Appalachian State (1-1) vs Troy (1-1)
Saturday, September 17th, 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
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 76.26
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 19.33 points
VegasInsider Line: App State -12.5
Series: App State leads 7-2
Last Meeting: App State 45, Troy 7 November 20, 2021, Troy, AL
Caught your breath yet? Apparently, its going to be a wild season in college football. The Mountaineers have never had two such opponents to start an FBS season, and both games delivered to the fullest extent. Starting the season at 1-1, was pretty likely, but if you are going to win one of these games, beating the team with a number beside their name was probably best. It brings the higher shock value. It also helps when you have done it before and the rest of the conference joins the party. So much so, that the elite television college football pregame show decided to alter its plans and make a trip up the mountain. It will be the fourth ever visit by College Gameday to the state of North Carolina. With the win, and the attention, come distractions. Suddenly your normal week of work is interrupted by additional interview requests and the like. This will all wash away one day, and enjoying those moments are precious. But the task at hand is a conference opponent, and the outcome is what this team plays for. There were no rings or trophies handed out last week. That time will come later. The present time is all about Troy, and going 1-0 this week.
The Trojans will head to Boone with a new head coach in Jon Sumrall, who is in his first year as a head coach. He is an Alabama native and previously spent time on Troy’s staff from 2015-2017. Sumrall’s background is on the defensive side of the ball, beginning where he played inside linebacker at Kentucky, and throughout his other coaching stops at San Diego, Tulane, and Ole Miss. Sumrall was the co-defensive coordinator at Kentucky in 2021. He was supposedly a candidate when Chip Lindsey was hired in 2019, and the Trojans went back to the drawing board after just three seasons. The results for Troy have gone just about as expected at this point in the season. They lost to Ole Miss 28-10 and defeated Alabama A&M 38-17. You have to be careful when looking at their team statistics thus far. It appears they struggle to run the ball, but they have given up six sacks in these two games. Those sacks count as negative rushing yards against their team total. When taking those numbers out, its actually worse. We’ll dig a little more on that later, but consider, their longest running play of the season is just 14 yards.
Troy and App State faced off late last year, and it feels like these teams just played. That game was a dominating Mountaineer win. App State led 10-7 at halftime, but turned it on in the second half with five touchdowns and never looked back. Troy managed just six first downs in the game, and the Mountaineers limited Troy to just 33 rushing yards. The Trojans were 5-4 after nine games last year, and had an outside chance of making a bowl game, but they dropped their last three games to Louisiana, App State and Georgia State. Surprisingly, Troy retained a lot of their players from last season. Star linebacker Carlton Martial returned for his fifth year coming off three straight years as an All-Sun Belt first team performer. Gunnar Watson is also back at quarterback, which might be the biggest surprise of all. Watson is a fifth year junior, who is in his third year as a starter. Running backs DK Bllingsley, Kimani Vidal and Jamontez Woods have also returned. Typically with a coaching change you might see a lot of roster turnover, but its interesting that Troy kept a lot of key players around.
As mentioned previously, Troy’s offense appears somewhat one-dimensional after two games. We’ll just focus on the three Trojan running backs who have handled the ball the most. Kimani Vidal has 22 carries for 86 yards (3.9 ypc). Jamontez Woods has 12 carries for 33 yards (2.8 ypc). Finally, DK Billinglsey has carried the ball seven times for 39 yards. The trio combined for 967 yards last year with a good chunk coming from Vidal, but he is off to a slow start. It seems that Troy may want to become a running football team, which is certainly a change from the past few years, but they are having a difficult time adjusting on the offensive line. In the meantime, Gunnar Watson has been slinging the ball over the field in the first two weeks. He has thrown for 626 yards this season, after throwing for just 1,613 yards in eight games in 2021. All of Troy’s touchdowns have came in the air in 2022, with Watson accounting for five of those scoring passes. Backup Jarret Doege threw for the other in cleanup time against Alabama A&M. Already, fourteen players have caught passes from the Troy quarterbacks. The six touchdown passes have been spread across five different pass catchers. Last years leading receiver Tez Johnson has only caught two passes to start the season after catching 67 passes a year ago. Johnson has battled injuries in fall camp.
Games like last Saturday are fun. As a fan watching in person, or time zones away, the longer an underdog sticks around, it becomes more captivating. Your expectations change with each first down. It was a game where you clapped after the first quarter with the game in a scoreless tie. You pace at halftime as it remained tied, and could hardly sit down as the score remained knotted up after three quarters. Hanging around is easy, but hanging on is the hard part. The win over Texas A&M, excuse me, then #6 ranked Texas A&M may go down as the gutsiest win in school history. At no point was it pretty. It was calculated domination. A box score to remember for a lack of production. A defense that responded to a less than stellar effort by creating just enough havoc in the form of turnovers and sacks. Maybe the best game of keep away ever played. The Mountaineers held the ball for 9 minutes or more in each quarter. The Aggies had the ball on offense three times in the second half, and their possessions resulted in a fumble, punt and missed field goal. Ultimately, the game was decided by an eighteen play drive by the Mountaineers, that consumed more precious clock than yards, and ended with a field goal made by a kicker who had yet to make one.
Last week is the past. It’s all for nothing if the Mountaineers do not take care of business this week. Notably, the vibe on campus has been different since Saturday. Everyone knows something is coming that usually isn’t here and may never come back. The events of fifteen years ago carried a program into FBS football, and although the Texas A&M win might not have the same effect, the aftershocks will be felt for a significant amount of time. In the meantime, a ring game is in front of us. Troy players have made it clear in media appearances of their intent to beat App State. Troy has sustained some injuries to key defensive players and they hope to have them back for this game. The Mountaineers have also had some injuries, but expect everyone to be available on Saturday as well. App State smothered Troy last year in the second half. The time of possession battle was won by the Mountaineers significantly, even more than it was last week against Texas A&M. Gunnar Watson could only manage 109 passing yards against the Mountaineers, while throwing an interception. It was another example of the opposing team simply not having the ball and not finding a rhythm. Again, the Troy ground attack accumulated 33 net yards. They were never in it. Troy has not shown it has improved much offensively. This years passing figures are due to game script and opponent. They trailed Ole Miss 21-3 at the half and threw the ball 47 times. After leading 7-3 at halftime to Alabama A&M, Troy decided to distance themselves, and scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, almost exclusively in the air. Even with the game in hand, Troy continued to throw the ball with Jarret Doege. Without a running game, Troy could struggle, considering they have converted just 35% of their third downs in their first two games and converting just three of seven red zone drives into touchdowns. Additionally, with five turnovers already on offense, and five rushing touchdowns allowed on defense, Troy is going to need to play much better than they have thus far to hang. I’ll take the Mountaineers in a rather low scoring affair.
The First Pick
Boys of Troy 14