the team in carries with 54, but is fourth on the teams with 189 yards. Three other backs have carried the load. Marcel Murray, a freshman, has the most yards at 261 and has added a couple touchdowns. Warren Wand, who stands all of 5’5″, has 204 yards on the ground. Armond Weh-Weh is the bigger back and has carried for 190 yards on the season. Arkansas State has three receivers with over 200 yards receiving. Omar Bayless average 16.6 yards per catch and has a 54-yard touchdown to his credit. Kirk Merritt and Justin McInnis have combined for 52 of the teams 127 receptions.
In a game that many were uneasy about coming in, App State throttled South Alabama 52-7. It had the same look and feel as the win over Gardner-Webb. The Mountaineers pounced the Jaguars early and cruised to an easy win with 348 rushing yards, led by Jalin Moore’s 123 yards and two touchdowns. Zac Thomas pitched in with an electrifying 54-yard touchdown run to highlight his 77 yards. Darrynton Evans had a 42 yard burst to boost his 61 yard effort. Marcus Williams Jr added 59 yards on 6.6 yards per carry. As a team, the Mountaineers have run for 1078 yards in just four games, and 780 of those yards have occurred in the last two games.
Zach Thomas had an easy day, but was pushed in the third quarter by his own coach to see what he could handle. That eventually led to a couple of interceptions that were thrown when the game was well in hand. Typically a time to give repetitions to younger bench players, Scott Satterfield challenged his sophomore quarterback which provided an opportunity for live in-game teaching moments. Thomas had the help of his defense most of the day, as the Mountaineers shut down South Alabama’s run game to the tune of 2.4 yards per carry.
Eventually, the “Who did you beat?” game wears off. Appalachian has three lopsided wins and a close loss at a top ten team. Nobody is asking Alabama if they have beaten anyone. I’m not comparing App State and Alabama, but if you continue to destroy teams, your resume speaks for itself. The same can be said about Arkansas State. Their wins are not very impressive, but they are wins. It is the losses that get nitpicked. Arkansas State had plenty of chances to score points against Georgia Southern, but couldn’t execute when the field got smaller. That’s been the case all season. Arkansas State has just eight touchdowns in fourteen trips to the red zone. Their red zone scoring percentage on the season is just .786, tied for 101st in the country. The only Sun Belt teams worse? South Alabama and Louisiana-Monroe. Offense is not the problem for Arkansas State. They have nearly 400 more yards than their opponents. The issue is the inefficiency. The Red Wolves are averaging just 6.0 yards per play, while their defense is giving up 6.1 per snap. On the flip side, Appalachian has given up just 12 red zone scoring chances, allowing nine scores, which is good enough for 29th nationally. The team that finishes their drives will prevail. The Mountaineers will finish a few more drives than the Red Wolves and will take home their second conference win of the season.
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