Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Western Illinois 11/4/2010

how to buy prednisone Here we go with the Second Round:

Quetiapine apotheke  Western Illinois (8-4) @ #1 Appalachian State (9-2) Time: Noon

TV: ESPN Gameplan, MASN
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Fieldturf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 67.65
WIU: 63.21

Home advantage: 3.02 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7 ½ points (rounded).

Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: n/a

A lot has happened to the Mountaineers in the last week and a half, and it starts with a rough performance down in Gainesville. Despite a down year for the Florida Gators, they showed how much of a gap there is in talent level and recruiting by easily beating Appalachian. There were times when the Mountaineers did not play well, but even correcting those mistakes would not have been enough against Florida. The hangover did not last long, as early the following morning after the Florida game, Appalachian was awarded the top seed in the NCAA Division I Playoffs which also came with a bye in the newly expanded twenty team playoff field. A week off was a great reward for a grueling season in which Appalachian won their sixth straight conference championship. With that bye, came the opportunity to watch their next opponent, Western Illinois defeat Coastal Carolina in a turnover-filled game. That brings us to game week as I am sure the Mountaineers and their fans are ready to begin the push toward a national championship. Luckily, for Appalachian the road to Frisco comes through Boone and that is big hurdle for any team with title aspirations.

Western Illinois and the Missouri Valley Conference is a relative unknown to most Mountaineer fans. Appalachian and Western Illinois have never met on the gridiron, and the Mountaineers have only faced three Missouri Valley opponents in the past. All three of those games came in the playoffs in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, Appalachian won its first National Championship over Northern Iowa and defeated Southern Illinois two rounds earlier. In 2006, Appalachian handily defeated Youngstown State in the semifinals to earn a berth to their second championship game.

The Leatherneck offense is led by Missouri Valley player of the year and Walter Payton Award finalist Matt Barr, who has thrown for 3,312 yards and 26 touchdown passes against seven interceptions. In the last three games, Barr has only managed 3 touchdown passes against four interceptions against some of their tougher opponents, Southern Illinois and playoff teams Northern Iowa and Coastal Carolina. Barr is a player who is mobile, can stretch the pocket and give his receivers another second or two to get open. When his receivers have not been open, Barr has run for 452 yards and seven touchdowns. The Appalachian defense must contain and consistently pressure Barr to keep him from gaining a rhythm.

Appalachian has used the bye week to get healthy. Several players like Mark Legree and Travaris Cadet used it to rest and have not practiced much. It is always important at this time of the year to have your playmakers healthy so you can you use your entire arsenal on both sides of the ball, most importantly on offense. The last two seasons, Armanti Edwards suffered leg injuries which took away his ability to run in the postseason. Once teams figured that out, they blitzed and were able to slow down Appalachian. A Walter Payton award finalist in his own right, DeAndre Presley does not have any known injuries, and any success Appalachian might have will depend on how well the quarterback plays. When defenses have to worry about his team leading 753 rushing yards and eleven rushing touchdowns, it makes it much easier for Presley to sit back in the pocket and determine which all conference performer he plans to throw to. Balance has been the key for Appalachian all season, and if Western Illinois does not know what is coming, Appalachian will be hard to stop.

When dissecting this Western Illinois team, the first thing that jumps out is their offense, which racks up a lot of yards (476 ypg) and scores a lot of points (34.1 ppg). The second thing that was noticed was their road record, which is now at 2-4 after defeating Coastal Carolina last weekend. What happened to Leathernecks when they had to travel? I saw two key factors that are instrumental in playoff success on the road, and Western Illinois was struggling in those areas. The 34 points a game looks great on paper, but not so good when you consider the Leathernecks only averaged 22 points per contest on the road, and never broke 30 points on the road all season. To advance in the playoffs, you have to be able to score. If it were not for five Coastal Carolina red zone turnovers, we would not be talking about Western Illinois this week. Secondly, you have to be able to stop the running game. If you are having trouble scoring, you need to be able to get opposing offenses off the field, so you can get more opportunities to score. The Leatherneck defense has had trouble stopping the run, ranking 93rd nationally, allowing 176.8 yards per game this season. Look deeper and you will find that the Leathernecks give up 223 yards rushing a game on the road. Compare that to season averages, and Western Illinois would rank 112th out of 117 teams. The five teams that rank below 112th were a combined 6-48 this season. It should be pretty obvious to see where this leads. I have a hard time believing that a team is going to come to Kidd Brewer Stadium, where Appalachian has won 53 of 56 games, score less than 30 points, while allowing the Mountaineers to run all over them and win a playoff game against a team that is 11-1 at home during the playoffs in the last five seasons. It does not add for me and it should not add up to a Western Illinois victory at The Rock on Saturday. The Mountaineers should be anxious to erase the memories of the Florida loss and prove to the country that they are the team to beat.



The First Pick:

 Dog Collars                23

Mountaineers              35

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Florida 11/20/2010

Here we go with Week 11:

 #2 Appalachian State (9-1, 7-1 1st) @ Florida (6-4, 4-4 SEC)

Time: 12:30pm

TV: ESPN Gameplan
Stadium: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 88,548
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 68.66
UF: 80.10

Home advantage: 2.94 points

Florida is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 14 ½ points (rounded).

Series: First meeting
Last Meeting: n/a

Twelve weeks ago, Florida was the last team on the mind of Appalachian fans, and same goes for Gator fans toward the Mountaineers. Both schools have played their respective conference slate, and many would have guessed this game would consist of at least one conference champion. Some would even have figured it could consist of two undefeated teams. However, not many would have correctly guessed which team was 6-4, and which one was 9-1. Both teams had to replace once in a generation quarterbacks. Both teams consistently compete for conference and national championships. The biggest difference for Florida was having juniors leave to play at the next level. At Appalachian, juniors go to summer school. That kind of leadership and experience is needed in football to consistently win. Appalachian will play this game to win. Florida may see this season as a lost cause, after last week missing their chance to play for an SEC championship, and having a rivalry game next week. This game has come off an emotional low for Florida, while Appalachian is fresh off winning their conference, and emotions could not be any higher. Can Florida pick themselves up off the mat, and play against a perceived inferior opponent? Can Appalachian continue to play at a high level after an emotional win? The mental game may be just as important this weekend at the Swamp.

Florida really needs no introduction. Appalachian fans know all about the Gators and their prestige. They have won three national championships in their history, all in the last 15 seasons. They have also captured eight SEC championships in the last 20 seasons. They recruit nationally, and get the best talent in the country, year in and year out. They send numerous players to the NFL each year, and are showcased on national television every week. They have one of the most feared home field advantages in all of college football. They are simply the Florida Gators.

Unless you have not left your house recently, you know that Florida is not having that typical Florida season. Florida experienced a three game losing streak after starting 4-0, losing to Alabama, Louisiana State, and then on homecoming to Mississippi State. The Mississippi game was the real head scratcher, losing 10-7. The Gators then got it together after a bye week, and beat Georgia and Vanderbilt. Last week, Florida did the unthinkable, and lost their third home game of the season to South Carolina, with the SEC East title on the line.

Florida plans to platoon three quarterbacks against the Mountaineers, as they have done for the last few weeks. They are looking to jumpstart an offense that has had some serious issues moving the football. The more the Mountaineers see of John Brantley, the better their chances to win. That would mean that Jordan Reed and Trey Burton have not been successful running the football. Brantley is a mediocre quarterback with a 117.4 efficiency rating. He has eight touchdowns, but also seven interceptions. He averages 174 yards passing a game. If the Mountaineers see a lot of Reed or Burton, it could be a long day. Burton is the more accomplished runner of the quarterbacks, with a 5 yard per carry average and ten touchdowns. Reed has seen most of his work in the last two games, is really a mix of the two, good runner, and decent passer.

The Mountaineers certainly responded after their mistake filled loss tat Georgia Southern. It appeared to be a totally different team on the field. Appalachian took advantage of costly Wofford turnovers and turned a 17-0 lead late in the second quarter into a 31-0 lead early in the second half. Florida will certainly take note that they cannot give the Appalachian offense a short field. Appalachian also shut down one of the best rushing offenses in the FCS. Wofford was held way below their average for rushing the football, and did not complete a pass until the second half. The biggest key for Appalachian is to make sure that the defense continues to play at that level. Florida has some of the best football players in the country, and any missed tackles or assignments by Appalachian will be exploited and go for big plays.

Simply, this is a game that Florida should not lose, but, they should also know, that a loss is possible if they do not play well. There will be no Michigan Part 2. Appalachian State will never sneak up on an opponent ever again. Although victories for FCS teams over FBS squads are rare, the talent level has shrunk significantly over the last few seasons. For Appalachian, the tide began to turn in 2005. The LSU game where the Mountaineers were only down 14-0 in the fourth quarter is about the only other game that can compare to this Saturday. Usually, the Mountaineers play their money game at the beginning of the season. In 2005, much like this season, Appalachian is peaking at the right time of the year, before the FCS playoffs. Prior to the LSU game in 2005, Appalachian learned that it controlled its own destiny to win the conference title, based on a result from an earlier game, and were able to play loose and relaxed. This season is almost identical to 2005, take away the Kansas game. Start the season with a tough road game (E. Kentucky, Chattanooga), take care of the conference despite a tough road loss (Furman, Georgia Southern) , and play a power SEC program at the end of the year (LSU, Florida). The LSU game in 2005 gave that Appalachian team all the confidence they needed before the playoffs. They proved to themselves that they could play with anyone. That game really put into gear what has now become the Appalachian football program as we now know it. The Mountaineers do not feel as if they are underdogs, like they are supposed to lay down for the big boys. They want to show the world what they are all about. A Mountaineer win is not what many fans are expecting this weekend, but they also would not be shocked if it happened. It will be tough, but it is not uncalled for. This one should be fun to watch, but I think Florida might have more points after sixty minutes.


The First Pick:

 Crocodiles                  34

Mountaineers              23

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Wofford 11/13/2010

Here we go with Week 10:

#4 Wofford (8-1, 6-0 1st) @ #3 Appalachian State (8-1, 6-1 2nd)

Time: 3:00pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 67.16
WC: 68.08

Home advantage: 3.15 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 16-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 44, Wofford 34, October 17, 2009

Weeks ago, a showdown in Boone of the top two Southern Conference programs was almost inevitable. The Mountaineers are no strangers to this de facto championship game. This will be the third year in a row for such a game for Appalachian, although the opponent has changed this season. Wofford has literally run all over their competition this season. Appalachian has done the same, despite a bump in the road last week. Wofford had a rough season last year, with tremendous injuries and a rash of the flu bug that decimated the roster, but has bounced back nicely. Both teams will be fighting for, at minimum, a share of the conference championship, but neither wants to share it with the other. In 2007, Appalachian and Wofford shared the championship, and were in line to meet in the NCAA semifinals, but Wofford lost a late lead at home against Richmond. With the NCAA and its love affair with geographical matchups, both Appalachian and Wofford could be in line for another crash course in December. In the meantime, fans will just have to settle for a battle of top five teams, with a ring on the line.

Wofford knows what is like to go into a hostile environment and win. Earlier this season, they slipped past Georgia Southern in Statesboro 33-31. Both teams were ranked in The Sports Network Top 25. Over 21,000 in attendance witnessed a high scoring battle that consisted of 107 total rushing attempts and only 23 passes. Georgia Southern ran for 243 yards, and Wofford carried for 302 yards. At that point in the season, both teams were held below their rushing average for that game, Georgia Southern by 30 yards, Wofford by 20 yards. Throughout the season Wofford has been right around 320 yards rushing per game. Georgia Southern has had their average as high 270 a game, but has fallen to 243 yards rushing. All season long, both Georgia Southern and Wofford have been in the top five in rushing, and in the bottom five in passing. Last weekend, Appalachian held Georgia Southern 50 yards below their season average on the ground. Southern averaged 5 yards per carry against the Terrier defense, while Appalachian stymied the Eagles into 3.3 yards per carry. Both Wofford and Georgia Southern practice against similar offenses all season long, while in one week of preparation, Appalachian held the Eagles to 20% fewer yards and 1.1 yard less per carry than their season average.

There is no secret to the success of the Wofford offense. It runs through Watauga County product Eric Breitenstein. In just nine games this season, Breitenstein has run for 1,189 yards and 17 touchdowns. He is a strong back that fits the Wofford system and only gets stronger as the game wears on. In four games where he has rushed twenty times or more, he averaged 189 yards and 7 yards per carry. However, Wofford results have not depended directly on Breitenstein. In his four games where he was most dominant, two games were blowouts, and the other two were decided by a touchdown in each game. In the five games where Breitenstein had less then glowing performances, one was a loss, three were blowouts, and the other was decided by two points, against, you guessed it, Georgia Southern. With Wofford, you can not forget quarterback Mitch Allen who has 567 yards on 5.2 yards per carry or Mike Rucker, who has 424 yards on 6.1 yards per carry. They all can and will burn you and those are the three options that must be accounted for on every play.

Obviously, last week there were not many bright spots for the Mountaineers. The offense was stagnant and a lot of that had to do with Georgia Southern. The Eagles attacked the line of scrimmage relentlessly, and were able to disrupt any rhythm the Mountaineer offense tried to gain. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, they return home this weekend to face a team that has not had a thought about stopping them in a long time. In the last two years, Appalachian has torched Wofford for 1,231 yards of total offense and 114 points. Of those yards gained, 782 yards have come through the air. The Mountaineers must continue to exploit what has been a weakness in the Wofford defense as they have in years past. The 2010 group of Mountaineer wide receivers is as good as any in school history, from the top to the bottom. The Wofford secondary averages 6’0” tall. Brian Quick is 6’5’ every day of the week. In his two meeting against the Terriers, Quick has caught 12 passes for 353 yards and five touchdowns. That is an astounding 29 yards per catch and a touchdown reception every 2.4 catches.

In the last five years, Wofford has been the only consistent threat to Appalachian during its run of five straight conference championships. During that stretch, only the 2006 game failed to be a high scoring affair, with Appalachian winning 14-7. The winners in the other four games scored at least 42 points. Including the game this weekend, Appalachian and Wofford will face off for the third time in six years as ranked opponents, and Saturday will mark the second time both teams were inside the top five nationally. Wofford will try as it always has, like almost every Appalachian opponent, and try to control the football. In a game like this, turnovers can kill a team. Any quick turnovers by either team will certainly lead to points scored. These two offenses are too powerful to be given extra chances. Most importantly, the team with fewer penalties will certainly benefit. Against an option attack, a free five yards is like giving them another first down. On the flip side of that, neither team can afford a wasted possession that an offensive holding call will result in. Field position will also be very critical. Both teams become very conservative in their play calling when they are pinned inside their own 20 yard line, which can also be viewed as a wasted possession. An absolutely packed house is expected this weekend and since Wofford has joined the conference, they have only won once in Boone. On that day in 2002, Wofford ran all over Appalachian, setting a record for rushing yards against in a single game. I think it is going to take another record breaking performance from Wofford to be able to beat the Mountaineers at home this weekend. The sting from the Georgia Southern loss may be just enough motivation for the Mountaineers this weekend to spring themselves into the playoffs. I am expecting a big day from the Mountaineer offense and defense.

The First Pick:

 Lap Dogs                   31

Mountaineers              45

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Georgia Southern 11/6/2010

Here we go with Week 9:

#1 Appalachian State (8-0, 6-0 1st) @ Georgia Southern (4-4, 2-3 T4th)   

Time: 2:00pm

TV: None
Stadium: Paulson Stadium
Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 18,000
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 70.11
GSU: 58.51

Home advantage: 3.03 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 8 ½   points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 13-11-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 52, Georgia Southern 16, October 24, 2009

The road to rebuilding the Georgia Southern program took an odd U turn this past offseason. The Eagles decided the only way they could move forward, was to take three steps back, by bringing back the triple option offense. The glory days of Georgia Southern football was established by slot backs, fullbacks and athletic quarterbacks. During their run, Georgia Southern and their accomplishments were admired by the rest of what was then called I-AA football. In the last decade, the face of southern football has moved from the Georgia plains to the Appalachian Mountains. The Mountaineers are now the team that reloads and rarely finds time to rebuild. Georgia Southern is hoping that an outdated offense can take them back to the promised land.

Most critics knew that a return to the triple option for Georgia Southern could mean trouble for the rest of the Southern Conference, although it could take some time. Earlier this season, it appeared that the Eagles had caught on faster than many had hoped. The Eagles played Navy very tough before losing 13-7, and proceeded to knock off then #11 Elon in a dominating performance to move to 3-1 overall. That start was followed by tough losses to Wofford and Chattanooga. In both games, Southern had leads in the second half, but did not have enough defense to win. Since then, the Eagles have played two lackluster games offensively and have also been hurt by the injuries. The Citadel turned the ball over to Southern nine times, but the Eagles only managed a 20-0 win. Last weekend, the Eagles lost to Samford for the third straight season. Quarterback Jaybo Shaw was hurt in the Citadel game early, and played in relief in the Samford game.

The triple option is about as interesting as watching paint dry. The idea is to lull a defense to sleep, and then bust a big play for twenty or thirty yards. Just when you think you have it stopped, a pitch goes to the outside slot back that was in motion, while your linebackers are looking for the football in the fullbacks gut. It all starts with option one, which is the quarterback. Jaybo Shaw is a transfer from Georgia Tech, who conveniently played under former Southern coach Paul Johnson. Current Southern head coach Jeff Monken has been an assistant coach under Paul Johnson since 1997, at Georgia Southern, Navy, and then Georgia Tech. It does not take a genius to connect those dots. Regardless, Shaw is the key for Southern. In the past two games, Southern has been held well below their average in total offense, as Shaw recovers from injury. Despite missing the majority of two games, Shaw has more carries than any other Eagle player, with 88 for 141 yards and has scored seven touchdowns. Even though freshman quarterback Jerick McKinnon may be more exciting as a runner, his passing game leaves a lot to be desired. For that reason alone, Shaw is the key for Southern. His status for this weekend is uncertain, but was healthy enough to play against Samford in the second half, where he ran six times for negative four yards, and completed three of nine passes for thirty-five yards and an interception.

The Mountaineer offense continues to steamroll opponents. The third ranked scoring offense in the country at 39.1 points per game is led by DeAndre Presley, who is ranked eighth nationally in total offense per game at 288 yards. Presley has done it on the ground and in the air, averaging 80 yards on the ground with 10 rushing touchdowns, and 208 yards passing with 15 touchdowns. Presley threw his first interception of the season last week and completed his fewest passes (13) for the fewest yards (137) of the season since the North Carolina Central game, where passing the ball was not exactly necessary. Presley will need to be on his usual game this weekend to keep the Southern defense honest and keep the Paulson Stadium crowd out of the game.

Travaris Cadet had one of his best games of the season running the ball last week against Furman. Cadet has 72 carries on the season, and 24 of them came against Furman last week for 108 yards and three touchdowns. It was his third career 100 yard game, the previous two coming against North Carolina Central (149) this year, and Georgia Southern (131) last year. Cadet is the Mountaineers X-factor. Any time he has the ball, he is a threat to make special things happen. Cadet has 486 yards rushing, 154 receiving, and 580 punt and kick return yards and six touchdowns.

Traveling to Statesboro has never been an easy task for Appalachian football teams. Even in the most recent trips in 2006 and 2008, when Appalachian was the defending national champions, one game went to two overtimes, and the other was decided by a single point. It is a different kind of rivalry between these two schools. The Western Carolina series has the jug, the Furman series was known for close games, but the Southern rivalry is rooted in hate. It is the reason that Georgia Southern continues to schedule Appalachian for its homecoming, because they want to have as many fans attending as possible. In the modern era, this series has also included the 1987 playoff game that Appalachian won 19-0. Appalachian also defeated Southern in 1999 17-16 when the Eagles were #1. Southern got their playoff payback by sweeping the Mountaineers in 2001, once in Boone, and then in Statesboro. Southern scored its most points in the series in 2004 with a 54-7 victory, and Appalachian returned the beating last year in Boone, with a 52-16 win. Each game in this series, the other has been trying to get revenge from a previous outcome it seems. This year will be no different. Appalachian will look to extend its conference winning streak, and no other team would love to spoil that more than Georgia Southern. The Eagles will need to do what they do best. They must control the football, and sustain drives. Last weekend, Southern had 11 drives end in less than six plays, and they only gained 110 yards on those drives. There were three instances of three downs and a punt. The Eagles went 11 drives between scores. That will not cut it against Appalachian, who have scored at least five times in some fashion in every game this season. The Mountaineer defense must be up to the task, by playing assignment football, and cannot afford to miss tackles. Southern is a team, when forced to pass, becomes very predictable, and has given up two sacks a game this season. If Appalachian can force the Eagles into long yardage situations on second down, they will be successful. Southern only converts about 40% of their third downs, which is fifth in the conference. On offense the Mountaineers must make the Eagles chase them. I think Presley will have opportunities in the secondary and make the Eagles pay. I expect a hard fought game, but ending in favor of the Mountaineers as the game wears on.

The First Pick:

Gumroot Gus              27

Mountaineers              35

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Furman 10/30/2010

Here we go with Week 8:

Furman (4-3, 2-2 T4th) @ #1 Appalachian State (7-0, 5-0 1st)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 69.47
FU: 59.82

Home advantage: 2.95 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12 ½   points (rounded).

Series: Furman leads 21-16-3
Last Meeting: Appalachian 52, Furman 27, October 31, 2009

Earlier in this decade, Furman and Appalachian State had some of the most dramatic finishes you could ever imagine. At one point, seven straight games were decided by one possession, with Appalachian winning five of those contests. And then there was a turning point that occurred during the 2005 playoffs. That game was the most recent classic in this series. Including that win in 2005 that propelled Appalachian to its first national championship game, the Mountaineers have won five straight games with Furman. It is the longest winning streak for Appalachian in the series. Furman has not won a playoff game since the 2005 season, and has struggled to less then Furman like records in the past couple seasons. However, do not let the records or the winning streaks fool you. This has been highly contested series since the first game in 1971 that ended in a scoreless tie, and I would not expect anything different on this Black Saturday.

Furman entered the season with high hopes, with the return of dual threat quarterback Chris Forcier. A return to the playoffs seemed to be on the horizon. Forcier was exactly the kind of quarterback that Bobby Lamb wanted to run his spread offense. However, Forcier was lost for the season in the loss to South Carolina, and with it, the Paladins hopes to return to the playoffs might also have been as well. The following week, Furman was pummeled by Wofford and still had many challenging conference games remaining. Furman appeared to regain its form last weekend, when it took a big lead into the fourth quarter at home against Chattanooga. However, the Mocs were persistent, and may have learned a few lessons from their loss to Appalachian at the beginning of the season. The Mocs scored 26 straight points in the final frame and stunned the Paladins. In what had to be a gut-wrenching loss, the Paladins must find some inner strength if they are going to compete with the top-ranked team in their head coach’s personal house of horrors.

The Furman offense was once built on running the football, and running the football some more. That is not the case any longer. Despite their average of 156 yards per game rushing, which is ranked 48th nationally, Furman has not been very consistent on the ground. In conference games this season, Furman has only averaged 93 yards a game, for a total of 375 yards in four games. The averages are skewed from games against Colgate and Howard, where the Paladins rushed for 666 yards. Chris Forcier only played against Colgate, but did gain 130 yards that day.

Take away the blowout wins over Colgate and Howard and the Paladins scoring average also take a significant hit. Thirty-one points a game is good enough for 18th nationally, but take out the 45 from Colgate and the 56 from Howard, and the Paladins find themselves scoring 24.4 points per game. That would only be good enough for 56th nationally, tied with Massachusetts, which is scary considering CAA teams are not exactly burning up the scoreboard this season. The Paladins are going to have to come up with some big plays from receiver Adam Mims (42 catches, 553 yards, 4 TD) and Mike Brown (266 yards, 4.8 ypc) if they plan to keep up with the Mountaineers.

Last weekend, the Mountaineers did exactly what they needed to do in a rivalry games situation. It was obvious before the game, that Appalachian has much better talent than Western Carolina. Appalachian came out and took care of business quickly by going up 20-0 on the Catamounts, pretty much squashing any hopes they had of an upset. The offense looked stagnant and bored in the second half, but there was also no pressure from the Catamount offense to score more points. In several situations down the stretch, even with the game mostly decided Appalachian turned back Western Carolina on more than one fourth down and also held on a goal line stand. In the age of spread offenses and high scores, it seems that defensive stands are almost a thing of the past in college football. It was nice to see that burning fire on the defensive side of the ball.

The Mountaineer defense continues to get burned through the air by opposing offenses. At this point in the season, one is led to believe that is just a part of the scheme, compared to being mental lapses in the secondary. Furman basically has one go to receiver in Adam Mims, and he will get his fair share of balls thrown his way. Furman only averages 181 yards a game in the air, and also allows 2.71 sacks per contest. Compare that to Appalachian’s defense which gives up 218 yards a game and get this, averages 2.71 sacks a game. Sounds like Jabari Fletcher, John Rizor and Bobby Bozzo, who have combined for 13.5 sacks, will have their way in the Paladin backfield on Saturday.            

The Mountaineers will begin the gauntlet of the conference schedule this weekend with three straight games against some of the more hated rivals. Furman has been one of those teams for a long time, and has been scheduled as the Black Saturday since the renewal of the game in 2002. We all remember how that one went down, Josh Jeffries, Derrick Black, and Who Cares!!! Furman has not won in Boone 14 years. The Paladins mobile quarterback, Cody Worley is averaging 1.3 yards per carry. Mike Brown has not been the same since 2008, if not before. I just do not see this Furman team as being explosive, or capable of holding down another offense. The Paladins are giving up 225 yards a game on the ground, 111th in the nation. Their lone bright spot is probably their secondary, which has picked off six passes, and returned four of them for touchdowns. If DeAndre Presley is going to throw an interception, it might be this weekend, but the Paladins are going to need more than just on turnover to stick around this weekend. Furman is going to have to do something that an Appalachian opponent has not done this season, and that is keeping them less than 35 points, and that still might not be enough. Furman will have to keep the Mountaineer offense off the field for a significant amount of time. In three Furman losses, the opposing team has dominated the line of scrimmage. Wofford and Chattanooga possessed the ball for 36 minutes each. South Carolina possessed it for 34 minutes. Good defenses are only good if their offense can give them time to rest, and score some points as well, and the Furman offense has not been good in either of those categories. The Mountaineers will dominate, but the final score will not indicate it.



The First Pick:

Furple                          23

Mountaineers              38


Appalachian State Football: Appalachian: @ Western Carolina 10/23/2010

Here we go with Week 7:

#1 Appalachian State (6-0, 4-0 1st) @ Western Carolina (2-5, 1-3 8th)

Time: 3:00pm

TV: SportSouth
Stadium: EJ Whitmire Stadium
Surface: Desso Challenge Pro 2 (Artificial)

Capacity: 13,742
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 68.68
WCU: 49.34

Home advantage: 3.50 points

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

Series: Appalachian leads 55-18-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 19, Western Carolina 14, November 21, 2009

There was a time, long ago, when Appalachian and Western Carolina would play football, and there really was no clear favorite. There was a time that this game meant something, and that there was something to play for. Well, the “Old Mountain Jug” is about all there is left to play for if you are Catamount football fan. The feeling of a rivalry between these two mountain schools is no longer mutual. Appalachian has won 23 of the last 25 times in the series. Both wins that came for the Catamounts in the modern era, occurred in Cullowhee. The last Catamount victory came in 2004. Since then, and perhaps even before, these two programs have gone in opposite directions. Appalachian has won every Southern Conference championship since the loss in 2004, and the Catamounts have only won seven conference games in the same amount of time. Western Carolina lost their home opener earlier this season, to Division II Tusculum. Appalachian is 6-0 this season and has won 24 straight conference games. In the Battle for the Old Mountain Jug, some things never change.

Western Carolina seemed like a team on the rise in their last game against Appalachian. The Mountaineer offense struggled, and game was not decided until the fourth quarter. The Appalachian nation got their first glimpse of life without Armanti Edwards. It was not pretty. The Catamounts were suddenly back. However, before the Catamount season could get on track, it crashed and burned at home to a team they had no business losing to in Tusculum. The game was not close. Tusculum ran up 54 points on the Catamounts and won going away. The next week, the Cats had to travel to Gardner Webb, who had just defeated Akron in overtime. Western pulled out a win in Boiling Springs but lost a closely contested game against Chattanooga, whose only losses are to Appalachian and Jacksonville St. A win over The Citadel followed and the Catamounts season appeared to be turning the season around, after playing three good games in a row. Then, reality set in again. The Cats were manhandled by Samford on Homecoming and then took another lopsided loss to Wofford last weekend.

Neither the Catamount offense nor defense is performing well when compared to their peers. Out of 117 FCS teams, the Catamounts ranked 102nd in total offense and pass defense, 108th in total defense, and 103rd in scoring defense. The Cats can not move the ball, and they can not stop anyone else from moving it either. Comparing some of the Cats defensive stats to the Mountaineers offensive numbers is almost laughable. Appalachian is third in the country in total offense and scoring offense, seventh in rushing offense, and sixteenth in passing offense.

Western Carolina is unsure of their starting quarterback for this weekend. When asked on the weekly teleconference, head coach Dennis Wagner responded with uncertainty. He told the media that he would know on Thursday whether to start South Carolina transfer Zac Brindise or true freshman Brandon Pechloff. The two alternated series in the second half against Wofford. Brindise has thrown three interceptions in the last two weeks while Pechloff has thrown four interceptions himself. Wagner will likely stick with a quarterback as soon as they stop throwing the ball to the other team.

Appalachian was able to put The Citadel away early in the second quarter as they cruised to a 39-10 victory. DeAndre Presley threw a career high five touchdown passes and has now thrown 143 passes without an interception this year. Presley now has 14 touchdown passes on the season. After suffering a head injury that forced him out of the Elon game, Presley only ran four times for 27 yards. Brian Quick emerged once again as he caught three passes for 99 yards and two touchdowns, highlighted by a 65 yard catch and run from Presley. Travaris Cadet chipped in with three catches for 79 yards and a touchdown and eight rushes for 59 yards. Despite splitting carries with entire Mountaineer backfield, Cadet has shown his playmaking skills all season, averaging 7.6 yards per carry.

The Mountaineer defense was very impressive in their first test of the season against a triple option offense. Appalachian only allowed 197 yards rushing on 53 carries. Linebackers Justin Wray and DJ Smith combined for 24 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble and fumble recovery. The Citadel was not able to complete a pass, except to Mark Legree, who grabbed his fourth interception of the season and his 21st of his career. The ten points allowed were also a season low for the Mountaineers.

Personally, every season, the Western Carolina game makes me nervous, because it is more than just another conference game. Appalachian and Western have met each other more than any other team in their schools history. Most of the time, this game has been played at or near the end of the season. It was like a bowl game for both teams, assuming neither was advancing to the playoffs. Once again, it has been more than just the last game of the season. It was a springboard into the next season, a way to win recruits in western North Carolina. However, during the last 25 years of Appalachian dominance, this game has turned into a Western Carolina super bowl, so to speak. The last two Catamount wins have turned into massive celebrations. For Appalachian, a win is considered business as usual. It appears that recent history will continue to repeat itself. Appalachian has become a national force year in and out, while the Catamount program continues to struggle, no matter who mans the sidelines. The Cat offense is just plain bad, and their defense is not far behind. DeAndre Presley started his first career game two years ago in Cullowhee. He struggled in the first half, but won his first conference award as he was named freshman of the week. The Mountaineers won 35-10. Presley is now much more mature, and many consider his play the biggest surprise in the FCS this season. The Mountaineers simply have too many weapons, and as long as they take care of the football on Saturday they should not have any trouble with the Catamounts.

The First Pick:

Kitties                        13

Mountaineers              41

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. The Citadel 10/16/2010

Here we go with Week 6:

The Citadel (2-4, 0-3 9th) @ #1 Appalachian State (5-0, 3-0 1st)

Time: 6:00pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU: 70.06
Cit: 46.01

Home advantage: 3.91 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 28 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 23-11
Last Meeting: Appalachian 30, Citadel 27 OT, October 3, 2009

Finally, the bye week is over, the hoopla that surrounds homecoming is over with, and we get down to serious business. There are six weeks left in the season, five conference games, and fortunately for Appalachian three of those five conference games are at home. And when you talk about home, it might finally start feeling like it this weekend, just in time for the flatlanders from Charleston to visit. Much cooler weather is expected as is another electric atmosphere at Kidd Brewer Stadium as the Mountaineers play their only night game of the year at The Rock.

The Citadel’s football program survived a nasty offseason on the wrong page of the newspapers, and the result of that is a new offense being headed by a couple of knobs. Freshmen quarterbacks Sam Martin and Matt Thompson have slowly guided the triple option for the Citadel Bulldogs. The Citadel has opened the conference slate with three straight conference losses to Furman, Western Carolina, and Chattanooga, and points have been hard to come by. The Bulldogs have only managed 12.3 points per contest in conference play, despite averaging well over 34 minutes of possession in each of those games.

The statistical leader for the Cadets is fullback Terrell Dallas, who is averaging close to 80 yards per game and leads the team with five touchdowns. Dallas is a tough physical player who rarely loses a yard and also leads the team in carries. However, the quarterback position leads the Citadel in overall carries. Between Martin and Thompson, there have been 125 quarterback keepers in six games, although only averaging 2.7 yards per tote. After the quarterbacks, there is not another Citadel back that has received more than 24 carries on the season. Seven different players have carried 10 times or more.

The midseason bye week once again played havoc with the Mountaineers. In recent years, Appalachian has played very close ballgames with almost every opponent coming off of a bye. All recent losses came by three points, most notably, Georgia Southern in 2007 and Furman in 2005. In fact, before last week, the victory over Samford last season was the first time Appalachian has won following a bye week in the spread offense era, not counting a 2006 playoff win over Coastal Carolina.

The Mountaineer defense reverted back to form on Saturday, but not the form that many fans wanted to see. It appeared like a replay of the Chattanooga game. Time after time, Scott Riddle was able to throw over the heads of the Mountaineer defenders. Luckily, the bulk of the conference passing attacks are behind the Mountaineers, and they can focus on stopping the run. Outside of Western Carolina, the remaining Mountaineer opponents prefer to run the ball, while three of them use some form of the option. This Saturday will be a huge pretest for the Mountaineers to see where they stand playing assignment defense and not missing tackles. A missed tackle against an option team is a first down, and not only that, but a whole new set of downs.

The Citadel is going to be a team that later in the season may get it all together and beat someone that they really should not beat. I am thinking that team could be Georgia Southern or Elon. I do not think that is going to happen this weekend. In the past, The Citadel has played terrible in Boone, no matter the time of year. This will be the twentieth time the two schools will face off in Boone and the Mountaineers have won sixteen times. This Citadel team is very new to the triple option and they are also very young at key positions on offense. Their game plan will be to control the clock and they must eliminate turnovers. The Bulldogs have lost 12 fumbles in six games and they cannot do that and have a chance against Appalachian. Even though the Bulldogs do a really good job of possessing the ball, they must take advantage of their opportunities. The Citadel has only scored eight touchdowns on twenty red zone possessions. They will need to be perfect in that department to compete with the Apps. If they can control the clock, make this a short game, and score close to 24 points, they will have a good chance at the upset. I think it could be difficult for Appalachian to transition from playing pass defense, to playing run defense, at least for the first couple quarters. The key for Appalachian will be not to beat itself. The Mountaineers committed way too many penalties last week that bailed out Elon over and over.  An upset could be in the making if that trend continues. The health of DeAndre Presley is also a huge concern for Appalachian. Several Appalachian players were quite outspoken over a questionable late hit on their star quarterback in the closing minutes of the win over Elon. Jamal Jackson could get his first start, which would also favor The Citadel. Whether or not Presley can play is yet to be seen, but I do not think it will matter. Jackson has shown that he can also run the spread and his numbers back it up, even in limited action. I think the Mountaineers come out with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. They want to show everyone that the Elon game was a fluke and plan to take it out on an undeserving Citadel team

The First Pick:

Cadets             14

Mountaineers 56

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Elon 10/9/2010

Here we go with Week 5:

#19 Elon (2-3, 1-1 T3rd) @ #1 Appalachian State (4-0, 2-0 1st)

Time: 3:00pm

TV: Sportsouth
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium                
Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU:     66.83
Elon:    55.71

Home advantage: 3.01 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 14 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 28-9-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 27, Elon 10, November 14, 2009


            A little over a month ago, the Homecoming game against Elon was one that fans and prognosticators circled as a challenge for Appalachian. Some people may have labeled it as a “big game.” Despite the Elon win-loss record, it still should be considered a tough game. Some of the places that Elon has played and lost are not easy wins by any stretch. Their schedule has been much tougher than the Mountaineer schedule. However you slice it, Elon plans to come to Boone and do something they have not done since 1964, and that is win a football game. The motivation to win this game for Elon has mounted with each passing week. Appalachian is the five time defending conference champion. This is also Homecoming at Appalachian, and the Mountaineers also climbed to the top of the major polls due to the results from last weekend. Nothing would be sweeter for Pete Lembo and Scott Riddle than to beat Appalachian under these circumstances. The challenge is for the Appalachian faithful. Do not get caught up in a win-loss record, in the festivities, or the fact that some sports writers think you are the best in the country. Remain hungry. Be loud. Be proud. Go Apps!!


            The face of the Elon football program the last four years has been that of Scott Riddle. There are many titles that have been bestowed upon him in his time at Elon. Riddle will ultimately break almost every significant Southern Conference record in the passing department. Despite his lofty numbers, many critics have labeled him as a system quarterback. It is a fact. Elon likes to pass the ball up and down the field, and run the ball just enough to keep a pass rush honest. Riddle has benefited through that strategy, but that is not to say just anyone could do it. Riddle has also benefited from having a wide receiver that will go down as one the all time best in NCAA history, in Terrell Hudgins, who graduated last year. Riddle has stats this year that mirror his career marks, including a 65% completion rate. Riddle is averaging his most yards per game passing since his freshman season. His touchdown passes are also on pace to match that of his freshman season as well. Riddle may miss Hudgins on the field, but his numbers are not showing it. However, last year Riddle only had four interceptions through nine game before meeting Appalachian. This year, he has thrown five interceptions in as many games.


            The Elon defense was rated tops in the country last year for most of the season, and then they met Appalachian. The tables have been turned upside down quickly for the Phoenix. Through last week, Elon was ranked 98th in the nation in total defense, and has been giving up over 30 points per game. They are very young in the secondary starting three freshmen and a sophomore that played linebacker last year. Their cornerbacks average 5’8” tall and 160 pounds. Across the board, Elon is starting only five upperclassmen on defense. Simply, they have not played enough college football to be consistent. It will be very difficult for Elon to match up against a very explosive Mountaineer offense, especially in the secondary.


            Despite a very lackluster second half against Samford ten days ago, the Mountaineers went to Birmingham and brought back with them they needed, another conference win. The heat had a huge affect on both teams, to the point where playing the second half was almost unnecessary. The Appalachian offense did run up 459 yards of offense against Samford, but it was well under the previous three games of the season. DeAndre Presley continued to be very effective with 97 yards on the ground rushing and another 176 yards passing and four total touchdowns. Just another day at the office for DeAndre.


            The defense came out of its shell against Samford and forced Dustin Taliaferro into throwing three interceptions, all which gave Appalachian excellent field position in the second quarter. The Mountaineers held Samford to 323 total yards, but are still vulnerable to the big play. Samford was able to connect on a 36 yards touchdown pass, and Fabian Truss broke free on a 74 yard touchdown run. Take out those plays, and Appalachian held Samford to 213 yards on 70 plays. Appalachian kept all conference running back Chris Evans in check as well, only allowing 42 yards on thirteen carries.


            To revisit something I was talking about earlier, I keep thinking about how Elon has won both their games at home, against Shaw and Samford, but has lost all of their road games, at “hostile environments” I will give them Georgia Southern. Hostile is being very generous when you talk about Georgia Southern, but I don’t know how hostile they can be toward a team that they are not rivals with. I could be wrong, those two schools could hate each other, but I doubt it reaches the levels of Southern and Appalachian. Richmond opened their new on campus stadium against Elon, in front of about 8,700 fans. I have been to many games with less then 10,000 fans, and never was it hostile. Elon also lost at Duke. Did they play in Cameron Indoor? Once again, never thought of using Duke football and rabid fan base in the same sentence until now. Enter Kidd Brewer Stadium. Appalachian fans can be hostile. Appalachian fans like to take offense to teams trying to take something from them, like a conference championship. Appalachian fans also don’t like certain teams that employ certain strategies that can be considered borderline unethical. I guarantee, to all those Elon players, who are underclassmen, and were not on the travel squad in 2008, that Kidd Brewer will be like nothing you have ever seen. Kidd Brewer is not Wallace Wade. Our coach broke a Wallace Wade record, twice. Anyway, back to the game. Elon has done their talking recently. Scott Riddle and wide receiver Sean Jeffcoat have mentioned how they want payback, or to stick it to Appalachian in their last chance as seniors. I read just about every article about Appalachian football during the week. Last year, before the Elon game, you did not hear a word from an Appalachian player. In the last two weeks, I have not read or heard a word from an Appalachian football player about Elon. The Mountaineers are focused. They knew the task and will do the talking with their play. Elon in simply too young and unhealthy. Their top running back, center, and wide receiver are out with injuries. It just does not add up to much of a game, much less an Elon win. Appalachian has had two weeks to prepare, but sometimes it can also be looked at as two weeks to get rusty. I will expect some rust on offense, but it will not take too long for the Mountaineers to find the end zone.


The First Pick:


Burning Birds           17

Mountaineers           38

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Samford 9/25/2010

Here we go with Week 4:

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

Time: 3:00pm

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

Capacity: 6,700
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU:     63.46
SAM:    53.90           

Home advantage: 3.01 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 6½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 3-1
Last Meeting: Appalachian 20, Samford 7, September 26, 2009


            The stretch run is upon us. For the next eight weeks, Appalachian will face nothing but conference opponents in its quest to become only the third team in Southern Conference history to win six straight conference championships. The next challenge is the Samford Bulldogs, a team that never impresses, but poses a threat of the unknown. This will be the third time that Appalachian and Samford meet on the gridiron as conference foes, and neither game has been easy for Appalachian. In 2008, Samford jumped to quick first quarter lead before the Apps scored three touchdowns in the second quarter and held on to win. Last year in Boone, Samford could stop the rain or Appalachian in a low scoring 20-7 loss. This game will be a test for both teams, as the Mountaineers will hit the road for the second time this season in conference play to face a Samford team that will be ready for one of the top teams in the country.


            Seems like Samford has had the same players line up on offense for three straight years. The numbers may have changed up front, but Samford’s offensive line is consistently one of the largest in the conference. The blind side of right handed quarterback Dustin Taliaferro is protected by the 317-pound left tackle Thomas Gray and 307-pound left guard Charlie Sanford. The line averages 285 pounds across the board and ascends in size from the left side to the right side. Running back Chris Evans has been a perennial all conference performer since his stepped on campus. The senior has rushed for over a thousand yards in each his first three seasons. Evans is on pace for 960 yards this season, partly due to a poor performance against Florida State in which he only carried 12 times for 39 yards, but responded well, going for over 100 yards in back to back weeks. Samford is 12-4 all time when Evans eclipses the 100 yard mark. One of those losses came at the hands of Appalachian.


            Dustin Taliaferro is not a guy who is going to impress you with his arm, nor is he an extremely mobile quarterback, but he gets the job done. He is very much in the mold of a game manager. His job is simple: control the ball, avoid mistakes and hand it off to Chris Evans. Taliaferro surprised the conference in 2008 with 13 touchdown passes compared to only five interceptions. However, once the conference got some tape on him, they were able to game plan against him better. In 2009, Taliaferro only managed nine touchdowns, and threw nine interceptions. This season looks like a mirror image of 2009. Taliaferro has three touchdowns, and three interceptions. Some quarterbacks can throw several interceptions and get away with it, but not when your offense is only managing 21 points a game, like Samford is this season. In 2009, Samford averaged just over 19 points a game, and in 2008 averaged almost 25 points a game. Taliaferro is going to need to overcome those statistics this weekend to give his Bulldogs a chance. In two seasons, Taliaferro has thrown a touchdown pass against every school in the conference, except Appalachian.


            The story of Travaris Cadet is an interesting one. Cadet came out of the high school as a very highly rated dual threat quarterback. After being bounced around by Toledo and Pearl River CC, Cadet has finally found a home at Appalachian State. Cadet has been moved around the field as a wide receiver, quarterback, back to receiver and now, might have found a home at running back. Usually when a player changes positions so  frequently, it means that the coaches are trying to find a way to get him the ball. The new position may become permanent, as Cadet filled in nicely for Devon Moore, who has is still working to become healthy. Although only rushing eight times, Cadet found enough open spaces to rack up 149 yards on the ground, highlighted by a 52 yard second quarter touchdown run last week against NC Central. Consistency in the running game will be extremely crucial now that the bulk of the conference schedule has begun. Burning clock in the fourth quarter is a must for any team to have hopes of competing for a championship.


            The Appalachian offense has been explosive as ever. Many believed the offense wouldn’t be as spectacular after the graduation of Armanti Edwards, but DeAndre Presley and company have surprised everyone. The Mountaineers are averaging over 43 points and have scored at least 40 points in every game, good enough for fourth nationally. Despite a running attack by committee, the Mountaineers are fifth in the nation with 255 yards a game. Three Mountaineers are averaging 40 yards a game or more on the ground, and neither of those names are Devon Moore. Appalachian leads the nation in total offense at 543 yards a game and is one of only five schools gaining more than 500 yards a game this season. The Samford defense will have its hands full stopping the Mountaineer attack as they rank 100th nationally against the pass and also have allowed over 33 points per game.


            I am slightly confused by this Samford team. It seems they tend to play up or down to their competition. Despite a wet game last year, I thought the Bulldogs would struggle mightily, but they kept it close enough to make several Mountaineers fans uneasy. The same team last year, lost to Furman by two on the road, beat Georgia Southern by 21 at home, but also lost to The Citadel by 12 on the road. Their three games this year are also interesting results. Samford was spanked by a  rebuilding Florida State team, struggled to beat Northwestern State who was 0-11 last year, and then had to come back from a 21-7 deficit to beat Division II Newberry. The tools are in place for Samford to make a run at the Apps, but they will need some help. They are going to have to find a away to keep Appalachian to 400 yards of offense or less. They will also have to lean heavily on Chris Evans and control the game. The Bulldogs have averaged 3.6 yards per carry as a team, and that will not be enough to keep the ball away from Appalachian. They will also have to take advantage of the big play. Appalachian showed some vulnerability allowing a kickoff return for touchdown last week against NC Central. Fabian Truss leads the conference with 27.5 yards per kick return. Samford also has the conference leader in interceptions in Thomas Broussard, although Appalachian has yet to throw an interception this year. I have a hard time seeing Samford staying in the game, and the Bulldogs will have to do some things that they have not done yet this season, like convert on third downs, sustain drives, and score in the red zone. I do not think Appalachian will have many problems with Samford, but this one will not be a huge blowout.   


The First Pick:


Lil’ Bullpups              10

Mountaineers           34

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. North Carolina Central 9/18/2010

Here we go with Week 3:

North Carolina Central (1-1) @ #2 Appalachian State (2-0, 1-0 1st)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium                
Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU:     65.07
NCCU:    32.53        

Home advantage: 3.01 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 35½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 55, NC Central 21, October 10, 2009


            Last weekend’s game against Chattanooga, I mean, Jacksonville, was a tale of two halves, again. The Mountaineers used to be the team that shut opponents down in the first quarter while cruising to lopsided victories. This season, the Mountaineers are doing their best to keep fans in their seats a little longer and force them to buy an extra stadium cup or two of their favorite beverage. In all seriousness, it is a concern that could cost them a game if it is not corrected soon. Once again, for the second consecutive week, the Mountaineers scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half, and this time it was a knock out blow for Jacksonville. NC Central is not the passing team that Jacksonville is, so the Mountaineers will have another week to correct their play action defense before visiting Samford, a team that lives on the play action passing game.


            Running back Tim Shankle leads the offense for the NC Central Eagles. Shankle is in his senior year and could possibly eclipse the 2,000 yard career mark against Appalachian on Saturday. Shankle only needs 63 yards to reach that milestone, and has averaged 57 yards a game during his career. In the meeting last year against Appalachian, Shankle had 31 yards on 12 carries. His work will be cut out for him against an Appalachian defense that is ranked 27th in the country, giving up only 109 yards a game on the ground.


            The starter at quarterback could be the biggest question for the Eagles. Junior Michael Johnson played the entire game last week in the loss to Winston Salem State. A transfer from Tulsa, Johnson threw for 193 yards and no touchdown passes while also throwing two interceptions. Against Johnson C Smith, Keon Williams threw four touchdown passes while also gaining 62 yards on the ground while dominating the Golden Bulls 59-0. Whoever starts at quarterback will be looking for Geovonie Irvine, who has 12 catches for 141 yards on the season. Irvine stands all of 5’7”, and rocks the scales at 150 pounds.


            As the young season has progressed, the biggest question mark one month ago, has now become the most consistent player on either side of the ball for Appalachian. DeAndre Presley has done nothing but impress this season. The national leader in passing efficiency and total offense has completed 70% of his passes for 625 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. On top of that, his running game has also improved in less than a week. After eleven rushes for 25 yards in week one against Chattanooga, Presley found plenty of room to run against Jacksonville, gaining 101 yards on 16 carries. After all Presley has done on the field during games, Coach Moore praises his leadership more than anything this season and that is about as big a compliment you can receive and means more than any touchdown ever will.


            Brian Quick was another star in the win over Jacksonville with his three touchdown receptions. Quick went over 100 yards again and now has eleven catches for 253 yards this season, averaging 23 yards per reception. What might be more important for Appalachian’s continued success is not the passes that Quick catches, but the passes he does not. There have not been many plays run this season where opposing defenses didn’t double team Quick with either a linebacker or another defensive back. As long as Quick remains healthy and forces defenses to pay attention, it just opens up more passing lanes for the likes of Matt Cline (10 catches, 98 yards) and Ben Jorden(6 catches, 88 yards). Throw in the return of CoCo Hillary this week and the receiving corps only becomes stronger. A return of the traditional running game will be needed before seasons end, but if DeAndre Presley and these pass catchers keep this pace up, good things will happen. There is not a defensive secondary in this division that can keep up with this group of players.


            Last year, two early Mountaineer turnovers deep in their own territory, led to fourteen NC Central points. Last week, the Mountaineers fumbled six times, but were fortunate enough to only lose two of those fumbles. Ball security should have become a key priority this week at practice. Turning the ball over to the other team cannot happen in the game of football if you expect to win. Rarely will you lose the turnover battle and win, especially when conference play starts. I am looking for a cleaner game for the Mountaineers. Penalties will happen and are slightly more tolerable, but I am hoping the Mountaineers don’t put it on the turf this weekend. A nice performance by the defense will also be appreciated. The Eagles managed less than 200 yards of total offense last year against Appalachian. Despite having six new starters on defense, this number better remain in tact this weekend, or Appalachian is going to be forced to win a shootout every week in conference play. The pass defense must improve. There are way too many experienced players on that side of the ball to have teams throwing over their heads. Finally, I think many fans want to see the return of the traditional running game. It was nice to see Presley run over 100 yards and very surprising to see Jamal Jackson run for 49 yards in limited action. Devon Moore is the missing piece, and although he carried 11 times last weekend, 3.5 yards a carry is not what Mountaineer fans are used to seeing. Hopefully Devon will be close to 100% soon, but I don’t think the Mountaineers will need him this week.

The First Pick:

 Red Beaks                13

Mountaineers           56