Here we go with Week 6:
#9 Appalachian State (3-2, 2-0 2nd) @ Wofford (1-4, 0-2 T7)
Stadium: Gibbs Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
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