Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Wofford 10/31/2008

Here we go with Week 9:

#3  Wofford (6-1, 4-0 T1) @ #2 Appalachian State (6-2, 4-0 T1)

Time: 8pm

Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     68.06
WC:    67.35
Home advantage: 2.68 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 3 ½  points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 14-10
Last Meeting: Wofford 42, ASU 31; September 22nd, 2007


The folks at ESPN could not have hand picked it better. When they decided to broadcast their first regular season game from the FCS ranks, it is pretty obvious they chose Appalachian because of the recent success, and Wofford, for being the first team to beat Appalachian after the much heralded win over Michigan in 2007. It just so happened the game was scheduled the night after Halloween. ESPN offered moving the game to Halloween and putting the game on ESPN2. Who could say no to that? What ESPN didn’t know was how the season was going to play out. Wofford and Appalachian are both undefeated and tied for first in the conference title race. In fact, they are one last minute James Madison come from behind victory away from having a game as the top two ranked teams in the country. I think ESPN will settle for a game between #2 Appalachian and #3 Wofford with the home team having revenge on their minds. People have been looking forward to this game ever since the match up was announced, even before ESPN got into the mix. The excitement was going to be there regardless. It has been twelve years since two teams in the conference have been undefeated and playing each other this late in the season. The loser of this match will have an uphill battle to win the conference and will be forced to run the table to secure a possible home playoff game. To the winner goes the inside track to a conference title and a near lock for one of the top four seeds in the upcoming playoffs. Anyone excited yet?


Before the season, most critics felt this would be a rebuilding year for Wofford. The Terriers lost several key seniors, including a quarterback who started the majority of his career. Many did not think that Wofford would be in this position two months ago. Give all the credit to head coach Mike Ayers for making this team believe it had what it took to contend for another championship. Ayers coaches his teams to be extremely disciplined and play together as a team. Evidence to that is the fact that Wofford, although not the least penalized team in the conference, has been penalized for the least amount of yardage this season. Wofford also leads the conference in turnover ratio with an astounding +15 margin. What is more is amazing is that Wofford has only turned the ball over five times on the season.


The Wofford offense is led mainly by three seniors. Quarterback Ben Widmyer has thrown for 742 yards and seven touchdowns and has rushed for 475 yards and six touchdowns. In doing so, he has completed a ridiculous 69% of his passes and has led Wofford to being the most efficient passing team in the conference. Tailback Dane Romero is the leading rusher for the Terriers with 518 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns. Romero has the lowest rushing average of Wofford rushers with over 30 carries on the season. Wide receiver Andy Strickland has caught 21 passes for 415 yards and five touchdowns. Strickland has caught 38% of the all the completed passes for the Terriers this year.


A lot of what Wofford does on offense is considered old school football. The only problem, is that old school football, when executed properly can make defenses look extremely silly. The Terrier playbook is full of misdirection and counters, speed options and reverses. The goal of any defense when playing Wofford is to play assignment football. Stay with your man. Just because your man doesn’t have the football now, chances are good that he might be getting it, especially if you leave him to pursue. That lesson goes for every player on the field. Wofford has seven players with over 25 rushing attempts on the year. Also, ten different receivers have caught passes. They will give the ball to whoever is open and give every player a chance to beat you.


For the first time in recent history, Appalachian faced a gimmick defense and was stifled all day long on offense. Armanti Edwards ran for 16 yards on 16 carries, but picked up the slack while completing 16-24 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns. Edwards has now played five straight games without an interception and his 15:2 touchdown to interception ratio is tops in the conference for passers with over 100 attempts. Devin Radford ran for 90 yards, but 84 came on one run in the second quarter. Brian Quick was also responsible for a 44 yard pass reception, but only had one other catch on the opening drive of the game.


The Appalachian defense answered the bell when they were most needed. With the Mountaineer offense struggling, the defense recovered their first three fumbles of the season. Two of the fumbles occurred in the red zone on what looked to be certain Paladin scoring drives. Mark Legree made a nice interception on the sideline on Furman’s opening drive of the second half which also killed any Paladin momentum. The only negative were the adjustments made during the game. Furman struggled to move the chains in the first half and decided to test the Mountaineer rushing defense up the middle. Furman had plenty of success which I am sure the Wofford coaches saw when watching film.


There are so many variables when comparing Appalachian and Wofford. Both teams lead the conference in points scored, total offense, rushing offense and passing efficiency, red zone defense and interceptions. Neither team is very consistent when it comes to penalties, kickoff coverage or time of possession. Sounds to the average football fan like this one could be a shootout with the last team with the ball winning. However, there are plenty of variables that someone cannot decipher from statistics. Both teams came off very emotional victories last week. Wofford had no trouble in defeating Elon and ringing up 55 points along the way. Appalachian found victory in defeating a long time rival in a game that was much closer than the final scored indicated. Wofford racked up its second highest point total of the year. On the other hand, Appalachian scored only 26 points, its second lowest amount of points this season. I think this sets up a potential letdown game for Wofford. If the points don’t come as easy, teams tend to get frustrated and try to do too much. Appalachian was guilty of that last week. I also think this sets up an  opportunity for the Mountaineers to have an offensive explosion. Rarely, this late in the season, does Appalachian struggle offensively in consecutive games. Another variable is the big bright lights of ESPN2. Appalachian is a perfect 12-0 on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU. Wofford has not had the chance to prove themselves on national television like Appalachian has. Wofford nearly lost a 37 point halftime lead last year on the road when facing Western Carolina on ESPNU, before holding onto a three point win. The last time the Terriers played in Boone, Armanti Edwards had started just his fifth career college game. Last year, Edwards was not completely healthy after injuring his shoulder in the preseason and against Michigan. Wofford has been lucky to avoid Armanti Edwards at full strength. Wofford has played their last three games in front of a combined total of 23,331 fans. This year Appalachian is averaging 29,150 fans at home games. I think the crowd noise, particularly on Halloween night will be a factor. The picture I have in my mind is the last time ASU played at home on a Friday Night, against Richmond. There were roughly 24,000 fans in attendance, but there was a buzz, a very unique atmosphere that night that might be duplicated on Friday evening. I think all the chips are stacked against Wofford. They certainly have a fine team, that could easily beat Appalachian on any given day, but I have a gut feeling they will find themselves on the short end of the witch’s broomstick.

The First Pick:

Scrappy Pups            42

Happy Apps               49

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. South Carolina State Playoffs Round 1 11/29/2008

Here we go with The First Round:

#13 South Carolina State @ #2 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     73.91
SCSU:    55.86
Home advantage: 2.77 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 21  points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 1-0
Last Meeting: ASU 24, SCSU 0; November 17, 1984


This years Selection Sunday was less suspenseful than the same Sunday evening in 2007 for Appalachian State. Instead of the questions of who and where, the question this past weekend was more along the lines of who? Most Mountaineer fans and playoff experts had it narrowed down to a few teams, depending how much emphasis that the selection committee placed on the economy and geographic proximity. Finally, the draw was the South Carolina State Bulldogs from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The stage is now set. The Mountaineers march into the playoffs will begin like it has the last three seasons, at Kidd Brewer Stadium, where the Mountaineers have won 41 of their last 42 games and twelve in a row.


South Carolina State has the chance to surprise the Mountaineers. In 2005, Appalachian faced another unfamiliar foe in Lafayette. The Leopards received the lone bid from the Patriot League and Appalachian was also the second seed. In 2006 and 2007, Appalachian faced Coastal Carolina and James Madison in the first round, teams they had defeated at home in the previous seasons. Lafayette gave Appalachian a good game before falling 34-23. South Carolina State is in the same spot, the lone automatic bid from their conference and once again, Appalachian is the second seed. The difference between Lafayette in 2005 and the 2008 South Carolina State team is speed. South Carolina State has it and Lafayette did not. Also, The Bulldogs run a Multiple Pro I formation, which also has spread tendencies, compared the Lafayette and the offense of days past, the I formation.


William Ford is the most dangerous player for SC State. Ford has rushed for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ford has a very quick first step and can sometimes get lost in the backfield considering the size of quarterback Malcolm Long (6-3, 257). Ford is complimented well by backfield mate Travil Jamison who has run for 567 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ford is the smaller, quicker back at 5-11, 185 pounds while Jamison runs for the tough yards at 6-0, 200 pounds.

Malcolm Long has some of the best receivers in the MEAC to throw to. Oliver Young has caught 47 passes for 587 yards and four touchdowns. Phillip Morris has reeled in 35 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns and NC State transfer Octavius Darby has 26 catches for 450 yards and four touchdowns. In all, five different Bulldogs have four or more touchdowns between the backs and receivers. SC State really likes to spread the ball around and it shows on the stat sheet.


Appalachian advanced to the playoffs by running the table in the Southern Conference, posting a perfect 8-0 record. The last time Appalachian had a unblemished league record was in 2006, when they won 14 straight games to close the season. The Mountaineers rested some players against Western Carolina in order to be prepared for the playoffs and they gave other players their chance to shine. DeAndre Presley started his first career game and was awarded as the conference freshman and offensive players of the week. It was the first time in seventeen years that the conference had given two awards to the same player. Presley started in the absence of All-SoCon quarterback Armanti Edwards, who was still recovering from a hip pointer. Edwards expects to start for the Mountaineers against SC State.


The difficult task in comparing teams from different conferences is judging the strength of the conference. The MEAC has been a league that has received one bid to the playoffs for several years. The Southern Conference has been a multiple bid conference for as long as I can remember. It seems this year, like most others, the Southern Conference is strong than the MEAC. SC State has some very impressive statistics, especially on the defensive side of the ball. SC State has limited opposing offenses to 248 yards per game. They also limited teams to only 2.6 yards per rushing attempt. They have only given up 23 touchdowns and have shutout their last three opponents. However, I don’t think those numbers could hold up if the Bulldogs had to play the likes of Wofford, Elon and Georgia Southern. Appalachian’s statistics cant hold up to SC State in certain circumstances. However, any team that can hold an arch rival to 72 total yards has to have a good defense. Appalachian has proved each week that they have one of the best red zone defenses and can really go after the football by forcing 25 turnovers.


So what does it all add up to? We could be looking a shootout on Saturday. SC State scores right at 30 points a game and Appalachian averages 39.3. The two teams combine for 851 yards of offense a game. But this is different. This is the playoffs. Each possession is important and sometimes, if you are not accustomed to the pressure, players can do overplay. Despite the relative youth, these Appalachian players know what it takes to play in tough games. Appalachian battled back after trailing Western Carolina in the first half. Elon scored late in the second half and took a slim lead before Appalachian rallied. SC State has not had to play a tough game for almost a month now. They have cruised to extremely lopsided victories. How will SC State respond if they get down early? That may be the toughest hurdle for SC State to overcome. If the Bulldogs can stop the Mountaineers in the first quarter, they will become more confident and the longer you let a team hang around, the better they feel about winning. The first quarter is the most important for SC State. The Bulldogs must also avoid penalties. SC State has averaged 7.8 penalties for 72 yards per game this season. That is roughly 9.2 yards per flag. Appalachian will be able to move the ball on SC State, and the Bulldogs don’t need to help the Mountaineers with their field position. I think this will be a very tough game. William Ford is the real deal and Appalachian has struggled with stopping the run between the tackles. SC State must control the clock and keep Appalachian off the field. It will be a difficult thing to do considering SC State has only averaged 27:12 of possession per game. I think this is the game where Appalachian finds success through the air and makes a couple huge defensive plays.

The First Pick:


Dog Tired             27

Mount Up              41

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Richmond Playoffs Round 2 12/6/2008

Here we go with The Quarterfinals:

#7 Richmond @ #2 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

TV: ESPN Gameplan
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     73.04
UR:    73.01
Home advantage: 2.83 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 3 points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 4-2
Last Meeting: ASU 55, UR 35; December 7, 2007


Win or go home. Survive and advance. Whatever you call, all it takes is having more points than the opponent at the end of sixty minutes. You win to play another day. The next day will be this Saturday. For the first time in Appalachian’s playoff run since 2005, they will play an opponent for a second time. In each of the previous three seasons, Appalachian played 12 different schools in as many playoff games. When the Mountaineers take on Richmond on Saturday, the memories of the last game between these two schools are very vivid. It was a spectacular night and every thing went the right way for the Mountaineers. Appalachian hopes to duplicate that same atmosphere and the results in the round of eight.


Richmond was considered a playoff team all year in 2008. They impressed many critics with a very convincing win against Elon on the opening weekend of the season. They followed with a loss to Virginia and win over Towson. That schedule was very similar to Appalachian’s schedule. Appalachian played a tough out of conference game against James Madison, a BCS foe in LSU and an easy game in Jacksonville. The only other losses for Richmond were to playoff teams Villanova and James Madison, who will play this weekend.


Looking at statistics, it is easy to see that Richmond has a great defense. The Spiders have only allowed 98 yards per game on ground and 16.2 points per game. The Spiders have only given up 251 yards of offense per game and have only allowed 23 total touchdowns. However, once you start digging and comparing how Richmond did in their two conference losses, you find something different. Against JMU and Villanova, Richmond gave up 32 points per game. They gave up 226 yards to both teams in the running game. They also allowed 362 yards in offense in both games. All statistics were way up from their season averages against teams that were very well matched against Richmond.

In the 2007 game, all of the Mountaineer defensive focus was on stopping future Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower. This year will be no different as Richmond will use Josh Vaughan, another big running back with NFL potential. Vaughan has run for 1,503 yards and 16 touchdowns. He helps Richmond control the clock as the Spiders averaged 32:40 of possession per game. Most likely, Richmond will try to control the clock, just like they have been all season, and just like every team that has played Appalachian. Quarterback Eric Ward is leader in the huddle. The quarterback has thrown for 2,311 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions. More than Hightower in 2007, Ward impressed me with his ability to know when and when not to scramble out of the pocket. Richmond’s offensive line gave up 23 sacks for 141 yards and even with those yards lost, Ward still managed to gain 270 yards on the ground to go along with six touchdowns.


Appalachian got off to a fast start on offense against South Carolina State. Unfortunately the first drive ended with a fumble inside the five yard line, which gave the Bulldogs the chance to score first and force Appalachian to come back from an early deficit. That has been an unwelcome theme for the Mountaineers in the last two games. Appalachian suffered from the turnover bug in its previous game against Western Carolina as well. Against a team like Richmond, turnovers will eventually haunt you. The Mountaineers need to take better care of the ball or else they could find themselves taking a very early exit from the playoffs.


Defensively, Appalachian held their own by only giving up 3.8 yards per carry against SC State. They did not allow any points in fourth quarter and only allowed Malcolm Long to complete 17 of 41 pass attempts. That has been the consistent theme for the Mountaineers all year long. Appalachian has only allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 48% of their passes and has intercepted 19 passes. The run defense has only allowed 4.2 yards per carry as well on the season. The defensive side of the ball has won Appalachian many games and will have to do the same against Richmond. The Appalachian offense will get their points, but the onus will be on the linebackers to contain the scrambling ability of Eric Ward and the running game of Josh Vaughan.


It is hard to talk about these two teams and not hark on the last game they played nearly a year ago at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Armanti Edwards created his personal highlight film as he rushed for a record 313 yards on the ground and had a part of seven total touchdowns. This year will be a little bit different for both teams. Appalachian has been a team riddled by injuries and the lack of consistency from the running backs has forced them to become more pass oriented. That was extremely evident as Armanti Edwards threw for a school record 433 yards against SC State. Edwards has thrown for 631 yards and 12 touchdowns more than the 2007 campaign and has run for 650 less yards than the previous year. Richmond will have a totally different team to prepare for. On the other hand, Richmond’s offensive tendencies and philosophies have remained the same. Richmond still wants to control the ball and run first, pass second. The huge difference is that Appalachian’s defense is much stronger than last year’s unit, allowing only 20.2 points per contest and have been stronger in the run defense as well. Vaughan is a bruiser and does not have the breakaway speed that Hightower did. Ward will have to pass to beat the Mountaineers, but that has been a huge hurdle for Mountaineer opponents. The Mountaineers will have Devin Radford back in the lineup and the Spiders will have to respect his game breaking ability. In all, I think the Mountaineers have too many weapons on both sides of the ball and I don’t think this years Richmond team can match up as well as in 2007. The Richmond defensive backs average 5’10” and I would love to see who matches up against the 6’4” Brian Quick. This game may not be easier for the Mountaineers, but I think the margin of victory will be much more convincing than last week.


The First Pick:


Black Spiders           17

Black Rain                34

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Louisiana State 8/30/2008

Here we go with Week 1:

Appalachian State @ LSU

Time: 5pm EDT

Stadium: Tiger Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Capacity: 92,400
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     69.22
LSU:    92.51
Home advantage: 2.87 points
LSU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 26 points (rounded).

Series: LSU leads 1-0
Last Meeting: LSU 24, ASU 0, November 5, 2005


“The summer gets longer every year. Especially when your team is the two-time defending national champions. It gets even longer when you open on the road against a high profile opponent. The 2007 edition of Mountaineer football may play its toughest opponent in program history this weekend when it heads to Michigan’s famous “Big House”, which comes in just a few seats shy of 108,000. In 2005, many of the same players played in front of 93,000 fans down in Baton Rouge. That was a lot of people. Add on another town the size of Boone to Tiger Stadium and you get Michigan Stadium.”


That right there is how I started the 2007 campaign. I think its significant, because in the first few sentences, I could have written the same thing, changed a couple words around and nobody would have noticed. The ironic part is the reference to Tiger Stadium. Who would have known we would be kicking off the 2008 campaign against LSU. Would have gone something like this:


“The summer gets longer every year. Especially when your team is the three-time defending national champions. It gets even longer when you open on the road against a high profile opponent. The 2008 edition of Mountaineer football may play its toughest opponent in program history this weekend when it heads to Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, aka “Death Valley” , which registered on a seismograph during a game in 1988 against Auburn.”


Enough irony and talk for now, it’s time to talk football.






Louisiana State University has many questions heading into this weekend and some of those questions have nothing to do with football. In the wake of Katrina, officials are taking all precautions with Hurricane Gustav looming as it enters the Gulf Of Mexico. Gustav has already claimed 22 lives in Haiti and that certainly hasn’t helped matters as those in charge are having to make decisions on whether to have a football game or not this weekend. In 2005, ASU was to play LSU on the same Labor Day weekend before the game was rescheduled to later in the season.


The other question facing LSU, is who will start at quarterback for the Bayou Bengals. After Les Miles’ decision to let go of the troubled Ryan Perrilloux, it left a huge void in the backfield. Miles then had three unproven quarterbacks in a virtual dead heat going into spring drills. Andrew Hatch and Jarrett Lee were the front runners through fall drills. Lee injured his back a couple weeks ago in practice, which opened the door for Hatch, but Miles has still yet to name a starter as of prediction thread press time. Supposedly Lee’s back issues are not a problem and Miles says there is a good possibility that Hatch, Lee and true freshman Jordan Jefferson will see time under center on Saturday evening.


Besides the obvious uncertainty of the quarterback situation, LSU seems to be stacked at all other positions on offense. The running game will be led by a couple of bruisers, Keiland Williams and Charles Scott. Both backs are about 5’11 and tip the scales right around 230 pounds and that will pose a tough task for the Mountaineers defensive line that will be outweighed by nearly 35 pounds per player. Clearing the way will be veterans Ciron Black, Herman Johnson and Brett Helms, who were voted as preseason All-SEC players.


Defensively, LSU lost arguably one of its best lineman ever in Glenn Dorsey, but they return another couple of studs who will do their best to slow down the ASU offense. Tyson Jackson and Ricky Jean-Francois are both on the Bednarik watch list for the Best Collegiate Defensive Player. Linebacker Darry Beckwith is also on the Bednarik watch list and looks to be a sure fire first round NFL draft pick as well.


For Appalachian the story begins and ends with Armanti Edwards. After the victory over Michigan last year, Edwards started gaining national attention as one of the best spread quarterbacks in college football. It seems though, that all of the best quarterbacks in college football are in an offense the implements some form of the spread offense. Armanti Edwards will surely be the “best” quarterback on the field on Saturday, but Edwards isn’t the only player that makes the Mountaineers tick. Containing Edwards rushing abilities may help LSU win, but there are plenty of other players the Tigers must contain.


Appalachian lost a good core of their offensive line to graduation, but stepping in are young players who received invaluable playing time throughout the 2007 season. Brett Irvin is solid at the center position and shouldn’t be fazed by the stadium or crowd noise. His first career start came against Michigan. Daniel Kilgore played tight end at times last year, but has changed his number and has moved to right guard. Brad Coley takes over at left tackle as Mario Acitelli moves back inside to his normal position at left guard, which was vacated by Kerry Brown.


Although ASU lost some of its top receivers from 2007, it may be the Mountaineers deepest position on the field. Sophomore CoCo Hillary returns from a season in which he logged total yards in five different positions: quarterback, wide receiver, running back, punt return and  kick return. He may be ASU’s best offensive player not named Edwards. Rounding out the receiving corps is senior T.J. Courman, possession receiver Josh Johnson and redshirt freshman Brian Quick who blocked one of Michigan’s field goal attempts last year.


Despite losing all-time leading rusher Kevin Richardson, Appalachian is as deep at running back as it is at wide receiver. Although Devon Moore is the only proven returnee with 459 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2007, backups Robert Whelton and Cedric Baker have been impressive in spring and fall practices and will surely get carries as the season progresses. Virginia Tech transfer Devin Radford is one of the fastest Mountaineers on the field and will certainly get a couple touches against the Tigers.


The Appalachian defense lost some key players from 2007 to the tune of the entire secondary and perhaps one of the best defensive backs in school history, Corey Lynch, who was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. However, the entire line backing corps return including SoCon preseason player of the year Pierre Banks, leading tackler Jacque Roman and D.J. Smith who has been compared to ASU’s best ever linebacker Dexter Coakley. Vanderbilt transfer Quavian Lewis looks to provide a pass rush along with 2007 leading sacker Tony Robertson. Stopping the run will be Georgia Military transfer Malcolm Bennett and All-American Anthony Williams.


This is first game in college football history that matches up the defending BCS and FCS champions. LSU is the first two time BCS champion and Appalachian has won three straight titles of its own. In the past 5 years, there have been 10 national titles awarded on the Division I level of football and these two schools own half of them. Talk about a battle of the champions. Both programs get the best athletes available to them. Across the nation, LSU is after the top ten high schools athletes at every position. At Appalachian, they are after what other BCS conferences don’t want. It is not rare to see Mountaineer recruits mention other BCS schools in the same breath as Appalachian in the recruiting circles. This is one reason why this game will be exciting. Both teams have lost important players and the newcomers want to prove they belong, especially in the first game of the season. Surely there will be some rust being the first game of the year. LSU has been noted to have a power running game and nobody blames them with their big running backs and lineman. ASU will use all of their weapons the field in order to keep defenses guessing. LSU is certainly favored in this game, seeing that they are one of the top programs year in and year out, but ASU plays and practices as if they have a chip on their shoulder. Despite the love fest for Armanti Edwards, many sportswriters in the past weeks have come out and said that history will not repeat itself. The win over a Michigan was a fluke. Appalachian’s speed will not be a difference against LSU. I am not here saying the Mountaineers will win by any means, but everyone knows that its not impossible that they could win. LSU will start an unproven quarterback, whoever it is, and that is enough in my mind to feel like this game isn’t as safe for LSU as some college football experts think. Eventually  LSU will have to throw the ball and hit some completions down the field, to keep ASU from stacking the box. ASU’s spread attack will be able to move the ball up and down the field and will score some points. I am guessing at least three touchdowns. I will be surprised if LSU is able to score at will, especially with an untested quarterback. Neither team can afford to give the other a short field. I would not be surprised at all by a shootout. My only question for ASU is the fact that they return only 12 starters from last year. Those 12 guys are playmakers on both sides of the ball, but I think the inexperience in this game may lead to ASU’s demise. ASU’s unbeaten record (12-0) on ESPN is in jeopardy.

The First Pick:

Mike                    31
Yosef                   21

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Jacksonville 9/6/2008

Here we go with Week 2:

Jacksonville @ #1 Appalachian State

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     71.55
JU:    21.83
Home advantage: 2.87 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 53 points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a


Home sweet home. That thought crossed my mind as soon as I found out about last week’s game being moved up six hours. I knew the rest of the weekend wouldn’t feel right. At that time I was somewhere in Alabama and all I could think about was how the rest of the weekend was going to be a blur. Not enough sleep, not enough tailgating and certainly not enough down time after the game before getting back on the road again. After running away from Gustav and being lazy on Labor Day, all I wanted to do was get back to normal. Get back home, have a week to prepare for a home game where I knew the weather wouldn’t dim my spirits(fingers crossed, thanks Hannah). After the spanking we received from LSU, hopefully it brought everyone associated with ASU back down to earth a little bit. Cloud Nine finally started falling somewhere in the first quarter where ASU looked like a team that couldn’t do too much right. No complaints here, I was on the cloud with everyone else, but LSU was simply more athletic than Appalachian was and made sure they wouldn’t become the second coming of Michigan.


Jacksonville University is somewhat of an unknown to the Mountaineer fan base. The Dolphins have only won 39 games in the existence of the football program, a feat that ASU has easily accomplished in just the last three championship seasons. They will likely start a true freshman quarterback in Josh McGregor, who sparked a dormant offense to 20 second half points in their win over Savannah State. Their best player is probably wide receiver Geavon Tribble who is on pace to break school records in receptions and receiving yards. The leading rusher is Rudell Small who carried for 109 yards on 25 carries. Small was responsible for 68% of the rushing attempts against Savannah State.


The Jacksonville defense may be suspect to the running game. Savannah State had four different players with over 30 yards rushing against the Dolphin defense. However, Jacksonville was able to pressure the Savannah quarterbacks into completing only 10 of 28 passes and forcing one interception. The defense also forced 10 three and outs against Savannah State.


Jacksonville does appear to have some playmakers on its roster. Eight different receivers caught passes. Their punt return average was over 9 yards per return and their kick return average was also decent at 20 yards per return. Another sign of great athleticism is the fact that the interception was returned for 62 yards. Their 21 fist downs and 31 minutes of possession show that they know how to run their offense. Most likely , they will try and chew off as much clock as possible against Appalachian’s high scoring offense.


As previously mentioned, Appalachian struggled mightily against LSU. Both of the LSU lines were dominant. Armanti Edwards didn’t have much time to throw all game long and the Tigers were able to stop the running game before it started. It was only the second time in his career that Edwards attempted over 30 passes in a single game. The 41% completion rate was the worst for any game in his career as well. Defensively, Appalachian couldn’t get a pass rush at all and that made it extremely hard to cover the LSU receivers. LSU also ran for 266 yards on 40 attempts.


If there were any bright spots for ASU against LSU, it was the kicking game. Jason Vitaris connected on kicks of 24 and 44 yards and was also good on his only extra point. The punting game was able to keep LSU from breaking any big returns by punting the ball with plenty of hang time in order for the coverage unit to get down the field and contain or force fair catches. When is the last time we talked about the ASU kicking game in a prediction thread? Just goes to show what kind of game it was for Appalachian.


Just like last weekend, this game will be a game of first for both schools. For Jacksonville, it will be the first time playing a top ranked team in the FCS and will also be the first game against a member of the Southern Conference. For ASU, it will be the first game in the newly expanded Kidd Brewer Stadium which now seats just over 20,000. Depending on the weather, ASU may have its first home crowd with attendance over 30,000.  ASU has never lost to a team from the Pioneer League and ASU is 17-2 in home openers under Jerry Moore. Jacksonville is touting ASU as its biggest test in school history, so they will be playing with nothing to lose. The Dolphins have a relatively young team at most of the skill positions and none of their players have played in an atmosphere quite like Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Dolphins will need several breaks to go their way in order to win on Saturday. The 53 point spread is the most lopsided spread since I have been writing the prediction thread. Covering it may be difficult, but ASU will certainly want to make sure they are crisp heading into an off week before the much anticipated game against James Madison. Hopefully Armanti Edwards will play no more than the first half and give way to freshman DeAndre Presley. Most likely you will see lots of rushing yards from the ASU offense, and I will predict at least two players with 100 yards rushing in the game. Although anything can happen on a given Saturday, I am praying for the Dolphins that ASU does not take out all of last week’s frustrations out on them.

The First Pick:

Tuna Salad          10
Moonshine           62

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Furman 10/25/2008

Here we go with Week 8:

#18  Furman (6-2, 3-1 4th) @ #2 Appalachian State (5-2, 3-0 T1)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     67.04
FU:    59.42
Home advantage: 2.79 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 10 ½  points (rounded).

Series: Furman leads 21-14-3
Last Meeting: ASU 34, FU 27; October 27th 2007


Last week, we talked about rivalries and the fans got exactly what they paid for. Two teams with no desire to lose, fighting to the last play. No sooner can the media, fans and coaches rehash what some have called one of the most exciting games in the existent of the Southern Conference, the Mountaineers have to get right back to work as another rival, the Furman Paladins come to Boone for “Black Saturday”. You want close football games? Look no further than the series between Furman and Appalachian State. Eight of the past nine games have been decided by one possession. In many instances, just like last week against Georgia Southern, the games have been decided in closing moments. Corey Lynch sealed a victory in 2007 with a last minute interception. In 2005, Furman was able to block an ASU field goal attempt in the regular season, while Jason Hunter knocked the ball loose from Ingle Martin’s grasp in the National Semifinal game in the closing moments. In 2004, Richie Williams scored a touchdown with thirty seconds left to secure a one point win. And in 2002, Derrick Black and Josh Jeffries combined for a defensive two-point conversion return that has gone down in ASU history as the “Miracle on the Mountain”.  It seems each year in this rivalry writes a new heart throbbing chapter that tries to top the last one. As always, these two schools fight for conference supremacy and playoff positioning. Appalachian hopes to keep pace with Wofford and Elon while Furman hopes to get a much needed “quality win” in their chase to make the playoffs. Furman. Appalachian State. Late October. Kidd Brewer Stadium. Black Saturday. What else is there?


Similar to Georgia Southern, Furman has installed a very non-traditional offensive attack. Furman, which has always been a team that runs first and passes second, has gained roughly 60% of their total offense through the air by way of Jordan Sorrells. In eight games, the junior has completed 62% of his passes for 1764 yards and 15 touchdowns, second in the conference to Elon’s Scott Riddle. Sorrells main target is Adam Mims who has 36 catches for 418 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Mims is also Furman’s leader in punt return yards, with eight returns for 114 yards. That is a 14.2 yard per return average that is slightly skewed by a game against Colgate, where he had 3 returns for 92 yards. Take that out and his average drops to 4.4 per return.


Despite being a tad overshadowed by the passing game, you must always respect the Furman running attack. Mike Brown is the Paladins leading rusher and is as fast as any back in the conference. Brown leads the team with a 621 yards and five touchdowns. Brown is a versatile back who will remind Appalachian fans of Kevin Richardson, as he has also caught 22 passes for 242 yards. Behind Brown, there is not much depth to the Furman running game. Replacing a Paladin legend like Jerome Felton is hard to do, but that job falls in the hands of freshman Tersoo Uhaa, who has 188 yards on 48 attempts. Uhaa is tough to tackle as he stands at 5’8” and 200 pounds, and can get tough yardage when needed. Uhaa had a career high 11 carries against The Citadel last week.


Furman has always had pretty good defenses, even when their teams were young. Furman has given up only 327 yards and 20.2 points per game which is good enough for third best in the conference in both categories. Furman switched defensive philosophies last year to a 4-2-5 alignment. Basically, there are two inside linebackers and two cornerbacks with three safeties. Three defensive starters for the Paladins rank in the top 10 in tackles in the conference. They are led by defensive back William Middleton who as 66 total tackles, three sacks, three interceptions and nine defended passes. Linebacker Brandon Williams is leading tackler with 68 total tackles, 31 solo stops, and 8.5 tackles for loss.


It may sound like a broken record, but it’s a record that keeps playing over and over again for Appalachian. Armanti Edwards has shown for the last three weeks why he is one of the best football players anywhere. Edwards accounted for another 333 total yards, five more total touchdowns and maybe most importantly, zero turnovers in the win against Georgia Southern. In three conference games this year, Edwards has totaled 1008 yards and has been responsible for 15 touchdowns. Edwards has not thrown an interception in 97 attempts and became the first player since Adrian Peterson to win three straight conference offensive player of the week awards.


With each passing week, Appalachian has found a play or two on offense that they felt could exploit opposing defenses. Against Georgia Southern, to keep from the Eagles from stuffing the box, Appalachian threw four out patterns to Josh Johnson, which went for 49 yards. On each completion, they chains moved for a first down. Those four plays and Johnson’s sure hands were enough to give Appalachian some room in between the tackles to keep the defense guessing. Last year, against Furman, Appalachian had Armanti Edwards and Kevin Richardson run for over 100 yards on the way to 300 total rushing yards. I think Furman is suspect to the middle of the field. The five defensive backs have accounted for a total of 10 interceptions but their job is to keep the offense in front of them. You might see more short passes from the Mountaineers this week in order to keep the Paladins from feasting on errant passes in the secondary.

The last time these two schools met in Boone, the game was somewhat of an aberration. The Mountaineers gave Furman a 40-7 loss that stands as the most lopsided victory for the Mountaineers in series history. The game was knotted up just before half as Furman lined up for a field goal attempt. Corey Lynch blocked the kick and scooped the ball up and raced to the end zone for a seven point Mountaineer advantage. Furman was too deflated after halftime to muster a charge. I do not imagine a similar result this time around. Furman will be very steady on offense and will use the clock to their advantage. Furman leads the conference in red zone touchdowns, which is a compliment to how stable their offense has been. Bobby Lamb has seen enough videotape of the Appalachian offense and knows keeping Armanti Edwards off the field will be to his advantage. As has been in past Furman games, turnovers will be very important. Although both teams are in the positive in terms of turnover margin, Furman has lost 10 of 14 fumbles and Appalachian leads the conference with 12 interceptions. Appalachian has only turned the ball over 10 times this year to Furman’s 15 total turnovers. The Appalachian secondary must be up to the challenge as Furman has only given up 7 sacks on the season. Appalachian showed an inability to consistently get to the passer against Georgia Southern as Antonio Henton racked up close to 300 yards passing. This game is probably biggest for the Mountaineer linebackers. Furman likes to throw underneath crossing routes and short hooks. The linebackers will also be held accountable to make plays in the running game. The defense showed tremendous heart against Georgia Southern and I think it will carry over against Furman. Jerry Moore will be gunning for his 200th career win and there is not a sweeter victory for Appalachian fans than to beat Furman. This game will be close throughout, but I think Armanti Edwards is too much for the Paladins to handle in the end.

The First Pick:

Purple Pansies            27

Golden Rods               38

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. The Citadel 10/4/2008

Here we go with Week 5:

#12 The Citadel(3-1, 1-0 T2) @ #2 Appalachian State (2-2, 0-0)

Time: 3pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     60.49
Cit:    58.77
Home advantage: 2.87 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 4 ½  points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 25-11
Last Meeting: ASU 45, Cit 24  November 3rd, 2007


Finally. This will be the first normal game of the year. It appears that the weather is going to cooperate with sunny skies and cool temperatures to go along with a nice mid-afternoon kickoff at “The Rock”. Three games this season have been impacted by some type of poor weather and the other was an away night game. To keep with the normal theme, it will be the first conference game of the season as well. And finally, The Citadel game is back to its somewhat normal scheduling spot of the season by playing as one of ASU’s first conference games of the season. The past two seasons, ASU and The Citadel played in the opening days of November. To break the theme, Homecoming is upon us and that always brings a huge crowd to Kidd Brewer Stadium as some fans make one of their only games of the season.


The Appalachian-Citadel rivalry was a good one for the first 22 games of the series. It was not until the Jerry Moore era that Appalachian started to dominate the Cadets. Appalachian has won four straight games and has taken 13 out of 14 against the Bulldogs. The last year in which the series was competitive was in 1992, which coincidentally was also the last time The Citadel won a game in Boone.


Last year, The Citadel and about half of the conference, were fighting for first place and possible playoffs spots before facing the Mountaineers. The dominating performance by Armanti Edwards and the rest of the Mountaineers diminished any hopes that the Bulldogs had of winning a championship or advancing into post season play. This season will be slightly different as the Bulldogs have already claimed one conference win and the game will be the conference opener for Appalachian. This year will be similar as this game will have early season implications on the playoffs. The Citadel brings in its lofty #12 ranking into Boone, hoping they can upset the Mountaineers before they can find their groove.

Quarterback Bart Blanchard will lead the charge for The Citadel. Blanchard will not a be a surprise to the Mountaineers. Blanchard started against the Mountaineers after starter Duran Lawson suffered a season ending knee injury. Blanchard completed 20 of 36 passes in that game, including one touchdown and one interception for 197 yards. The interception was thrown in the direction of DJ Smith who returned it for a 23 yard touchdown.  Blanchard has also been somewhat inconsistent while throwing ball this season compared to last. Although the interception he threw last year was against the Mountaineers, it was the only one for the rest of the season. This year, Blanchard has thrown six interceptions to seven touchdown passes. He threw three in a loss to Clemson and two last week against Western Carolina.

The rest of The Citadel’s offense runs through playmaking wide receiver, Andre Roberts who has caught over a third of the Bulldogs’ completed passes. Roberts is averaging 6.5 catches and 110 yards per game to go along with six total touchdowns. Although never starting a game, the Bulldogs’ leading rusher is Asheton Jordan who has run 48 times for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The Cadets starting tailback is Cody Wilson has amassed on 73 yards on 21 carries.


Appalachian came out of the gates last week against Presbyterian by wanting to establish a passing game. Armanti Edwards threw for 220 yards in the first half alone despite Appalachian dropping numerous passes and drives stalling right as they entered the Blue Hose red zone. A good portion of those yards were supplied by tight end Ben Jordan who hauled in three catches for 97 yards and Devin Radford who caught his only pass for a 72-yard touchdown. Jordan is making some Appalachian fans remember the days of great pass catching tight ends like Daniel Bettis and Frank Leatherwood. With the loss of Devon Moore to injury, Radford added a much need boost to running attack for the Mountaineers. Along with Robert Whelton, the Apps now have a good power and speed combination out of the backfield.


The Mountaineer defense had some struggles against Presbyterian in stopping the passing game. Losing key players on the defensive line and in the secondary forced some very young players to get their first starts. Jabari Fletcher and Lanston Tanyi received some much needed repetitions on the line and Jared Reine and Ed Gainey got work in at cornerback as well. With a younger line and a young secondary all of a sudden, the Apps may go through some growing pains on defense. This is the time when veterans like Pierre Banks and Leonard Love need to step up and serve as leaders on a defense that got real young, real fast.


The one thing you can always count on from teams from a military school is a discipline. They will always be in the right position on offense and defense. What the schools can lack of the loads of athleticism, especially to teams like Appalachian. These men are not trained to win battles on the football field, but on another field of battle. However, the players are capable of doing what it takes to win football games. Although The Citadel’s non-conference schedule was not full of name teams with football rich traditions, they still had to go out and win those games. The heart that was shown by the Bulldogs is coming from behind and beating Princeton at home is something that cannot be measured. However, during the spread offense era of college football, the Bulldogs have simply not had what it takes to keep up with the Mountaineers. Appalachian has beaten the Bulldogs on average by 26 points in the last three games. The reason they have been able to obtain their high ranking is due to preseason media hype and a college football world that has upsets nearly every weekend. In order to prove to the country what they are made of, Citadel has to go out and beat Appalachian in Boone, where they have won 37 of the last 38 games. A minor detail for this game will be the health of Armanti Edwards, who suffered a twisted ankle against Presbyterian. All reports say that the ankle is getting better each day and Armanti expects to play, but in the back of Jerry Moore’s mind, he must be thinking about bringing back Edwards to soon last year against Wofford. That game resulted in ASU’s first loss of 2007. Freshmen DeAndre Presley will be ready to go if needed and he had some great runs last week. Presley runs a little bit lower to the ground then Edwards and dances more compared to Edwards’ long strides. In the past few games against The Citadel, the Apps have been the more physical team up front and have not had to rely on passing the football as much. I expect a game plan where ASU plans to attack the Bulldog front line and wear them down. Cortez Gilbert will be the man to stop Andre Roberts and I think he will be held well below his season average. This one could be a very interesting game in the first half, but ASU should run away with this one as the game wears on.

The First Pick:

Pups                 20

Apps                 38

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Western Carolina 11/22/2008

Here we go with Week 12:
#2 Appalachian State (9-2, 7-0 1st) @ Western Carolina (3-8, 1-6 8th)
Time: 3:00pm
TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Whitmire Stadium
Surface: Gameday Grass
Capacity: 13,742
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU: 74.63
WCU: 45.72
Home advantage: 2.92 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 26 points (rounded).
Series: ASU leads 53-18-1
Last Meeting: ASU 79, WCU 35; November 10th 2007


Mountaineer fans will always have a special memory when thinking about playing Western Carolina. It has nothing to do with the fact that this series has been dominated by Appalachian since its inception. It has nothing to do with the “Old Mountain Jug” that sits at Owens Field House, year after year. The 2004 game in which Appalachian squandered a late fourth quarter lead and gave one the Catamounts will be the game Appalachian fans will remember most. It was the next day that folks were calling for our head coach to resign. At the same time, Jerry Moore decided there was time for a change. The Appalachian offensive scheme was changed from a pass heavy no huddle offense, to the offense they have to this day, the run heavy no huddle spread attack. Since that fateful November night in 2004, Appalachian has won 48 of its last 56 football games, including three national championships. Western Carolina decided to make a change the day after the most lopsided loss to Appalachian in the “Old Mountain Jug” era. They fired the entire coaching staff after the 79-35 thrashing. During the offseason, they hired Dennis Wagner for one reason: Beat Appalachian. Wagner has improved the Catamounts. They did break their oblivious SoCon losing streak by defeating Chattanooga and have won three games this season and lost a tough game at home to Georgia Southern. The tide is turning in Cullowhee and Dennis Wagner will face one the main objectives in his job description. Can the Cats play the spoiler like 1998 when Appalachian was all but assured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs? Or, will the Apps take care of business like usual?


For the most part of the season, the Catamounts were employing a dual headed quarterback system. The rotation has been between and Zach Jaynes and Adam Horn. Jaynes has been the guy under center in the last three games, losses to Elon and Georgia Southern and a win over Chattanooga. Jaynes has thrown for 1100 yards and ten touchdowns on the season, with four interceptions. Horn, who last received significant playing time in the loss to Wofford, has thrown for 1074 yards and seven touchdowns and only one interception.

Receiver Adam Hearnes is Western’s “CoCo Hillary”. The former quarterback in high school has now become the Catamount’s leading receiver with 47 catches for 415 yards and three touchdowns and has also seen some time under center with 100 yards passing and one touchdown. Also leading the Western receivers are Marquel Pittman with 39 catches for 561 yards and four touchdowns and Donald James with31 catches 319 yards and two touchdowns. The Western rushing attack is led by Quan Warley who has rushed for 644 yards and two touchdowns. Warley makes up for 52% of the total rushing yards for Western on the season. Sadly, for the Catamounts, Pittman, James, and Warley are considered doubtful for this weekend’s game.

The Mountaineers know all too well about how injuries can affect a football team. It seems as the Mountaineers have not a full stable of running backs since the beginning of the season. Devon Moore, injured in the James Madison game, is likely seeking a medical redshirt. Devin Radford has been in and out of the lineup with a shoulder injury. Robert Whelton has had a bum ankle for weeks, but continues to grind it out. All of those injuries have forced Josh Jackson and Matt Cline into the spotlight and they have filled in admirably. Armanti Edwards has also taken a hit as well, as he has been expected to get more carries with all of the hurt running backs. Edwards suffered two different injuries last week: a bruised knee and a hip pointer. The knee is supposedly ok. The hip is causing a few more problems but Coach Moore expects him to play. Regardless of how hurt Armanti is or is not, the key to the spread offense is to have a quarterback that is 100% healthy. A quarterback who is hurt is an extreme disadvantage. I would much rather have DeAndre Pressley in than Armanti hurt, despite the implications.

Every two years, this is the game that worries me the most. Playing at Western is a little creepier than playing in Boone. Western’s last two wins in the series have been in Cullowhee. It has been since 1984 that the Catamounts last won in Boone. Just stating facts, Western’s football program has been at the bottom of the conference for several years now. More often that not, this game means to the Catamount faithful more than any other single game. It is usually the last game of the year and the Catamounts have nothing to play for other than pride. Meanwhile, for the past three years, for Appalachian, it is a game that you want to get out of with no injuries, pick up the win, and get ready for the playoffs. That is the exact same situation we have in 2008 as well. A win by Western Carolina would be an upset, which would be no different from the norm. I am sure there are some Catamount seniors that would love to forget the 79 points that was on the scoreboard after last years win in Boone. Most likely, 79 points might be the total points for both teams this year, considering how young both teams are and the injury situation. Western likes to control the ball, and will use a short passing game to move the chains and run the ball to keep the defense honest. They average over 33 minutes of possession per game. Despite the ball hogging, it has not resulted in a lot of points. Western is averaging 18.3 points per contest. On the other hand, the Mountaineer defense has been stifling in the last four games, giving up only 15.25 points per contest, against some of the better offenses in the conference. Western leads the conference in pass defense, a statistic that is very misleading. Their rush defense has been giving up 197 yards per contest, something that Appalachian will surely attack. Teams have not needed to pass on Western when they are having so much ease running the ball. On paper it just doesn’t make any sense. With or without a healthy Armanti Edwards, the Mountaineers should take this game with ease. The Jug will ride to Cullowhee for a visit and then return to rightful resting place in Owens Field House.
The First Pick:
Kitty Kat 13
Big Bad Apps 35

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Samford 10/11/2008

Here we go with Week 6:

#2 Appalachian State (3-2, 1-0 T2) @ Samford (3-2,1-1 T4)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Seibert Stadium
Surface: LSR Blade Synthetic

Capacity: 6,700
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     64.32
SU:    53.70
Home advantage: 3.14 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 7 ½  points (rounded).

Series: Series tied 1-1
Last Meeting: Samford 42, ASU 35  November 7th, 1970


Welcome to the Southern Conference, Samford University. You have already learned that in this conference, every weekend is a new game, where any team can win. You gave playoff contending Elon a scare at their house by staying close before losing by just a mere six points. You also found out first hand, just how bad the situation is in Cullowhee. Western Carolina scheduled you for their Homecoming game, but nobody told the mighty Samford Bulldogs. This week, you get to play the best there is to offer in the Southern Conference: three-time defending national champion Appalachian State. Although the Mountaineers may run the ball 70% of the time and the team  may not be as fast as Ole Miss, there is one thing I am sure, you won’t catch us snoozing or overlooking the Bulldogs.


While scoreboard watching and seeing that Samford was hanging with Elon and beating Western, many people wondered. What do they have down there? It is the their first year in the conference. They are not supposed to be any good. Can they beat the Apps? Certainly, they can. That is why you play. But what really makes Samford who they are?


First off, they have a former Heisman trophy winner as a head coach in Pat Sullivan. After his playing days at Auburn were over, Sullivan coached at Texas Christian and Alabama-Birmingham before taking over at Samford prior to the 2007 season. Samford finished at 4-7 during his first year. Secondly, the Bulldogs defense has not been allowing too much of anything. They have allowed only 21 points a game in the last three contests (Ole Miss, Elon, Western Carolina). Against the powerful Elon passing attack, they forced Scott Riddle into three interceptions and three sacks  while only allowing two touchdown passes. Lastly, Samford’s offense is fairly run oriented. They are a team that controls the clock. Against Elon, they controlled the ball for 33:24. Against Ole Miss they held the ball for 34:08. They are averaging as a team 4.6 yards per rushing attempt and average 44.4 rushing attempts per game.


The Bulldogs are led by freshman quarterback Dustin Taliaferro who has thrown for a very efficient 640 yards in five games. Taliaferro has completed two-thirds of his pass attempts on the season. Chris Evans is main man at running back for Samford. Evans has run for 579 yards and six touchdowns in five games this season. He averages 21.8 carries per game and 5.3 yards per carry behind one of the biggest offensive lines in the conference. Their line averages 315 pounds per player.


It appears the Mountaineers have found their groove on offense. Armanti Edwards threw for a career high four touchdowns and led the team with 305 total yards against The Citadel. The rotation of Devin Radford and Robert Whelton at running back worked nicely as they combined for 94 yards rushing. Radford, for the second straight week, has shown he is dangerous with the ball in the open field as he took a screen pass 68 yards for a touchdown. A nice change of pace was set by Matt Cline, who carried four times for 49 yards. Seven different receivers caught passes for the Mountaineers and four different players caught touchdown passes.


The Appalachian defense was smothering. The Apps held The Citadel 145 yards below their total offensive production. Bart Blanchard was only able to complete 41% of his passes. The Citadel running attack could only muster 2.4 yards per rushing attempt. The Bulldogs could only convert six of its 19 third down attempts. In almost every key statistical category, Appalachian held The Citadel below their season averages.

The key to this game will be how Appalachian comes out in the first quarter. Although the first quarter against The Citadel was uneventful, the Apps exploded for 34 points in the second stanza. Two costly turnovers helped the cause for the Mountaineers. A Citadel punt attempt sailed over the head of the punter and on the ensuing possession, Pierre Banks intercepted a pass that set up ASU with another short field. That is what the Apps have been known for in the past, jumping out early and cruising to the win. Samford is not a team that is going come back from a large deficit and win. Their offense is not designed for it. Appalachian’s defense is third in the conference in turnover margin and every turnover has come by way of interception. Those ten interceptions are also tops in the conference. Appalachian also leads the league is passing efficiency defense, only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 53% of their passes. On the other side, although Samford likes to control the clock, Appalachian in turn does not need very much time to score. ASU’s longest drive against The Citadel went 11 plays for 89 yards and took 4:55 off the clock. The remaining scoring drives all lasted less than three minutes, with three drives lasting less than one minute. I don’t think Samford has the horses to get in a shootout with Appalachian and I don’t think Appalachian is going to be held under 35 points. The turnover battle may be the battle that Samford can win to give them a shot. Samford (+5) is one of three teams in the conference ahead of Appalachian(+3) in turnover margin. Also, Samford leads the conference in kickoff returns at 24 yards per return. That is certainly something Appalachian fans did not want to hear. However, what they gain in those categories, the Bulldogs lose in others. Samford is the most penalized team in the conference in terms of yardage at 63.9 yards per game and in turn, their opponents are penalized the second fewest at 38.6 yards per game. I see this being a fairly close first half. Samford will be able to burn some clock while trying to keep Edwards and Co. off the field. The Apps will break it open with a key interception and the flood gates will open up. Although Samford has only allowed 83 yards per game on the ground, I predict at least two ASU players will break that barrier on Saturday.

The First Pick:

Quizno’s                       10

Mountain House           31

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Presbyterian 9/27/2008

Here we go with Week 4:

Presbyterian @ #3 Appalachian State

Time: 7pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf
Capacity: 21,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     65.39
PC:    34.01
Home advantage: 2.87 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 34  points (rounded).

Series: Presbyterian leads 9-7
Last Meeting: PC 27 ASU 25, November 8th, 1969


It has been awhile since an Appalachian team in any decade has taken a three touchdown lead into halftime and lost the game. I don’t think I am old enough to remember any type of game, so I will let some of the more veteran Mountaineer fans answer that. Jerry Moore coached teams rarely give up any type of lead in the second half. It had been since 2003 when ASU had given up leads at halftime to Chattanooga and in the third quarter to Western Carolina before what transpired last Saturday. Hats off to James Madison. They did what they had to do and Appalachian did not. That however was just one game and one game does not make a season. The rest of the season starts this weekend as the Mountaineers host their first regular season night game since defeating Liberty in 2001. Presbyterian’s colors are similar to those of the Liberty Flames. Hopefully, the result will also bear some type of resemblance, a twenty point victory for the Apps.


Presbyterian can say something about Appalachian that not many FCS football programs can. The Blue Hose have beaten Appalachian nine times to only seven Mountaineers wins. That puts the Blue Hose in the same category as Furman and Northwestern State. I could name a few others, but for arguments sake let us limit that statistic to a minimum five games played and schools that have active football programs.


Luckily, for Mountaineer coaches, the films they received from Presbyterian included three conference opponents, Wofford, Elon and Western Carolina. The staff should have a pretty good idea of what will and won’t work against the Hose. To no surprise, Wofford ran all over them to the tune of 367 yards, and Elon passed over them for 421 yards. Western Carolina couldn’t have been more balanced, rushing for 242 yards and passing for 241 yards. All in all, Presbyterian gave up an average of 285 yards rushing and 269 yards passing to Southern Conference schools. Seems as if anything will work against the Blue Hose. Maybe the real question is what can the Hose do to Appalachian? In the same three games, the Hose scored 18 points a game and averaged 225 yards passing and 68 yards on the ground. When I think of the best defensive teams in the Southern Conference, Elon and Western Carolina certainly don’t come to mind. And for Wofford, their best defense is their offense. The numbers surely are not in favor of Presbyterian as they get ready to play a national contender under the lights.

If there is a bright spot for Presbyterian heading into this weekend, its their quarterback Tim Webb. Last year, in Presbyterian’s transitional year to Division I, Webb threw for 648 yards against North Greenville. This season, Webb has thrown for 956 yards and seven touchdowns in the Blue Hose’s spread attack. The primary beneficiaries of the Webb’s 91 completions on the season have been Terrance Butler(24 catches, 317 yards) and running back Stanley Worrell (20 catches, 148 yards). Worrell is also the teams leading rusher with 40 carries for 146 yards (3.7 ypc).


For the Appalachian offense, the story is simple. Right now, Armanti Edwards is a one man show, and that is not a good thing. Edwards, pound for pound is one of the best players in FCS football, but he needs help. Eventually, Edwards is going to need some blocking and some open receivers, or else defenses will key in on him and whoever Appalachian lines up at running back. As a team, throwing for 140 yards a game isn’t that bad, however, completing more passes is important. To date, Appalachian quarterbacks have completed only 49% of their attempts and are averaging 6.2 yards per attempt. The completion number needs to be closer to 60% and averaging 8 yards per attempt will keep linebackers and linemen from pinning their ears back and chasing the quarterback. That in turn, makes the running game much more successful. The theme at practice this week should have been about protecting the quarterback. If Edwards has time to throw, receivers will get open.


The Mountaineer defense and special teams did its job for the first half against JMU. After that, not so much can be said. One bad kick return was followed by a couple missed assignments and the next thing you knew, the game was back on. A gut-wrenching 10 play, 87 yard drive in the fourth quarter where JMU converted three straight third downs and pushed the lead to eleven points was more than the Mountaineers could handle. They simple did not come out of the gates in the second half with the same intensity as they did in the opening quarters. The defense must find a desire from deep within before the conference slate starts. A kick return and punt return in the last two games also does not bode well for the special teams. You can be sure if the special teams are not shored up soon, teams like Georgia Southern and Elon, who have speed in those positions will take advantage when they can.


A night game at Kidd Brewer Stadium is an exciting time. The most exciting game last year was the Richmond game by far. Although there were only a little more than 24,000 fans in the stands, it seemed like twice as many. The Hose played in front of just over 7,000 fans in road night games at Wofford and Elon this year. Kidd Brewer Stadium is sold out and I expect nothing short of 32,000 fans for this contest. How will Presbyterian handle the pressure of facing the three-time defending champs in an atmosphere as electric as “The Rock”? I am not sure that they can. They certainly have not proved it thus far against other Southern Conference teams. If they do have one thing going for them, it is the injury situation on the ASU defensive line. Tony Robertson could be out up to six weeks and Quavian Lewis will likely sit this one out with a knee bruise. That leaves Appalachian very young at the defensive end position. Presbyterian will try to exploit the inexperience with screen passes to the running backs. The linebackers for ASU must be ready to make open field tackles. Appalachian must find a rhythm in this game and the passing game must get on track. Nobody is going to wait for the Mountaineers to find their groove. The Blue Hose will be overpowered by the ASU running game eventually and look for close to 600 yards total offense for the Apps.

The First Pick:

Socks              14

Boots               49