Appalachian State (5-5) vs Old Dominion (3-7)
Saturday, November 19th, 2022 2:30pm 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: 68.45
Old Dominion: 56.85
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 13.6 points
VegasInsider Line: App State -15.5
Series: App State leads 2-0
Last Meeting: App State 31, Old Dominion 7, September 10, 2016, Boone NC
There was once a time when App State was one of the most difficult teams to beat when they visited opposing venues. After three road losses this season, it’s quite clear the Mountaineers are lacking that edge they used to have. To throw salt in the wound, in all three road conference losses, the home team wore black. Almost like they are mocking the Mountaineers. Do those psychological tricks work? Maybe it works for the fans, to give us something to talk about, and be annoyed by. But that is not why this season has unfolded the way it has. There is just a little bit missing this year. It’s difficult to explain. One possession here or there. Perhaps a missed a two point conversion. Or a penalty called incorrectly. But those are just excuses. If you want to win, you have to get on the field, figure it out, and earn it, no matter how it looks. Motivation should not be lacking in these final two games, with senior day on Saturday and your biggest rival next weekend. I have faith. I hope you’ll join me.
Old Dominion started their season with a difficult out of conference slate, facing Virginia Tech, East Carolina and Virginia. Old Dominion participated in Sun Belt September, when multiple teams in the conference knocked off Power 5 schools. But as it has been for those schools, the season did not continue as all had hoped. The Monarchs defeated the Hokies in Week 1, but since then have only managed two wins, at home against three-win Arkansas State, and the true mystery win over Coastal Carolina on the road. Since beating the Chanticleers four weeks ago, ODU has lost four straight conference games. The Monarchs scored 49 points on Coastal in that game, and have scored just 43 points since, with three of those games being at home. Prior to the Coastal game, ODU was averaging 21.6 points per game on offense, blew up for seven touchdowns on Coastal, and have managed just 10.75 points a game since. The Coastal game was the true peak of their season, and since, it has been downhill.
Most of the Monarchs opponents have attacked them with balance, but it seems a lot of the blame can be assigned to their offense, and their inability to run the ball effectively at times. Make no mistake, Old Dominion only has 928 rushing yards through ten games, and that’s pretty bad. Only seven teams in FBS are worse. But figure in that one game, where ODU ran all over Coastal, to the tune of 323 yards, and that number looks even worse. Seven times, the Monarchs have run for 90 yards or less. Let’s toss in the fact that Old Dominion has completed just 56% of their passes as a team. That leads to one of the more appalling and lopsided figures I have seen this season. Old Dominion almost never has the ball. The official ODU site says they average just under 24 minutes of possession a game. The NCAA site says its closer to 25 minutes a game. Discrepancies aside, it is one of the worst figures in the country. Possession is overrated if you can score, but the Monarchs are having a hard time there. For example, Ole Miss is a bottom-ten time of possession team, but they average 36 points a game.
Due to Old Dominion’s inability to move the ball, with only 15.5 first downs per game, their defense has to play a lot. Another major statistical oddity, the Monarch defense has defended 182 more plays than their own offense has run. One hundred eighty-two plays. If ODU is running about 60 plays a game, and their opponents run 18 more plays per game, it’s almost works out to the ODU defense playing three more games than their offense. Wondering why they have been outgained by 110 yards per game? It’s because they have been defending so many plays. And they really have not been bad despite this. Their defense gives up 5.6 yards per play, which is not great, but considering their exposure, it is somewhat fine. And they will give up those yards between the 20-yard lines, but once you get in the red zone, they wont let you score much. On forty red-zone drives, the Monarchs have allowed just eighteen touchdowns and twelve field goals. They have turned away 25% of their opposing offenses red zone drives, which makes them a top-12 red zone defense in the country.
Although the box score suggests the weather was sunny during the game, it was anything but that. It was a cold, wet, misty day in Huntington, WV with two struggling offenses that played down to the weather. The Mountaineers turned in their lowest offensive output of the season, with just 293 total yards. That resulted in two offensive scores in another road game where the Mountaineers trailed from start to finish. The two offensive touchdown drives went a total of 82 yards and took nineteen plays between the drives. App State averaged just 2.9 yards per run, 5.2 yards per pass, and 4 yards per play for the game. The defense created chances for the offense many times throughout the game, yet the offense was unable to capitalize. Eight Marshall drives went for 21 yards or fewer. Without sustained drives this weekend, Old Dominion’s very bad defense becomes just bad, giving up yards in the middle of the field, but holding steady in the red zone. The Mountaineers are due for some big offensive plays to go their way.
There exists a couple different dynamics in play they are hard to measure in a game such as this. One team needs a win more than another. Last week, Old Dominion lost their seventh game of the season, which will exclude them from postseason play. The Monarchs started last season at 1-6, but reeled off five straight wins to gain bowl eligibility, before falling to Tulsa in the Myrtle Beach Bowl. That after the Monarchs did not play a season in 2020 due to the pandemic. The Sun Belt is a different animal week to week compared to Conference USA, where they played previously. Many out of conference, in-state games are set for Old Dominion, that gives them the look of the UL-Monroe of the Sun Belt East. Virginia Tech, Virginia and East Carolina are mainstays on the Monarchs future scheduling. In what appears to be a strong East Division moving forward, they may reconsider playing the Power Five games that have been scheduled. It’s great when you can get an upset, but as App State has also learned this season, the long term effects can have a substantial impact. Old Dominion has two bowl appearances in their FBS history and their region is always hailed as a fertile recruiting ground, yet the year to year results have not been there. As it stands, Old Dominion has three main offensive contributors, and nobody else stands out. Their quarterback Hayden Wolff has played just about every snap. Running back Blake Watson has 130 carries on the year, while the next closest player has thirty carries. Ali Jennings III has hogged 54 receptions and nine touchdowns, while no other receiver has more than 24 catches and two touchdowns. Between Watson and Jennings III, they have scored 15 of the 25 offensive touchdowns this season. Switching back to the other side of the ball, in the last four games, Old Dominion’s opponents have ran at them at a higher rate than at any point this season. The Monarch’s had not defended 50 rushing plays in a game this season until they ran into Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Marshall and James Madison. Old Dominion defended 219 attempts and allowed 927 yards on the ground in those four games, while giving up nine rushing touchdowns. Somehow, Marshall ran for 298 yards and failed to get in the end zone! If the Mountaineers stay with it, they’ll get some yards on the Monarchs and can hopefully find several touchdowns in their home finale.
The First Pick