Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1 Sun Belt) @ Texas State (3-6, 1-4 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 10th, 2018 4:00pm 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
Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium
Surface: Fieldturf Duraspine Pro
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 75.41
Texas State: 45.68
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 27.5 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -20.5
Series: App State leads 3-0
Last meeting: App State 20, Texas State 13, September 16th, 2017, San Marcos, TX
WxCrum Forecast: Cloudy, chance of an evening shower, Temps hovering around 50
Nothing feels better than getting back in the win column. The losses have to happen in order for the wins to be appreciated to the fullest extent. Not only did the Mountaineers enjoy getting back in the win column, but they had to have enjoyed doing it in front a lot of their fans in a visiting stadium. That game felt like a flashback to the days in the Southern Conference when Mountaineer fans would pack the stadiums of opponents who were never prepared for the onslaught of concession requests. The lines for cold soft drinks moved about as efficiently as Coastal Carolina’s offense. The Mountaineer defense held the Chanticleers to a season low in total yards and were never really threatened. The win kept the Mountaineers in the Sun Belt East division chase with Georgia Southern falling in Monroe. That makes this week’s game so very important. Appalachian will play its final road game of the season, at a venue that gave the Mountaineers some trouble last year. The Mountaineers avoided disaster pulling out a seven point win last year in San Marcos. A scheduling anomaly sends Appalachian back to Texas in consecutive years and now the Mountaineers will be more familiar with their surroundings as they travel. It’s also looking like the weather will also be more comfortable considering the late summer heat the Mountaineers also had to endure last season.
Since Appalachian has joined the Sun Belt, Texas State has been arguably the worst team in the conference. The Bobcats have just seventeen wins since the 2014 season, and that includes a seven win season in 2014, the last time they finished with a winning record. Back-to-back 2-10 seasons were the lowest points in 2016 and 2017, but Texas State appears to be turning it around a little bit, even if the results do not actually reflect their improvement. Currently with three wins, and three monster tasks ahead of them to close the season, the Bobcats might be pushing toward a bowl campaign next year. Until then, Texas State has App State, Troy and Arkansas State to close the 2018 season out.
The true story behind the Bobcat season has been the quarterback play. It seems like from one week to the next, its been a guessing game as to who would take snaps prior to each game. Willie Jones III has played in seven games, sitting out against both Louisiana schools in non consecutive weeks. Tyler Vitt has played in six games, not playing in three of them, and neither of the last two games. Jones has taken advantage of his playing time, rushing for 172 yards in the last two weeks combined and scoring two of his three rushing touchdowns. Vitt is less of a runner, averaging less than three yards per carry on the season, but he did register a 92-yard day against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Chances are pretty good the Mountaineers will see Willie Jones III on Saturday to start the game. Jones III easily had his best passing day of the season last week against Georgia State’s beat up secondary. Jones III completed 21/26 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. A lot the Texas State passing attack is of the shorter variety. The Bobcats like to get the ball to their skill players on the outside. But Georgia State is a “get well” game for a lot of opposing offenses. Jones III had a 93 yard touchdown pass against the Panthers, and another 69-yard completion that did not result in a score. On both attempts, a blown coverage by Georgia State led to the big plays.
The Texas State defense is somewhat underrated as a unit. The are currently fourth in points allowed in the Sun Belt at 27.7 points per game, trailing three schools that all have winning records. It’s rare to see a team with just three wins lead in that category. The Bobcats are also third in total defense, allowing just 380 yards per game. It’s a balanced affair, as they rank in the top half against the run and the pass. The Bobcats only trail the Mountaineers in terms of defensive pass efficiency, highlighted by allowing just eleven passing touchdowns on the season.
What happened in Conway last weekend was not any more or less than it needed to be. It was business-like beat down that was just not completely reflected on the scoreboard. The Mountaineer defense never let Coastal Carolina get comfortable on offense. The tandem of Darrynton Evans and Marcus Williams Jr moved the chains all night long as they combined for 262 of the Mountaineers 278 rushing yards. Both backs averaged over five yards per carry. In what appears to be a spot start for Jacob Huesman, the redshirt sophomore was useful, connecting with six different receivers. He had two very fluky interceptions, one that accounted for the only points in the game for Coastal. Huesman also flashed some touch with a beautiful touchdown pass to Corey Sutton. Seems just about every pass thrown to Corey Sutton near the end zone is a work of art.
I’ll come clean about Texas State. They are the least interesting team in the conference to write about. A lot of it has to do with missing them in our first two years of Sun Belt play, and not being as familiar. Last year, it was App State’s first conference game, and I believe a lot of people underestimated them. In 2017, Texas State started a graduate transfer with SEC experience at quarterback. This year, you’ll see the sophomore in Willie Jones III and maybe even the freshman Tyler Vitt. By now, the Bobcats have the Mountaineers attention. Texas State will not have one of their better tacklers, Bryan London II for the first half of the game on Saturday due to an ejection for targeting last week in Atlanta. On the other hand, Appalachian will have the services of one Zac Thomas, who has advanced through concussion protocol and has been deemed healthy enough to play. Without Thomas the last two games, the Mountaineer offense was reserved at best. Thomas has the big arm and the mobility to extend plays which was somewhat lacking the last two games. It will be a tough test against an underrated defense for a quarterback who has not seen a meaningful game snap in over three weeks. I can see the first few drives setting the tone for both sides. The Bobcats have won two straight, but the likes of New Mexico State and Georgia State are not exactly top notch competition.
The First Pick