Appalachian Football vs. Illinois State

Here we go with the Second Round:

#16 Illinois State (8-3, Missouri Valley At-large) @ #7 Appalachian State (8-3, SoCon At-large)

Time: 2:00pm

TV/Video: ESPN3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.48

ISU: 62.73

Home: 2.90 points

Illinois State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1 ½ points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

8AM – Low 40s. Partly Cloudy
Noon – Mid 50s. Mostly Sunny
Kickoff – Mid 50s. Partly Cloudy
End of game – Low 50s.

From here until the season is over, every game is a battle. In seasons past, Appalachian would have a game or two on the schedule where a win seemed more likely than not, but that was not the case in 2012. Each week has already been a battle. The Mountaineers went at it for eleven straight weeks without a break. One can argue that the Coastal Carolina game was one of those easier games, but the Chanticleers are also in the playoffs. Montana and East Carolina provided tough tests early on in the season, and the Southern Conference was as strong as it has been in recent memory. Luckily for Appalachian, a three week break between their final regular season game and their first playoff game has provided some much needed rest. Illinois State played perhaps their toughest opponent on their schedule in their final game of the season against North Dakota State and sat on pins and needles the following day waiting to learn their playoff fate. Appalachian was all but a sure bet to make the playoffs. For Illinois State, this is their first playoff appearance since 2006 while the Mountaineers are in the postseason for the eighth straight year. However, don’t read into this Illinois State team as one that is just happy to be here. They set goals to win all their road games and did just that. It will have been four weeks since Illinois State last played a road game when foot hits leather on Saturday. Can the Redbirds maintain the road momentum?

The Mountaineers and Redbirds have never met before on the gridiron. Appalachian has played four of the Redbirds conference mates, all in the playoffs, most recently in 2010 against Western Illinois. Appalachian is 4-0 in those games, all being played in very familiar venues. Three times Missouri Valley opponents lost at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The fourth, Northern Iowa, lost to the Mountaineers in Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, a place the Mountaineers visit every other year when playing the Chattanooga Mocs.

Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown was the Missouri Valley offensive player of the year. He is big for a quarterback, tall and strong at 6’4 and 235 pounds. He is protected by one of the most underrated offensive lines at the FCS level. The Redbird line only allowed ten sacks on the season. They average 6’5” tall and 316 pounds across the board, with 59 combined starts. Brown has played in every game of his career, amassing some brilliant statistics. Brown is only 98 yards shy of surpassing 10,000 passing yards for his career. Considering he has thrown for 100 yards or more in 41 of his 44 games, hitting that milestone is almost a given. Although he is much bigger, Brown reminds me of Matt Barr, the 2010 Walter Payton Award finalist from Western Illinois. Brown is more accurate than Barr in 2010, but Barr throw for almost 800 more yards, and tossed seven more touchdowns. Brown is mobile, but does not use his athleticism too much outside the pocket beyond extending the play, opposed to running for first downs. When Barr came to Boone, he had a rough day, completing only 13 passes for 98 yards to go along with three interceptions. The weather in Boone that day might have played a factor as six inches of snow covered the High Country.

The Redbirds are a passing team, as the lead the Missouri Valley in passing yardage, but make no mistake, this team wants to establish possession and run the ball. Fifty-two percent of their play calls were runs. Seven of their games this season, Illinois State won the time of possession battle significantly. Twice the opposing team won the battle of possession, while two other instances, the difference was negligible. In their three losses, ISU lost the possession battle twice, most notably in their home shutout loss to Southern Illinois. Darrelynn Dunn is the primary ball carrier for the Redbirds. Dunn carried 221 times on the season, which is right at twenty-two carries a game, considering he did not play against Southern Illinois. The majority of his carries, 58% of them, were in the first five games of the season. The same can be said about his touchdown numbers. Nine of his twelve touchdowns were in the first five games of the season. In the latter half of the year, Dunn has slowed down, with only 307 of his 850 rushing yards coming in the Redbirds final five games.

Appalachian will counter Matt Brown with a great quarterback in the making in Jamal Jackson, who also needs less than 100 yards passing to hit a milestone. Jackson is 95 yards away from hitting 3,000 for the season. Jackson has completed a ridiculous 65% of his passes. His average of 264 passing yards a game would be higher had he been able to finish the game against Western Carolina. Jackson has become slightly one-dimensional since his injury, but has been flawless. Jackson has not thrown an interception since getting hurt and has added back to back 300 yard passing performances for the first time in his career. As Jamal goes, so do the Mountaineers, as they are 13-1 when he throws a touchdown pass in a game.

Stephen Miller has provided the perfect counter punch for the Appalachian offense when the Mountaineers run the ball. The all-conference performer ranks 11th nationally with 1,307 rushing yards on the season, while adding eleven rushing touchdowns. Miller has been a very capable receiver out of the backfield as well. Miller has twenty-nine catches for 367 yards and another four touchdowns. Most of his receptions are not the check down variety you normally see from a running back. His averages 12.6 yards per catch and many of his touchdowns have been wheel routes from out of the backfield.

Appalachian’s receiving corps is arguably one of the best in the nation. A freshman, Sean Price leads this group with 68 catches for 1,029 yards and eight touchdowns. Appalachian is a perfect 6-0 when he scores. To top it off, Price has put up these numbers in only nine games on the season. Andrew Peacock has come on really strong in the last weeks of the regular season. Forty-five of his sixty-eight catches have come in the last six games. Peacock had a career game the last time out against Furman, catching 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown and also throwing a seven yard touchdown pass on his only pass attempt of the season. Tony Washington and Malachi Jones are the possession receivers in this offense, but they also have game breaking ability. They catch just about everything that comes their way and have nicely complimented the rest of the Mountaineer offense. The scary thing about this group of receivers is that they all come back next year.

The deciding factor in this game, many have believed will be on the defensive side of the ball. On paper, Illinois State appears to have the better defense. All of their starting defensive line and linebackers are upperclassmen, with four seniors and three juniors. That experience will provide a test for a Mountaineer offensive line that some consider being very raw. The Redbirds are fourth nationally in sacks per game, while the Mountaineers are vulnerable to a less mobile Jamal Jackson. The key for Appalachian will be being able to run the football consistently. For the Redbirds, pressure on Jackson will be vital to them winning the game. The Mountaineers are a rhythm offense, that relies on stringing together consecutive plays of positive yardage. If Appalachian can protect Jackson, it could be a long day for Illinois State. Jackson has shown he can make just about every throw he needs to, and can sit back and pick apart defenses. I do not believe this Illinois State defense has played as team as athletic, and as skilled as Appalachian. Their coach referenced to his time as a coordinator with Purdue when speaking about the Mountaineers overall talent. It reminded him of a time when the Boilermakers played Georgia in the Capital One Bowl on New Years Day in 2005. Georgia had four players average over 13.5 yards per catch in that game. Three players averaged over 19 yards per catch on that day. For the Mountaineers, they must get the Redbirds off the field. This team looks like one that prefers a ball control game. They have been in shootouts to win games, and they also won in lower scoring battles, so they can adjust their style of play accordingly. This team got off to fast start to the season, winning their first five games, but has since finished the season 3-3. Their special teams is not the greatest, while Appalachian boasts one of the best punters in the nation in Sam Martin. Another interesting statistic I came across is how many penalties the Redbirds had been whistled for this season. Three times the Redbirds were called for two penalties or less in games, but on the other eight occasions, they averaged 9.5 flags per game. The Redbirds have also given up an abnormal amount of first downs via the penalty flag. Twenty-eight times, the Redbirds have given their opponents a new set of downs via penalty, mostly on personal fouls and pass interference calls. The last thing Illinois State needs to do is give an explosive offense like Appalachian extra yardage. I think this game has the making to be a classic, depending solely on Illinois State and how well they play. It appears to be a great matchup, one that will probably not be decided until the fourth quarter.

The First Pick:

State Birds 24

Mountaineers 30

Furman @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 11:

Furman (3-6, 2-4 7th) @ #12 Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 T2)

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.86

FU: 48.74

Home: 3.12 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 13 points (rounded).

Series: Furman leads 22-17-3

Last Meeting: Furman 20, Appalachian 10, November 5, 2011, Greenville, SC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny. Mid 50’s for kickoff Great Fall weather for football! Let’s kick some butt!

It is amazing how quickly circumstances can change in a week. Last weekend, in a matter of about an hour, Appalachian’s season changed dramatically. The Mountaineers knocked off a top ranked team for the first time on the road in program history with a 31-28 win over hated rival Georgia Southern. Later that afternoon, Wofford fell in overtime on the road at Samford, which has now set up the most unique final weekend of conference play between top teams in conference history. Georgia Southern went from controlling its destiny to sitting back and watching it all unfold. The Eagles will share the trophy with someone, but they are not sure who that is. A win gives Appalachian a share of the trophy, but with a Wofford loss to Chattanooga, Appalachian would be declared the conference champion and would receive the automatic bid. A Wofford win and Appalachian would ensure a three way tie for the championship and the automatic bid would be determined once the final standings shake out. Raise your hands if you would have thought this Appalachian team would be in this situation after The Citadel game? After Wofford? Exactly. This conference race is easily the most intense in the history of the conference. Regardless, Appalachian has a chance to accomplish one of its goals it set forth at the beginning of the season, and they will have the opportunity in the comfy confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium on Black Saturday against the only team in the conference it has a losing record against. Can the Mountaineers finally break the 2012 curse that is the state of South Carolina?

That curse is the losing record Appalachian currently holds at home against the two other conference foes from the Palmetto State this season. In those games, Appalachian surrendered ninety points and 1,158 yards of total offense combined – 856 of those yards on the ground. The Mountaineers allowed points in seven of the eight quarters. They were out possessed by over twenty minutes in the two games. Luckily, the Mountaineers are probably done with option football in 2012, and will face a team that has a more traditional offense in the Paladins.

Furman’s offense is all about Jerodis Williams. The senior running back has had a great career, as he will probably finish his career in the top five all time in Furman history in rushing yardage. Williams is coming off of a 1,055 yard performance in 2011 where he scored nine rushing touchdowns. Williams began returning kickoffs halfway through the season and is also a threat in the passing game. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season against Western Carolina, Presbyterian and Wofford. Williams has hit the 1,000 yard mark this season as well in only nine games, which ranks him third in the conference behind only Eric Breitenstein and Stephen Miller. Williams has run for 85 yards or more in every game this season except one. Appalachian has done a great job on Jerodis in the past. During his freshman year, Appalachian was the only team on the schedule where Williams did not record an offensive statistic. Williams ran seven times for 59 yards against the Apps his sophomore year. Last season he was held to 48 yards on thirteen carries. Williams has scored a rushing touchdown against every team in the conference besides Appalachian. The same statistic was true with Eric Breitenstein two weeks ago before he broke through with two rushing touchdowns.

Furman is a team that is very young on the offensive side of the ball. They have one junior on the offensive line, while the rest of the front is manned by freshman and sophomores. Their starting fullback, an almost extinct position in football, is also a freshman. Another freshman, Reese Hannon is their starting quarterback, who took over for senior Dakota Derrick in the second game of the season. Hannon has put together a nice season, but one that is very typical of freshman quarterbacks. Hannon has thrown for 1,656 yards on the season with five interceptions and six touchdowns. However, four of his touchdown passes came in the overtime loss to Coastal Carolina. Hannon did not throw a touchdown pass in the entire month of October. Since his last touchdown pass, Hannon has thrown four interceptions and has seen his average yards per game drop from 234 yard per game in his first four starts to 179 yards per game in last four starts. Hannon is a pocket passer, but is mobile. He will run to buy time as the pocket breaks down, but will not dare run for yardage.

Hannon has some seasoned targets for receivers. Senior Will King leads the Paladins with 34 catches for 541 yard and three touchdowns. Tight end Colin Anderson was a preseason All-American by three different publications and was also a first team preseason SoCon selection. Teams have done a good job defending him this season as he only has caught 23 passes for 396 yards, compared to his junior season where he caught 40 balls for 696 yards and seven touchdowns. Anderson has yet to find the end zone this season. Junior Ryan Culbreath has added 28 catches for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Culbreath’s touchdowns came against Coastal Carolina.

Last week, we nailed just about everything we talked about. We let everyone know of Georgia Southern’s atrocious kicking game, which went on to miss three field goals. We talked up that Sean Price guy, and said Appalachian needed to get him the ball. When they did, good things happened to the tune of seven catches for 231 yards and a touchdown. If there is one thing we missed, was that Jamal Jackson should not play if he was not 100% healthy. We missed that one badly. Jackson calmly sat back in the pocket, took what the Eagles gave him, which equated to a career day. Jackson’s 383 passing yards were a career high, and was good enough for the eighth best passing yardage day by a Mountaineer in program history. Jackson continued to do what he always does when Appalachian wins, which is throw three touchdown passes and no interceptions. If it had not been for his injury against Western Carolina, he would easily be on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season, which has only happened twice in school history.

I remember sitting at the Chattanooga game in front of some of their fans when they asked me about Sean Price. The quote went like this, “What year is that #14, a senior?” The answer was polite and was received by a bunch or responses of disbelief. Sean Price is on the verge of doing something no freshman has ever done in school history. Only five Mountaineers have accumulated 1,000 receiving yards in a season in the black and gold. None of those men were freshman. The feat has been accomplished by some of the best including Bob Agle, Rick Beasley, Davon Foulkes, William Mayfield and Brian Quick. Mayfield benefited from a fifteen game season to accomplish his feat. The others played in twelve games or fewer. Price will be playing in his ninth game this Saturday and is only 86 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard mark. The Mountaineers are 6-0 when he catches a touchdown and 5-0 when he goes over 100 yards.

Stephen Miller had his second lowest rushing total of the season, but to say he was not effective is an understatement. Miller only carried nine times, but it was mostly a result of the Mountaineers being behind in the first half, and being able to move the ball in the air with ease. Miller did find the end zone for the tenth time this season and broke off a 26 yard run which was enough for Georgia Southern to respect the run and bought Jackson a few extra moments to find open receivers. Miller also caught two passes for twenty three yards. Even with only sixty rushing yards, Miller was effective, and that is all Appalachian needed from him on Saturday.

If anything, Appalachian should be motivated for this game. They easily could have packed it in last week, knowing their conference title hopes were slim. Georgia Southern was exactly what the Mountaineers needed to get back on track. They provided the extra spark that was necessary to beat the Eagles in their beloved back yard. Furman provides another type of motivation. Appalachian squandered multiple opportunities last year in Greeneville. The Mountaineers ventured into the Paladin red zone on many occasions and found themselves turning the ball over in one fashion or another. It was an ugly game that followed the emotional defeat of Georgia Southern the previous week at home. What that team earned by beating Southern last year was all lost in the loss to Furman. This Paladin squad does not have near the talent as last years team did. Their offensive youth and ineptitude in the defensive secondary should play heavily in the Mountaineers favor. Furman has allowed a touchdown pass in every game this season, and they rank 111th of 121 teams in defensive passing efficiency in the nation. Their defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing to every opponent outside of the pass heavy Elon and Presbyterian. As long as Appalachian can keep Jerodis Williams in check on kickoff returns, and not allow Furman to control the line of scrimmage, they should find themselves in the win column. The Paladins have had a week off to get ready for the Mountaineers and they have nothing to lose. Furman has not won in Boone since 1996, a very similar streak that Appalachian held over The Citadel. Hopefully the third time is the charm for the Mountaineers this season.

The First Pick:

Purple Pansies 28

Mountaineers 42

Appalachian Football @ Georgia Southern

Here we go with Week 10:

#15 Appalachian State (6-3, 4-2 4th)  @ #2 Georgia Southern (7-1, 6-1 9th)

Time: 2pm

TV/Video: ESPN 3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Paulson Stadium         

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 18,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 57.37

GSU: 66.32

Home: 3.02 points

Georgia Southern is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 14-12-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 24, Georgia Southern 17, October 29, 2011, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Statesboro Gameday Weather Trends:

It’s gonna stink.   

            Appalachian’s backs are against the wall, with everything to lose this weekend. A loss would shred any hopes the Mountaineers have of sharing the conference title. A loss would also put Appalachian’s chances of making the playoffs in serious jeopardy. For Georgia Southern, a win gives them the conference title, and the automatic bid to the playoffs, and most likely, a very high seed and home field advantage for at least a couple rounds in the playoffs. The Eagles final two opponents are out of conference and one would expect Southern to beat Howard and lose at Georgia. Interestingly enough, a Southern loss and an Appalachian win would have quite the opposite effect on both teams. If anyone knows anything about the matchups when these two programs battle, it is that anything can and will happen at any given time. The last two seasons, both visiting teams have been the top ranked team in the country and both lost. Appalachian fell in overtime in 2010 in Statesboro, while Georgia Southern lost their top ranking in Boone last year. An Appalachian win still gives them a chance at sharing a title, but would need a little help, and coupled with a home win over Furman next week, would almost certainly put the Mountaineers in the playoffs. Southern controls their destiny as long as they win, but with a loss, which would be their second in conference, would leave them on the outside, also needing help from other teams. So, as is the case when these football powers meet, everything is on the line, and it all comes down to which team wants it more.

             Beyond all the similarities between the Appalachian and Georgia Southern football programs, they share another common bond in 2012 that they have not shared before. Earlier this season, the Citadel Bulldogs upset both schools in back to back weeks. From that point on the conference race has been wide open, and the Bulldogs are the direct reason why both Appalachian and Southern are in the little mess they are in currently. Several times over the years, both schools have played with plenty on the line, but the extra loss on both teams’ schedules has put them in precarious situations. Rarely does this game serve as eliminator as far as conference contention is concerned. Since those back to back wins, The Citadel has beaten one team – Western Carolina.

            Last year, coming to Boone, Georgia Southern entered as the country’s top ranked rushing and scoring offense. The triple option was back and it was shredding teams left and right. When Georgia Southern left Boone, they were the second ranked rushing offense. Appalachian held the Eagles to 135 yards on the ground, averaging only 2.7 yards per attempt. Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw had not thrown an interception all season before the Appalachian game, but left with two interceptions to his name. The Mountaineer defense came to play in what was their third and final triple option opponent of the season.

            Southern enters this weekend as second ranked rushing offense, with similar numbers to last year in the yardage category, but the Eagles are not scoring at the same rate. Their scoring is down almost ten points a game and a lot of that can be attributed to the turnover category. Last year, the Eagles lost eighteen fumbles in fourteen games. This season they have lost twelve fumbles in eight games. That works out to only ¼ of a fumble more per game, but it is significant. Aside from poor ball handling, the Southern kicking game has had a hard time replacing one of their best kickers of all time. Adrian Mora nailed 57 field goals in his career, and made 146 straight extra points before missing two in a playoff game last year. This season, the Eagles have had two freshman, Alex Hanks and Ryan Nowicki split kicking duties. Nowicki kicked the first two games for the Eagles, and missed two costly field goals against The Citadel, and has been relegated to being the backup place kicker since. Hanks missed two extra points a couple weeks ago against Furman. Last week against Chattanooga, an overtime win for the Eagles, Hanks missed two field goals. Hanks is 6/10 on the season, but those misses have costs the Eagles some points this season. In a game of such magnitude, turnovers and missed opportunities to score points can be tough to overcome in a game that will certainly be driven by emotions and momentum.

            Jerick McKinnon has been Southern’s quarterback for a majority of the season but has split time with Ezayi Youyoute. McKinnon is a year older by class, and is a little heavier at 208 pounds. Youyoute was the starter at the beginning of the season, but had a case of the fumbles and has seen less time behind center. Youyoute is two inches taller at 5’11, and is twenty pounds lighter than McKinnon. Youyoute saw his most significant playing time in a month last week with ten carries. Youyoute has 450 rushing yards on the season, but 371 of those came in the first three games of the season. McKinnon is a more consistent runner, and went through a large workload last weekend. McKinnon had been averaging thirteen carries per game before last weekend, when he ran twenty-eight times for 141 yards. It was his second 100-yard game of the season.

            Dominique Swope was the leading rusher for the Eagles before sitting out last week with an illness. Swope has twelve touchdowns and 729 yards rushing on the season, hitting the century mark five times. Swope did not play against the Mountaineers last year, but the Eagles have been leaning heavily on him since. In his last twelve games before sitting out last week, the Eagle offense has handed the ball to him 255 times over that span, which averages to 21.25 carries per game. Swope’s injury is undisclosed and his status is questionable for Saturday. Also questionable is Robert Brown, a 1,000 yard rusher in 2010 for the Eagles, who has had a hard time recovering from a concussion. Brown has missed three of his last four games and may sit out this week as well.

            Appalachian is not alone in the injury department. Jamal Jackson exited in first half of the win over Western Carolina. Jackson took a hit to his knee, which caused some swelling and he is also listed as questionable this weekend. For those interested, the term “questionable” is commonly known as having a 50/50 chance to place. It almost is considered a game time decision, by seeing how the player feels in warm-ups before the game. Appalachian quarterbacks have had knee injuries in the past. If the knee affects Jackson’s ability to run on his usual 6-10 keepers per game, than it is probably best he does not play. The spread offense is not as productive without a 100% healthy quarterback. On the other hand, Logan Hallock played marvelously for the Mountaineers in relief. He set a school record for completion percentage in a game, formerly held by Armanti Edwards. Any time you can break a record held by Edwards, you have played some good football. However, the defense that he will face on Saturday is quite a bit better than what he had to play against last week. It will take another performance like last weekend by Hallock, if he gets the call, in order to beat Georgia Southern in Paulson.

            Another great game was had by Steven Miller, who burst into the Appalachian record books by becoming only the 12th Mountaineer running back, and 14th player, to rush for 1,000 yards in a season at Appalachian. Miller’s 245 yards gave him his second 200-yard game of the season as he joined the likes of Armanti Edwards, Devon Moore, DeAndre Presley and Kevin Richardson who have all rushed for 1,000 or more yards in the last ten years. Miller ran thirty-four times against the Catamounts, which was also a career high.

            Since both teams have so many question marks coming into this game, it sets the stage for a somewhat unknown player to have a breakout game. It would be hard to imagine Swope, Brown and Jackson all sitting out, but the coaches have played cat and mouse with their teams’ significant injuries. However, there has been one player for Appalachian that is somewhat known, but for whatever reason, the recognition is not there. It is understandable in the Southern Conference, for a receiver to get any credit, that he has to be outstanding and he has to have done it for a long time. I am talking about Sean Price. He has had his games, and Appalachian will need a big game from him in order to beat Georgia Southern. When he is active on the field and catching several passes a game and getting vertical, Appalachian has been hard to beat. Every game Appalachian has won this season, Price has averaged at least twelve yards a catch.  Price sat out two games, which were both Appalachian losses, and in the third loss, against Wofford, Price was held to less than eight yards per catch. The Mountaineers are also 5-0 when Price catches a touchdown this season. Take it a step further and Appalachian is 6-0 this season when throwing a touchdown pass. All seventeen touchdown passes by the Mountaineers have come in their wins. Pretty amazing when you sit back and think about it. Last year, all of Appalachian’s touchdowns against Georgia Southern were in the air, two to Brian Quick and one to Andrew Peacock. In 2010 loss, the two touchdowns were both on the ground. This has been something we have tracked all season and into parts of last year. If Appalachian wants to win, it needs to get everyone involved in the passing game, and keep Georgia Southern’s defensive line running sideways and backwards. It is almost the only hope Appalachian has. The Mountaineer defense has struggled mightily all season against the triple option, and it could be a long day if Appalachian has to play from behind while the option eats up the clock. We must also consider the weather in Statesboro on Saturday. It is going to be a warm November day in Statesboro while Appalachian has had to practice indoors up to this point in the week thanks to the snow from Sandy. This is a tough one to call, but if everything goes just right, Appalachian can win.

The First Pick:

The Stink                     19       

Mountaineers             20

Appalachian Football @ Western Carolina

Here we go with Week 9:

#16 Appalachian State (5-3, 3-2 4th)   @ Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6 9th)

Time: 3:30

TV/Video: Catamount Sports All Access

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

EJ Whitmire Stadium         

Surface: Desso Challenge Pro 2

Capacity: 13,742

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.62

WCU: 39.23

Home: 2.47 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 17 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 57-18-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 46, Western Carolina 14, November 12, 2011, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Cullowhee Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Cloudy with the chance for showers, with temperatures in the mid 60’s.  

            Just as everyone has forgotten about “the fumble” and the “roughing the quarterback who is selling a fake handoff”, we must talk about it a little more. Whether Jamal Jackson’s pass went forward or backwards can be talked to death, but my original thought was that he had to be down. Regardless, Jackson should have tucked the ball and not allow the officials to be put in the position to make a bad call. It turned out to be the biggest play of the game. The other call, questions every defensive strategy of football since the game was invented. Decades ago, the game of football was primarily a game of running plays, options, and tons of formations with adjectives identifying some type of bone. In those days, the phrase that was used went something like this, “if you think it has the ball, hit it”. Generally, that rule still stands, except in modern day football, where quarterbacks cannot be touched if they do not possess the football, whether you believe it or not. That call was not as painful, but it epitomized the day. For whatever reason, the sun was shining on the Terriers last weekend. The elimination game that it was, has basically taken away all hope the Mountaineers had of winning a conference championship in 2012. At best, Appalachian will share the trophy, most likely with two other teams, one that it beat, one that it did not. Next up: the Catamounts. From the looks of it, this is the same ole sorry Catamounts, except half of their coaching staff had different addresses last year at this time. Will the Mountaineers accept the challenge and kick Western while they are still down, or will Appalachian give up and call it a season?

            Roughly ten and a half months ago, the rivalry between Appalachian and Western added another nasty chapter. Western continued to be up to their old habits of replacing a football staff just about every fourth or fifth year. Appalachian’s season had ended somewhat abruptly, despite evidence that alluded to a shorter season than in the past. Western Carolina decided that they would fill their football vacancy by hiring recruiting coordinator Mark Speir away from Appalachian. Brad Glenn, John Holt, and Trey Elder hitched a ride with Speir to Cullowhee while sending shockwaves throughout the Southern Conference football world. There is plenty more to the story which does not need to be discussed, especially considering the number of versions. Western had basically picked Appalachian’s pocket while the Mountaineers were still wondering what had happened to their own season. In the end, Appalachian has perhaps an extra loss at this point in the season, while, Western still has their one win over Mars Hill. Some things never change.

            Speaking of Mars Hill, they have been Western Carolina’s whipping boy for the last two seasons. It is the only team Western has beaten in its past twenty-five football games. Luckily for Western, they have beaten Mars Hill twice. Of those past twenty fives games, only five have been decided by ten points or less. Two were the wins over Mars Hill, and two have occurred this season, in losses at home to Samford and last week on the road at Elon. The Catamounts have shown some signs of putting together an offense under Speir and company, but their defense is atrocious. Western is averaging right at 25 points per game, something they have not accomplished in Cullowhee since 2007. However, until the Cats can start stopping people, they will not see their win totals increasing anytime soon.

            To give you an idea how bad this Western defense is, allow me to put it in perspective. The Catamounts are dead last in rushing defense, in the country. And this is not a figure based on who they have played. Outside of Appalachian, Western has run heavy Chattanooga and Alabama remaining on their schedule. The 333 rushing yards per game they allow might actually get worse. Six times, the Catamounts have given up 42 or more points – this season. Coincidentally, Western only allowed Samford 25 points, the same number that Appalachian allowed to the Bulldogs. Western has given up an average of 513 yards per game, which is somehow only the third most yards given up in the country. There is one defensive category that Western leads the conference in, and which is fumbles recovered, but that comes with the silver lining, because everyone runs the ball on them.  

            Western has been rotating their quarterbacks this season, almost with no pattern to follow. Troy Mitchell has been getting the majority of the work the last couple weeks. Mitchell has passed for 489 yards on the season and has rushed for 316 yards. A good majority of those rushing yards, 236 of them to be exact, have occurred in his last three games on a total of forty eight carries, which is good enough for a respectable 4.9 yards per carry. Mitchell threw his only two touchdown passes of the season last week against Elon. Eddie Sullivan is the other quarterback, who has played mostly in games two through five, against Marshall, Wofford, Samford and Furman. Sullivan appears to be the better passer as he dropped back a little over thirty six times per game in during those four weeks. Sullivan has thrown six interceptions to only four touchdowns and has totaled 916 yards passing on the season. Interestingly enough, Sullivan leads the Catamounts in rushing on a per game basis, as his averages just edge out Mitchell, due to not playing in two games. Sullivan has carried 50 times on the season for 246 yards.

            Overall, it was a tough game against Wofford for most of the Appalachian offense. The running game averaged a paltry three yards per attempt. Every Mountaineer with multiple catches averaged less than eight yards per reception outside of Tony Washington, who caught seven passes for 75 yards. More importantly, catching the ball was a huge issue, especially in the first half. Jamal Jackson was erratic to say the least. You know its coming. Jackson threw his token interception, which extends his streak to six straight games with an interception. Jackson’s record when throwing more interceptions than touchdowns: 0-5. Jackson’s record when throwing zero touchdown passes: 0-4. Jackson’s record when not throwing an interception: 3-0. With any luck, Jackson will avoid finding the other team this weekend. Western Carolina is the only team in the conference that has yet to intercept Jackson in his career, but then again he has only played them once. It has to stop at some point, right?

            We talked about the defense last week, and what they needed to do to keep Wofford down, which was avoid the big play. The Mountaineers could not hold down the Terriers, as they allowed six different rushers to bust 20+ yard gains, led by Eric Breitenstein and his 57 yard run in the first quarter. On top of that, Wofford hit a big pass play, which was all they needed to keep the threat alive. More concerning, Appalachian lost linebacker Brandon Grier for most of the game which was a huge loss, and his availability for this Saturday is up in the air. The defensive secondary spent most of their day tackling Wofford running backs, but could see a little bit more play at their natural positions this weekend. Western has one of the bigger receiving corps in the conference going 6’0” at two positions and 6’4” at another. You could see Western possibly try to attack the Appalachian secondary which could be a tad rusty.

            Although a conference championship is probably out of the question, making the playoffs is not. No Jerry Moore that has been 8-3 has ever missed the playoffs, and even if Appalachian were to slip up once more before the season is over, a 7-4 record with an expanded playoff field is probably a safe bet, just depending which game is lost. This weekend, outside of the obvious battle for the Old Mountain Jug among friendly coaching staffs, should be an Appalachian win. Western will have to pull off one of its best outings of the season on both sides of the ball, and they have every reason to. Appalachian has won seven straight games in the rivalry, but Western always seems to trip up Appalachian when they are a little down. Although Western only has two wins against Appalachian in the last couple decades, Cullowhee is the place where the upset usually occurs. Mark Speir may have the utmost respect for Appalachian, but that does not mean he doesn’t want the win. This game will thrive on emotion and momentum, and Appalachian doesn’t need to get caught up in all the hoopla. This Appalachian team needs to move on. Last weekend was a game that was decided on a few plays, even if the scoreboard doesn’t reflect how the game was played. This weekend is another day to play and prove all the doubters wrong. Hopefully we can see a more explosive offense, while at the same time getting back to Appalachian football.

The First Pick:

Can’t Amounts             24       

Mountaineers                42

Wofford @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 8:

#8 Wofford (5-1, 3-1 T2) @ #13 Appalachian State (5-2, 3-1 T2)   

Time: 3:30

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium         

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 61.34

WC: 62.87

Home: 2.66 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1 point (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 17-11

Last Meeting: Wofford 28, Appalachian 14, October 1, 2011, Spartanburg, SC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny and clear.

Early Morning: Temperatures in the low 40’s

Noon: Temperatures in the lower 50’s

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 50’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the lower 50’s to upper 40’s

            Entering the fourth quarter last weekend, Appalachian held onto what seemed to be a commanding 21-10 lead. During his career, Jerry Moore has a spectacular record when leading after three quarters and when his team scores twenty or more points. Both trends were on the Mountaineers side last Saturday. Quickly, Samford erased the two score lead with a touchdown less than thirty seconds into the fourth quarter and pulled within three points with a successful two point conversion. Suddenly the Mountaineers had lost the momentum and there was a lot of football to be played. On the final three Mountaineer possessions, they ran 22 plays for 179 yards. Fourth quarter domination had been the theme of the season, but the first two drives of the fourth quarter ended with a Jamal Jackson interception and with a turnover on downs. With 1:33 on the clock, Appalachian had to score a touchdown and were eighty yards from the goal line. The drive included three incompletions and four plays that went for big yardage. Jackson ran once for 17 yards and hit Andrew Peacock on a 21-yard passing play. Sean Price started it and finished it with a 20-yard catch on the first play of the drive, and the game clinching score from 22 yards on the last play. The fact that Appalachian didn’t need a comeback beginning the quarter, but was able to flip the switch, and make the plays when it counted speaks volumes. They now have the confidence they didn’t have earlier in the season during losses to East Carolina and The Citadel.

            After Appalachian’s thrilling win, the focus of the conference turned to the late afternoon kickoff between Wofford and Georgia Southern. Wofford had not lost going into that game, and they were facing their first true test of the season. The Wofford schedule had been criticized by national media halfway through the season. They had played three conference teams (Furman, Western Carolina, & Elon) who have one conference win to their credit, a Division II school, and Gardner Webb. The remainder of Wofford’s schedule included the likes of Georgia Southern, Appalachian, South Carolina, and tough conference games against The Citadel, Chattanooga, and Samford. The weakest team on that slate appears to be The Citadel, who has cooled off since knocking off Georgia Southern and Appalachian earlier in the season.

            Wofford attempted eight passes in the game against Georgia Southern, while the Eagles ran 52 plays, and kept the ball on the ground on every single play. Of those eight passes, Wofford connected on three of them, for a whopping 27 yards. That is how you beat Wofford. Let me repeat. In order to beat Wofford, you must keep their passing game in check. The passing plays that Wofford likes to run sets up their entire offense. They want the threat of a pass to be there just enough to keep defensive players off the line of scrimmage. The threat was never there against Georgia Southern. Wofford averaged 4.1 yards per carry rushing the ball. That is good, but not good enough. When a team like Wofford hands the ball off or gives ten different players the opportunity the carry the ball, you know they are searching. They are using tool in the shed in order to break the big play. Eric Breitenstein had a 65 yard run, and twelve other carries that went for a combined 37 yards. Take away the big play, and Breitenstein averaged just a shade over 3 yards a carry. Ray Smith carried four times for 25 yards. Smith had a long of 12, and three other carries that went for 13 yards. His average was 4.3 yards, taking away his longest carry. Finally, Cam Flowers carried six times for 30 yards, with a long of fourteen yards. His other five carries went for sixteen yards, which equates to 3.2 yards per attempt. Limiting Wofford’s big plays is instrumental to beating them. Brandon Grier and Jeremy Kimbrough will have the task of keeping Wofford’s offense behind schedule, and in long distance situations.  

            It would be tough to go without mentioning Eric Breitenstein in this spot. The Watauga County native has been racking up yardage throughout his career. His previous three matchups against Appalachian have been a mixed bag. His first career 100 yard rushing came against Appalachian way back in 2008. His 157 yards that night are completely overshadowed by seventy points the Mountaineers scored that night, a couple weeks short of four years ago. Breitenstein’s second game career game against Appalachian occurred in a de facto conference championship game, with both teams undefeated in conference play. Breitenstein was held in check with only thirty nine yards rushing on seventeen carries. Last year, Appalachian was without Jeremy Kimbrough, and it showed, as Breitenstein carried the ball thirty-three times, still a career high in attempts, for 173 yards. He has 56 career touchdowns, and will finish his career with three straight 1,000 yard seasons However, of Breitenstein’s 56 career touchdowns; there are only two teams in the Southern Conference in which he has yet to score a touchdown against: Georgia Southern and Appalachian.

            I felt like Jamal Jackson’s streak of interceptions was going to be snapped last weekend. Jackson waited until the fourth quarter to turn the ball over, and it was very concerning. Most of his interceptions have come in the first half, when there was plenty of time to overcome the mistake. Despite the constant nitpicking by yours truly, Jackson has a very solid INT:TD ratio in his career at 2:1, which includes stats when he was playing in garbage time earlier in his career. Jackson has improved the statistical categories that we have kept up with. When Jackson throws more touchdowns than interceptions in a game, he is 5-0 this season, and 10-0 in his career as a starter. Jackson is 10-4 as a starter, and yes, he has thrown an interception in every single loss as a starter. With his 288 yards passing against Samford and only 6 yards rushing, Jackson remains the conference leader in passing efficiency and total offense.  

            Steven Miller, the starting running back, has led the team in receiving yards in two straight games. The idea is to keep Miller away from the line of scrimmage and get him out in space to make plays. Rod Chisholm is taking away a few carries from Miller, but has been used effectively to give Miller a break and to keep him fresh. After a three game stretch of 70 total rushing attempts by Miller, he has rushed for exactly seventeen times in each of the last three games. His twenty receptions are the most surprising. Over the season, he has averaged fourteen yards a catch, but most recently, in his last four games, those numbers have spiked to 18.9 yards per catch. Those are outstanding numbers for a receiver, much less a running back.

             So how do we talk about this matchup? It is really difficult to look at season stats and judge the two teams, Wofford has played the bottom of the conference, and at that, teams that are not particularly offensive powers. You can throw the Georgia Southern game out the window based on the style of play of both teams. There were a combined 106 rushing plays called, and the teams only combined for thirty first downs. The game was completed in under two and half hours. For Wofford, I think Appalachian presents an entirely different challenge. Wofford must now defend the entire field against an Appalachian receiving corps that is arguably the best in the conference. Wofford may have a defensive back or two with equal talent, but they certainly do not have four of them. I think Appalachian will exploit the Wofford secondary as they have in the past. Last season, the Wofford game was the last game of the season where Jamal Jackson did not start. The Appalachian offense was in shambles, and Wofford played keep away and slowly pulled away while Appalachian continued to miss opportunities in the red zone to cash in on points and cut the Wofford lead. On top of that the Mountaineers only possessed the ball for twenty-one and a half minutes. For as poor of a performance Appalachian displayed last year in Spartanburg, the Terriers won by two touchdowns. Only two touchdowns. It has been ten years since Wofford has won in Boone and only one game since 2002 has been decided by fewer than ten points in Boone. Much like Appalachian, Wofford has suffered a slew of injuries to the defensive side of the ball. Even Eric Breitenstein has been wearing a protective boot this week and has been limited in practice. In a game of two high-powered offensive teams, two things are going to happen and one of them is not going to result in a back and forth affair. This game will be decided on which defense figures out the opponent first and I believe the game will snowball from there. Appalachian’s offense has improved tremendously since last season. Wofford’s offense is basically the same yet, they have a different quarterback than last season. Brian Kass is a lanky 6’1 and is not as quick with the ball as Mitch Allen was last year. He is not deceptive even after handing the ball off. That offense thrives on deception and misdirection. I think the Appalachian defense will be able to swarm the outsides more effectively than last season and contain the wingbone attack.

The First Pick:

Ankle Biters                            21       

Mountaineers                         31

Appalachian Football @ Samford

Here we go with Week 7:

#13 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1 4th) @ #25 Samford (5-1, 3-1 T2) 

Time: 3pm EST


Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Seibert Stadium         

Surface:  LSR Blade Synthetic Surface

Capacity: 6,700 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 60.82

SAM: 56.26

Home: 2.62 points

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

Series: Appalachian leads 5-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Samford 17, October 22, 2011, Boone, NC

Accuweather Birmingham Gameday Weather Trends:

Pleasant with plenty of sun. Clear.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the lower 80’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 70’s

            Getting a win over Elon is something Appalachian has been able to do in football since 1964, spanning seventeen games. Getting away from Elon and their built up frustration of continuing to lose to Appalachian has been tougher for the Mountaineers. It has been awhile since Appalachian has come away from an Elon game without some major injuries. In the past, it has been Armanti Edwards and DeAndre Presley who have fallen victim to Elon and their questionable tactics. Elon did their best last season to knock out Jamal Jackson, but he was not having any of that business. However, this week, Appalachian lost its starters at center and bandit linebacker for several weeks. For whatever reason, these acts have continued over multiple graduating classes and coaching staffs and perhaps it will be easiest for Appalachian to leave the Southern Conference than for Elon to discontinue their ways. So we can add Alex Acey and Deuce Robinson to the list that includes Doug Middleton, Rod Chisholm and others who have been lost for significant parts of the season. The focus now turns to a very game Samford squad who is looking to do the same thing that Elon has not done since it entered the conference: beat Appalachian in football. Samford has not been around as long, but have provided some interesting games in their short time in the SoCon. All four contests have been competitive into the second half, yet Appalachian has taken the victory in each game. The last two games have resulted in the same final score. This game is huge for both teams, as a loss would give either team their second conference loss and all but eliminate them from the conference title. Can Appalachian make it five straight wins over the Bulldogs?

            Last season, we underestimated Samford’s passing game tremendously. Now graduated quarterback Dustin Taliaferro threw for 253 yards in the losing effort, but made tremendous strides from his junior to senior year. Current senior quarterback Andy Summerlin, who transferred from Memphis, has similar yardage numbers to Jamal Jackson, but without the hype. Summerlin has connected on 64% of his passes this season and went over 300 yards passing last week for the first time this season. However the conservative Samford offense has held him to only six touchdown passes this season, compared to Samford’s fourteen team rushing touchdowns. Summerlin is responsible for two of those rushing touchdowns. Summerlin has completed 21 to 23 passes in each game this season, despite his attempts fluctuating from 27 to 49. One issue for Appalachian is that they have not played against Summerlin on the field, and have only seen him on film. Sometimes it can take a half of football to understand player’s tendencies before being able to adjust. Getting pressure will be key for Appalachian. Both of his tackles on the offensive line are sophomores. Summerlin is a bigger quarterback, standing at 6’4 and 225 pounds and has been sacked eight times in the last three games, compared to zero sacks in the first three games.

            Somehow, Fabian Truss is still at Samford and still has another year of eligibility after this season. He was mainly a kick returner in his early career, but has accumulated six 100-yard rushing performances up to this point in his junior season, while still leading the SoCon in kickoff returns. Three of those performances have happened this season, against Furman, Western Carolina, and The Citadel. Truss’ first 100-yard game occurred in 2010 against Appalachian, when he carried six times for 100 yards, which included a 74-yard touchdown run. Last season, Truss was held in check by the Mountaineers for 16 carries and 65 yards. Truss had run for consecutive 100-yard games going into last year’s game against Appalachian. Truss is averaging nearly thirty yards per kickoff return this season, but Appalachian booted all six of its kickoffs out of the end zone last week. Appalachian leads the conference with 22 touchbacks on 36 kickoffs. Once again, the more the Mountaineers keep the ball out of Truss’ hands, the better. Kickoff returns are huge momentum plays in football, and the fewer times a team can return a kickoff, the fewer times they can make plays.

            Samford’s receivers are a very experienced unit. Leading the charge is Kelsey Pope with 31 catches, 317 yards and two touchdowns. Riley Hawkins is equally explosive with his 18 receptions for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Hawkins is easily the red zone threat as three of his four touchdowns have been shorter passes (5,14,20), while he caught an 82-yard touchdown catch last week against The Citadel. Hawkins has also averaged a very impressive 14.3 yards per punt return. Chris Cephus also has caught 18 passes for 281 yards and is more of a big play threat with his catches going for 15.6 yards on average.

            Despite losing the time of possession battle and being outplayed for a good portion of the game last week, Appalachian prevailed with timely defensive turnovers and fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat Elon. The Mountaineers allowed big performances to Thomas Wilson who threw for 419 yards and Aaron Mellete, who caught all three of Wilson’s touchdown passes, along with ten other passes that went for a total of 237 yards. Mellete was big in every game he played against Appalachian, but most importantly, he will end his career having never beaten the Mountaineers. Scott Riddle kept the seat warm for you Aaron. However, the game’s biggest performer was Jamal Jackson. For the first time in his career, Jackson threw for over 300 yards and won the game. His previous two 300-yard performances were losses to East Carolina and Furman. It was the second time in his career Jackson had thrown for four touchdown passes in a game, with the previous occurrence happening last season at Elon. Once again though, Jackson threw his customary interception. Jackson ran for a career high 94 yards on a career high 17 attempts. The rushing yardage was surprising considering the loss of Kameron Bryant, Jackson’s top backup, to a season ending injury the week before. However, Jackson does a really good job when he is running, getting out of bounds and avoiding hits when he called on to run. He never seems to put his body in jeopardy of the big hit which is something that is very tough to coach.

            Steven Miller turned out his second lowest rushing performance of the season, but also carried the ball only seventeen times, his second fewest carries of the season. Many of his carries were taken by Jackson, but the Mountaineers also saw the return of Rod Chisholm for the second straight game. Chisholm seemed to run harder this week on his carries and should be pretty close to 100% health. The emergence of Miller as a receiver has added another element to the Mountaineer passing game. Miller now has three receiving touchdowns on the season, all coming in the last two conference games. Miller is now up to 676 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards on the season. Andrew Peacock chipped in with a team high seven catches against Elon, giving him a team leading thirty reception on the year. Tony Washington only caught two passes, but made the best of them, which included a career long 54-yard touchdown reception where he broke several tackles before hitting the end zone. It was his first touchdown of the season.

            I have a high respect for Samford and their football team. They came into the conference and were a middle of the pack team from the start. They have played Appalachian tough in every game and have also beaten every team in the conference outside of Appalachian since they have joined. Summerlin and their passing game should be able to move the ball against the Mountaineers, who have given up the most passing yards in the conference this season. That number will probably even out once Appalachian runs into some of the more run-oriented teams in the conference, but nonetheless, the statistic exists. Samford leads the league in interceptions with 11, with Appalachian a close second with nine. I think those numbers are once again skewed based on schedule. Samford really has not run into any of the league’s better passing teams, with Appalachian owning the league’s top passing attack based on efficiency and yards per game. Gardner-Webb, who is 0-5, and averaging 228 yards per game in the air, threw for 320 yards on Samford. Six of Samford’s eleven picks have also come against inferior opponents. Three were picked off in the Furman game, on a quarterback that the Paladins are not even playing anymore. Another three interceptions came against West Alabama, a team who owns the 127th ranked passing offense in Division II. Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and The Citadel don’t exactly strike anyone as teams who as proficient in the forward pass. I think it is very possible Jamal Jackson continues his ways with opposing defenses. Jackson threw for 290 yards last season against the Bulldogs, and Travaris Cadet had his way with the Bulldog defense as well. I think Steven Miller is a better running back than Cadet. Samford gave up eight plays of twenty or more yards last year against Appalachian and I think that is where the Mountaineers will win the battle. I think Appalachian has better playmaking ability compared to all of the Samford offenses we have seen in the past. I believe you can almost count on Samford coach Pat Sullivan taking his chances if given the opportunity to jump on Appalachian quickly with a fourth down conversion attempt or fake field goal. Either way, I think the Mountaineers are the better team this weekend.

The First Pick:

Dogs from the Plains             27       

Mountaineers                         35


Elon @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 6:

Elon (2-3, 0-2) @ #15 Appalachian State (3-2, 1-1)

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 60.36

EU: 49.26

Home: 2.53 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 13 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 30-9-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 28, Elon 24, November 19, 2011, Elon, NC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Increasing clouds, chance for shower late afternoon.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 50’s, shower possible

After a one week hiatus from conference play, Appalachian will finish the season with a run of six straight conference games. Three of those games will be on the road and three will be at home, but its starts this weekend against Elon for Homecoming. This date of this matchup has taken place more times in the last weekend of September or first weekend in October than at any other time of the year. Since Elon joined the SoCon in 2003, six of the nine matchups have taken place in November, with the other three landing in the same familiar weekend. In the last nine years, Appalachian has preferred Homecoming to fall on this weekend, but it does not happen all the time. Despite the obvious coincidence, this will be only the third time that Appalachian has hosted Elon for Homecoming, both being Mountaineer wins. The extremely obvious fact that Elon has not won in Boone since 1964, a string that includes sixteen straight Mountaineer wins overall, should make Elon the safe choice for this game. Most teams prefer “scheduling a win”, for this game, but Southern Conference opponents seem to prefer Appalachian to be their opponent for their Homecoming game. It makes a little bit of sense, but not a lot. Regardless, Elon coach Jason Swepson will make his first visit to Boone as a head coach this weekend. Swepson is notorious for announcing in his press conference when he was hired, that his job was to beat Appalachian State. One twenty year win streak over an opponent has already fallen in Boone this year, and its Swepson’s job to bring down a streak that has lasted forty-eight years and sixteen games.

Elon is a little bit confusing. Seems they can find a quarterback and a couple receivers almost anywhere when they recruit, but for whatever reason, finding a quality running back seems to escape them. We all know their offense is predicated in the passing game, and it isn’t a place high school running backs want to venture to for their college careers. The past four seasons, at this point in the campaign, Elon has ranked generally in the mid 70’s out of roughly 120 FCS teams in rushing the football. However, the Phoenix have not been this bad running the football since 2007, when they were ranked 106th nationally, averaging 92 yards a game on the ground. This season, the Phoenix are 101st nationally with a 100 yard a game average, which is most likely worse than it actually looks. Elon has played five games, and only in the West Virginia State game, did they rush for any significant yardage. Elon ran for 301 yards in that game against Division II West Virginia State. So, in four other games, Elon has rushed for 199 yards. The Phoenix have always been somewhat one dimensional, but this could pass as heavy of an Elon team we have seen in several years.

So what does Elon’s poor rushing attack mean? It all works back to their quarterback and their main weapons on offense. Quarterback Thomas Wilson threw for just over 3,000 yards last season in eleven games, averaging 277 yards a game. This year, Wilson is averaging 232 yards a game, which is not bad until you really think about it. Appalachian likes a very balanced attack, but would definitely prefer to run the ball, and does so pretty well. Jamal Jackson, in a balanced attack has put up 255 yards passing a game. The forty-three yards per game decline from one year to the next for Elon is suddenly a little eye-opening. Wilson has done a much better job taking care of the football this season. His twenty-one interceptions led the SoCon last year by a wide margin. This season, Wilson has only had four of his passes intercepted, however, all of them have been in road games.

All-American Aaron Mellete, who is a highly touted NFL prospect, has also seen his production fall off. Mellete averaged a little over 10 catches per game last season, with 113 receptions, 1,639 yards and 12 touchdowns. This season, Mellete is pulling in 7.4 passes per game, for almost 85 yards a game. Mellete remains a red zone threat with seven touchdowns in only five games. Mellete has warmed up the last two weeks against conference foes Georgia Southern and Wofford. Mellete has caught 22/245/4 in those last two games. Mellete went over 100 yards receiving nine times last year, as he saved his best game to close the season against Appalachian. He had slightly better statistics against North Carolina Central in 2011, than he did against Appalachian, but when you think about the talent gap between opponents, it is easy to see that Mellete’s best game came against the Mountaineers. Mellete abused Appalachian, mostly in the first half for 14 catches and 236 yards receiving and one touchdown. Elon ran out to a quick lead last year before Appalachian eventually rallied. A couple more quick stats on Mellete, he scored two touchdowns in a game only twice last season, while doing it three straight games for the Phoenix. Mellete was held under 100 yards receiving only twice last season, but three times season has he failed to hit the century mark in receiving yards.

Appalachian finally found their offensive stride last weekend with a whopping 648 yards of total offense, which is a little over a third of a mile. Jamal Jackson provided 285 passing yards and 54 yards rushing to go along with four total touchdowns. However, Jackson provided his token interception, which it seems he has to get out of his system every game to get warmed up. Because we have been keeping track, Jackson is now 8-1 as a starter when throwing a touchdown pass in a game, and has thrown an interception in eight of his eleven career starts. Jackson leads the SoCon in total yardage and passing yardage and ranks 15th in rushing yardage in a very run heavy conference.

The main offensive weapons in the Mountaineer were on display once again in the big win over Coastal Carolina. Stephen Miller ran the ball seventeen times for 202 yards and two touchdowns, with included a 75 yard touchdown run in the second half. Miller recorded the 25th all time rushing game of 200 or more yards by a Mountaineer. Of the previous 200 yard rushing games, only DeAndre Presley accomplished the feat in fewer carries than Miller. Now with 601 yards on the season, Miller is on pace to become the first Mountaineer running back to hit 1,000 yards since Devon Moore in 2009. Sean Price continues to amaze after only three games in uniform. The redshirt freshman is averaging 120 yards a game receiving and leads the Mountaineers in receptions with 26 despite playing in two fewer games. Price hauled in two touchdown passes against Coastal Carolina, including an acrobatic 69 yard reception where he nearly lost his balance before racing past the entire Chanticleer secondary to the end zone.

Last week, I was looking for a hard fought game, and did not want to see a blowout at all. However, looking back, I may have rethought those sentiments. Even though the Mountaineers rolled up a massive day of offense and lit up the scoreboard for 55 points, I was equally as impressed with the defense. In the past, games like last weekend, the Mountaineers would have allowed another touchdown or two in garbage time. I think what may set the tone for the rest of the season was a play that may have gone forgotten. With the game already in hand and Appalachian kicking off after a score, the Coastal Carolina kick returner cleared the Mountaineer special teams and it appeared he was going to score. Punter and kickoff specialist Sam Martin was beat on the play, but found a gear and made the touchdown saving tackle. Plays later, the Appalachian defense forced a fumble and thwarted the scoring threat. I really think those moments, when a score by Coastal Carolina would not have mattered in the final outcome, made a statement. We have seen shades of the team playing for sixty minutes for two consecutive games. Whether the game was on the line like Chattanooga, or out of hand like last weekend, I think we have seen something from the defensive side of the ball. I am sure this weekend, Demetrius McCray wants to put forth an extra effort in slowing down Aaron Mellete. The NFL scouts will be watching both players and this game will carry significant weight to their playing careers after college. Otherwise, I think Appalachian might be finding a groove as far as their offense is concerned. I think the Appalachian defense will also shine this weekend. Only Georgia Southern has lost more fumbles than Elon this season and the Phoenix are also dead last in the conference in punting and in conference games, turnovers and field position are critical.

The First Pick:

Knee Benders 27

Mountaineers 41

Coastal Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 5:

 Coastal Carolina (2-2) @ #17 Appalachian State (2-2, 1-1) 

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium         

Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 56.76

CCU: 48.09

Home: 2.38 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Appalachian 45, Coastal Carolina 28, November 25, 2006, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Plenty of clouds, chance for a shower, a storm perhaps. Bring rain gear.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

            We can break down last Saturday’s win over Chattanooga down in three phases. The first phase included the Appalachian team that appeared to be as bad as the team that played the week before. The second phase included a team that we had seen before: a feisty bunch that was going to play tough defense and fight to win a game. The final phase included the basic ingredients of an opportunistic defense and an offense that makes teams pay for their mistakes. Chattanooga made quick work of Appalachian with its early 10-0 lead, but the Mountaineer defense was strong enough to keep the deficit at ten, and not let it expand to fourteen points. Part of that was due to the ineptitude of an offensive attack by the Mocs, something that has plagued them in the Russ Huesman years. His teams have either been able to run or pass, but generally not excel at both aspects of offensive football. It was evident that the younger Huesman, Jacob, had some straight line speed and escapability, but was never able to really find a groove. Terrell Robinson did not see significant time outside of a couple snaps at wide receiver until the game was decided. Last week, the Mountaineers won, but they didn’t do it alone. They had a lot of help from the other sideline as well.

            Coastal Carolina enters the game having played a variety of opponents. They followed a tougher-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina A&T, with a surprise upset of Furman. Coastal was cruising with an eleven point lead entering the fourth quarter and led by ten points with less than five minutes to play. The Chanticleers gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes to trail by three before tying the game with a field goal as time expired. Coastal won in the third overtime with its defense as Furman failed the mandatory two point attempt on the last play of the game. Coastal then lost to then 20th ranked Eastern Kentucky at home in a rout and also lost last week at Toledo, despite hanging tight. The first thought was that Coastal might be getting the season together, but you have to look deeper. Toledo is currently 108th in total defense and 103rd in FBS against the pass. Playing Coastal Carolina actually helped their defensive numbers. Toledo has given up 614, 513, 351, 432 yards, respectively this season, to their opponents Arizona (12th total offense), Wyoming (73rd), Bowling Green (104th), and Coastal (36th FCS). Toledo is not exactly stopping anyone these days. I think Toledo might have even held up against the Chanticleers as well. The Rockets only put up 402 yards themselves against Coastal while averaging 429 yards on offense a game this season. Several people want to put a lot of stock into the most recent game, but I just can’t buy it. It’s almost the same way I feel about Appalachian right now as well.  

            The Chanticleers have gone all-in on their quarterback Aramis Hillary, the younger brother of former Appalachian wide receiver/kick returner CoCo Hillary. Last season, Aramis rushed the ball ten or more times twice, while this year he has hit the ten carry mark three times, averaging 11.5 carries per game. Last season, Hillary averaged 7.4 rushes per contest. Despite more opportunities to run the ball, his effectiveness has not carried over. Compare his 2011 and 2012 numbers: 3.3 ypc to 1.8 ypc. Knowing these numbers include yardage lost while being sacked, one can also see that Hillary is throwing the ball more this season than last. Hillary has attempted 27 or more passes in every game this season while only eclipsing that number twice in 2011. Those numbers eventually equal 15 more pass attempts per game this season that last year. Hillary is well on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season with well over twenty touchdown passes. Last week against Toledo, Hillary tossed for a career high 356 yards and three touchdown passes. Hillary has only thrown nine interceptions in his last fifteen games, but seven of those interceptions have come in his last six starts. .

            Hillary spreads the ball around the field quite well. His top three receivers have 19 catches or more through four games. Matt Hazel has 20 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Demario Bennett (19/232/2) and Niccolo Mastromatteo (20/214/1) have also contributed. Tyrell Banks has accumulated 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown while running back Jeremy Height has 12 catches for 81 yards. Hazel and Bennett provide some size at the position with both being over 6’2 and 190 pounds. The Coastal Carolina running game is not much to talk about. They will run so they can keep the pressure off of Hillary, but still, their offensive line has given up 2.5 sacks a game.

            Steven Miller continues to carry the rushing attack for Appalachian. I was expecting Chattanooga to be able to hold him down better than they did last Saturday. Miller carried 22 times for 94 yards and caught a 35 yard touchdown pass from Jamal Jackson as time was winding down in the second quarter. With those numbers, Miller has already eclipsed his numbers from last year in all three major categories, attempts, yards and touchdowns. Miller is averaging 21 attempts per game this season and has 399 total rushing yards. There is word that Rod Chisholm might be available this weekend, but I wouldn’t rush him back, especially considering how well Miller is running.

            Jamal Jackson bounced back from a first quarter interception to once again post nice numbers. The interception seems to be the norm for Jackson at this point in his career, as he has eleven interceptions in as many career games. As long has he throws three touchdown passes a game like he did against Chattanooga, those interceptions will be forgotten. Jackson is completing 65% of his passes this season and has thrown for 992 yards. In games Appalachian has won this season, Jackson has five touchdown passes and one interception, compared to the losses, he has two interceptions and zero touchdown passes. A big part of those two wins is freshman sensation Sean Price. People want to make comparisons to Brian Quick, but Price has a completely different skill set. Price uses his legs to run away from defenders where Quick used his body to shield the defense. Price has 18 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns in two games and is a pivotal part of the Mountaineer offense. Price made an exceptional play in the fourth quarter when he came out of nowhere to snag a sure interception away from Chattanooga, and also scored on the catch. Now that his suspension is finally over, hopefully the Mountaineer offense can really take off in the coming weeks.

We still have seen some inconsistent play from the Mountaineer offense. Remember that 21 Mountaineer points were scored directly off of Chattanooga turnovers. Only three Mountaineer drives reached the end zone and one started at the fourteen yard line. In the first half, two of those red zone drives resulted in three points. Appalachian is not going to run into many teams in the next few weeks that they will beat with a sputtering offense. Hopefully having everyone back in the fold on game day for the rest of the season will provide some much needed chemistry. This is Appalachian’s last test before six straight conference games to end the season. Appalachian needs a hard fought convincing win. I would rather not see a blowout of any sort. Coastal Carolina seems to have the right offense to keep the game interesting for a long time. However, I think this is a game that is won in the trenches. If the Mountaineer defense can contain another mobile quarterback like Hillary and keep the Chanticleers in long yardage situations, they will be successful. Chattanooga had 27 first down plays on Saturday night and twelve of them gained no yardage, or even lost yards. Another nine plays went for three yards or less. I would like to see the pass rush from Appalachian continue their ways from last week. Appalachian had four sacks last week, doubling their season total prior to the game. I think the Mountaineers will run to a victory this weekend, especially in a game where rain could be a factor.

The First Pick:

Birds from the Beach            24       

Mountaineers                         34

Appalachian Football @ Chattanooga

Here we go with Week 4:

 #17 Appalachian State (1-2, 0-1) @ Chattanooga (1-2, 0-1)

Time: 6pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Finley Stadium         

Surface: Polyethylene FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,668 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 57.47

UTC: 53.64

Home: 3.41 points

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

Series: Appalachian leads 25-10

Last Meeting: Appalachian 14, Chattanooga 12, September 24, 2011, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Chattanooga Gameday Weather Trends:

Partly Cloudy, small risk for isolated shower

Kickoff: Temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 60’s


            Words cannot describe what Mountaineer fans have had to go through in the last few days. This program has received few beatings at home like they did last weekend. We all know about recent playoff losses that got out of control. However, this one beats all the rest. This was a loss that transcends postseason play and can only bring back memories of some of the all-time worst losses. This was not Furman or Georgia Southern. This was a team that Appalachian had pretty much owned for forty contests. This takes you back to losses that should have never happened. The outcome is one thing. Most fans can understand a game where both teams played well, and eventually, one team has to lose in the end. The way this loss happened is unexplainable. We saw what The Citadel was able to do against Georgia Southern and knew that the Bulldogs were catching up, but wrote it off as two option teams playing one another. Eventually someone had to win. Appalachian gave up 618 yards at home, while Georgia Southern gave up 253 to the same team on the road. Something about that is not right. There really is not any other way to say it. Somehow, we all move forward to a game that both teams, Appalachian and Chattanooga, have to consider must wins. Chattanooga’s schedule includes a non-Division I game that will not count toward victories needed for the playoffs. Appalachian cannot fall to 0-2 in conference play and have a chance at the title, considering this conference race just got wacky this past weekend.

            Chattanooga has faced all of their non-conference opponents in a descending order of talent. They started with a loss FBS South Florida on the road before visiting Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks managed a three point win in a game that Chattanooga battled back from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter. The game was destined for overtime when the Mocs tied the score at 24 with 39 seconds remaining. Jacksonville State worked into field goal range and kicked home the game winner with no time on the clock. Last Thursday night, Chattanooga controlled Glenville State for a 35-0 win that was more lopsided than the final score. That game saw Chattanooga unveil their bag of tricks, with passes to the quarterback lined up at receiver.

            After Appalachian beat down Chattanooga quarterback BJ Coleman last year, Terrell Robinson took over and started in five games and eventually won SoCon Freshman of the Year honors. Robinson is adept at the zone read and is particularly elusive in the open field. Robinson finished with 417 yards rushing and 336 passing last season. This year, in two games, he has 33 rushing yards, 57 passing yards, and 52 receiving yards. Robinson, who goes by “Silk”, quit the team after the USF loss on a Tuesday. He was unsure of how his role with the team was going to play out with freshman Jacob Huesman, son of Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman, and he splitting playing time. Chattanooga fully intended to utilize a two quarterback system. Robinson had a change of heart within twenty four hours and was accepted back on the team, but did not play at Jacksonville State. Instead, Robinson was awarded time at receiver against Glenville State. Somehow, this two quarterback system might work itself out, but having the coach and his son involved will be an interesting story line for Mocs fans in the coming seasons.

            Because of the two-headed quarterback, Chattanooga has completely changed their offensive philosophy in less than a year. When BJ Coleman was at the helm, The Mocs were a pass happy team. Now, Jacob Huesman and Robinson run a very balanced attack, but leans heavily toward the run. In three games, the Mocs have averaged fifty rushing attempts per contest, while grinding out 173 yards on the ground a game. Huesman leads the team with 213 total rushing yards. Huesman has also added 473 yards passing. If the Mocs can run on Appalachian, which seems easier to do nowadays, they will do it at will. Coach Huesman has always preferred a possession ballgame against Appalachian. He wants to burn the clock and give the Mountaineers fewer opportunities to score.

            One has to take a long look to find any positives from last weekend. Stephen Miller’s 167 yards rushing with three touchdowns is a bright spot only because something had to be. Miller is now up to 305 yards and five touchdowns on the season, with all but 47 yards coming at home. Miller has only one good showing on the road wearing the black and gold, and that was against The Citadel last year. His other road rushing performances include: 15 yards against Va. Tech, 28 at Wofford, -1 at Furman, -2 at Elon. Miller seems to be fitting in the offense better than last year, but will perhaps see the best defense he has seen all season on Saturday. The Mocs are only allowing 106 yards a game on the ground, good enough for 29th nationally.

            After what was one of his best performances as a Mountaineer, Jamal Jackson fell to earth with a dud in his tenth career start. For the first time, he was unable to reach 200 yards passing in a game. For the seventh time in his career, he threw an interception in a game. That is starting to become an unhealthy trend. In ten games started, Jackson has thrown an interception in all but three games. Conversely, he has also has thrown touchdowns in the same 7:3 ratio. Seven games with touchdown passes, three without. In those three games where Jackson did not throw a touchdown pass, Appalachian’s record speaks for itself: 0-3. Jackson is 6-4 as a starter, but three of those losses have come in his last four games played. Statistics are nice and look pretty and sell newspapers, but eventually, you have to put your team in position to win football games.

 The Appalachian defense had its worst performance in decades. There are not many games where the Mountaineers give up 52 points, three 100-yard rushers and 7.3 yards per carry. It was an all-around ugly display. Either this is a sign of things to come, or this game is a complete aberration. We won’t know which the case is until we get a few more games played on the schedule, but until then, I am leaning toward the pessimistic view. The team will probably have a nice bounce back game this weekend. Surely will not expect or predict a blowout, but I can see a win. What is worrisome are the emotional highs and lows that may come with the rest of this season. It appears this team suffered from a very emotional high after the Montana win. It makes one wonder if this team actually believed in itself. What they need desperately is a tough hard fought win where a lead is never comfortable. If the Mountaineers come to the field every Saturday and are prepared for battle, then this season will bring success. There are not any easy games in this conference anymore. Most of these players on this team were recruited when Appalachian winning by large margins was the norm. The talent gap between the top and bottom of this conference has shrunk significantly in a short amount of time. Chattanooga has been dangerous since Russ Huesman has been coaching. Each game during the Huesman era between Appalachian and Chattanooga has been decided in fourth quarter and expecting anything different this weekend is foolish. One of these teams will end up with their third loss on Saturday, with little room for error for the remainder of the season. Hopefully that team is not Appalachian.

The First Pick:

Birds on a Train                      22       

Mountaineers                         24

The Citadel @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 3:

 #21 The Citadel (2-0, 1-0) @ #8 Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0)        

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd-Brewer Stadium         

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.12

Cit: 58.12

Home: 3 points

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

Series: Appalachian leads 29-11

Last Meeting: Appalachian 49, The Citadel 42, October 15, 2011, Charleston, SC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Partly Cloudy, Miniscule chance of pop up shower. Heck of a day for tailgating!

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 70’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 60’s


                        As expected, Montana and Appalachian State gave every fan exactly what they were looking for last weekend. The first half was full of offense as Montana took an early lead only to see Appalachian string together three consecutive touchdowns. Montana finished the scoring in the first half that saw the score tied at intermission. The defenses ruled the second half as the third quarter was scoreless until both teams traded touchdowns in the beginning of the final stanza. Appalachian’s defense rose to the occasion, unlike the two schools previous meetings. Patrick Blalock and Demetrius McCray finished off Montana with interceptions on the Griz’ final two possessions to seal a Mountaineer win, that was twelve years in the making. Quickly though, Appalachian’s attention turns to their first conference opponent fresh off of a win over the third ranked Georgia Southern Eagles. The Citadel had Southern on the ropes last season, but fell just short in Statesboro. This past Saturday, the Cadets were just good enough to squeeze past Southern by connecting on a field goal with less than a minute remaining in the game. Any chances that The Citadel might catch Appalachian on a Montana hangover were erased with the Bulldog victory. The Mountaineers have not lost to The Citadel in Boone since 1992. Most of the players on both teams had yet to be born the last time The Citadel drove off the mountain with a victory. Will history repeat itself or can the Bulldogs start off conference play with wins over two perennial contenders?

            The Citadel opened their season with a win over cross town rival Charleston Southern. The game was tied at 14 at halftime, before The Citadel rolled off 35 unanswered points to win. The Bulldogs racked up 479 yards rushing and never punted. However, Citadel lost two of their six fumbles and turned the ball over once on downs. Going for it on fourth down in a wishbone offense is not uncommon and neither is mishandled snaps and handoffs, but six fumbles, lost or not is a problem. Last week against Southern, the two teams combined for eight fumbles. The Citadel only lost one and the Eagles lost two, but the timing was most important. Georgia Southern fumbled on its 27 and 39 yard lines on its first two possessions. On both occasions, the Bulldogs scored touchdowns and led 14-0 just barely halfway through the first quarter. Georgia Southern scored touchdowns on its next two possessions to tie the game at 14. On its next possession, The Citadel booted in its first of three field goals of the game to take a 17-14 lead.

            What might have been the play of the game as far as momentum was concerned came on Georgia Southern’s final possession in the first half. The Eagles worked in the passing game as time was winding down and worked to attempt a 31-yard field goal on the last play of the half. The Citadel blocked the attempt and went to the locker room with a three point advantage. Surely that play gave the Bulldogs a needed boost as they headed to the locker room. That brings back memories of the 2006 Appalachian/Furman game in Boone. Furman lined up for a field goal trailing 14-7. Corey Lynch blocked the field goal and returned it for a touchdown and 21-7 Appalachian halftime lead. The Mountaineers went on to win the game 40-7.

            The Citadel forced four consecutive punts from Georgia Southern to start the second half and led 20-14 heading to the fourth quarter. Southern went ahead 21-20 with just over three minutes remaining. The Citadel nailed a field goal to give the game its final score with under a minute remaining and Southern missed another 31-yard field goal, this one wide, to give The Citadel its first win over the Eagles since 2006.

            The Citadel used 11 different players to run the ball against Charleston Southern and used only six against Georgia Southern. Starting quarterback Ben Dupree ran 17 times in both games. Against CSU, he ran for 77 yards while piling up 92 yards against GSU. Dupree is the leading rusher for The Citadel in terms of carries, total yards rushing and has scored two touchdowns. Three other Bulldogs have carried for at least 14 times or more this season. Darien Robinson averages 64 yards a game and eight yards per carry while adding one touchdown. Rickey Anderson has toted the ball 14 times for 110 yards and leads the team with four rushing touchdowns. Backup quarterback Aaron Miller has rushed 14 times for 33 yards. Miller seems to be the preference when passing the ball, as he is 7/11 for 107 yards on the season, while Dupree has completed one pass this season for twenty-six yards. With eight total completions for a whopping 133 yards in two games, The Citadel’s receivers are not much to talk about with six different players catching passes.

            Jamal Jackson gained his 133rd yard passing on Appalachian’s sixth drive of the season against East Carolina almost two weeks ago. Jackson has continued to throw the ball consistently since then. Jackson followed his 300 yard performance against East Carolina with a 260 passing game against Montana that included two touchdowns and zero interceptions. Jackson completed 70% of his passes against the Grizzlies in what could be considered his best start of his career since his first one, against The Citadel last year. Jackson completed 21/27 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns last season against the Bulldogs. That game and last week against Montana were the only games in his career completing over 70% of his passes with multiple touchdowns passes and no interceptions. Also interesting about Jackson against Montana were his rushing statistics. His sixteen carries for sixty-five yards were both career highs in a single game. Jackson added his tenth career rushing touchdown against the Grizzlies and his 325 total yards was the sixth time he has gone over 300 yards total offense in only his ninth start.

             For the first time this season, Appalachian fans were able to lay their eyes on Sean Price. In his first career game with significant playing time, Price flourished with eight catches for 103 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Peacock continues to lead the Apps in receiving with ten catches for 134 yards. Peacock had a dazzling catch and run last week that left a Montana defender on his behind while he saw Peacock dive into the end zone for his first score of the season. Malachi Jones was steady against Montana with four catches for thirty-four yards. Most significantly, Jones made a great sideline catch on a 3rd down and 16 that helped set up Appalachian’s final touchdown of the game. Jones ran to the sticks and made his cut and waited on the ball while dragging both feet to secure the catch. Jones made a tough play look ultra smooth in a pressure situation.

             Steven Miller did something none of us have seen from him before at Appalachian. Miller carried the ball 27 times for 91 yards against Montana. That is easily his most rushing attempts in a game while wearing the black and gold. Miller’s previous high was last year, against The Citadel, when he carried eighteen times for 102 yards. In all, Miller had 76 carries all of last year and has already rushed 41 times this season. Keeping him fresh until Rod Chisholm returns will be a big key to Appalachian’s season, especially while trying to redshirt Tysean Holloway. Of Appalachian’s 80 rushing attempts this season, 74 have come from either Jackson, Miller or Chisholm.

            I believe we all had this feeling that The Citadel might be slowly rising from the SoCon cellar. Perhaps, it might be happening before our eyes a lot sooner than we imagined. Keep in mind, The Citadel, Georgia Southern and Wofford all run very similar offenses. They practice against them on a daily basis almost. The Citadel basically gave one away in Statesboro last year and Georgia Southern should have been on the upset alert last week. I am not reading too much stock into their win over GSU, but it still happened, and that might be the best thing for Appalachian in the long run. The Citadel is 3-17 in Boone and has not played well in Boone in several seasons. Appalachian has scored 28 or more points in every game in Boone since The Citadel’s last win over Appalachian in 2003. The Citadel has averaged 14.5 points per game in Boone since that same game. The Mountaineers need to do what they have always done against the Bulldogs and that is jump on them early and take them out of the game. The Citadel has had the most trouble defending Mountaineer quarterbacks over the years. Whether it has been Richie, Armanti, DeAndre or even Jamal, it has been the one position that has killed The Citadel over the years. I expect Jackson to have another huge day. As always, you can almost count on The Citadel to pull of some type of trick play against Appalachian. A fake punt is almost a guarantee. Kevin Higgins mentioned it on his teleconference. Whether he was trying to spark his team or was telling the truth we might never know. Higgins said “..we aren’t good enough…and we don’t have the talent to keep up” in reference to his team’s brutal schedule that included Georgia Southern, Appalachian and NC State next week. The Citadel hopes to play one possession at a time and be in the game at the end. I just don’t think the Mountaineers will allow the fourth quarter to be one of significant importance.

The First Pick:

Cadets                                 20       

Mountaineers                   42