Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Wofford 10/17/2009

Here we go with Week 6:

#9 Appalachian State (3-2, 2-0 2nd) @ Wofford (1-4, 0-2 T7)

Time: 3pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Gibbs Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 13,000
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     57.58
WC:    50.33
Home advantage: 2.98 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 4 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 15-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 70, Wofford 24, October 31, 2008


The gauntlet of the schedule has arrived. There are no more non-conference games. The meat is here. From now until the end of the season, Appalachian faces its toughest string of games. In the past, the next three opponents have been considered the toughest stretch of games when the Apps face Wofford, Georgia Southern and Furman. The rule of thumb was, get past those three and you have a pretty good shot at winning the Southern Conference and making the playoffs. The rule has changed. A surprising team has emerged in Chattanooga and Elon continues to improve each year. However those surprises should never diminish the task at hand. The most important game is always the next one. Wofford is next.


Last Halloween, Wofford ran into the perfect storm. It was a night game in Boone, on the night of a very popular occasion and the ESPN’s cameras showed up to watch a battle of two of the top ranked teams in the country. What transpired for three and half hours on that night is surely something Wofford players have not forgotten. That is what makes this game scary. Wofford is looking for a little revenge. Secondly, Wofford is off its worst start since 1987, when they started 0-5. In 1988, Mike Ayers was hired and this is the first time in Ayers tenure that the Terriers four of their first five games. Finally, Wofford had an extra week to prepare for the Mountaineers. In Wofford’s case, that extra week off works in their favor as they have had many illnesses and injuries hamper their efforts this season.


The first thing that comes to mind when you think of Wofford is the style of football they play. The wingbone attack consists of many misdirections and counters in order to get the defense running the wrong way. It is very similar to the spread rushing offense that Appalachian runs. The quarterback reads the defense and calls a play from the line of scrimmage. Based on what the quarterback sees, he decides what to do with the ball. Wofford will show you a lot of inside fakes to the fullback and pitchouts to the outside, where generally the tailback has a step on the defense. This offense is always hard to defend, no matter the caliber of athlete. The principle of the wingbone offense is to take the athleticism out of the game and beat your opponent with trickery. Appalachian’s style of offense thrives on having quicker athletes. Both styles are successful, as both Appalachian and Wofford are in top ten in rushing offense in the FCS.


Where most of Wofford’s struggles have occurred are on the defensive side of the ball. The Terriers are giving up 32.4 points per contest and are ranked 112th in passing efficiency defense. They have also been giving up 172 yards on the ground a game which does not bode well for their ball control style. Wofford has also been dominated in time of possession. They have only held the edge in possession in one game, their lone win over Charleston Southern.


Appalachian finally had their breakout game against North Carolina Central. The Mountaineers fell in quick hole to Central by committing two turnovers that the Eagles took in for touchdowns and were quickly down 14-7. However the steady ground finally broke Central as Appalachian finished with 407 yards rushing. Junior Devon Moore recorded his third one hundred yard outing of the season with 11 carries for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Armanti Edwards chipped in 97 yards on 10 carries and two more touchdowns. Edwards did throw his first interception of the season and looked less than crisp while passing for 237 yards. Edwards completed only 58% of his passes, which is disappointing, considering his 70% clip he had been completing passes before last week.

There are a lot of different intangibles in this game that are worth noting. We all know Wofford has had its troubles this year. However, they are still Wofford and the chance of them putting their complete game together is coming sooner than later. They will surprise a team this year in the Southern Conference and it is sad that their season has come to that. They will always persevere and that is something that is in the back of the minds of Appalachian fans. Wofford needs something to turn their season around and what better than revenge from the Halloween massacre of 2008. Despite their losses to date, their season will be made with a win on Saturday. It seems we say that a lot, but as long as Appalachian continues to win, it will be that way. However, I don’t think we will see an upset in Spartanburg this Saturday. Wofford is just way to young on defense. Their secondary is extremely suspect. That will always be the case when you have a team that runs the ball every day in practice. Plus, I doubt what they had from last year got much better, and Appalachian torched them a year ago. They are also starting two freshman linebackers and their run defense is lacking. Their inefficiencies on defense has contributed to their offense not being on the field. Wofford opponents have converted 46% of their third downs. Keeping a young defense on the field that much also leads into the fact that 17 of the 21 touchdowns Wofford has allowed came within the red zone. The Terriers simply cannot get other teams off the field unless they have visited the end zone first. The only remedy for that is forcing turnovers and Wofford is   -0.6 in turnover margin. Appalachian must take care of the football. Wofford will score some points, but scoring their average of 18.6 will not get the job done. Wofford will need long drives on offense, which will keep the ball away from Appalachian. That is the only chance they have on Saturday. Appalachian must tackle. Generally you just have to tackle one guy. Against Wofford you have to tackle two or three guys. Getting Wofford into obvious passing situations is critical. The Appalachian defense must make Wofford work for every yard. I don’t think Wofford can keep up with Appalachian, but if the Mountaineers don’t play sound, solid defense, this game will turn into a battle. I think the Apps have more than enough to beat Wofford and expect Appalachian to run the ball early and often against that young defense.


The First Pick:


Lap Dogs                   21

Mountaineers           42


Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. South Carolina State Round 1 FCS Playoffs 11/28/2009

Here we go with The First Round:

#7 South Carolina State @ #5 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     64.51
SCSU:    58.45

Home advantage: 3.12 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 9 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, South Carolina State 21, November 29, 2008


Another year, another championship and another uninteresting playoff match up. That song could be sung by both South Carolina State and Appalachian in 2009. When you have similar champions from year to year and the NCAA selection committee is so concerned about travel costs, the odds are good that you will start seeing the same teams more often. In the past four years, Appalachian has been matched up in the playoffs with a team from South Carolina or Virginia. This time around, its even the same opponent from last year’s playoffs. Its starting to feel like South Carolina State is in the SoCon and they are the team that Appalachian plays after Western Carolina. This is not going to turn into a gripe about playing South Carolina State in back to back playoffs, but more of a gripe about not having a playoff system that actually crowns a National Champion. This week’s winner will play the Richmond and Elon winner, which was also exactly the same as it was in 2008. This whole deal is starting to get predictable and that makes it no fun for the funs. South Carolina State thought they were worthy to host a game, and maybe they should have hosted. If they hosted they would most likely play another school, one that they may have not had to play in the past. Every team deserves a fair shot, and this selection process does not deliver it for the fans, coaches or players. It is starting to resemble the other upper division of college football.


Since so little has changed between these two schools in the past year, some much further digging will be required. In the mean time, each team’s best player from 2008 is still around. William Ford is the Bulldogs leading rusher, despite being off of his 2008 pace just a bit. Ford has rushed for 372 fewer yards and four fewer touchdowns in 2009. Obviously teams crowded the box against the Bulldogs in an effort to contain him and the SC State offense. Even backfield mate Travil Jamison has rushed for 239 fewer yards and 11 fewer touchdowns. That’s a total of 611 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns missing from one year to the next. Most teams that lose that kind of production will not win consecutive conference titles, but SC State did. So where did all the offense go?


Quarterback Malcolm Long has had similar numbers from 2008, but they did not come close in the passing game to make up for what they lost in the running game. Long threw for 340 more yards in 2009 and has also completed a higher percentage of his passes by 7% and his average per attempt has increased by 1.32 yards to eight yards per attempt in 2009. One hopes that a quarterback can get better with more experience, and that is exactly what Malcolm Long has done. Long has also lost about 15 pounds from last year, which has improved his quickness and running ability. Long ran for zero touchdowns on the ground in 2008, but has five rushing touchdowns in 2009.


Long’s top receiver is junior Oliver Young who has had at least four catches in every game against FCS opponents. Young has been on a hot streak the last couple weeks with 12 catches for 289 yards and four touchdowns against conference rivals Morgan State and North Carolina A&T. Young has increased his yards per receptions by three whole yards and has caught nine touchdown passes on the year. Last year against Appalachian State, Young was held to just one catch for 18 yards.


Just like last year, Appalachian is wondering about its quarterback situation. Armanti Edwards was injured for the second time in as many years in the game against Elon. Last year, DeAndre Presley filled in against Western Carolina. This year it was Travaris Cadet, a former transfer from Toledo who filled in nicely last week. Cadet ran for 58 yards and threw for another 101 yards, but more importantly, did not turn the ball over. Cadet managed the game and did all he needed to do to beat Western. More importantly, Cadet got the ball to Devon Moore who ran for a career high 191 yards and two touchdowns, and topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Right there is where the comparisons stop. In the 2008 playoffs, Appalachian was down to its fifth-string running back and the ground game was ineffective. This season, Appalachian will start an all conference performer who can do a little bit of everything. Moore has 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, including 28 receptions for 248 yards.


The Mountaineer defense has stepped up its game in the last month of the season. Since giving up 34 points to Wofford, Appalachian has held every opponent to fewer points per game that their average. In that five game stretch, Appalachian has held opponents to a meager 17.4 points per game. At this time, that total would be good enough for 7th in the nation. In that same five game stretch Appalachian has only allowed 275 yards of total offense per game, another total that would good enough for 12th in the nation. Appalachian’s defense has also started to force turnovers. In those same five games, Appalachian has forced 11 turnovers, while only giving up 6 on offense. That +1 advantage in the turnover department would rank 11th in the nation. Those are three critical statistics when a defensive unit is measured. Are you giving up points and yards, and are you taking away the football from the other team? Appalachian’s defense has been doing that with the best of them at the most important time of the season.


This playoff game is one of only two in the first round between top 10 teams, the other being Richmond and Elon. This game will perhaps have the feel of a quarterfinal or even a semifinal game. South Carolina State and Appalachian are two teams that have tough defenses and running games that are difficult to stop. The difference in this game start with Appalachian’s running game. As previously noted, Appalachian started a fifth-stringer last year and Armanti Edwards’ injury was worse than what had been diagnosed. Edwards carried 19 times for 42 yards in the win, but was rarely successful. This time around, the coaching staff has a better feel for Armanti’s injury, and will probably run him only a couple times, if at all. Devon Moore can certainly handle the load and it will be a little different than what South Carolina State saw last year. Moore has averaged 17.5 carries a game in 2009 and will most likely see 20 carries on Saturday. South Carolina State’s William Ford is not having the season he did last year, but he is not to be forgotten. Ford ran for 117 yards and a touchdown last year against Appalachian. The difference for South Carolina State could be Malcolm Long, who has been more accurate this season. Long completed only 17 passes on 40 attempts against the Mountaineers last year. Appalachian’s secondary is among the top units in the nation, with 14 interceptions and only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 56% of their passes. I think this Appalachian team is a little different that last year’s version and that will throw South Carolina State off their game a bit. The Bulldogs will not roll over and play dead, but overall, Appalachian is healthier than they were last year and it will show.

The First Pick:

Dog Tired                  20

Mountaineers           34

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Richmond FCS Playoffs Round 2 12/5/2009

Here we go with The Quarterfinals:

#5 Appalachian State @ #4 Richmond

Time: 7pm

TV: ESPN Gameplan, MASN, MTN 18 Charter Cable Boone
Stadium: Richmond Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 21,319
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     65.12
UR:    73.64

Home advantage: 3.16 points

Richmond is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 11 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 4-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 13, Richmond 33, December 6, 2008


Richmond and Appalachian State were nearly destined to meet in the 2009 playoffs. In the last two seasons, both teams have traded twenty point blowout victories, and both teams probably felt like they could have played better in their respective losses. The rubber match is set for Saturday, and for the first time, it will be held in Richmond. Both teams seem to be very evenly matched and the stage is set for a great game, even though Richmond is favored. Both teams had tough games in the first round, but that is exactly what the playoffs are all about. You fight to play another day and you fight for the chance to be the last one standing. Both teams know what it is like to be the last one standing as they represent the last four national champions. Both teams will bring the everything to the table on Saturday and leave nothing in the tank. The winner will outlast the other and they will feel it. Will you?


Once again, its another week and another familiar opponent. For the third straight year, Appalachian and Richmond will face each other in the playoffs. Richmond is coming off its first national championship and Appalachian fans know exactly what it feels like to be back in the playoffs with a chance to repeat as champions. In fact, Appalachian fans want that feeling back so badly, that they plan to make Appalachian players feel like Richmond Stadium is their own. Appalachian expects around 5,000 fans dressed in black and gold to be in Richmond to support their team. Richmond has averaged well under 10,000 fans in six home games this season, so the Appalachian fans could become a big factor in this game.


For the second straight week, the Appalachian defense will have to defend a big quarterback. Eric Ward is not quite as big as South Carolina State quarterback Malcolm Long, but he plays just as a big. Ward is 6’2” and weighs in at 210 pounds. His rushing statistics are down from the past two seasons, but he can still move. Ward ran for a career long 74-yard touchdown run last week against Elon and finished the game with 136 rushing yards. Ward’s passing numbers have  fallen off in 2009 as well. Ward has thrown 10 interceptions this year, with four of those coming in his last two games and has not thrown a touchdown pass in either game. In fact, in his last four games, Ward has only tossed three touchdown passes compared to six interceptions. In each game that Ward has attempted thirty or more passes this season, he has thrown an interception. Half of his interceptions have come in those four games (Delaware, VMI, Villanova and William & Mary).


More importantly, when you think about Richmond, the first thought that comes to mind is not a high octane passing offense. Recently, Richmond has been more known as a power running football team. However, running the football has not been as successful for the Spiders as it has been in the previous two seasons. In 2007, current Arizona Cardinal Tim Hightower lead a rushing attack that compiled 234 yards per game. In 2008, Josh Vaughn led the Spiders to 187 yards per game. This season, that number has plummeted to 160 yards per game. Hightower and Vaughn ran for over 1800 yards in each of those respective seasons. Justin Forte has ran for 999 yards, or about 83 yards per game. Defensively for Appalachian, they have not allowed a team to rush for over 100 yards in three straight games, including five of its last six games. In those six games, the Mountaineers have only given up 78 yards per game on the ground.

For several weeks in a row, we have talked about how the Appalachian defense has been carrying the team and it has continued to impress. Last week they held South Carolina State to just 229 total yards, 15 first down and six points. The lone Bulldog touchdown was an interception return. South Carolina State only possessed the ball for 23:44. The Appalachian secondary has collected 17 interceptions on the season, with nine coming in the last four games. Defense will be a big key this weekend, and the defense who plays the best, may carry their team to the next round.


It is hard to talk about Appalachian and not mention how explosive the offense can be, despite several straight weeks of below average production. It seems quite obvious that the season ending injury to wide receiver CoCo Hillary may have had some effect. As has been well documented, Armanti Edwards was injured against Elon and has not been as explosive since then. Edwards worked with a limited playbook against South Carolina State and did not play the previous week against Western Carolina. Saturday will mark three weeks since the injury occurred and the coaches are very optimistic that Edwards will be close to full strength. The Appalachian offense revolves around Edward’s ability to run on designed play and scrambles. When the Appalachian offense is at its best, Edwards ability to run forces the defense to devote and extra defender to stopping him, which in turn creates clearer lanes to throw the football. When opposing defenses are guessing on each play, the Appalachian offense clicks.


During playoff football, every single play is scrutinized. One penalty or one missed kick can make a difference each week. Richmond and Appalachian State know that all too well. Richmond dodged two bullets in the fourth quarter of their win over Elon, as the Phoenix failed to cash in on two field goals late in the fourth quarter that could have tied the game. Appalachian was facing a most probably deficit when South Carolina State lined up for a chip shot field goal with under eight minutes to play. A botched snap that sailed past both the holder and the kicker led to the go ahead touchdown for Appalachian. This week may be no different. Both defenses have been playing extremely tough football as of late and points may be tough to come by. Both teams have the ability to score points, but playoff football is all about trying to not make mistakes. Appalachian and Richmond combined for eight turnovers last week. Any repeat of those type of performances will certainly make it difficult for either team to fulfill their dreams of another national championship. For Richmond, they will continue to play as they have been all season. In games this season where the final score was within one score, Richmond ran the ball on average on 54% of their plays. In games where Richmond won easily, they averaged running on 65% of their plays. Appalachian must contain the Richmond ground game. The story has been the same for the last three years. If the Appalachian defense can force long yardage situations on second and third down, it will force Richmond to throw, where they have not been successful as years past. Richmond attempted more passes than had rushing attempts in only three games this season, which included their loss to Villanova. A Richmond team that is forced to throw plays right into the hands of the Appalachian defense. Defensive ends Jabari Fletcher and Lanston Tanyi have combined for 14 sacks on the year. The kicking game will also be important to both teams. Richmond kicker Andrew Howard is 12/20 on the season and has only connected on five of his last eleven. Appalachian State kicker Jason Vitaris is 18/25 on the season and has connected on his last four attempts. Howard has missed two extra points on the season, one that cost the Spiders a potential tie in their loss to Villanova.

The First Pick:

Eight Legs                16

Mountaineers           24

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Montana FCS Playoffs Semifinal 12/12/2009

Here we go with The Semifinals:

#5 Appalachian State @ #1 Montana

Time: 4pm

Stadium: Washington Grizzly Stadium
Surface: Sprint Turf

Capacity: 23,117
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     69.21
UM:    70.66

Home advantage: 3.20 points

Montana is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 4 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Montana leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 16, Montana 19, December 9, 2000


The semifinals of the FCS playoffs are unlike any other championship contest that the NCAA offers. In the other major sports, You advance to a Final Four, a Frozen Four or a College World Series. Those sports include a group of teams. In FCS football, in order to get to the championship, you have to be one of two teams. That’s why the semifinals are so special. It is almost like the championship game before the championship game. You are one win away from a title game, but also just one loss before ending your season. This semifinal will not only decide who gets to play next week in Chattanooga, it also may decide who the team of the decade is in FCS football. Both Appalachian and Montana have won 18 games in the playoffs in the last ten years. They have also combined for 18 playoff appearances. Montana won their second National Championship in 2001 and has appeared in four championship games. Appalachian’s three National Championships from 2005-07 are also well documented. The winner will get bragging rights until 2012 and 2013, when the two schools are scheduled for a home and home series. Until then a chance to play in the National Championship is on the line.


Despite being perennial FCS powers, Appalachian and Montana will meet for only the second time this weekend. Fans of both schools remember how the previous game ended and a very similar finish is also expected this weekend. Montana lofted a pass over the head of Appalachian All-American safety Corey Hall that was caught for the game winning score in overtime in Missoula. Montana had dominated that game throughout in the cold and snow. However, when they snow stopped around halftime, Appalachian founds its groove and fought to tie the game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. That game has been on the minds of Appalachian fans since. There have been several occasions where Montana and Appalachian were paired in the same bracket of the playoffs, but they have not met again until now.


Montana is currently undefeated but there season has not come without many close games. The Grizzlies nearly exited in the first round of the playoffs before staging a comeback for the ages against South Dakota State. Montana trailed 48-21 with just over 20 minutes of regulation remaining. Montana rang off 40 straight points to win by 61-48, in what be one of the greatest playoff comebacks in Montana history. Montana also struggled against winless Idaho State before kicking a field goal as time expired to win 12-10. The Grizzlies have also won three other game by seven points, against UC-Davis, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington.


The Grizzlies are lead at quarterback by Andrew Selle, who has been magnificent of late. Selle has thrown three touchdown passes in three straight games and has completed 66% of his passes in that stretch. On the season, Selle has thrown for 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Oregon transfer Justin Roper will relieve Selle at times in order to change the pace of the game. Roper has thrown eight touchdown passes and three interceptions while averaging 73 yards per game passing.


Montana has a very underrated tandem of running backs in Chase Reynolds and Thomas Brooks-Fletcher. Chase Reynolds has run for 1246 yards  and 20 touchdowns this year. Reynolds ran for over 100 yards on six occasions, but has only averaged 50 yards on 3.6 yards per carry in his last three games. Brooks-Fletcher ran for 89 yards against Stephen F. Austin on 14 carries. It was only the third time of the season that Brooks-Fletcher received double digit carries in a game. Both backs are great coming out of the backfield as they combined for 41 catches for 287 yards on the year.


Speaking of catching passes, Marc Mariani has been the go to receiver for whoever is lined up under center for the Grizzlies. Mariani has 69 catches for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. In five games this season, Mariani has gone over the 100 yard receiving mark, including both playoff wins. Half of Mariani’s touchdown receptions have come in the last three games. Mariani also handles most punt return duties as he averages 16.4 yards per punt return and has returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this season.


For Appalachian, they are lead by Armanti Edwards, whose resume speaks for itself. Edwards engineered three touchdown drives in the last nine minutes against Richmond to overcome a ten point deficit and lifted the Mountaineers to the next round of the FCS playoffs. Edwards was able to run with some efficiency against Richmond, despite a sloppy field. Edwards ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns on twelve carries. In the passing game, Edwards averaged over ten yards per completion and his only touchdown pass came with ten seconds remaining to Matt Cline for the winning score.

Appalachian balanced the offense against Richmond, as they accumulated 216 yards in the air and 228 on the ground against the nation’s twentieth ranked defense. It was the most yards and points Richmond had surrendered all season long. Devon Moore helped pave the way on the ground for the Mountaineers. Moore carried for 175 yards on 22 carries, including two touchdowns. It was the sixth time this season Moore had eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark. Moore also has run for multiple touchdowns six times this season. Moore has completed 17 touchdowns on the season.

Matt Cline has been the Mountaineers main receiving threat all season and the Richmond game was no different. Cline caught nine passes for 87 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown. Cline, who has been tagged as a possession receiver has 78 catches for 880 yards on the season. Brian Quick is the deep threat for the Mountaineers. A former high school basketball player, at 6’5” Quick can out jump any defender and is an easy target in the red zone and in the middle of the field. Quick has 51 catches for 847 yards and four touchdowns. In the absence of CoCo Hillary, Blake Elder has added 9 catches for 121 yards in the playoffs.


This game should be a classic. A game between two of the premier programs  in the division is something fans of both schools have been waiting on for years. Both teams have dynamic offenses that can score points in bunches. The team that scores last, might punch their ticket to Chattanooga. However, the similarities do not carry over to the defensive side of the ball. Montana plays very soft coverage in the secondary, while ASU will play mostly man coverage. The Montana defense gives up 247 yards a game through the air, which ranks 104th nationally.  Montana has also given up 20 passing touchdowns to its opponents, which also ranks near the bottom of the division. Montana is also in the bottom third of the division in sacks per game. Appalachian fans know the best way to defend the Appalachian passing game is to get in Armanti Edward’s face and force him to throw on his back foot. If Montana gives Edwards time to throw, he will take everything the Montana defense gives him. That could make for a long day for Montana, who has not faced a multiple spread offense all season long. Montana will have to keep up with Appalachian on the scoreboard. Montana has plenty of playmakers that can make that happen. Montana will need more then Marc Mariani catching passes. Appalachian cornerback Cortez Gilbert is one of the best cover corners in the nation and he is backed up by strong safety Mark Legree, who has 17 career interceptions. Montana needs to get their running backs active in the passing game early and see if they can work in some deep throws later in the game. Montana must sustain drives and keep the Appalachian offense off the field, which has been effective at times. Montana has had two very odd games in a row and they can not rest their laurels on a potential 40 point comeback or being given the football ten times. Appalachian will simply not let that happen. Montana has had the easier schedule of the two schools and I think that will pay off big time for Appalachian in the late stages of the game. Appalachian will get a lead and protect it with the running game. Montana has only faced an average of 30 rushing attempts a game this season, while Appalachian will hand it off close to 42 times per contest. This one will be won in the fourth quarter and Appalachian will advance to its fourth title game in five years.



The First Pick:


Care Bears               30

Mountaineers           38

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Georgia Southern 10/24/2009

Here we go with Week 7:

Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-1 T3) @ #8 Appalachian State (4-2, 3-0 T1)

Time: 3pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     54.65
GSU:    55.28

Home advantage: 3.50 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 3 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 11-10-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, Georgia Southern 36, October 18, 2008


There is not one opponent that brings out the best in an Appalachian game day like the Black Saturday opponent. On Saturday, Georgia Southern pays a visit to Boone in a game where college football clichés are abundant. Throw out the records in this one. There is no love lost between these two fan bases. There are not many on either side that will admit that they enjoy the presence of the other. About as far as compliments go, each will say that the other has a great game day atmosphere. From the tailgating to the tradition rich programs, that’s about all they will say. More times than not, this game has had some dramatic finishes blended in with very few outright blow outs. Georgia Southern fans will never forget 2003, when Appalachian broke a four game losing streak in the series that ended with a wild celebration outside of Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appalachian fans will never forget the embarrassment of 2004, a big win in Statesboro for the Eagles. And in just the last three years, Appalachian has snared two tough games in Statesboro, one in overtime, the other a one point victory, and Southern snapped Appalachian’s thirty game home winning streak the last time they paid a visit to the High Country. I am sure another amazing chapter will be written this weekend between these two hated rivals on Black Saturday.


Georgia Southern, for a few years now, has not been the same program that it was during the 1990’s. It started going down hill during the 2005 season. Mike Sewak took a 4-2 team to Boone to play Appalachian, who was 3-2. Both teams could ill-afford a loss for it would put them in danger of making the playoffs, especially since both teams had one conference loss. Southern was averaging 37 points a game and had scored 45 or more in the three previous games. Appalachian had just lost a nail biter to Furman. Appalachian dominated Southern in a 24-7 win and Appalachian went on to lose to only more team the rest of the season. Southern went on to win the rest of its games before being exposed in the first round of the playoffs to Texas State by a score of 50-35. Sewak was fired and Georgia Southern football has not been the same since. Chris Hatcher is trying to turn things in Statesboro, but the Eagles have not made the playoffs during his tenure. In fact, Southern has not won a playoff game since 2002.


Chris Hatcher has brought in his famous “Hatch Attack” offense which is much different than what we are used to seeing from Georgia Southern. It is a spread based system that utilizes some principles of the West Coast offense. Don’t get me wrong though, they will run if you let them. Adam Urbano has 104 carries for 528 yards on the year, but 32 carries and 153 yards came last week against Chattanooga. Urbano also scored two of his five touchdowns against the Mocs. Lee Chapple has taken over at quarterback and fits into Chris Hatcher’s offense just fine. Chapple is one of the more accurate quarterbacks in the conference completing 65.8% of his passes. However, his nine interceptions and twenty three sacks are a cause for concern. Either Southern receivers can’t get open or their offensive line is weak. Seeing that Chapple is only averaging just a shade over five yards a pass makes one think it is a little of both. All of Southern’s starting wide receivers are freshman. The Eagles have also started three different players at left tackle, which is a right-handed quarterback’s blind side, and plan to start three sophomores on the offensive line this week.


Appalachian has continued to have some of the same problems hold them back all season long. The Mountaineers have struggled to score in the first quarter. The Mountaineers have only scored 17 first quarter points all season, while giving up 51 points to their opponents. This has been the trend in every game this season. They Apps have made and attempted more field goals in 2009, (11-15) then they did in all of 2008 (8-12). Their red zone efficiency has also declined from 2008 where they scored touchdowns on 77% of red zone drives compared to 63% in 2009. Defensively, they have given up way too many big plays. Wofford scored three touchdown on plays that went over sixty yards. As the second half started in Spartanburg last week, Appalachian had only forced four turnovers on defense. In the second half, Appalachian picked two passes off and recovered two Terrier fumbles.


I feel that second half might be the turning point for Appalachian this year. Wofford scored on its first possession of the second half, after receiving the kickoff, then Appalachian shut them down for the rest of the game. The emotion was back. The offense clicked as Armanti Edwards absolutely shredded the Wofford secondary for a second straight year. Last year, Brian Quick caught three touchdown passes against Wofford. He added two more on Saturday. Mark Legree intercepted three passes last year against Wofford and collected another two on Saturday. The Mountaineers scored 24 unanswered points and turned what appeared to be a sure loss into a comfortable win.


Every football team has its ups and downs. At this level of football, no team can play their best for 11 straight weeks. It takes time to develop chemistry, even if some of the pieces to the puzzle are the same as they were a year before. Both Georgia Southern and Appalachian have hit the midway point of the 2009 season and hope to add to their victory total this week. Southern has their backs against the wall. They are one loss from being all but eliminated from postseason play. Does Georgia Southern know how to become mentally prepared for this game? They are starting exactly two seniors on the offensive side of the ball, and they are both lineman. Defensively, they are starting four seniors. This inexperienced team has shown itself throughout the course of the season. Southern has not lost two games in a row, but neither have they won two in a row. They have alternated wins and losses all season. Last week they won at home. Southern is also 1-3 on the road this season, with the win coming against Wofford. They have only averaged 14.5 points on the road this season. Each time the Eagles have scored 20 or more points this year, they followed it the next week by scoring two touchdowns or less. Southern scored 30 points last week against Chattanooga at home. All the trends point to a lowly offensive performance this weekend and a loss for the Eagles. Appalachian, on the other hand, started slow this year and didn’t take advantage of opportunities in the opening games. Since then, they have won four straight ball games, including two gut checking road conference wins. The offense is continuing to gel and the defense might just be getting their act together. The biggest point of the game this weekend will happen in the second quarter. This season, Southern has been outscored by a touchdown a game in that quarter, while Appalachian has outscored their opponents by four points. Appalachian has also held their opponents to 10 points per game in the second half. If Appalachian can overcome their sluggish starts and jump on the Eagles early, this game could become ugly. The defense must also contribute. They must disturb the rhythm of Lee Chapple by getting in his face early and forcing him to rush his passes. Southern will have to try and limit Appalachian on offense as the Mountaineers have scored 100 points on Southern the last three years. I think the Mountaineers are stronger across the board and are more experienced and I think that will lead them to a victory. However, I would not expect a big score here as both teams have combined for 97 penalties this season for 881 yards(ASU 47-441, GSU 50-440).

The First Pick:

Gnatsboro                 24

Mountaineers           35

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Elon 11/14/2009

Here we go with Week 10:

#7 Appalachian State (7-2, 6-0 T1) @ #6 Elon (8-1, 6-0 T1)

Time: 3:00pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Rhodes Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 11,250
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     58.62
Elon:    61.90

Home advantage: 3.11 points

Elon is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 6 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 27-9-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 24, Elon 16, November 15, 2008


This one is for all the marbles. A better script could not have been written for this week’s game. Two teams undefeated in conference play, ranked in the top ten in the nation, battling it out for the conference championship and the automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Playoffs. Elon has its first chance to win the league championship since joining the conference in 2003. Appalachian is in very familiar territory, having won the past four conference titles and has won nine of eleven all time games with a conference crown on the line. Throw in that the nation’s top offense will square off against the nation’s top defense and it is icing on the cake. What more could a college football fan ask for?


These two teams have been analyzed up and down by just about everyone, trying to see who has the upper hand. You shouldn’t have to dig deep however, because Elon should have the upper hand, because they are playing in their own backyard. However, big time games are decided and won by teams who have played in exactly those situations. From what could be determined, Elon has trailed for only eight minutes in all of their wins this season. They have jumped on opponents early and cruised to easy wins. They have won every conference game by two touchdowns or more except Furman. That has not been the case for Appalachian. Of Appalachian’s seven wins, they trailed for extended periods of time in games against The Citadel and Wofford. Appalachian has also faced tough games against Chattanooga and Samford, teams they led early but could not pull away until late in the fourth quarter. In Elon’s lone loss to Wake Forest, they were blown out. In Appalachian’s two losses, they lost by five points on each occasion and had to fight from behind in both games. It is easy to see, that Appalachian is more battle-tested than Elon. Appalachian has played six tough games. Elon has played one tough game. Appalachian should have the upper hand based on this season’s experience alone.



Elon’s Scot Riddle is the conference leader in passing yards and touchdowns and part of that is due to Elon’s pass-happy offense. Part of that is due to all everything receiver Terrell Hudgins, who averages ten catches a game. Hudgins totals also include 1195 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns. Hudgins also recently broke a NCAA record that was formerly held by Jerry Rice. You really cannot say enough about these guys. They have excellent chemistry together and it has been obvious for several years now.


Elon’s defense was a highly ranked unit last year and they have only improved on those marks in 2009. Elon’s opponents have only gained 92 legitimate first downs. Eleven other first downs were gained by penalty. That is an average of just over ten first downs a game. Elon also only allowing 3.5 yards per play and only 2.6 yards per rush. The 208 yards a game they allow is by far tops in league by over 40 yards. The Phoenix have also only given up 12 points per game. Those numbers are good, but I would have one concern. Appalachian’s offense can explode for tons of yards, first downs and points in a hurry. It will be interesting to see how the Elon defense responds if the Mountaineers have one of their patented spurts.


Appalachian came back down to earth, in terms of explosive offensive outputs last week against Chattanooga. The defense turned in one of their best first quarter performances with two interceptions which eventually led to a quick 21-0 lead for the Mountaineers. At the start of the second half, Chattanooga had cut the lead and attempted two successful onsides kicks in an effort to keep Appalachian’s offense off the field. Chattanooga controlled the football, had long drives and pulled within a point of the Mountaineers. The Mountaineers then woke up in the fourth quarter and shut down the Mocs and pulled away for the win. The Appalachian offense cannot fall asleep at anytime this weekend. They must play a complete game for quarters in order to win their fifth consecutive conference championship.


The Mountaineer defense played a very tough second half in the game against Chattanooga. They were on the field for roughly eleven minutes of the third quarter as the Mocs slowly moved the chains. They also turned back the Mocs on fourth down conversion in the red zone. In the fourth quarter the Mountaineers  recorded their third interception of the day and forced Chattanooga to three and outs on two other possessions. They stepped up when they needed to in order to preserve the victory.


What else is there to say about this game? It is highly anticipated by both sides. Elon wants to announce to the FCS ranks that they have arrived. However they cant do that until they beat the man. The man, in this case, is Appalachian State. The Mountaineers, despite a young team, have experience in key positions and one of those walks up and down the sideline all game. The biggest intangible in this game is the coaching staffs. Big games require big game experience. The Appalachian coaching staff knows what it takes to motivate players and knows what are the right calls at the right times. However, it is up to the players to execute. Both Elon and Appalachian have executed superbly this year, to put themselves into this situation. This is a matchup of some of the top ranked units in the Southern Conference and the country. When you look at this game between two evenly matched teams, what is the deciding factor? Who wins? I think the teams that wins is the one that is the most balanced in all phases of the game. The nod on the defensive side of the ball goes to Elon. Their numbers are just magnificent. They speak of championship football. I think on offense, despite both teams being so explosive, the edge goes to Appalachian. Obviously Elon can score too, but there offense is not balanced enough. Their running game plays second fiddle to Riddle and Hudgins. Those guys are the key to Elon football. Appalachian’s offense is much more balanced, averaging 220 yards on the ground and 272 yards in the air. Overall, Appalachian has more weapons on offense. Devon Moore leads in the conference in rushing with 810 yards. Appalachian is the only team with three receivers in the top ten in the conference in receiving yards, even though one of them is out for the season. On special teams, the slight edge also goes to Appalachian. The Mountaineers lead the conference in kickoff coverage. Elon has only one touchback on the year compared to Appalachian’s six. The average drive start for Elon’s opponents is the 31-yard line. Appalachian, even with numerous procedure penalties on kickoffs, gives up the 26 yard line. Five yards could play a huge difference late in the game. Elon’s long field goal of the year was 43 yards, while Appalachian’s was 49 yards. That’s another six yards that goes in Appalachian’s favor. Both teams lead the conference in turnover margin and a turnover either way will be huge. No way will someone lose the turnover battle and win the game this Saturday. In the end, Appalachian has a better balance than Elon and has the experience in big games. I think the Apps have the better team, the better athletes and the desire to push through. It won’t be by much, but it will be enough.

The First Pick:

Christians                  20

Mountaineers           27

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ The Citadel 10/3/2009

Here we go with Week 4:

#10 Appalachian State (1-2, 1-0 T1) @ The Citadel (2-1, 0-0)

Time: 1pm

TV: None
Stadium: Johnson Hagood Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 21,000
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     60.53
Cit:    59.57
Home advantage: 2.91 points

The Citadel is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 2 points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 26-11
Last Meeting: ASU 47, The Citadel 21, October 4, 2008


Getting back in the winners column sure felt nice, even if it had to occur during a Boone downpour. A win is a win, whether its wet, windy or warm, no matter how you slice it, it’s still a win. Appalachian took out its first conference opponent and did so in convincing fashion. The Mountaineer defense shut down the Samford running game and their passing game was nearly non-existent. It wasn’t flashy, but you don’t need to look pretty to win a conference game. The next task at hand is a familiar opponent. One we have seen every year for quite a while, not once every thirty years(ECU), or for the first time(McNeese),or the fourth time(Samford). Familiar is good. It gives you an idea of what the other team is going to bring to the table. It also gives you some good notes to reflect on from the previous year. That is the best thing about the rest of the schedule. We are familiar with the rest of our opponents. Maybe the results can start looking familiar as well.


It seems like Citadel wide receiver Andre Roberts has been around forever. He has some ridiculous career numbers. He has scored 37 career touchdowns in almost every way imaginable, besides passing the ball. Roberts recorded three return touchdowns in 2008 to go along with 14 receiving touchdowns and one rushing touchdown. He also caught 95 passes for 1,334 yards. He can simply do it all. Roberts has scored three of his touchdowns against Appalachian. In 2006, he scored a junk touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 42-13 Mountaineer beat down and in 2007 he scored in the first quarter on a 30 yard pass from Bart Blanchard. In 2008, Roberts scored on a punt return in the third quarter to cut the ASU lead to 41-14. Even with Cortez Gilbert matched up on Roberts in 2008, Roberts got his touches, as he had six catches for 52 yards. That is the most important thing to remember. They will get Roberts the ball and the Appalachian defense must have the same intensity as it did against Samford to corral him. He can, and will, hurt a team all by himself.


Bulldog junior quarterback Bart Blanchard threw six touchdown passes last week in the 46-21 win over Presbyterian, including four to Roberts. Blanchard first start came against Appalachian in 2007. In his career he has 33 touchdown passes and four rushing touchdowns. He will run if the pocket collapses and is an accurate passer. Blanchard has completed right at 60% of his career completions, despite 16 interceptions. However, against Appalachian Blanchard has completed only 48% of his attempts including two interceptions and was sacked five times in 2007.


The theme of the article thus far has been about familiarity and past history. The most staggering numbers heading into this game are the numbers that have been put up by Armanti Edwards against The Citadel. The last time Edwards visited Johnson Hagood Stadium, he only ran for 291 yards, averaging 13.9 yards per attempt. I don’t think anyone expects a performance like that this weekend, but if it happened, it wouldn’t surprise you. Edwards has scored more on The Citadel than any other team in his career. His 953 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns against the Bulldogs speaks for itself. The Mountaineers have scored 45 points a game against The Citadel in the Edwards era. The Bulldogs know Edwards is coming, but they have not come close to stopping him in three years.


The most noticeable improvement last week for Appalachian came on the defensive side of the ball. After giving up nearly a third of a mile in offense to McNeese, Appalachian responded by limiting Samford to 192 yards and came as close as one unfortunate penalty of keeping the shutout in tack. Samford’s Chris Evans got his yards, but he was well contained from making any big plays. Dustin Taliaferro never got comfortable and rarely gave his receivers a chance to make a play. The Appalachian coaching staff simplified the defensive play calling and let the defense rely more on instinct. That is something that I think was the most key to the victory. Appalachian has tremendously skilled players at many positions on defense and they need to take advantage of that raw talent. There are not many offenses in the Southern Conference that can match up athlete for athlete with the Mountaineers and they need to make the most of their opponents weaknesses.


The Sagarin rankings confuse me to no end this week. Generally, the rankings do not give fans a good idea of what teams really have until about midway through the season. In fact, in the previous three seasons, Appalachian has only been a single digit favorite to win in each game. However, predicting a Citadel win is interesting. There can be only one explanation. There is simply not enough data. I am not saying that there is no way the Bulldogs can win, but I see it as highly unlikely. The Bulldogs have given up 197 yards a game on the ground and had a tough time of slowing down the spread offense of Presbyterian. The difference between Presbyterian and Appalachian’s version of the spread is enormous. Appalachian defeated The Blue Hose last year quite handily and the Mountaineers most certainly have better athletes across the board. Presbyterian tailback Trandon Dendy ran for 147 yards by himself against the Bulldogs. Dendy ran for 143 yards in his three previous games against Furman, Elon and Chattanooga. Stopping the run is not something that can be cured overnight, or in one week, especially not against Appalachian. Take out Armanti Edwards and Appalachian will throw Devon Moore at you. Moore has only gone for over 100 yards in two straight games, while averaging 6.5 yards a carry. He is well on his way to a 1,000 yard season. The better Appalachian can run the ball, the easier it will be to throw. Appalachian has spread the ball around well this season with three players having caught ten or more passes. Appalachian can pick apart the Citadel defense as they have shown for the past three years. I think The Citadel will be able to score some points, but I don’t think their defense is stout enough to stop Appalachian on a consistent basis. Appalachian’s offense will only stop itself.


The First Pick:

Bullpups Part 2        21

Mountaineers           50

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Chattanooga 11/7/2009

Here we go with Week 9:

Chattanooga (5-3, 3-3 T4) @ #7 Appalachian State (6-2, 5-0 T1)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     59.85
UTC:    46.53

Home advantage: 3.31 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 16 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 22-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 49, Chattanooga 7, November 8, 2008


For the second season in a row, Appalachian has survived the conference gauntlet, which may be the last season such a gauntlet exists. Part of the reason is the emergence of Chattanooga as a player in the Southern Conference race. Chattanooga is eliminated from SoCon championship contention, but instead of being at the bottom of the league, they are one of only three SoCon teams with an overall winning record. They have five wins which is as many as they have had since 2005 when they finished 6-5. Chattanooga has announced the to the rest of the conference that they are back and ready to be recognized as a team that is no longer a pushover. Even in the lean years, Chattanooga was always a team that gave Appalachian some trouble. It may be in Appalachian’s best interest that the Mocs have risen from the SoCon cellar, as they have been a game that is generally played later in the schedule, when the Mountaineers start to build momentum for the playoffs.


Another reason that Chattanooga has been successful has been the play of their offense. Tennessee transfer quarterback B.J. Coleman leads the Mocs with 1,710 yards passing and 13 touchdowns. Coleman is your typical pocket quarterback who rarely runs. His favorite target is Blue Cooper, who has 60 catches for 588 yards. Cooper is probably the best receiver in the conference that nobody knows, mainly because he has spent his career at Chattanooga. Cooper had his best game of the season last week with 16 catches for 143 yards in the win over Western Carolina. Earlier in the season, Cooper grabbed 13 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown against Furman. As you can see, Cooper averages 7.5 catches a game, but nearly of his catches this season came in two games.


Probably the most impressive improvements made by Chattanooga have been on the defensive side of the ball. Of Chattanooga’s twenty three sacks, 16.5 have come from their bookends on the defensive line, Josh Beard and Joshua Williams. Beard is the younger brother of Appalachian running back Jerry Beard and leads the team with 10.5 sacks. The Moc defense has also held opponents to only 291 yards of offense per game and held opponents to only 3.5 yards per carry on the ground. They will be tested this week as Appalachian is averaging 513 yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry on offense.


Chattanooga grabbed most people’s attention this year when they manhandled #17 Wofford 38-9. However that was before anyone knew that Wofford was as bad as they were. Since then, the Mocs are 2-2, with wins over Samford and Western Carolina, and losses to Elon and Georgia Southern. Three of those four games were on the road, and their losses came on long road trips, while their wins were at home, or closer to home. In those four games, the offense has only averaged 17 points per game.


Appalachian has now moved to 5-0 in poor weather games this year. Four of those games were in the last four weeks and Appalachian is averaging 50 points a game. The pattern this weekend is for the best weather we have seen all season at home. One can only imagine the numbers that the Mountaineers can put up without a wet ball or field. It should be a fast track and that is exactly what the Mountaineers will need against a game Chattanooga team. Armanti Edwards continues to be the reason why the Mountaineers are dominating the Southern Conference once again. Edwards added to his long list of honors as being named the SoCon player of the week, and was also named national player of the week by two different associations. Edwards threw for two touchdowns and ran for four more. Edwards’ 461 yards of total offense was good enough for the fourth highest single game total in Appalachian history.

In this series, Appalachian has dominated in recent memory. Appalachian has allowed two games to get away from them against the Mocs in Chattanooga within the last 10 years. However, the Mocs have not won in Boone since 1983 and Jerry Moore is 18-2 all time against the Mocs. Boone has simply not been very friendly place to visit for Moc football teams. The Mocs are coached by former Richmond defensive coordinator Russ Huesman, who was able to defeat the Mountaineers last year in the playoffs. Huesman has said some things in the last week or so that has grabbed the attention of many Mountaineer fans. He is on record for saying that, he knew his 2008 Richmond team was going to beat Appalachian last year. He has also mentioned that Elon is probably going to win the Southern Conference. These type of comments remind me of another first year head coach in the state of Tennessee, who has had more than his fair share of sticking his foot in his mouth. In the Southern Conference, respect is earned and not given. Games are won and lost on the field, and not a message board or in the newspapers. I think Appalachian fans attend this game with a little chip on their shoulder. I think they will be extra rowdy this weekend seeing that the season’s goal is in the near future. In the past weeks, Chattanooga has been average. They are road weary and their offense is simply not explosive enough. Seventeen points and 300 yards of offense simply will not beat Appalachian at Kidd Brewer. Despite the potential loss of CoCo Hillary, I don’t think the Mountaineers miss a beat on offense. They are plenty of players who bust their tail each week in order to see playing time and now is their time to step up and show the world what they can do. Chattanooga will have to take to the air to win this one and I do not believe the Mocs offensive line can hold back the Mountaineer pass rush all day. They Mountaineers will win, but the Mocs will make it interesting  early.


The First Pick:

Mockingbirds            24

Mountaineers           40

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Furman 10/31/2009

Here we go with Week 8:

#7 Appalachian State (5-2, 4-0 T1) @ Furman (4-3, 3-2 T3)

Time: Noon

TV: WLOS Ch. 13 Asheville
Stadium: Paladin Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 16,000
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     58.10
FU:    49.57

Home advantage: 3.27 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 5 points (rounded).

Series: Furman leads 15-21-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 26, Furman14, October 25, 2008


Appalachian and Furman will meet for the 40th time on Saturday in one the most competitive series in all of college football. Furman is one of the few opponents that holds an all time series lead over Appalachian. The Mountaineers have won four straight in the series for the first time, but only one of those victories came in Greenville. The last time Furman beat Appalachian was in the 2005 regular season game, where Appalachian had a field goal blocked as time expired. This rivalry is one that has recently become less one-sided. The Mountaineers have won seven of the last eight meetings and eight of the last ten meetings between the two schools. Furman coach Bobby Lamb has been a blessing to many Appalachian fans since the 2002 game that was dubbed the “Miracle on the Mountain”. Since then, Furman seems to be cursed in this long rivalry. Will Halloween night be what Furman needs to reverse the trend?


Furman was put in very sticky situation by their schedule when they scheduled two FBS teams in Missouri and Auburn. That alone placed a huge emphasis on their conference schedule. Basically, if Furman didn’t win the Southern Conference, a birth to the FCS Playoffs were in serious jeopardy. Last week, Furman was upset by The Citadel, who was previously winless in SoCon action. Furman, now at 4-3, and most likely on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, still has to play FBS Auburn and three of their most fiercest rivals in the SoCon in Appalachian, Wofford and Georgia Southern. Finishing at 7-4 would be considered a success, but will probably still leave them on the outside of the FCS Playoffs. The situation isn’t any better for head coach Bobby Lamb. Making the playoffs are the benchmark for Furman fans and the Paladins have missed the playoffs the last two years and have a combined record of 13-10 in those seasons. A win over Appalachian is exactly what Lamb needs to turn back the dial on the hot seat on which he currently sits.


This year the Paladins have struggled in many areas, and most of those areas are on the defensive side of the ball. The Paladins are giving up 411.7 yards a game, which is good enough for last in the Southern Conference and 107th nationally. On the offensive side, Furman is respectable averaging just under 28 points a game, yet only runs the ball for an average of 146.6 yards per game, which is not what they are used to. Furman has always been a run first team, but the times of Louis Ivory and Jerome Felton are long gone. Fullback Tersoo Uhaa is second on the team in rushing with 327 yards and eight touchdowns, but has seen his role steadily decrease in each game since the start of the season. Uhaa has only 101 yards rushing in his last four games. Freshman Jerodis Williams is the speedster, who has a ten yard gain in every game this season, but probably lacks touches, as he only averages nine carries a game.


Senior quarterback Jordan Sorrells has been the most consistent part of the Furman offense. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes this year, with six of those coming in the last two weeks against Samford and The Citadel. Sorrells has thrown only five interceptions, but three of them came in two of Furman’s losses. Sorrells has completed 21 or more passes in Furman’s last five games and averages 33 attempts per game this season. His favorite receiver is Adam Mims, who has one third of Sorrells’ completions. Mims 50 catches trails only Elon’s Terrell Hudgins 71 catches for the SoCon lead. Mims only has one touchdown catch on the year, while tight end Chris Truss has six catches, three for touchdowns. Seven different Furman receivers have caught touchdown passes.


Last week against Georgia Southern, was the game that many of Appalachian fans have longed for. The Appalachian defense was dominant and offensively, the Mountaineers were able to coast throughout the entire second half. Appalachian has now registered over 600 yards of offense in three straight games. There is one team in the Southern Conference that hasn’t gained that many yards all season long. Overall, the Mountaineers are averaging seven yards per play. Devon Moore leads the SoCon in rushing yards and Armanti Edwards is the conference’s leading passer in yards per game. Brian Quick leads the conference in yards per catch and is second in receiving yards per game.


It has been a long time since I can remember an Appalachian defense that was so dominant against Georgia Southern. Usually these two schools light up the scoreboard in all aspects. However, Appalachian limited Georgia Southern to only 171 total yards and only 15 yards rushing. Who would have ever thought five years ago, that Georgia Southern would only rush for 15 yards in an entire game. The defense has finally stopped worrying about schemes and alignments and are just plain getting after it. Appalachian has some of the best athletes in the conference on defense and they are letting that athleticism dictate what happens on the field. We have now seen six straight quarters of football, where the Mountaineers have only allowed two offensive touchdowns. If they can continue this streak of steady defense, the sky is the limit, especially with the points the Apps have been scoring.


The series between Appalachian and Furman in the last ten years has been decided in games that generally come down to the final possession. Forget the 40-7 victory by Appalachian and this rivalry has been decided by an average of 4.4 points since 2000. In that span, Appalachian has won by one point on three different occasions. Furman’s two wins came by six points in 2001 and three points in 2005. However since 2005, when the spread offense became the norm in college football, Furman has been left behind in the old “I” formation and has only since has moved to a more pass-oriented spread offense. The problem is that they didn’t make a change quickly enough. When you think about Furman football, the average fan does not know what kind of offense they run and it is hurting them. Everyone knows Appalachian runs a spread, where quickness is a key. Since 2005, including this season, Furman has lost 13 SoCon games. In that same time, Appalachian has lost three. Time has passed Furman by and not much has changed this year. Furman no longer has a dominating defense that can wins games by itself. In fact, they are downright pitiful. Furman has only recorded five sacks on the season. You cant give quarterbacks all day to throw the ball, and certainly not Armanti Edwards. They have allowed 24.3 first downs a game to their opponents. Last week, the Furman defense was torched by the Citadel and its hard to teach defense in one week. It is a process. I think Furman will try and keep the ball away from Appalachian as much as possible. It is a bit of a broken record, but in 2008, Furman possessed the ball for nearly 35 minutes. It was the four turnovers that did them in. This season, in their four wins, they have four turnovers. In their three losses, they have six turnovers. They must take care of the ball in order to have a chance against Appalachian. The Mountaineers have not been the beneficiary of many turnovers this year, but luckily they have not missed them. Furman can afford to give the ball the Appalachian when they are averaging 37 points a game without getting turnovers. Appalachian will march up and down the field all day long no matter where the ball. No need to make it easier for Appalachian to put six on the board. I think Furman will take care of the ball better. They will mix it up in the passing game just enough to keep Appalachian off balance, but it in the end, I don’t there is enough Furman defense to hold Appalachian down. They are all close ones in Greenville, but I don’t expect the score to be indicative of how the game was played.


The First Pick:


Furmanites               20

Mountaineers           34

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Western Carolina 11/21/2009

Here we go with Week 11:

Western Carolina (2-8, 1-6 8th) @ #6 Appalachian State (8-2, 7-0 1st)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     65.00
WCU:    41.06

Home advantage: 3.06 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 27 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 54-18-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Western Carolina 10, November 22, 2008


In most college football rivalries, you have a pair of teams that exchange victories back and forth each year. That is why they are called what they are. In some of the best rivalries, they play for trophy that has some type of meaning between the two schools, whether it’s a cup, a bucket or a bell. The rivalry between Western Carolina and Appalachian was once named by Sports Illustrated the “best football rivalry you’ve never heard of”. Luckily, for Western Carolina fans, most people have not heard. In recent years the series has not been much of a rivalry. Western has not taken the jug home from Boone since 1984. Whenever Western has won the jug, it has been Appalachian bringing it to Cullowhee. Appalachian has won 22 of the last 24 meetings overall in the series and has defeated Western by an average score of 45-15 since 2004, the last time Western put their hands on the “Old Mountain Jug”. History looks to repeat itself in 2009 as Western and Appalachian are once again heading in different directions. Western Carolina players will be home for Thanksgiving while the Mountaineers will prepare for a playoff opponent. Can the Catamounts force the Mountaineers to travel in the first round?


As has been documented, Western Carolina continues to rebuild its program, but has had little success. Year Two under coach Dennis Wagner appeared to be promising before the start of the season but the good feelings lasted as long as the home opener. Western lost to Gardner Webb at home and never seemed to recover until mid-October when they defeated a lethargic Citadel team on Homecoming. Several more losses followed until a surprising road win last week against Eastern Kentucky, who despite their 5-4 record, had an outside shot of winning the Ohio Valley Conference. That win makes this weekend’s game against Appalachian all the more interesting. Did the Catamounts finally find a groove and will that momentum follow them to Boone and springboard them into the 2010 season?



On paper, Western Carolina looks very boring to a Mountaineer fan. Their numbers look below average at best. The offense has averaged only 14.1 points per game and ranks 90th or worse in the nation in every offensive category. Their highest scoring output this year was a 26 point effort in a loss to Wofford.  Zach Jaynes is the leader for the Cats. He has thrown for 1624 yards and eight touchdowns. Three of those touchdown passes came last week. Jaynes has also thrown ten interceptions and has been sacked 21 times. Five of Jaynes touchdown passes have been thrown to junior wide receiver Marquel Pittman, who has 48 catches for 607 yards. Three of Pittman’s touchdown receptions also came in the last two weeks.


Appalachian showed last week that they are still the kings of the Southern Conference and plan to be that way for years to come. The Mountaineers exposed the nation’s top ranked defense for nearly 500 yards of total offense, more than double what Elon had been giving up. The defense held the potent Elon offense to only 10 points and forced Scott Riddle into questionable throws as he was intercepted three times. That forced the Elon coaching staff to a more conservative attack as they started to run the ball. Elon was flattened in the first quarter with heads hanging low after the Mountaineers jumped to a 21-0 lead early in the second quarter and cruised to a fifth straight title.


The Mountaineer attack was led by three rushing touchdowns by Armanti Edwards, whose status for Saturday’s game is still in doubt. Edwards spread the ball all over the field and the Elon defense was guessing all afternoon. Edwards passed for 281 yards and connected on 87% of his passes. Devon Moore and Devin Radford carried 23 times for 75 yards to keep the Elon offense off the field.


In trying to find some ways that Western has an advantage over Appalachian, I could not find many. The Catamounts will be loose and have everything to gain from a win. This will be their last game of the season, so they can let it all out and hope for an upset. Coach Wagner said it best in his teleconference: Western Carolina will have to play a perfect game to win. They will need to hope that Armanti Edwards does not play in order to have the best chance. Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Mountaineers, they will need to keep Appalachian off the field. The Cats will have to hope that the Mountaineers are looking ahead to the playoffs. They will need to test the Mountaineers with the deep ball and hope its finds their receivers hands. Appalachian leads the conference with 14 interceptions. They will also need to force some turnovers. Once again, play keep away from Appalachian’s explosive offense. The only thing that has stopped Appalachian this season has been themselves. When the Mountaineers get in a rhythm, they are tough to contain. The last time these two schools tangled in Boone, it resulted in the firing of the entire Western coaching staff. Even if Western played its best game, I still don’t think it would be enough. Going undefeated in the Southern Conference is a tough task and the Mountaineers are on the verge of doing it for the second straight year. I think the Mountaineer defense is up to the task of shutting down Western Carolina, especially with the uncertainty under center. I think you might see 400 rushing yards for the Mountaineers in a game that will get away from the Catamounts in the second half.


The First Pick:


Can’t Amount           13

Mountaineers           37