Appalachian Football vs Georgia Southern

Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 Sun Belt) vs Georgia Southern (7-4, 4-3 Sun Belt)

Saturday, December 23th, 2020 6:00pm EST

TV/Video: ESPN3

Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM

Paulson Stadium

Capacity: 25,000

Surface: Shaw Legion 41 synthetic turf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 73.53

Georgia Southern: 65.35

Home: 0.84

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7.34 points

Line: App State -9.5

Series: App State leads 18-15-1

Last Meeting: Georgia Southern 24, App State 21, Boone, NC October 31, 2019

Another week has passed and this football season, now nearly halfway through December is still in its regular season. Two rivals will tee it up in a game that is for nothing but bragging rights and pride. Maybe that is a good way to end the oddest college football season of our time. Nothing else to think about besides beating the other guys. The same guys who have stolen the last two games due to unforeseen circumstances. The guys who have who ripped the national ranking right out from under us for consecutive seasons. Both teams are limping to the finish for several reasons but it’s going to take more than a couple bumps and bruises to keep any athlete off the field for an App-Southern game. Players have been chirping off to the media all week leading up to this installment, and certainly that will carry over between the lines. A classic game could be in the making. Tune in either way because what is supposed to happen in this series, rarely does.

Way back before we had any inclination how wild this college football season was going to be, Georgia Southern and App State had both scheduled Campbell as one of their opening games after a series of cancellations. For the Eagles, it was their opener, played on September 12th. App State played the Camels two weeks later. Campbell gave the Eagles a lot of problems, but it was a game that Southern won 27-26 after being down thirty-three players for “various reasons”. Southern led that game for six minutes and forty-two seconds. Close games eventually became the prevailing theme for the Eagles’ season. Eight games have been decided by one score or less. The games that were more lopsided included a two touchdown loss to Coastal Carolina, and more one-sided wins over UMass (41-0) and Florida Atlantic, (20-3) which was played last week. That broke a two game losing streak that included losses to Army by one and Georgia State by six. It’s been an up and down season for Southern, and with each passing game, most became more confused as to what this Eagle team was made of.

For a good majority of the season, Georgia Southern’s offense went through Shai Werts, JD King, and Wesley Kennedy III. Werts is the fourth-year starting quarterback that is the heart and soul of the Eagle squad. In the game against Army, a one point loss, Werts injured his right throwing shoulder and did not finish the game. Werts went on to play against Georgia State, but split time with redshirt sophomore Justin Tomlin. Werts ran the ball eleven times in that game and completed four of his seven passes. However, it was Tomlin who took all the snaps last week against Florida Atlantic while Werts rested. Coach Chad Lunsford has been careful with his comments about Werts’ health, first saying he maybe should have not played Werts against Georgia State, and early this week saying Werts may not play on Saturday. Read into that what you will, but expect to see him suited up. JD King played only seven games before he was lost for the season due to an injury, yet he still remains second on the team in rushing this season. Wesley Kennedy III played in eight games and ran for 447 yards and six touchdowns before he was pinched by local law enforcement for various drug and weapons charges.

The names change, and sometimes they do not, but Georgia Southern remains the same. They continue to rely on a ground attack that they hope leads to copious amounts of possession that leads to a fresh defense that can take advantage of teams that have to get out of their typical comfort zone on offense. That recipe has has worked well for a really long time and despite being without a super explosive offense, the Eagles are possessing the ball for nearly 34 minutes a game this season. However, Southern is only scoring 26.36 points a game this year, which is down from 2019 when they scored 28.15 a contest. In 2018, the Eagles averaged just over 30 points per game. Goes to show, you can be a team with a bunch of returners, but be caught by a pandemic and injury issues and everything kind of slides downhill. Sounds a little bit like a team we know. But, what has kept Southern’s head above the ditch water is a defense that is more than holding its own. Given the offensive struggles, the Eagle defense is allowing just 21.2 points per game, the fewest rushing yards and yards per carry in the conference and are second in the conference with 13 interceptions.

The Mountaineers did just about everything they were supposed to do last weekend. They had better offense, better defense, time of possession and so on. The problem is that they gave Louisiana too many short fields. After everything that happened, both coaches made critical mistakes at important times of the game. And even as poorly as the Mountaineers played at those important moments, they were still in the game in the fourth quarter. The theme in the three losses have been turnovers, and lack of second half scoring. Usually that goes hand in hand. This weekend, App State is going to have to figure out how to come out of the locker room and execute like they typically do in the first half. The third quarter is the one where App State has scored the fewest all season long, and allowed the most, yet still holding an eleven point advantage over the course of the season. The Mountaineers have been strong out of the gates this season, and that will be the key to beating Georgia Southern. Starting fast and keeping the Eagles out of their comfort zone on offense.

The matchup this weekend will be the first of its kind for App State and Georgia Southern in Sun Belt and FBS play. We are playing on a Saturday. It’s the day these games are supposed to be played. The hard part will be keeping it that way going forward. The Sun Belt has not experienced its best rivalry on the weekend, and its long overdue. The last time App and Southern played on a Saturday was in 2013, when App State dismantled Southern by a score of 38-14. That was one of the few bright spots for the Mountaineers that season. Without question, a win by either side will provide a bright spot for both programs in 2020, a year that many want to put behind them. A Southern win would make it the third time in this rivalry’s history that the Eagles have won three games in a row. The last time it occurred was when App State lost four games consecutively across the 2000-2002 seasons. App and Southern met in the playoffs in 2001. One part of this game that will be similar, is that it will be played in the evening, with a sunset kickoff that will resemble the primetime kickoff that was scheduled before the game was postponed back in October. On to the game. It was surprising to see Southern let go of their offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse of two plus years, but the lack of points that was referenced above is probably the reason. If anything, DeBesse was in a no-win spot in Statesboro as the natives get restless really quickly. DeBesse was relieved after not being able to hold onto an eleven point fourth quarter lead in their loss to Georgia State. Notice how the offensive coordinator got fired, and not a defensive coach. Regardless, Southern got a 20-3 win last week, but only one offensive touchdown was scored in that win. Seems the struggles will continue for Southern as they enter their last game of the regular season. For App State, they have what it takes to win this game, the question is just which App State team shows up. The Mountaineers offense has struggled against above average defenses all season, and that is exactly how one should categorize Southern. They are good enough to win too, but not good enough to maintain separation from App State without some help. Both defenses are good enough to keep this game in the twenties, and the team with the fewest turnovers will win.

The First Pick

The Stink 20

Mountaineers 24

Appalachian Football vs Troy

Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1 Sun Belt) vs Troy (4-4, 2-2 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 28th, 2020 8pm EST

TV/Video: ESPNU

Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Capacity: 31,000

Surface: Astroturf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 71.66

Troy: 61.60

Home: 0.77

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 10.83 points

Line: App State -14.5

Series: App State leads 5-2

Last Meeting: App State 48, Troy 13, Troy, AL November 29, 2019

Last week has been beat to death. Coaches move on to greener pastures, players get injured, and eventually the shoe doesn’t fit like it used to. That’s the price of success, and App State might be paying their dues a little. The offense looked great in the first half. They brought tempo, and took the fight right to Coastal. But one team adjusted better than the other, and by the time the fourth quarter came around, one was hanging on, and the other, knocking on the door. It was a fun college football game to watch. Sometimes our team is going to end up on the wrong end of that score. It has not happened a lot, and that is why it can be frustrating and disappointing. The good thing, is that App State gets another chance to show everyone that the best is yet to come. This year’s version is not the 2019 team, or the 2018 team, or the 2005 team. They are their own version of themselves, and that story will get written one day once its all over in this crazy season of college athletics. Eventually, a lot of these upperclassmen will stop playing football, and what they will remember the most will not always come down to rings and trophies, but to how they responded to adversity, and showed the next team how to compete the right way. That lesson will last longer than any play they may have not made.

Troy has played seven opponents in eight games this season. Yes, you read that right. The Trojans opened the season with a 47-14 throttling of Middle Tennessee. Last week, Troy fell to the Blue Raiders by three points at home by a score of 20-17. This was after Troy and Coastal’s game was postponed the week before. So what happened between September 19th and November 21st that changed for Troy? First of all, starting quarterback Gunnar Watson was sidelined after being injured in the Georgia State game on October 24th. Secondly, Troy began to struggle running the ball, having not eclipsed 100 yards rushing as a team in the last four games. Third, Troy’s defense started to crack, allowing big rushing yard totals to opponents such as Georgia State (210), Georgia Southern (326), and Middle Tennesee (186). Even Arkansas State ran for 108 yards against Troy, which is pretty out of character for the Red Wolves.

When Gunnar Watson went out with injury, Junior Jacob Free was more than capable of filling in. Despite not playing the entire game against Georgia State, Free stepped in and threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns, but also added a couple interceptions. Free added 419 passing yards against Arkansas State, but was limited by Georgia Southern to just 201 yards and two interceptions. While starting for Watson, Free and the Trojans were 1-2, but Free succumbed to eight sacks in 2+ games. Watson did not fare much better. A true pocket passer, Watson has been sacked twelve times in his six games, with half of those coming at the hands of Middle Tennessee. Watson has three games with over 300 yards passing, and did all of that against FCS Eastern Kentucky, three-win Middle Tennessee and now two-win Texas State. Watson leads Troy in a high-volume, high-percentage passing attack that values getting the ball out quickly to its receivers. Watson leads in the conference in passing yards per game and completion percentage,

Four different Troy pass catchers are in the top twenty in conference in yards per game and the same four are in the top seventeen in receptions a game. Kaylon Geiger is the leader of the group with 45 catches for 577 yards and one score. Geiger feasted on the lesser teams on the Troy schedule, posting 100 yards and at least seven interceptions against EKU, Texas State and Arkansas State. Geiger’s pace has slowed in the last two games despite catching ten passes against Middle and Georgia Southern, but has only covered eighty-three yards, for just an 8.3 yard per catch average. Geiger was up over fourteen yards per catch in the previous four games. Reggie Todd and Khalil McClain are the touchdown scorers for Troy at receiver. Their statistics are virtually identical, with having caught five scores on the season. Todd is 6’5, 205 pound senior and his five scores all came against the weaker, middle four teams of the Troy schedule (EKU, Tex State, Ga State, Ark State). Todd has just five catches for thirty-eight yards the last two weeks. McClain scored three of his five touchdowns against Middle Tennessee. Another tall receiver, McClain had a season high ninety-two yards last week.

Let’s focus on what App State did well last week. Camerun Peoples and Nate Noel look like they could be a formidable one-two punch out of the backfield, with their completely different styles, but similar results. App State just needs to find the right time to mix in Noel early, while also not overexerting Peoples. App must also figure out a way to continue pushing the ball down the field. Malik Williams has been fortunate to haul in long completions in each of the last two games, but the intermediate throws could increase. The defense did all they could last weekend until the dam finally broke. Outside of two big plays, the defense played extremely well. Troy will no doubt look to strike early on their opening drive just how Arkansas State and Coastal did.

For the first time in a very long time, App State will host a Saturday night game at Kidd Brewer Stadium. In the past, these games were reserved for earlier in the season, when teams were looking for relief from heat. But this Saturday, not only is it a late kickoff, it is coming with winter knocking on the door. Troy is lucky enough to get a game in back to back trips to Boone that will feature some cooler weather than what south-central Alabama usually deals with. That sounds like a game that is made for defense. Both Troy and App State feature some of the best linebackers in the conference. Carlton Martial has 66 tackles, and 7.5 for loss as one of the premier downhill linebackers in the league. Trey Cobb And D’Marco Jackson seem to be trading the App State tackle lead from one week to the next. Both lead the team with 56 tackles on the season. With Troy only allowing 24.3 points per game, and App State being even stingier at 19 points allowed, we all could be in for another close Troy-App State classic. Outside a couple App State blowouts, the games between these two have been close battles throughout the years. Troy presents as a team very similar to Arkansas State, but with much better defense, and an offense that might not be as good as the Red Wolves. However, their lack of a running game is concerning. The Trojans are averaging just 2.54 yards per carry on the ground in the last four games and have converted just seven red zone touchdowns in their last seventeen red zone drives. App State has had their own struggles scoring points, but Troy has allowed opposing quarterback to complete two-thirds of their passes all season long. The Mountaineers will bounce back on Saturday with a two score win.

The First Pick

T-roy 20

Mountaineers 31

2019 Tailgate Menu

You’ve been thinking about it for weeks. It always takes forever this time of the year, and the anticipation is killing you. Of course, you’ve been drooling thinking about what we are eating at tailgate this year, much less that football season is right around the corner. In 2019, we’ll be trying something out at tailgate for the first time. Hopefully by the time the season comes to a close, we’ll have a seventh home game in early December.

East Tennessee State – September 31st – Seafood Po’ Boys

 Why seafood for the first game? East Tennessee State is the home of the Buccaneers. It doesn’t make sense in a landlocked state to have a Spanish-American pirate as the mascot. Your guess is as good as mine.

 UNC-Charlotte – September 7th Whole Hog 

First time at tailgate for the entire pig. It’s a North Carolina thing, and its just a shame this has not been done yet. Come rub shoulders and ham it up with some of our neighbors from the Piedmont.  

Coastal Carolina – September 28th – Low Country Boil

As if one tailgate with seafood wasn’t enough, we’ll double dip in September with a crowd favorite. Shrimp, sausage, corn, and potatoes all go for a swim in big pot of awesomeness.

 UL-Monroe – October 19th – Homecoming

You all know the deal. Turkeys will be plentiful, brined and prepared three separate ways. Thankfully, this game is back in October where it belongs. The weather should be turning cooler by then, and it just feels right to have Turkey in October.

Georgia Southern – October 31th – Black Thursday?

Halloween Night. Georgia Southern. WOW. Weeknight games call for a quick meal, so we’ll fry up a couple hundred wings for our feathered rivals.

Texas State – November 23rd – Baby Back Ribs

One of the most sought after meals of the season. This will be a our second serving of pork on the year, so bring your moist towelettes and get sauced.

Sun Belt Championship – December 7th

Last year we got our Championship Chili fix in for the conference title game. Those are the rules. No trophy on the line, no chili. Winning the inaugural title game on our own turf last year was a huge deal, and this team has what it takes to contend again.

2018 Tailgate Menu

You’ve been thinking about it for weeks. It always takes forever this time of the year, and the anticipation is killing you. Of course, you’ve been drooling thinking about what we are eating at tailgate this year, much less that football season is right around the corner. In 2018, we’ll be trying something out at tailgate for the first time. Hopefully by the time the season comes to a close, we’ll have a seventh home game in early December. 

 

Southern Miss – September 15th – Baby Back Ribs

Is there any better way to kick off the new season? You’ve had them before and they are always top notch. Never over-sauced, with the just the right amount smoke make ribs the ultimate sweet treat for the first tailgate of the season.

 

Gardner-Webb – September 22nd

Spicy Corn Dogs

This seems like a very simple, unlikely option but this should be something that #teamcorndog can celebrate. Traditional deep fried dogs on a stick with a batter that will make you run to the cooler for another cold beverage.

 

South Alabama – September 29th – Homecoming

You all know the deal. Turkeys will be plentiful, brined and prepared three separate ways. The schedule threw a curveball at us with a rare September Homecoming game, the first of its like since 2006, and only the fourth such game in school history.

 

Louisiana – October 20th

The Cajuns will come to Boone for the third time in four seasons and have been gifted with a mid-fall date. The previous games were played after Thanksgiving. Former Furman QB Billy Napier leads the Cajuns and we’ll be serving Josh Jeffries Jambalaya. Make sure you Go For a 2nd bowl of this Cajun dish!

 

Georgia State – November 17th – Black Saturday

The Black Saturday game in the past has signaled the appearance of Championship Chili, but once Georgia State started coming to the mountains, we have opted for chicken and waffles. Add a blueberry topping to poke fun at the Panthers who have difficulty scoring touchdowns.

 

Troy – November 24th

Appalachian’s goal every year is to win a conference championship. The Mountaineers have grabbed at least a piece of title the last two years, and hopefully will be playing for a Sun Belt Eastern Division title against Troy. This is where Championship Chili will make its appearance in 2018, unless….

 

Sun Belt Championship – December 1st

….We are playing for the Sun Belt title at home against the Western Division winner. We won’t know who that will be until we play some games. It’s possible the Eastern title is decided prior to the Troy game. We can’t have championship chili if we aren’t playing for one. We’ll play it by ear. Hope that we are playing this game in Boone, and hope for smoked pork butts on November 24th.

2017 Tailgate Menu

You’ve been thinking about it for weeks. It always takes forever this time of the year, and the anticipation is killing you. Of course, you’ve been drooling thinking about what we are eating at tailgate this year, much less that football season is right around the corner. This season brings a slightly different twist to our tailgating menu. Our traditions remain, but the 2017 schedule brought some challenges for the menu. 

First, we have three opponents that could have challenged for the honor of serving fried chicken at the tailgate. Luckily, we will narrow it down to just one plate of deep fried bird. Secondly, we have four opponents who we have played in the past at home and they aren’t all conference games. The last time we played Savannah State in 2011, we did not publish a full blown menu. We might have written it down somewhere, but there isn’t any evidence besides a facebook post that should probably be deleted. 

Although the post still exists, we gathered some info and discovered that baby back ribs was what we devoured the last time we annihilated Savannah State. You are all very familiar with the ribs. They are very good. Nothing more really needs to be said. 

For Wake Forest, an old school opponent will have some old school flair. Despite the Demon Deacon not really being an edible mascot, we’ve gotten a little creative. Wake has baptist roots, which had us thinking about going to church and eating covered dish lunches. How many times did you try three different versions of Mac and cheese when you were a kid because you didn’t know what was in that jello concoction? Yeah, we have all done it. The meat will be a TBA, but we’ll need some help from everyone with their favorite/not favorite covered dish. Just like the main dish after church, it could be fried chicken in a box, ham, or turkey. Hint: It won’t be fried chicken in a box or turkey. 

We’ll save the turkey for New Mexico State which is Homecoming. Similar to the ribs, you know how we do with the turkeys. We’ll smoke one and fry two. Was really hoping this game was not Homecoming so we could try something different, but alas, its the only time we’ll play host to these guys, might as well keep it simple. Tamales do sound good though. 

This is where the schedule gets interesting. The next two opponents are dead ringers for fried chicken. Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern’s mascots make it an easy call. Coastal is on a Saturday and Georgia Southern a Thursday night. Its so much easier to do the fried chicken for a night game during the week for Georgia Southern. For Coastal we’ll alternate to a Low Country Boil. Its been a few years since we have done one, but they are always amazing. Nothing better for a late October game. 

For the last game of the season, we’ll host Louisiana, just like in 2015, when it was Black Saturday. Oddly enough, the schedule doesn’t   show a Black Saturday game. Hopefully this is an oversight, but its also concerning from a traditional standpoint. Usually this game is reserved for the Championship Chili, which we somehow skipped last year. Hopefully the administration gets it together and aptly themes this game as Black Saturday, otherwise we’ll pivot to a Cajun themed dish such as jambalaya or gumbo. 

Appalachian Football @ New Mexico State

Here we go with Week 12

Appalachian State (8-3, 6-1 Sun Belt) @ New Mexico State (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 26th, 2016 4pm est

TV/Video: ESPN3

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

Aggie Memorial Stadium 

Surface: Synthetic Turf

Capacity: 30,343

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 71.34

NMSU: 48.39

Home: 2.35

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -17.5

Series: First Meeting 

Last meeting: n/a   

         

          Two weekends ago was not an ideal situation. But this past week, could not have been written any better. Marcus Cox etched his name deeper into the App State annals by becoming the program’s all time leading rusher on a twenty-five yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. The game was long decided, but up until that run, it was somewhat in doubt whether or not Cox would reach the record in his final game at The Rock. Cox managed two carries for 17 yards in the first quarter, and ended the first half with 61 yards on eight carries, not quite halfway to the 137 yards he needed.  But the third quarter was a different story. Nine carries for 55 yards made breaking the record almost inevitable, and the deed was done on his third carry of the fourth quarter. Cox was buoyed by big runs all game long, registering six that went for 12 or more yards. Most of us have been very fortunate to witness the greatness of this program over the last few decades. We all knew that Kevin Richardson would have a chance to chase down John Settle. We all knew that Kevin Richardson’s record would be broken eventually, but Marcus Cox topped him in quick fashion. The only doubt was the injury Cox suffered earlier in the year, not knowing when he would return to action. We have all been witnesses to individual history, but football is a team game and chasing a second consecutive ten-win season is the next hurdle for the Mountaineers. 

          Finally, after three seasons, Appalachian will have played all members of the Sun Belt in its twenty-fourth conference game. App has played five Sun Belt teams three times before finally heading to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The Mountaineers will play New Mexico State again next season in Boone, and then likely never again, as the Aggies were not extended a invitation to remain in the Sun Belt, and has opted to go independent in 2018. This has been the second stint in the Sun Belt for New Mexico State, and likely their last. The Aggies seem to have the worst luck over the course of the program’s existence as they have dealt with being indepedent on more than one occasion and were in the WAC when several teams left to join other conferences, leading to the ultimate death of football in the Western Athletic Conference. It seems nobody really wants New Mexico State at their party. 

          It has been since 1960 that New Mexico State has played in a bowl game, which is the longest streak in the country. The Aggies have played in three bowls games in their history without losing one, and have four conference titles to their name over the course of 118 years of football. The last season New Mexico State finished with a winning record was in 2002, and the time before that as 1978. The program has won just 40% of their games they have played. 

          This year’s Aggie team is making strides under fourth year head coach Doug Martin. They have found some offense in 2016 and knocked off Lousiana-Lafayette for the second straight season back in October. Their 3-7 record could be much better if they had not lost the services of star running back Larry Rose III for three games. Rose III was basically a twenty carry running back prior to his injury, and has been eased back. Last week in the win over Texas State, Rose III looked like his old self with 168 yards on the ground. The 50-10 win was the most lopsided of the season, as the Texas State busses were involved in an accident en route to the game, which was eventually delayed. 

             New Mexico State is the top passing offense in the Sun Belt as junior Tyler Rogers has tossed at least one touchdown pass in every game except one this season. He has eclipsed three hundred yards on three occasions, including a 445 yard performance against Troy where he was bogged down with five interceptions. Despite leading the conference in yards, as a team New Mexico State is only eighth of eleven Sun Belt teams in passing efficiency. The Aggies are one of four Sun Belt teams coming in at under seven yards per pass attempt. The volume comes from game flow, and when teams know its coming, its easier to defend down the field and in the pocket. The Aggies give up three sacks per game, while the Mountaineers are tied with Troy sacking the opposing quarterback twenty-six times this season. 
          

          We suggested the cure for the App State offense would be Monroe, and boy was it. The Mountaineers put up a season high 637 yards of offense, powered by a 429 yard effort on the ground, which was also a season high. The result was a 9.2 yards per play average, which is basically unheard of. Taylor Lamb was solid with a 208 yard game, including his sixtieth career touchdown pass to Ike Lewis from sixty yards out. Lamb added 92 yards on the ground while Jalin Moore chipped in a ho-hum 135 rushing yards on thirteen carries. The offense will look to feast again on a very subpar defense that ranks 118th in the country. 

         
        As much as Monroe was improving last week, we can not go with out saying how much better New Mexico State has played at home this season. All three wins by the Aggies this season have come at home, and their only home loss was to Georgia Southern, who they really should have beat. New Mexico State exploded for fifty points last week, which may have more to do with Texas State’s unfortunate drive to the game than what the Aggies were able to do. Texas State turned the ball over five times and likely had their minds somewhere else. Unfortunately for the Aggies, they face a statistical mismatch against the Mountaineers. The Aggies are going to need Appalachian to be completely uninterested in playing, force turnovers and score points on almost every possession. That is unlikely to happen, as the Mountaineers have defensively accepted every challenge that has been thrown at them in conference play. Expect the Mountaineers to test the outer edges of the Aggie defense as two of the better linebackers in the league, Rodney Butler and Dalton Herrington man the interior and weak side of the formations. Look for at least one sack from Keenan Gilchrist or Devan Stringer as both New Mexico State starting tackles are freshman. 

The First Pick

Toy Guns 13

Mountaineers 42

2016 Tailgate Menu

Unlike last year, when kickoff times were unpredictable and so were the so-called tailgating policies, Appalachian’s home schedule appears to be a tailgaters dream. Fans of Appalachian football have been blessed with six home football games, all on Saturday. Two games have announced kickoff times; Old Dominion on September 10th at 3:30pm and Miami, the following weekend at noon. The remainder of the schedules kickoff times will be announced usually the Monday the week before the game. We might have to adjust our menu on the fly if needed. The last game of the season has started earlier in the afternoon than the usual 3:30pm kickoff. 

For those who are familiar with our process, you can probably skip this paragraph. For those that are new to the tailgate, and there will be several new faces, here is the deal. For six home games, a $50 donation, per person, $100 per couple, covers everything. A main course and everything that comes with it from propane to paprika. A full donation or as we prefer to call it “tailgate dues” are always appreciated at the beginning of the season. For those who prefer to spread it out throughout the season, no worries, we are flexible. For those are coming to one or two games, just ask on gameday, and we’ll give you a fair price. Bartering is encouraged and expected. 

The first game of the season brings on the Old Dominion Monarchs. This was one of the tougher games to come to a theme for the tailgate. Monarchs are pretty boring overall. They sit on their throne forever until they die, or someone kills them. What do we make that smokes on a grill for a long time before they are destroyed? Our baby back ribs is what. Easily the most popular meal we’ve made over the years, it’s fitting for a king. 

How do we welcome five-time national champion Miami to Boone? With our rendition of the Cuban sandwich. We’ll use five toppings, ham, salami, Swiss cheese, pickles, and our secret ingredient, a Carolina style smoked pork tenderloin to give the famous Cuban sandwich a local twist. For the less hearty appetites, we’ll also fry some eggs for a more brunch-like feel for a high noon kickoff. 

Black Saturday will greet Georgia State for this third home game of the season. The leaves may be turning or the weather could be rather warm for October 1st, so we’ll change it up from our typical championship chili. The last time Georgia State came to Boone, we all experienced a nice snow storm that left the Panthers with zero points on the scoreboard. Chicken and blueberry waffles were a hit two years ago, and they will make their second all-time appearance on the menu. 

The Homecoming opponent is Idaho and we all know what that means. The tradition of a Thanksgiving meal for Homecoming has been in place since at least 2002. We see no need to change what has been working for such a long time. If you remember, the last time Idaho was in town, loaded baked potatoes with the championship chili was served. 

The first weekend of November brings in a new Sun Belt opponent for the Mountaineers. Texas State will make its first visit halfway across the county with a new coach, Everett Withers, who was formerly the coach at James Madison and also spent time in Boone as an assistant. For the inaugural game against the Bobcats in #FunBelt play, we’ll try our hand at a Texas favorite; brisket. Some take their brisket(the chest muscle of the steer), with a savory sauce and others prefer it dry. 

Concluding the same home slate, we’ll finish with a familiar recipe, but not so much for the locals. Louisiana is known for the French dishes, and nothing beats a piping hot bowl of jambalaya in mid-November. The UL-Monroe Warhawks also have a first year head coach in Matt Viator, who spent his previous ten seasons as head coach of his alma mater, McNeese State. 

Appalachian MBB @ Hofstra

A special opportunity exists this afternoon for Appalachian State and heach coach Jim Fox. The Mountaineers will suit up against Hofstra in the worlds most famous arena, Madison Square Garden at 1pm. 

The Apps have struggled recently, as freshman players adapt to the speed and physicality of the college game and a new rules package that emphasizes less contact. Despite the tough start, Appalachian is slowly putting it together. Playing the complete game still has yet to occur as poor shooting and turnovers have been what has plagued the Mountaineers. 

Hofstra has started the season 5-2, with a marquee win over Florida State. The Pride are a high scoring bunch, averaging 85.3 points per game and shoot the ball well in all three phases of the game. Four players are scoring in double figures led by Juan’ya Green with 18.4 points per contest. Green also dishes out 7.6 assists per game. Theier offense runs through Green, accounting for over 30 points per game alone. The Apps will need a big defensive effort to contain him. 

The current spread is Hofstra -13.5, which is down from the opening line at 17. I hate doing this, picking against the Apps, but they have been on the road for several games consecutively and the Pride are playing in their backyard. I’ll take Hofstra at -13.5 

Appalachian Football @ Georgia State

Here we go with Week 5

Appalachian State (3-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ Georgia State (1-3, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Saturday October 10th, 3:30 PM

TV/Video: ESPN3

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 100.7 Bristol

Georgia Dome

Surface: FieldTurf  Classic HD

Capacity: 28,155 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 67.50
Georgia State: 44.02

Home: 2.71

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -16

Series: App State leads 1-0

Last Meeting: App State 44, Georgia State 0; November 1, 2014 (Boone, NC)

Weather: For tailgating purposes, Good chance of a passing thunderstorm 71/58

          Try as some may, downplaying weather conditions in a football game isn’t the wisest decision. Doing so for a football game played in Boone, is even more foolish. Most of you have spent a significant amount of time the High Country and know that any given day can possibly be the most beautiful or miserable of settings. The Mountaineers have likely had their share of rain for a football season, and luckily, this week they get a reprieve in the form of the Georgia Dome. As much as elements in Boone can be advantageous for the home team, the same can be said for Georgia State and their indoor borrowed playground. Appalachian could not have asked for better conditions last season in their throttling of the Panthers. The somewhat unseasonable blizzard like conditions rendered the Panthers pass happy offense useless while Appalachian ran it down the throats of the visitors defense. Georgia State will look for revenge as their home turf provides a perfect venue for their offensive attack. Indoors, there are no elements to stymie a football and its path from the quarterback to a receiver. The wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t get in the eyes of a receiver, and climate is controlled to a point of perfection. Forget everything that happened last year in Boone. That game was the exception and not the rule to how this Sun Belt rivalry, the closest geographically speaking, will play out. 

          It was expected that Georgia State would be vastly improved this season. Instead of getting behind early with lopsided losses, the Panthers had a good chance to get some wins against a few manageable opponents. On the opening weekend of the college football season, Georgia State played UNC-Charlotte on a Friday afternoon. In a game that the Panthers could not afford to lose, they did, all while embarrassing the conference and giving the 49ers their first FBS win, if you want to call it that. Georgia State could only muster twenty points despite turning their opponent over five times. The Panthers did win at New Mexico State the following week, earning their first Sun Belt victory, before regressing in their last two games, allowing a combined 102 points to Oregon and FCS Liberty. 

         So what can be made of this 1-3 Panther team? A team that arguably was thinking about 3-1 at this point, has not made progress under Trent Miles. Remarkably, Miles is still employed as a football coach at the Division I level. His two wins in 2+ seasons in Atlanta is a disgrace. In seven full seasons as a coach, his teams have finished with 1 win or less on four occasions. Barring an unforeseen turnaround, Miles and his Panthers will likely be heavy underdogs in the remainder of their games. It will be tough for an athletic director to believe that staying the course is what is best for their program. 

           For all of the flaws that Georgia State has as a program, the bright spot is quaterback Nick Arbuckle. The senior leads the Sun Belt in just about every meaningful quarterback category. Arbuckle’s 345.8 passing yards per game is also good enough to be 7th nationally. He is already thrown ten touchdown passes on the season and is on pace to throw thirty touchdowns for well over 4,000 yards. For all his chart topping numbers, Arbuckle isn’t perfect. Arbuckle has been very prone to throw interceptions throughout his career. Arbuckle threw seventeen intercpetions last year, or one every 25 attempts. This season he is only on pace for 15 interceptions and has only thrown a pick on every 30 pass attempts. Those interceptions don’t come in bunches, it just isn’t a part of running an offense that throws a lot. On top of throwing at least one interception in each game this season, that streak carries over into the last five games of the 2014 season. In his last nine games, Arbuckle has thrown fourteen picks. 

           Georgia State will throw the ball to pratically anyone in their offense. Thirteen different players have caught a pass this season, but the main share of targets goes the direction of three receivers. Penny Hart is their leading receiver as a freshman and is getting close to 100 yards receiving per game, Hart leads the team in catches, yards and touchdowns. Robert Davis is also active with twenty receptions  while averaging close to 75 yards a game receiving. Arbuckle’s favorite target in 2014 was Donovan Harden, who just saw his first action of the season last week in the loss to Liberty. Harden pulled in 5 receptions for 179 yards, which included a 76-yard touchdown reception. 

          For Appalachian, this season has been a see-saw affair offensively. Taylor Lamb has had two ugly games, against Clemson and last weekend to Wyoming. One game had one of the better defenses in the country while the other saw what is likely to be worst weather conditions for throwing the football. Regardless, this team is not built to have Lamb go out and win the game. If he is throwing thirty times a game, the Mountaineers are in trouble. This team is built to run and run they will. The Mountaineers trail only Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt, averaging 298 yards a game on the ground. Oddly enough, Appalachian has used the running game to get down the field, but has been passing more when they cross into opponents territory. The Mountaineers have five rushing touchdowns on the season. Only two of those belong to primary running backs Marcus Cox and Terrance Upshaw. 

          For now the third straight week, Appalachian will face a defense that really struggles, and that might be putting it nicely. The Panthers are giving up a very balanced 494 yards a game, 205 on the ground and 289 in the air. Liberty was deliberate in beating up the Georgia State defense and basically did whatever they wished to the Panthers. The Mountaineers are likely to continue doing what they do best. Like I mentioned last week, until someone can prove you wrong, keep doing it. Taylor Lamb will get his chances to get back in a groove which is important once you enter conference play. The important part of this game is the momentum. Appalachian cannot afford to let Georgia State stick around. The Panthers passing game can score from anywhere on the field without notice. They run the ball basically to give their receivers a quick rest and show no intentions to establish a run game. That would play right into the Appalachian defense that has been stingy against the run, outside of last weekend. Georgia State is going to have to play perfect and keep from turning the ball over to have a chance. The Panthers have have shown that an Arbuckle interception will happen and they have also lost six fumbles on the season as well. The Mountaineers will likely score more points, but I forsee a dominant defensive effort looming for Appalachian. I’ll take the Mountaineers to end up +2 in turnover category and cruise to a three possession win. 
          

        
The First Pick:
Stray Cats 24
Mountaineers 42

Wyoming @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 4
Wyoming (0-4, 0-0 Mountain West) @ Appalachian State (2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)
Saturday October 3rd, 3:30 PM
TV/Video: ESPN3
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 100.7 Bristol
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf
Capacity: 23,150
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:

App State: 68.53

Wyoming: 42.37
Home: 3.37
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 29.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -25.5
Series: Wyoming leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Wyoming 53, Appalachian 7; September 4, 2004 (Laramie, Wyo.)
Weather: Rain and gusty winds likely. Temps  steady in the low to mid 50’s

         Winning football games are hard. Over the course of a game, eleven players on the field at a time must beat another eleven players over three hours and 150 plays or so. When your team scores more points over that period of time, it is a satisfying feeling. The margin of defeat can sometimes get in the way of how satisfying those feelings are. Appalachian shuting out Old Dominion on Saturday to the tune of 49-0 was widely unexpected. A game where the oddsmakers and the Sagarin ratings index lined up was also quite irregular. Perhaps the drubbing that ODU received from NC State the prior week was enough to lean in Appalachian’s favor by over a full touchdown. Maybe it was the respectable, scoreboard-doesnt-tell-whole-truth loss the Mountaineers suffered at the hands of Clemson. Somewhere between those two results was the actual truth: Appalachian laid down a soul-crushing beatdown of the Monarchs. If the game were played nine more times, you’ll plausibly see closer scores, but unlikely a different result. The Mountaineers are playing that well right now on the defensive side of the ball. Wyoming will bring a talented but young and inexperienced group to the mountains to face a team that is on fire, who has won eight of nine games while recording three shutouts in the same span.  
          To be brutally honest, Wyoming has had a tough start to their 2015 season. The Cowboys schedule set up nicely before Mountain West conference play was to begin, with three home games in their first four games. But the Cowboys had trouble mounting the horse and stumbled to North Dakota, an FCS school in their opener. The following week, 4,500 fewer fans showed up to watch the Cowboys get thumped by an Eastern Michigan program that has been in the dumps for years. Washington State and New Mexico continued the trend with double digits wins over Wyoming. Beyond being 0-4, and losing every game by over ten points, Wyoming has surrended 207 yards rushing per game to their opponents and allowed 5.2 yards per carry and twelve rushing touchdowns. This bodes well for Appalachian, who is fresh off a 303 yard rushing performance last weekend. 
         Wyoming is in need of several recruiting classes in order to get the program turned around. Currently, Wyoming is playing more freshmen and redshirt freshmen than almost any other FBS program in the country. Only Clemson has played more of those types of athletes this season. Likely, the Pokes will continue to take their lumps playing so much youth, but that is exactly the risk Appalachian State took in 2013. Without a postseason to play for, Scott Satterfield decided to prepare for the future and that seems to be paying off. Eventually the ahletes get older and better and the results will show. In the meantime, the Cowboys  will have a tall task in front of them to avoid losing ten games this season. 
          Allthough many losses are on the horizon for Wyoming, they will be entertaining to watch. They like to run their offense with tempo and their preference is the power running game. They employ several tight ends in their sets and use the wide receivers to block quite often. With the Pokes having to play from behind most of the season, it has led to some decent looking statistics for quaterback Cameron Coffman. The redshirt senior leads the Mountain West in passing yards at 314 yards per game. Coffman started his college career at Indiana, where he averaged 248 yards per game as a Hoosier. Coffman looks a lot like Johnny Manziel in the pocket as he is quick enough to avoid a rush and keep the play alive, but Coffman doesn’t  like to scramble upfield. His prefence is to keep looking downfield and hit an open receiver. Coffman’s athleticism will be fun to watch, especially if Appalachian shys away from sending pressure. 
             Sophomore running back Brian Hill has hit the century mark twice this season, in the last two games, and will be one Appalachian must keep an eye on early in the game. Hill appears to be in line for an increased role this Saturday as senior Shaun Wick has already been ruled out to an injury. Wick had a chance of becoming Wyoming’s all time leading rusher entering the season. Hill is a bigger back at 6’1 and 204 pounds and really fits what coach Craig Bohl wants to do with the power running game. Hill lined up several times against Washington State as the wildcat option and was successful in those situations. Hill ran for 242 yards against Eastern Michigan, the fourth highest total by any FBS back this season. Hill had more yards on fewer carries that ODU’s Ray Lawry did against the same Eastern Michigan team. 
          After another strong performance from the Appalachian offense at ODU, the Mountaineers will face an opponent for the second straight week that struggles defensively and the weather pattern appears to nearly mimic the conditions from last weekend. The App running game will once again be called on to help control the clock and battle the conditions. Even more so than last week, the ground attack will play right into a major weakness for Wyoming. Wyoming is also thin on the edges of their defense. The Pokes do have two 300-pound tackles, but at the defensive end, the size drops to 250 pounds on both sides. That is great size for a pass rusher, but it is improbable that Appalachian passes much this Saturday. Taylor Lamb only threw fifteen passes against ODU and four went for touchdowns. 

          Seems like a lazy gameplan doesnt it? With the rain, let’s run the ball, because that’s what we do well and what they don’t. Eventually, Appalachian will run into some resistance with a strategy like that. In meantime, the Mountaineers are going to ride the horse that got them where they are. Hopefully Appalachian can get to a point in the game where we can see them using several backs and keeping Marcus Cox and Terrance Upshaw  fresh before the conference slate begins. Jalin Moore had a fantastic touchdown run last weekend and Josh Boyd was also impressive on his five carries. Wyoming is gonna score some points this weekend. The Cowboy offense has shown enough versatility this season to able to take what the opponent gives them and adjust during the game. The big difference for Wyoming is that they will be facing their toughest test on offense by facing the Mountaineer defense. The previous three FBS defenses the Cowboys faced are not much to speak of. Eastern Michigan is ranked 118th in total defense. New Mexico comes in at 68th, much of that due to their ball control option offense, and Washington State is ranked 61st, with an incredibly weak schedule that includes Rutgers & FCS Portland State. I think the spread might have gotten out of hand this week and expect for Wyoming to keep it interesting early, but everything about this game points to an easy Mountaineer win.

          
        

The First Pick:

Cowgirls 20

Mountaineers 41