Appalachian State (0-1) @ #6 Texas A&M (1-0)
Saturday, September 10th, 2022 3:30pm EST
Radio: FLAGSHIP 97.3 FM (North Wilkesboro), 96.5
FM/1450 AM (Boone), 99.1 FM/1060 AM/1030 AM (Charlotte),
105.3 FM/1320 AM (Greensboro), 790 AM (Johnson City),
107.7 FM/1450 AM (Hendersonville), Varsity Network App
Surface: Natural Grass (Bermuda 36)
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 73.96
Texas A&M: 87.10
Texas A&M is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 15.28 points
VegasInsider Line: Texas A&M -17
Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
Hopefully by now, everyone has caught their breath, recovered, processed, and everything in between, one of the wildest football games they have seen. The longer you have been an App State fan, its even wilder to think about. We have seen plenty of memorable games over the years and decades, and no matter how long your fandom has lasted, the memory of 63-61 will not soon be forgotten. However, moral victories and second place does not exist on the mountain, and the season moves on. The next opponent comes from the most powerful league in college sports. Texas A&M has one of the largest stadiums by listed capacity in the country, and people actually show up and show out in College Station. It is an intimidating venue, sandwiched between every major city in Texas, where football is king. That is exactly the kind of program that Appalachian State wants to play. To push yourself to be your best, you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations and challenge yourself. Whether a game like this occurs in Week 1, Week 2, after an open week, or after playing another P5 game, playing the best only makes you better, win or lose. I fully expect our Mountaineers to answer that call.
Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher was baited into a war of words this offseason with the one and only Nick Saban. That would be the coach of Alabama, who have won six national championships since 2009. For reasons unknown, Saban said that Texas A&M “bought all their players in their recruiting class with name, image and likeness deals”. Jimbo Fisher did not take kindly to those remarks and responded appropriately. That was in May. A month later the two somewhat agreed, it was time to “shut up and play”. That was a fun month. Fisher was incredibly complimentary of the Mountaineers in one of his weekly press conferences. This has become the expectation year after year when App State faces a Power 5 opponent. Those press conferences are made for the media, and when a media member mispronounced Appalachian on Monday, Fisher came out firing. He said that App State can play in our (SEC) league or any league. After mentioning several players and their strengths, he went on to say, that Appalachian State is an excellent, excellent football team that can play on both sides of the ball against anyone.
The Aggies took care of business in their opener, disposing of FCS/CUSA opponent Sam Houston State by a tidy 31-0 score. This was the third straight game at Kyle Field that the Aggies did not allow a touchdown by their opponent, which included a 52-3 score over Prairie View A&M and a 20-3 win over then #12 Auburn last season. The Sam Houston game was interrupted for nearly three hours before the start of the third quarter due to a weather delay. Texas A&M was 6-1 in home games last year, but 6-0 at Kyle Field. That one loss was to Arkansas, a game that was played in Arlington. The Aggies last true home losses were in 2019 to #8 Auburn and #1 Alabama. In 2021, Texas A&M finished the year 8-4, which included the aforementioned loss to Arkansas, and three road losses to Mississippi State, Ole Miss and LSU. The Aggies were selected to participate in the Gator Bowl against Wake Forest at the end of the 2021 season, but decided against playing due to the pandemic and injuries.
Third-year sophomore quarterback Haynes King is the leader of the Aggie offense. King played in a couple games of garbage time in 2020, was named the starter in 2021, but suffered a season-ending injury in the second game. So the game against Sam Houston State last Saturday was his third career start and just his fifth appearance as an Aggie. In limited action, if we can call it that, he has completed 63% of his passes over his career for for 723 yards. He has tossed six touchdown passes, but also six interceptions. Five of those interceptions were thrown against the likes of Kent State and Sam Houston State. The Aggies won those games handily, but those are interesting numbers. Devon Achane was the feature back of the Aggies last week, garnering 18 carries for 42 yards. That is a far cry from his 8.3 yard per carry average in 2020 and his 7.0 yard per carry average in 2021. Achane also serves A&M on the kickoff return team. Leading receiver Ainais Smith had a big game last week with 6 catches, 164 yards and two scores. Smith has posted 40+ receptions, 500+ yards and 6 touchdowns in each of his last two seasons.
As one should have expected, the debut of offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay unleashed a blend of a Shawn Clark led attack along with a dash of Barbay’s own touches. Eight players were responsible for the nine touchdowns that were scored. Only Nate Noel found the paint twice. Two different tight ends scored along with four different wide receivers. Henry Pearson caught eleven passes all of the 2021 season, yet caught four balls on Saturday. Dashaun Davis paced the Mountaineers with six catches for 72 yards, which led the team in both categories, yet still there was plenty more ball for Chase Brice to spread around. Noel carried the ball 14 times and Camerun Peoples received 13 carries. Anderson Castle lined up behind center and barreled for two yards and a first down. Even Daetrich Harrington showed some juice that looked more like his start to the 2020 season. Everyone got in on the action. However, most of the gaudy numbers were brought on by a fourth quarter unlike any have ever witnessed.
Let’s get this straight here. This past game is not about figuring out how to win in the end, as much as it is about avoiding getting in a scenario where that fourth quarter was necessary. This all comes down to learning how to avoid giving up 41 points after three quarters and not allowing any team to score 34 unanswered points. Those middle quarters is what put the Mountaineers in that position. We all know that. Everyone involved. It’s possible that North Carolina has an elite offense, and we’ll know more about that as the season goes along. Once again, that was not a typical App State defense we are used to seeing. It will get better, and probably sooner than later. Texas A&M is probably guessing the same, and they also want to improve what they were able to get out of their offense as well. The Aggies ran 67 plays and scratched out 497 yards for a 7.4 yard per play average. Three of the their scoring plays, all touchdown passes, went for 66, 63 and 43 yards. If you take those three plays out of the equation, the Aggies remaining 64 plays went for 325 yards, which brings down that average to 5.1 yards per play. That’s a pretty big falloff to take just three plays out of the formula. So yeah, it would seem that stopping those huge plays would be what the Mountaineers need to focus on. They gave up 8.0 yards per play on Saturday. That number has to come down, and quickly. If the A&M offense is too dependent on big plays and the Mountaineers can make dome drastic improvements in the open field, then its possible we have another game in the fourth quarter. The tendencies of Haynes King are concerning. He comes across as being overly aggressive and not taking the play that is given to him. He’ll force a throw or two, and his offensive line is learning how to play a bunch of different positions. It’s more than being mistake prone, and borderline reckless. He trusts his arm way too much to bail himself out of a bad read. Backup quarterback Max Johnson transferred over from LSU because he felt there was opportunity to play. I think it is possible he starts at some point this season. The opportunity is the reason why the Mountaineers are making this trip. To prove they belong. Jimbo Fisher’s compliments aside, App State looks forward to these type of games. The track record says it all. One day, that next “upset” will happen. It could be Saturday, or next year. What we do know, is that this team will make us proud, and they will refuse to quit. The opportunity to showcase your talents only happens so many times. Might as well do it now.
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