Western Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 12:

Western Carolina (2-9, 1-6 SoCon) @ Appalachian State (3-8, 3-4 SoCon)

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: http://www.nmnathletics.com/liveEvents/liveEvents.dbml?&&&&&DB_OEM_ID=21500

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 45.46

WCU: 36.80

Home: 3.87

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

Series: Appalachian leads 58-18-1     

Last Meeting: Appalachian 38, Western Carolina 27, October 27th 2012, Cullowhee          

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends

Early morning rain should give way to marginal improvement throughout the game

Windy and gusty with temps in the mid to lower 40’s. Bundle up!

            For the final time, Appalachian will play a football game as a member of the Southern Conference. For the last time in the foreseeable future, the Mountaineers will lace it up against Western Carolina with a symbol of their mountain heritage on the line. On Saturday, Appalachian will recognize their favorite Chancellor who has put his heart and soul into this campus for over thirty years. The Mountaineers will play sixty more minutes of football and the divorce from the I-AA/FCS division will be final. For the first time in decades, the season is complete before Thanksgiving, and we have known it since March. Mountaineer fans have zero excuses for avoiding the cold weather this weekend. Next year, the conference logo on the field changes, and so will all of the opponents. This Saturday is last time you can guarantee seeing the Mountaineers and Catamounts battle it out for a jug that will likely not move for ten years or more. Appalachian will have three players gunning to break or extend school records. More importantly, fourteen seniors and three juniors are getting dressed in the black and gold for their final game having involuntarily sacrificed their vision of chasing a national championship. They deserve your support. We urge you all to show them how much they mean to you, one final time.

            It was a typical day in Spartanburg last Saturday as a small crowd filed into Gibbs Stadium. The cool morning gave way to bright sunshine for a couple hours before drifting back behind the clouds. The Wofford offense nearly mirrored the weather pattern for the day. The Terriers ran up 228 yards of offense in the first half and took a four point lead into the half. The Mountaineer defense sealed the deal, stifling Wofford to three punts and a fumble on the Terriers first four possessions of the second half. In turn, Appalachian scored 23 unanswered points in the second half with drives that killed clock and kept the Wofford defense grasping for air. In all the Mountaineers possessed the ball for 37:00 of game clock, running 83 plays, with 49 of those plays coming in the second half. Despite a 3.5 yard team average per running play, the Mountaineers were persistent, running the ball forty times between two players. Marcus Cox ran a remarkable 35 times in the game for 119 yards and added three touchdowns. Kam Bryant spread the ball around to seven different receivers, including him, when he caught one of his passes that was batted back to him for a loss of twelve yards. Hopefully Kam will learn to let ball fall to the ground the next time that happens.

            What was lost as the game unfolded was the effort the Mountaineers played with throughout the entire game. On two of Marcus Cox’s touchdown runs, he was dragging Wofford defenders as he powered into the end zone. Late in the second half Appalachian faced a fourth down and five from the Wofford 33-yard line. That area of the field is a virtual Bermuda triangle that provides a difficult decision on the play call. A missed field goal gives the opponents great field position, while a punt could possibly net a very small gain as well. The call was to keep the offense on the field. Kam Bryant completed a pass to Andrew Peacock right at the yard marker, as Peacock stretched the ball out towards the line to gain with two defenders wrapped around him. Somehow, Peacock wiggled free of one tackler and lunged forward for the first down. Perhaps Peacock had enough to gain with the initial stretch, but it would have been to close to call. Certainly the SoCon officials would have found a way to inch the chains past the ball in the backyard of their beloved Wofford Terriers.

            The worst joke of this season has been made several times during casual conversations between Mountaineer fans, whether online or in person. “I don’t care how this season goes, as long as we beat Western.” It was then and still now sounds as if Mountaineer fans are speaking like their mountain brethren. We have never heard the words uttered from a Catamount fan, but one would certainly think that could be the motto of the residents of Cullowhee and Sylva, obviously with the names of the schools switched. For the first time since about 2005, Catamount faithful may feel like they can swoop in and steal the jug with a program that has shown improvement on the field, even if does not reflect in their record. The Catamounts could have clinched a SoCon title share on that day in 2005 with a win, but instead it was the Mountaineers who clinched. It will be difficult task for the Catamounts, as the jug has made several trips from Boone to Cullowhee, but not since October 6th, 1984 has it been in the possession of those wearing the purple and gold.

            The biggest hurdle that former Appalachian coach, current Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir has overcome this season is finally breaking the losing streak to SoCon opponents. When the Catamounts beat Elon in overtime on Homecoming, it was Speir’s first win against a Division I opponent and first against a SoCon opponent as well. It snapped a 33-game losing streak to Division I opponents and a 26-game SoCon losing streak, both which dated back to 2010. Since that win, the Cats have dropped games to Georgia Southern and Furman, giving up points in all eight quarters, allowing 33.5 points a game, and surrendered a combined total of 613 yards on the ground, at a clip of 6.5 yards per carry.

            The Catamounts have ventured throughout the season with a two quarterback system in which both Troy Mitchell and Eddie Sullivan have played in ten games each. Mitchell has been the primary starter for the majority of the season, and presents a dual threat under center. Mitchell has 1,589 passing yards and 542 rushing yards on the season. Mitchell and Sullivan have combined to throw sixteen interceptions on the season to only fifteen passing touchdowns. Mitchell has been better throughout the season, with fewer interceptions, a better completion percentage, but has been known to fumble. Mitchell averages just fewer than thirteen rushing attempts in games he has played, and burned Appalachian several times last year for long runs as the Mountaineers dropped back in coverage late in the game.

            If the Catamounts are going to run on Saturday, it is most likely going to have to come from Mitchell. He has to be decisive when he decides to take off from the pocket and avoid taking hits. The healthier he is throughout the game will improve the Catamounts chances. Secondly, Mitchell needs to avoid giving up the big play. Western quarterbacks have only been sacked twenty times season, but the Mountaineers were able to sack Mitchell seven times in 2012. Appalachian should stick to the offense that has been working for them over the past month. The short passing game has been effective, and could be a vision of the future for the Mountaineer offense. Appalachian has built that attack by remaining committed to the run game. Although Marcus Cox has seen his yards per carry go down throughout the year, his workload has increased, which has opened up the passing game. Kam Bryant has been the most accurate passer in school history this season, and it will take some sort of extraordinary event for him not to break the record currently held by Armanti Edwards. Marcus Cox is also right at the doorstep of breaking another record held by Edwards. Cox needs 119 yards on Saturday to break the record. Cox has already become just the third freshman at Appalachian to run for 1,000 yards in a season. That combination of Bryant and Cox are the present and the future of the Appalachian offense and it would be a great honor for both of them to start their young careers in such fashion. This season may have been one of fewer than expected wins, a younger than expected roster combined with even more unexpected disappointments, but if there was ever time for a season like this one, it was when championships, playoff bids and bowl bids were unattainable. The next offseason will be one filled an announcement of the Mountaineers first FBS schedule, the largest recruiting class and program that is ready to take it to next level. We will all surely miss the short drives and front row parking spaces at visiting stadiums, but the best Appalachian football is still to come.

The First Pick:

Can’t Amounts           20

Mountaineers              38

Appalachian Football @ Wofford

Here we go with Week 11:

Appalachian State (2-8, 2-4 SoCon) @ Wofford (5-4, 4-2 SoCon)

Time: 1:30 pm

TV/Video: http://athletics.wofford.edu/showcase/?DB_OEM_ID=21500

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Gibbs Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 8,500

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 44.15

WC: 47.13

Home: 3.91

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

Series: Appalachian leads 17-12        

Last Meeting: Wofford 38, Appalachian 28, Oct. 20, 2012, Boone 

WXAPP’s Spartanburg Gameday Weather Trends

Mostly Cloudy with temperatures in the lower 60’s. Chance for a shower or two.

            For the first time since that gorgeous day in Ann Arbor, six years, the Mountaineers played a game against an FBS opponent and had the home fans booing their team when the players exited the field at halftime. We have always had a comment or a theme about these games when our team is outnumbered and outgunned. We might not win the game, but the ultimate goal is to let everyone know in Athens, (Ann Arbor, Auburn, etc) that the Mountaineers were here. Obviously this sounds better in a parking lot before or after a game versus the written word, but the point is made. Georgia might have run a fake punt against Appalachian because Chattanooga was successful the week before. It’s also quite possible that the Bulldogs were slightly worried in the second quarter that the Mountaineers were hanging around a little longer than they had hoped. We’ll never know what thoughts were running through the minds of coaches wearing red and black this past Saturday. I doubt it would surprise anyone if just one of them was thinking about being on the wrong end of a lead story on just about every sports show for the next week. The final score may have resulted in a loss, but the gain was the confidence in the minds of the players that they have the talents and the minds to do something that nobody expected. The first half was just that. It was only a fraction of the story on Saturday. But for an hour or so, Appalachian players and fans had forgotten their record, and were sitting on the edge of their seats with each play. Sometimes, the game is not always about winning, and that is certainly true this season. But the fact remains: Nothing beats being a Mountaineer.

            There is only so much that can be drawn from such a lopsided score than everyone expects. Georgia and their depth eventually powered through in the second half, while the Mountaineers could not overcome missed opportunities in the first half. Appalachian was in position to score on four of their six first half possessions. Four times they advanced the ball from their end of the field into Bulldog territory. And coincidentally, four times they lined up to kick a field goal, struggling to score a touchdown. The chance to give Georgia a big scare was there, but the Mountaineers could not convert. On those four drives, prior to attempting the field goals, the Mountaineers averaged 13.7 yards to gain to convert the third down. All those series of downs began just like every other drive starts, with a first down, and ten yards to gain. On three of the four drives, the offensive line was responsible for the lost yardage due to false starts. App was penalized in all, on four of their six first half drives, and sometimes twice on a couple drives. Eliminating penalties is asking too much. Imagine just cutting those yellow flags in half, and the Mountaineers would have been in better position to convert those third downs, and maybe, score one touchdown in the first half.

            Mentioning the second half is virtually pointless. Georgia scored on its first five possessions of the second half and put the game away. The one possession game slowly turned into the anticipated bloodbath. On those five possessions in which Georgia scored in the second half, the Bulldogs had at least one play of over 20 yards on every single drive. It didn’t matter who was in at quarterback for Georgia. The Mountaineers didn’t help their cause, as Marcus Cox and Kam Bryant were both responsible for an ugly fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter. At that point the game was decided. Appalachian could only muster 44 total yards in the second half. Three drives lost yards in the second half. Georgia clamped down on defense and avoided any potential upset.

            There were very few highlight performances from the Mountaineers in the game. The running game was difficult as we expected. Marcus Cox somehow grinded out a very tough 59 yards on twenty-three carries. Kam Bryant completed below 60% of his passes. Andrew Peacock was the benefactor of the short passing game the Mountaineers employed, catching twelve passes for 90 yards. Tony Washington was the deep threat to an extent, averaging 15.6 yards per catch for 78 yards in all. The defense made a couple big plays with Karl Anderson and John Law intercepting passes. Anderson’s pick was a big part of the Mountaineers sticking around in the first half. Law’s pick came late, but gave him his team-leading third interception of the year.

            The beauty of SoCon football returns to the schedule this week, as the Mountaineers will play in a stadium with less than ten percent of the fans than the previous game. The Mountaineer defense will also have to adjust after facing a traditional I-formation to the infamous wingbone that Wofford runs. The Terriers were right in the middle of the SoCon title hunt before facing Samford and Chattanooga in their last two games, both losses. The Terriers could possibly still clinch a share of the title, but lose tiebreakers to both Samford and Chattanooga due to losses in the last two weekends. Depending on the last two games, Wofford could finish anywhere from a tie for first to fourth place. Wofford will need a win in both of its last two games, against Appalachian and Furman to even give themselves a chance to make the playoffs. The next Wofford loss will decide their postseason fate in any fashion.

            In the last month, the Terriers have not only lost to Samford and Chattanooga, but have also snuck out wins over the bottom of the SoCon barrel in Western Carolina and Elon. The Terriers trailed Elon 24-7 at the half before rallying for 24 second half points and winning by four at home. In Cullowhee, the Terriers score fourteen second half points while shutting out Western in the second half to win once again by four points.  The difference in those two wins was keeping the opponent off the board. Western and Elon combined for one measly field goal in the second half of their games against Wofford. It will be another long Saturday for Mountaineer faithful if Wofford has similar success as they did against Western and Elon.

            It may seem simple to understand what needs to be accomplished to hold back the Wofford offense. We all know about how much they like to run the ball. Their rushing attack, if successful, sets up their unpredictable passing game. The key is that simple. Just like any other option attack, you have to keep them behind the chains on first and second down and force those long yardage situations. That is a given, and its no secret. Looking deeper, the success of their running game has directly led the Terriers to their wins and losses. The cutoff line for Wofford is right at 250 total rushing yards. There are some slight outliers, in that they rushed for 258 yards against Samford in a loss, and 249 yards were gained on the ground against Elon in a win. In the other seven games they have played, the 250 rushing yards is the line in which Wofford wins and loses. Against Baylor, Gardner-Webb, and Chattanooga, the Terriers averaged 163 yards rushing. In their four wins outside of the Elon result, Wofford rolled up 340 yards rushing per game. The Mountaineers must be disruptive in the Wofford backfield. That is their chance to beat the Terriers. Appalachian played well against Georgia Southern and Chattanooga recently, outside of letting Jacob Huesman run wild for the Mocs. Donavan Johnson has been the workhorse for Wofford, almost to his detriment. Johnson averaged 26.4 carries a game in the first five games of the season, before accumulating no stats against Western and Elon, presumably to an injury. In the last two games, he averaged 26.5 carries per game. So if he is out there, he is getting the ball, no question about it. In his absence, Jonny Martin, who is the team leader in rushing touchdowns, averaged over 20 carries and 107 yards against Western and Elon. The difficult part for Appalachian in planning for the Wofford rushing attack is determining which quarterback will play. Wofford has had four quarterbacks see significant time this season on the field. Will Gay is the only quarterback to play in every game and he leads the group with highest yards per rush. However, Gay appears to be the least accomplished passer, attempting only three passes on the season. In the end, as much as this game is about stopping Wofford, it is most important for Appalachian to score when they have the ball. That is simply what the season has come down to. If the Apps can score, they give themselves a chance. If they don’t, Wofford will slowly beat down the Appalachian defense for an easy win.

The First Pick:

Ankle Biters                21

Mountaineers              23

Appalachian Football @ Georgia

Here we go with Week 10:

Appalachian State (2-7, 2-4 SoCon) @ Georgia (5-3, 4-2 SEC)

Time: 12:30 pm

TV/Video: ESPN GamePlan, ESPN3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Sanford Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 92,746

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 48.73

UGA: 83.93

Home: 3.49

Georgia is favored by the Sagarin ratings by38.5 points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

WXAPP’s Athens Gameday Weather Trends

Mostly Sunny, Lower 60’s at kickoff, Mid 60’s by the end of the game

            Growing pains are never easy. Sometimes the same mistakes are made over and over and learning from them is easier said than done. The Mountaineers seem to be repeating history with each passing loss. With a team full of freshmen, mistakes are unavoidable. Making mistakes are what they do more often than making the right play or read. Saturday’s loss was a good game to watch from a football perspective, but not from a black and gold point of view. The difference was the turnovers. Both teams turned the ball over once with the Mountaineers offense sputtering with a punt following their takeaway. Chattanooga took advantage on their interception, by returning it for a touchdown. Unfortunately, that was the difference on the scoreboard. Another crummy way to end a game, by letting it slip away late. There is no cure to being young, other than dealing with it. At this point in the season, we are almost at a loss for words. Going back to drawing board is getting old, but still a necessity. This week the Mountaineers have to dig real deep, and look for some motivation as they travel to one of college football’s most mystical stadiums for a battle in which they are severely overmatched. Georgia is constantly stocked with some of the best talent in the country at all positions, but has had plenty of issues having one of those truly special teams over the years. They are comparable to those Appalachian teams prior to national championships as they are never an easy win and always considered one of the best. Finally these two schools will face off after the game being moved to different seasons on two occasions. We’ll just say the Dawgs were avoiding the Mountaineers, waiting until the time was right.

            It has been difficult seeing Appalachian struggle to stop a team that is dependent on aspect of their game. Many games this season, the Mountaineers could have focused on one player to contain defensively and it would have dramatically increased their chances of winning. Jacob Huesman did to the Mountaineers almost exactly what Darien Robinson of The Citadel did. He didn’t force the action, and let the game come to him. Nothing Chattanooga did last week was special in the least bit. Huesman ran endlessly it seemed, always getting enough yards to move the chains and shorten the game. He averaged 8.2 yards per rush, while the remainder of the Mocs averaged 3.2 yards per carry. The Mountaineers couldn’t contain him. Huesman didn’t throw a lot, but when he did, it was worked well enough to keep the defense honest. Huesman completed thirteen passes to seven different receivers and both of his touchdown passes were over twenty yards.

            The Mountaineers looked decent on offense, but unlike the previous week, they could not hit the big play in the passing game with regularity. There were a couple twenty yard plays, but the thirty, forty and fifty yard gains were absent. Kam Bryant continued his streak of being incredibly accurate. He completed 72% of his passes in the game, which actually lowered his completion percentage for the season. Bryant has completed 73.2% of his passes on the season, and if he keeps pace for three more games, would break a record that goes all the way back to 2009, when Armanti Edwards completed 68% of his passes for the season. Bryant has now thrown a touchdown pass in seven straight games and has eclipsed 250 yards passing for the third straight game. Marcus Cox continues to churn out the yards. His 29 carries were the most in a game in his short career, and fell one yard short of tying his career high in rushing yards in a game with 158 on the ground. Cox scored three touchdowns, another career high for a single game, and now has fourteen combined scores on the season.  Cox is 296 yards away from breaking the school record for rushing yards in a season by a freshman, which is also held by Armanti Edwards when he ran for 1,153 yards in 2006. Edwards had the benefit of playing in three more games than Cox will this season.

            Georgia entered the season ranked fifth by the Associated Press and were considered by many to be a national championship contender. That goal took a small hit when they lost on opening weekend to then #8 Clemson and the injury bug caught up with them midseason in stunning losses to Missouri and Vanderbilt in consecutive weekends. In Georgia’s first four games, they were averaging 42 points a game, and since then have fallen to just under 27 points per contest in their last four games. The Dawgs needed overtime in Knoxville to get past Tennessee and a game winning drive last week in the fourth quarter to defeat Florida. The Bulldogs have played fourteen true freshmen this season at some point, and ten of those have been on the defensive side of the ball. In the defensive secondary, Georgia has used five different lineups in eight games. In all, Georgia has started 17 different players for the first time of their career this season.

             The Georgia injuries have not been as plentiful on the offensive side of the ball, but they have hit the Bulldogs in some very key places. The one that has gained the most attention is tailback Todd Gurley, who is likely to play this weekend. Gurley is going to be a problem for the Mountaineers if he is at full strength. He is only a sophomore and list of accolades are already a career’s worth of work for any average player. The most important superlative that stands out: Gurley is only the second Georgia running back to gain 1,000 yards as a freshman. The other guy was Herschel Walker. Gurley is a sure fire draft pick, likely the first running back taken, whenever he decides to leave school. He is 6’1 and 232 pounds and has 4.4 speed as well. Appalachian has to hope he is limited, or that the Bulldogs try to save him for #7 Auburn the following week.

            As if Gurley was not enough offense, the Dawgs also have Aaron Murray at quarterback, who is one touchdown pass away from tying Danny Wuerffel’s SEC career record. Murray has been a four year starter and is another future NFL draft pick. Murray has 18 touchdown passes in eight games this season and will likely get a huge roar from the Bulldog faithful when he breaks that record on Saturday. Murray and his offense have been quick starters all season, scoring nearly a third of their points in the first quarter. However, Georgia’s offense tails off as the game wears on. Sixty percent of their points scored this season have come in the first half of games. Meanwhile, the Georgia defense has had trouble finishing in either half this season, giving up 64% of their points in the second and fourth quarters. If the Mountaineers want to compete, they must find a way to get the offense going early, and keep the Bulldogs at bay at the start of the game. Recent FBS games at Florida and Virginia Tech may remind Appalachian fans how important it is to get off to a good start. In both of those games, the Mountaineers were steamrolled by the end of the first quarter. In neither of those games did Appalachian score a meaningful touchdown. That is the basics of this game on Saturday. Appalachian must avoid the early onslaught and contain Georgia as best they can. The Bulldogs are so young and hobbled on defense and the Mountaineers must attack on offense, especially in the passing game. Marcus Cox might be the key for the Mountaineers though. It is doubtful we see another game with close to thirty carries, but he needs to be effective enough to keep Georgia and their defensive line away from Kam Bryant. The Bulldogs have sacked opposing quarterbacks 23 times this season, which is second in the SEC. Georgia does give up 7.5 yards per pass play, and 31.6 points per game on the season, which are both dead last in the SEC. Both teams are in the red on turnover margin, the Bulldogs giving the ball up six more times than their opponents and the Mountaineers are three in the hole. Georgia most likely will win this game going away, but Appalachian will have their chances to stick around and keep the Georgia faithful uneasy.


The First Pick:

Hair of the Dawg        42

Mountaineers              21

Chattanooga @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 9:

Chattanooga (6-2, 4-1) @ Appalachian State (2-6, 2-3)

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: AppState TV 

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 48.56

UTC: 57.06

Home: 3.47

Chattanooga is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 5 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 26-10

Last Meeting: Appalachian 34, Chattanooga 17, September 22, 2012, Chattanooga

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends for the “Dirty”:

Mix of clouds, breezy, gusty and chance for a shower

Temps in lower 40’s for tailgate, warming to the mid 50’s by kickoff. Low 50’s end of game

            For as many bad breaks and bounces, the Mountaineers endured most of the season; it seemed to turn around all at once for Appalachian in a game against its biggest rival. Neither Georgia Southern or Appalachian are the same teams they have been in the past, for various reasons. It was terribly noticeable at times, with countless penalties and otherwise sloppy play. The passion on the field was not missing. You could sense it in the air on Saturday that both teams badly wanted to beat the other. Perhaps the turning point occurred on the Eagles second drive when an illegal block was called on an Eagle lineman, with Southern up 7-0 and driving. This play put the Eagles behind the chains with a 2nd down and 23 yards to gain. Eventually the Eagles had to punt, and the Mountaineers went to work on the Eagle secondary. Kam Bryant completed three of four passes on the drive for 70 yards and ran twice for fourteen yards, including the equalizing touchdown that tied the game. The Mountaineers struck quickly, in an old fashioned drive that lasted less than two minutes. The following Mountaineer drive saw Appalachian penalized for 40 yards, but in effect they were good penalties. A couple of them were borderline, which forced the crowd into the game. Appalachian persevered through it all, eventually gaining 96 yards on the 15 play drive that technically only covered 56 yards due to penalties. In a strange way, despite the penalties, those extra plays got the Mountaineers in rhythm that carried them to a 38-14 blasting of Georgia Southern. The big thing about those flags that were thrown on that drive is that they were not procedural, but plays of passion and hustle that got the crowd back in the game. So what if Marcus Cox tried to get the crowd going when he was twenty yards away from the playing field? He was not taunting the other team. Shaq Counts may have held a little bit, but it is on the official to make the call. Everyone holds in football, sometimes you just get unlucky. What is important is that the Mountaineers have not quit, because any day Georgia Southern loses is a good day, especially when the Mountaineers win.

            Before we get too overly confident and ahead of ourselves, we must understand how this game unfolded. Georgia Southern is down this year, primarily to blame due to the injured list. Without Jerrick McKinnon, the Eagles were a different team. McKinnon is a workhorse, and the attention a defense has to give to him opens up things for the rest of their offense. Without him, the Eagles became average on offense. The Georgia Southern defense played well overall, outside of the yardage they allowed to the Mountaineers. Several Mountaineer passes were well defended and were just beyond the outstretched fingertips of many Eagle defensive backs. On other instances, Eagle defenders were knocking each other down at the spot where a pass was completed which could have resulted in fewer completions for the Mountaineers. At times, Bryant was looking so good it was almost hard to believe how the Eagles didn’t get more hands on his passes.

             Last week, our thoughts were that Appalachian could have missed their last chance to win a game for the remainder of the season. It is easy now to come off those statements. Once again, anytime you beat Georgia Southern, it makes you think differently. Looking back after seven games, it’s possible that the new Mountaineer offense needed to use some games to really get their feet under them, after losing two starters that were expected to produce on a weekly basis. Kam Bryant has played well this season, considering he has completed 67% of his passes in seven of the eight games he has played in. In three games, he has completed over 80% of his passes. Saturday was easily his best game, combing accuracy with passes of all distances, throwing for nearly 400 yards, and most importantly, not turning the football over. For the game, eleven of Bryant’s twenty-seven attempts were completed for 15 yards or longer.

            Chattanooga has slowly climbed the ranks over the last half decade, trying to return to some level of competiveness in the conference. This year appears to be the year they have made the final push to return to relevancy. The Mocs opened the season with an ugly loss to UT-Martin that put their playoffs hopes in jeopardy, even if it was still August. Chattanooga already had a whale of schedule, with two FBS teams on the road, and two unconvincing non-conference opponents at home. Eventually, they were going to have to win same games that they had not been winning in the past to make a postseason push. Luckily, the Mocs throttled Georgia State in their second game, and have only suffered one hiccup since then, a two point loss to Georgia Southern. Chattanooga now sits at 6-2, but has three road games remaining, one being this weekend against Appalachian, which is followed by a trip to first place Samford, a home game against tricky Wofford, and then a trip to see Nick Saban and his elephants down in Tuscaloosa. The Mocs could easily be 6-6 in a month, or they could be sitting at 8-4, squarely on the playoff bubble. Either way, Chattanooga will be hungry this weekend for their first win in Boone since Ronald Reagan was in his first term as commander in chief.

             Chattanooga has always been a tough test over the years for Appalachian. Even though the Mountaineers have won their last four games against Chattanooga, none have been really easy. Two games were decided by a combined three points, and two others were double digit margin of victories for the Mountaineers, but were played closer than the score indicated. The reasoning behind that is improved defensive play for the Mocs. To date, the Mocs have only given up 17.6 points per game, which is pretty good in this era of college football. Granted, their schedule to date has not been a powerhouse one. After allowing 31 points in the opener, the Mocs have held every opponent to 24 points or less, and three teams were held to 10 points or fewer. Chattanooga likes to shorten the game on offense, thus keeping their defense fresh and able to attack the quarterback. The Mocs are second in the conference in time of possession and third in sacks with 13, which equates to a sack every 14 times the opponents drop back to pass.

            If you want to stop the Mocs, you must get in the face of Jacob Huesman, the quarterback and son of the head coach. Huesman is the Mocs leading rusher with 127 attempts, but trails injured running back Keon Williams by 39 yards. The ball is going to be in Huesman’s hands on every play from scrimmage, but about 35 times a game, he will be the one making the final decision, whether that be by running or throwing. Huesman rushes less often on the road, averaging 14.6 carries compared to at home, where he averages nearly 17 carries per game. Huesman also has lower numbers passing on the road, as he has yet to hit 100 yards passing in any game. Huesman has four passing games over 100 yards, all at home. It’s all in the numbers. Contain Huesman, and the Apps will have given themselves a chance to win. Offensively, the Mountaineers will have to do what they did last weekend. Bryant does not need 381 yards passing, but he needs to continue to be his accurate self and take care of the ball. The Mountaineers must also remain committed to the running game. Marcus Cox has proven he will get his yards steadily, and sometimes in bunches. It is amazing to think his longest carry of the year is only 23 yards, but we all know he has that ability to break a long one at the drop of a hat. Lastly, this game is all about tackling. The Appalachian defense attacked the ball well and wrapped up against Southern. Six Mountaineers had eight stops or more and none of them were John Law. Doug Middleton had his best game, probably of his career, along with Deuce Robinson. Middleton made seven solo stops, including one tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and an interception. Robinson had the lone sack, which was included in 3.5 tackles for loss and nine total tackles. This game will not be about offense, but which defense plays better. This one could be a high or low scoring game, but neither team is going to walk away with this one. The margin may ten points or greater, but it will be a one possession game in the fourth quarter.  


The First Pick:

Locomotives               18

Mountaineers              21

Georgia Southern @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 8:

#24 Georgia Southern (4-2, 2-2) @ Appalachian State (1-6, 1-3)

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: ESPN3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 45.00

GSU: 58.48

Home: 3.76

Georgia Southern is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 15 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 15-12-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 31, Georgia Southern 28, November 3, 2012, Statesboro

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly sunny skies

Tailgate: Warming through the 30’s to lower 40’s

Kickoff: Temps in the mid to upper 40’s

End of game: Temps in the mid to low 40’s

            It was not the most perfect of scenarios for the Mountaineers in their last football game at Paladin Stadium. The atmosphere was wretched, the skies gray and the only moment where things seemed like they were going well was when you pulled into the parking lot. As soon as the game started, it just felt all types of wrong. Furman’s first five plays were runs, as expected, and covered a quick forty eight yards. Two penalties, a short run, and a couple completed passes later, Furman lined up for a fifty yard field goal. The kick was good which gave Furman a lead in the game it would never relinquish. That is what it has come to this season. The field goal has haunted the Mountaineers this season, losing three times by that margin. Now, the field goals are back breaking scores that doom the attitude and passion of this young Mountaineer team. It doesn’t take much anymore for some to just go through the motions. There are plenty who still care, but they are blinded by the ones who are just ready for it to be over. We can’t blame them. Players and coaches alike decided to bring their futures to Boone to be a part of winning tradition, some just have not realized that they have to sacrifice everything thing for it. The fans who continue to show up are making sacrifices. They are committing to the product, and it is past time for the product to make the same investment in return.

            In all fairness, outside of fumble after fumble, the Mountaineers were still in the game late in the half and things were looking up. It was a similar situation to the Citadel game. You were thinking the Mountaineers were going to learn from their mistakes. They were driving late in the second quarter, and although trailing 6-3, were in position to tie or take the lead. The ball was coming back to the Mountaineers to open the second half, as they had won the opening coin flip and deferred their option. Although the situation was not exactly identical to the end of the first half in Charleston, it was close. The idea was a score, a defensive hold, get the ball back early in third quarter and score again. Both situations would have given the Mountaineers some slight breathing room. But once again, with time ticking away, Appalachian made another huge mistake that flipped all the momentum to the other side of the field. Oddly, a play was called, that was the same play that Appalachian had run the previous year against Furman. As we all know, the result was not the same, Furman took a double digit lead into halftime, and the Mountaineers were finished. The drive to start the third quarter for Appalachian also ended in the worst possible way, with another fumble, that Furman pounced and ensued to drive down the field to extend their lead to 20-3.             

            That might have been one of the last games this season that this group of Mountaineers had a legitimate shot to win for the remainder of the season. Western Carolina still looms as well, but there is not one Appalachian Mountaineer looking forward to that game right now. The next challenge is Georgia Southern who is up to their usual high point scoring ways. As the Mountaineers have had their unlucky breaks this season, so have the Eagles. Georgia Southern is having their own bumpy ride on their way to the FBS and the Sun Belt conference. Southern has been hampered by the injuries to point they have lost over 20% of their scholarship players for the year. Luckily for the Eagles, they have added a few scholarships during their transition to FBS, so the health of their team is better than it could be had they had they been under the FCS scholarship limitations.

            Heading into this season, Appalachian and Georgia Southern were headed for a colossal matchup. Two programs that were both leaving the SoCon for the Sun Belt, adding a few scholarships, were going to play a game with the bragging rights, whatever they were worth, of winning the last game between the two schools in the FCS ranks. The magnitude of this game has taken a turn that no one could have predicted. The Mountaineers are lucky to have won a game to be honest. The Eagles have underachieved this season as well with two losses to SoCon opponents, both on the road, and both by ten points. Their two conference wins were over Citadel by a touchdown and Chattanooga by two points. The Mocs and the Eagles have been playing good games for years, but seem to always go unnoticed. Georgia Southern has been outscored in conference play 116-105, and has averaged just a little over 26 points per game in their last four. That makes their season average of 40 points per game quite deceiving. This is a team that is having a similar problem as Appalachian, which is not being able to put the ball in the end zone when they have been close. The Eagles have scored touchdowns on 22 of 29 red zone possessions, but the opportunities are also down. Three other teams in conference play have visited the red zone more often the Eagles. Their offense still has Georgia Southern written all over it; it just isn’t the same Georgia Southern you are used to seeing.

             Appalachian’s season statistics are similar to what you could see in the box score on Saturday. There were plenty of bright spots such as running more plays, gaining more first downs, and having more yards overall. Appalachian has plenty of players that are at or near the top in several categories within in the conference, but it is the little ones that have them where they are. Plenty has been mentioned about Marcus Cox, who is second in the conference in scoring and sixth among the leagues leading rushers. Andrew Peacock leads the conference in receptions per game while Kam Bryant leads the conference in passer efficiency. Bentlee Critcher even leads the conference in total punting. Unfortunately it is the small things, one play here and there that have kept the Mountaineers out of the winners circle. Scoring points is the obvious outlier. The inopportune turnovers have also hamstrung the Mountaineers, along with an offense that has sputtered enough to keep the defense on the field for long spells. A lot of things work well most of the time, but it is always that one play or one bad bounce that has killed everything they have worked for in a game.

            So what is it this week that has to change in order to beat Georgia Southern? We don’t necessarily feel like something has to or must change. The formula is close to working, it just has not added up. It is similar to a chef in the kitchen. You may have great ingredients, and all the potential for a final product to delicious, but if you leave out one or two ingredients, it changes everything. Appalachian can take care of the ball better this week, but it doesn’t mean that will be the reason they win or lose. The Mountaineers could avoid giving up the big play at the wrong time, but that also will not make the entire difference. It all has to come together at once. Eventually it will, but that might not be in 2013. If the Mountaineers are up to the challenge, they can beat the Eagles this Saturday. Southern has put the ball on the turf an average of three times a game, but have luckily fell on all but four of them. The temperature on Saturday is going to be typical for late October in Boone, and perfect recipe for cold hands to hold onto a football. The Southern defense has given up close to 400 yards a game on defense this season, so moving the ball on them isn’t extremely difficult. The Eagles are suspect to the run, giving up 4.8 yards per carry to opponents. The Eagles also lead the conference in penalty yards per game. The Mountaineers don’t have to take advantage of all of the Georgia Southern shortcomings, but they must do it selectively and carefully. The Eagles surely do not care what Appalachian’s record is, and it is their turn to steal one from the Mountaineers.


The First Pick:

Eagle Creek                 27

Mountaineers              22

Appalachian Football @ Furman

Here we go with Week 7:

Appalachian State (1-4, 1-2) @ Furman (2-4, 1-2)

Time: 1:30 pm

TV/Video: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/furman.portal#

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Paladin Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass/Fieldturf?

Capacity: 16,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 47.61

Furman: 45.51

Home: 3.69

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

Series: Furman leads 22-18-3

Last Meeting: Appalachian 33, Furman 28, November 10, 2012, Boone

WXAPP’s Furple Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Cloudy skies with upper 60’s for the kickoff.           

                 Earlier this year, we talked about how much change was occurring around the Appalachian State football program. From conferences to coaches, it has all been covered, but perhaps the last talked about topic of discussion was the small matter of discipline. We didn’t expect much change from one head coach to the next, considering the new kid on the block had learned from the man who was also his own head coach. None thought that player behavior was going to be an issue until it awoke from a hibernation from nearly a decade ago. Student athlete behaviors will always be ridiculed because they are the ones in the spotlight, playing in front of crowds that pay to watch them play. Hollywood actors get their play in national magazines while mostly football and basketball players are gossiped about at the local coffee shops. While these celebrities are in their prime, many look the other way and give those who foul up a second chance. But, when one misstep leads to another and the games or shows are not what they used to be, the public is quick to judge. The behavior never changed, it just became tolerable to extent. The actions of a football player in Boone have hopefully changed for the better. Our former coach was always an apologist, willing to take a negative event and turn it into a positive. Most of the time it worked out, as players got their second chance. However, a new sheriff is in town, and he has simple rules, which unfortunately not adhered to by a former star. But on the back side, there might always be a safety net, for a troubled student athlete to fall into. In an eerily quiet silence in a courtroom in Watauga County this week, a court official directed the alleged: “Son, if you have not had a chance to talk with Coach Moore, I believe he would like to speak with you.”

            Finally, we get back to football, after a few days which may have felt like an eternity. Bad football is better than none at all, and that is what we will continue to do here. Appalachian is on the brink of a very unprecedented season for all the wrong reasons. The Mountaineers are breaking offensive records in the worst possible way. Appalachian fans are used to halves of football with 223 yards gained, not full games. A first down is not what it used to be in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The bell tolls on third down and you can actually hear it, compared to not hearing anything. An anemic offense is averaging just over 18 points a game at The Rock. It is something this blogger has never witnessed in over twenty five years of Appalachian fandom.

            With such a low offensive numbers, there is not much to review from the week before. The Mountaineers continue to rely almost solely on a true freshman running back to provide some offense. Opposing teams might now be catching up to Marcus Cox. Despite going over the century mark in combined rushing and receiving yards for the fourth straight game, it was his lowest mark of the stretch. Cox averaged just a hair less than five yards a carry on the ground, but could not find a crease in the passing game to break a long one. He was also held without a touchdown for only the second time this season. Cox will be tested once again this week as Furman sports the SoCon’s leading rushing defense, allowing only 3.6 yards per carry.

            Looking solely at the final score, you would think the Appalachian defense was dominated all game long. The Mountaineers held Samford at bay as long as possible in the first half before giving up a two late touchdowns in the second quarter. After giving up an opening drive touchdown, Samford punted on four straight possessions. Those punts accounted for all but two of the Samford punts on the game. On those four possessions that ended with punts, Samford could only manage one first down. The flip side is that Appalachian went three and out on three of those four possessions. Nine plays for twenty yards. The defense had to run back on the field quickly way too many times in the first half. The score may have still been in reach at 21-3 at the half, but everyone in the stadium knew that game was over.

            Appalachian might be able to learn a lesson from Furman this weekend. The Paladins have talent in spots, but not in a lot of places. Their coaches know it, and have used an approach on offense to play to their strengths. Furman has always been a power running team to their core. They continue those ways even with a somewhat smaller than usual offensive line. On the right side, the Paladins are especially thin, with a 253-pound tackle and a 260-pound guard. That is made up for on the left side of the line with preseason All American tackle Dakota Dozier who is a solid 6’5 and 303 pounds and appropriately named Tank Phillips at right guard, who is 6’1 and 290 pounds. They have been able to clear enough room to run for their leading rusher Hank McCloud, who is well on his way to a 1,000 yard season. McCloud is a traditional running back who has a little bit of everything. He will surprise you with his quickness and his power and knows when to use it at the right time. Appalachian will best served to get him to second guess himself behind the line so the Mountaineers can attack from the linebacker level.

             Furman has used three different quarterbacks in its six games this season. Neither has been particularly adept throwing the ball which is dandy for Furman. Reese Hannon is the preference for the Paladins, but has only played in three games this season, all of which he has started in. Hannon has 409 yards passing on the season, with one interception and two touchdown passes. Hannon is not a threat to run on designed plays, and would rather throw an incompletion than to force something that is not there. The Paladins will throw the ball out of necessity, only to keep the linebackers from sneaking up at the line, but they would rather not. Hannon threw two interceptions to the Mountaineers last year while completing nineteen of his thirty six pass attempts.

            Furman probably requested one game tape to study the Mountaineer defense. They wanted the tape from the Charleston Southern game, one that fits their offensive strategy like a glove. The Paladins simply put, want to control the clock by keeping it out of its opponents hands. They want to shorten the game, mainly by giving the opposition fewer times with the football in their hands in which to score. It worked well two years ago in Greenville, when the Mountaineers fell 20-10. Appalachian turned the ball over repeatedly and couldn’t score when it counted. This Mountaineer team can’t score either and will be pressed to on each possession if the Paladins have their way. We believe an old school low scoring game will be fitting to end one of the SoCon’s better rivalries over the years. We are hoping the Mountaineers can find their way on offense. Rhythm is the key word for Appalachian on offense. The timing has to be right with the offensive line, quarterbacks and the receivers. One way to keep that timing right is stay disciplined. Too many times last week, the Mountaineers found themselves gaining momentum slowly, until a penalty, or a bad sack forced them into a tough situation. The ball must be moving forward at all times, with an attacking mentality versus a side to side approach. The easiest way to gain ten yards is shortest way, not the longest. Appalachian has a chance to win if they can score, which is a must. We have not seen it yet, or enough, but this Appalachian defense can play better with a lead, and some support, and believe it can happen this weekend. Furman was held in check last year by the Mountaineers in the run game. The Paladins ran for 97 yards on 26 attempts. Appalachian gifted Furman two defensive touchdowns and a kickoff return last year. Otherwise, the Mountaineer defense played well. At times, a punting contest could take place in this game, which will be low scoring. Eventually the Mountaineers are going to come to their senses. A win over Furman seems like as good a time as any to do it.

The First Pick:

Furple                          16

Mountaineers              19

Samford @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 6:

#23 Samford (4-2, 2-0) @ Appalachian State (1-4, 1-1)

Time: 3:30 pm



Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 49.21

Samford: 57.39

Home: 4.04

Samford is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 4 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 6-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 28, Samford 25, October 13, 2012, Birmingham

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Partly cloudy skies with mostly sunny skies possible. Dry. Temps in the mid 60’s for most of the game. Great weather expected.

            The same results are beginning to become more annoying with each passing week. The Mountaineers may be getting closer to the desired result, but the pain of getting to that moment is also becoming more excruciating. A third game in a four week span was decided by three points. This time, an overtime period was played after Appalachian was in a calm control of the game in the first half. The Mountaineers were looking good, with a 14-7 lead in the late stages of the first half. Appalachian was to receive the second half kickoff. The Mountaineers had plenty of time to work a drive, kill some clock and at minimum, put the Citadel in a position where they were not going to possess the ball with the likelihood of scoring. After two plays, Kam Bryant fumbles deep on the Mountaineer side of the fifty yard line, and gives the Citadel prime real estate and clock in which to score. The Citadel tied it at half, and got themselves back in control of the game on the backs of another costly Mountaineer mistake. To open the second half, Appalachian punished The Citadel, lining up for a total of thirteen plays on offense, but the drive amounted to zero points. Two plays later, The Citadel was in the end zone again, this time with a seven point lead. Take away that fumble, and this game ends differently. It was a game changer. Appalachian could have gone up two or three scores before giving the ball back to the Bulldogs in the third quarter, but instead, turned it over once by fumbling and a second time on downs. It was a near identical script to North Carolina A&T, which was a product of not getting in the end zone enough on offense, which kept the Mountaineers from being winners.

            The Mountaineers took a step forward against The Citadel, when Scott Satterfield went with sophomore Kam Bryant to start the game. That was the right decision that should have been made a couple games before. It has to be incredibly tough to tell your senior quarterback that he will not be getting the ball to start the game. Jamal Londry-Jackson should be familiar with this script. He was on the other end of it two seasons ago, when he took over for a senior in De’Andre Presley who had lost his confidence and gained a fear of being subjected to defenses who could do what they wished to a below average Mountaineer offensive line. Appalachian is in the business of winning football games, and right now, the best man to lead this team is Kam Bryant. An occasional Bryant fumble, or interception, will not be welcomed, but it will be tolerated in the learning process. Bryant needs to make the strides now to be better situated for the years to come.

            Take away the fumble at the end of the first half, and the interception in overtime in which he was trying to make a play, Kam Bryant played just about as well as you could imagine in his first college start. Bryant completed 19 of his 23 pass attempts and moved the ball well enough when he decided to run. Bryant has now completed 72% of his passes on the season for 900 yards and six touchdowns. Bryant will start again this weekend, and outside of an injury or terribly bad game, should play every series in our minds. Too much pressure can be placed on quarterbacks if they believe any mistake could cost them playing time. It’s better to make the mistake and correct it quickly on the next drive. Otherwise, that fumble, or bad throw will always haunt you.  

            Marcus Cox continued to Marcus Cox things on the football field last weekend. Once again, he was dangerously close to century mark in both rushing and receiving yards, coming up a total of 7 yards shorts over the two categories. Cox led the team with seven receptions and scored two touchdowns on the ground on a total of twenty six touches. He averaged 7.4 yards per touch. Cox now has 813 total yards on the season and ten total touchdowns.  

            In the past, Samford has typically been a tough team to play. Even though the Mountaineers have not lost to Samford in SoCon play, very few games have been easy. Last year the Mountaineers needed a late score to prevail. The games in 2010 and 2011 included final scored that were both 35-17. Samford hung around in 2009 for a 20-7 setback during a game that was dominated by the rain. In the years, that Appalachian had some great offenses in the last half decade, Samford never once allowed more than 35 points to the Mountaineers, but did give up 35 points on three occasions. Samford entered the Sports Network Top 25 this week for the first time since last season, which was also the same week before they played the Mountaineers.

             Samford returns a lot of their same weapons from a year ago. Fabian Truss the leading running back who carried a heavy workload in the early part of the season. Truss has carried 102 times on the season, but only 34 times in the last three games. Last weekend against Georgia Southern, Truss had his best game of the season, with 125 yards and two touchdowns on only 14 carries. The Mountaineers kept Truss in check last season, giving up only 46 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback Andy Summerlin has thrown for 1300 yards and ten touchdowns in last three games alone. Prior to this three week stretch, Summerlin had not gone over 200 yards passing in the season’s first three games. Samford has found more offense and better results with Summerlin throwing the ball more, which is somewhat out of character for a Samford team that has preferred a run heavy offense. Kelsey Pope has also been tearing it up the last three weeks. Pope leads the team with twenty-five catches on the season, with fifteen coming in the last three games. Of his 441 receiving yards on the season, nearly 88% of them (384) have come in the last three games.

            Seeing Samford sitting atop of the SoCon standings is weird looking to say the least. Their two conference wins were both at home, a blowout win over Western Carolina and a ten point win over Georgia Southern. The Samford offense has been noticeable more potent in the last three games than the seasons first three games. The difference has been the Bulldogs playing at home. Although the difference in playing at home resulted in only one more win on the schedule, it did result in 20 more points scored per game. Scoring six to eight points more at home is a big deal. Twenty is insane. A lot these points have come via the big play, something Appalachian has struggled with all season long. Five touchdowns against Western Carolina came on plays of 25 yards or longer. Against Georgia Southern, the Bulldogs produced three touchdown passes over 50 yards. Two more touchdown passes against SE Louisiana were over forty yards. The point is clear. The Mountaineers have to avoid the big play. Appalachian has done well to avoid the big pass play this season, but that is because other teams have not had the need to pass on Appalachian to move the ball. This will be a big test for Appalachian as the weather is expected ideal for throwing conditions this weekend. The Mountaineers may benefit from Samford experiencing much cooler weather during the game as a colder, harder football is not as easy to catch. Appalachian ran the ball well last week at times, but a bigger commitment to the run is needed to keep Samford off the field. Samford gives up over 200 yards a game on the ground and 4.5 yards per attempt to opposing teams. Appalachian needs to make that commitment to give Bryant the throwing lanes he needs. If the Mountaineers fall behind by a big margin early, it could be serious trouble. The best chance the Mountaineers have of winning this game is feeding Marcus Cox and others in the running game by making the Samford defense chase.

The First Pick:

More Bulldogs            24

Mountaineers              25

Appalachian Football @ The Citadel

Here we go with Week 5:

Appalachian State (1-3, 1-0) @ The Citadel (1-4, 1-2)

Time: 2:00 pm

TV/Video: http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/citadel.portal#

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Johnson Hagood Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 21,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 49.39

The Citadel: 48.52

Home: 4.34

The Citadel is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 3.5 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 29-12

Last Meeting: The Citadel 52, Appalachian 28, September 15th 2012, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Charleston Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny and humid, temps in the mid 80’s at kickoff

            For the second time this season, an overachieving team from a perceived lesser conference came to Boone and easily outworked the Mountaineers by playing their style of football to perfection. Three weeks ago, North Carolina A&T lulled Appalachian to sleep with solid defense and won a game of field position while capitalizing on the Mountaineer mistakes. Charleston Southern used a slightly different tactic, but was equally as successful. The Buccaneers’ plan was to take the air out of the ball by running as many play as possible while maintaining possession. Charleston Southern used second downs as a precursor of establishing what they wanted to do on third downs. It was a brilliant plan that worked the game clock to their favor on a massive scale. Winning the time of possession battle is important when you can hold the ball five to six minutes longer than your opponent. When the time of possession gap (24 minutes) is greater than your total time of possession, (Appalachian possessed the ball 18 minutes), it becomes the story of the game. Think about it in a point per possession/minute ratio. The Mountaineers held the ball 18 minutes and scored 24 points. That’s an average of 1.33 points scored per minute of possession. If Appalachian would have held the ball seven more minutes, they would have been more likely to score 32.5 points. Now imagine the same scenario with Charleston Southern, which averaged just two-thirds of a point per minute of possession. Take seven minutes away from their game total and they score right at 22.5 points. That kind of split would still have given the Buccaneers a possession edge of about ten minutes, but also a differential on the scoreboard that would have left them on the wrong end of the game. This provides a perfect example going into a game at The Citadel, which will likely employ a similar strategy of keeping the ball away from Appalachian with their option oriented offense. The Mountaineers have to get off the field, not just on third down, but on any down, by forcing the action to the offense this weekend.

            Much of the blame for losing to Charleston Southern is placed on a defense that had trouble containing the running game. We feel the Mountaineer offense is still not holding up to their part of the bargain this season. It’s understandable to see why Appalachian had trouble getting on the scoreboard, considering their lack of possession, but the Mountaineers still averaged 8.3 yards per play. They were moving the ball, but not getting into the red zone often enough, garnering only three trips inside the opponents’ twenty yard line. Two touchdowns and a field goal were scored on those chances, which should have been three touchdowns. A Sean Price drop on the goal line on a third a five stole four points from the Mountaineers that were desperately needed in such a close game. Once again, it’s the little things that have kept the Mountaineers out of the win column for the first third of the season.

            Marcus Cox may have cemented himself as the starting running back for years to come with his second straight solid performance. He is extremely versatile as a threat to score anytime he touches the ball. Despite only getting seventeen carries, he was productive with eighty-nine yards and two touchdowns on the ground and another ninety-one yards receiving to go along with another receiving touchdown. That gives him six touchdowns in two weeks as a starting running back. Cox is averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and 21.3 yards per catch. He scores a touchdown every 8.625 times he touches the ball and he is only going to get better.

            Coming into the season, The Citadel was looking to build on a successful season in 2012 in which they finished 7-4, and had wins over Appalachian State and Georgia Southern on consecutive weekends. Some have called 2013 the most anticipated Citadel season in decades, until they hit the thud that is now a 5-0 Charleston Southern team. Oddly enough, Charleston Southern beat both The Citadel and Appalachian on the road, by three points, in games where they trailed in the second half. The Citadel now sits at 1-4, with their lone win over Western Carolina. Looking at the remainder of their schedule, you can only count two probable wins in games against VMI and Elon. Clemson is likely the only guaranteed loss, while the group of Appalachian, Georgia Southern, Samford and Chattanooga are all games that could go either way.

            The Citadel’s offense revolves around the quarterback Ben Dupree, who torched the Mountaineers last year for 180 rushing yards and two touchdowns runs of 57 and 46 yards. The Citadel scored 31 points before Appalachian got on the board and started matching scores for the rest of the game. Dupree leads the team with eighty-one rushing attempts for 383 yards and eight of the team’s fourteen rushing touchdowns. Five of Dupree’s rushing touchdown runs came against Old Dominion, which has been historically known for poor defenses in the few years of their programs existence. The Monarchs have given up 484 yards a game this season, and twenty-four touchdowns to their opponents. Dupree’s three touchdown runs that were not against teams named Old Dominion went for 4, 1, and 1 yards respectively. His touchdown runs against Old Dominion went for 33, 13, 7, 2, and 19 yards. Dupree’s 4.7 yards per carry is decent, but is ballooned by a 6.2 yard per carry average against ODU and Western Carolina. Take out those two games, and Dupree has 29 carries for 108 yards against Furman, Wofford and Charleston Southern. We would like to think Appalachian’s defense is closer to the latter three teams than the previous two teams. The Mountaineers must contain Dupree and disrupt his rhythm. If you can get a quarterback in a triple option offense thinking twice, you have won the down. It only takes one down to get a triple option team behind the chains, and out of sync.

            The Citadel defense has held their own this season, ranking second in the SoCon only allowing 183 rushing yards a game and allowing only 4.1 yards per attempt while giving up 26 points per game. The points given up are about average, and are slightly skewed from giving up 59 points to Old Dominion. Where the Bulldogs get in trouble is in their defensive secondary. The Citadel allows 200 yards a game passing, but has faced some run heavy team in Charleston Southern, Wofford and Furman. The Citadel secondary allows opposing quarterbacks to complete 69.2% of their passes including 8.6 yards per attempt. Their pass efficiency defense is dead last in the conference while giving up 47% of their opponents third down conversions. The Mountaineers can be quite dynamic in the passing game with their ability to go over the top with Sean Price and the playmaking of Marcus Cox that can turn any short pass into a long gain. Getting the intermediate passing attack going in the middle of the defense will open up the edge for Appalachian.

            All week long, this game feels like another one of those “uh-oh”, “here we go again” games against on offense Appalachian could barely get two hands on last year. The inability of Appalachian to stop the straight ahead run game last week, or the methodical approach of Elon two weeks prior can really make the mind wonder what the Mountaineers are in for. However, if Appalachian wants to win this weekend, we believe it starts on the offensive side of the ball. The longer The Citadel gets to play their style of offense, the more likely they are to win this game. The only way Appalachian is going to be able to force the issue against the Bulldogs is by taking advantage when they have the ball. It is going to be a hot day in the low country, and the Mountaineer defense cannot afford to be on the field for another forty minutes as they were last Saturday. Appalachian must score at will, and at the same time, slow the game down a little bit. Offenses that are high in tempo are all the rage across all levels of football and most teams have been conditioned for it. We believe an old-fashioned grind it out affair will help the Mountaineers work the passing attack into the game slowly, and help the quarterbacks, whether it being Jamal Londry-Jackson or Kam Bryant, to find some open throwing lanes. Something has to give this weekend. Either Citadel wins their first home game of the season, or Appalachian contains the running game. We would like to think the defense will be more prepared for an offense that Nate Woody has seen before. It worked pretty well against Elon, forcing them out of their passing game. Woody’s defenses have beat The Citadel fourteen straight games since 1999, giving up an average of 13.5 points per game, allowing twenty points or more on only three occasions.

The First Pick:

Knobs                        16

Mountaineers              21

Charleston Southern @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 4:

Charleston Southern (4-0) @ Appalachian State 1-2

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: appstatesports.com

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 56.54

CSU: 45.14

Home: 4.60

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

5dimes.com: off

Series: First Meeting

Last Meeting: N/A

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Tailgate: Mostly Sunny, warming up into the mid 50’s

Noon: Mostly Sunny, temps in the lower 60’s

Kickoff: Mostly Sunny, temps in the mid 60’s

End of game: Mostly Clear, temps in the mid 60’s

            The Mountaineers and Scott Satterfield got their first win of the season last weekend, but it was not particularly easy in the second half. Appalachian was unable to keep its foot on the pedal after nearly shutting out Elon in the first half of play and slowly allowed the Phoenix to creep back into the game. Elon had been struggling in the rushing department in its first three games and obviously made it a point to improve on those numbers, perhaps considering the impending weather conditions, Elon believed a wet surface would be just the game to hit the ground running. The Phoenix may have caught the Mountaineers off guard a little bit with their patient attack, and never wavered even after being down 24-0 in the second quarter. The Mountaineers never adjusted and it might not have ever been their intent to do so. Appalachian was ok with being undermanned in the box as long as the game was in front of them. After Appalachian took their largest lead, Elon managed eight plays over ten yards the remainder of the game, and only one true big play, a 31-yard pass, in the games final thirty-three minutes. Elon ran 48 of their 79 plays in those final thirty-three minutes. The Appalachian defense was not on the field a ton in the second half, only 10:29 of actual game time, but defended forty plays over that period of time. Elon was forcing tempo at a grinding pace and the Mountaineer defense calmly defended the game that was in front of them. Nate Woody was probably pleased the see the Phoenix stick to the ground game to an extent, but at the same time Elon could never get their passing game going, as they could only muster 6.1 yards per attempt. It wasn’t perfect, but all the Apps needed was a win, and that is exactly what they accomplished.

            Last week, we wanted a better start from Appalachian in the opening half. After scoring only nine points in the first half in the seasons first two games, the Mountaineers exploded for twenty-four points. It might not have appeared to be an explosion of offense, but in comparison to the previous two contests, it was. After an opening drive three and out from the defense, Jamal Londry-Jackson started at quarterback and directed a six-play, ninety yard drive that was finished off by Marcus Cox’ 50-yard TD reception. Cox was in the right spot as Londry-Jackson’s pass was tipped but caught, and Cox broke two tackles as he raced from one sideline to the other for the score. In the second quarter, Cox ripped a Kam Bryant pass from a defenders grasp and won a foot race down the sideline for a 73-yard TD reception. On both touchdown catches, Cox was not in the ideal placement or situation to make a great play, but he did anyway. We have wanted to see more of Marcus Cox and we got our wish to the tune of twenty-six carries for 159 rushing yards and five catches for 143 yards and three total touchdowns.

            The performance by Cox slightly overshadowed the return of Sean Price, who may or may not have completed all of his conditions that warranted his return. The word was mum all week on Price’s return, and we would not have expected any different. Why else would a head coach warn his opposition that his most talented downfield receiving threat was making his season debut? Regardless, Price showed some slight rust, but it was not much. Price caught eight passes for ninety-nine yards and added a 41-yard touchdown catch from Kam Bryant. The Mountaineers move to 7-0 all time when Sean Price catches a touchdown pass.

            If you have been living under a rock this football season, we have learned one thing: the Big South is playing football very well. With their geographical similarities, the Big South and the SoCon have always played a lot of non-conference games against one another. Occasionally, a school from the Big South will test a SoCon school and every now and then, grab a win against the conference that is viewed as being their superior. If there was a gap in talent between the two conferences, it has shrunk tremendously in the very recent past. Just last weekend, Gardner Webb knocked off Wofford, and beat Furman in their season opener. Earlier this season, Charleston Southern defeated The Citadel in a “road” game. Presbyterian came up two points short in a game at Furman, while Coastal Carolina managed to defeat the Paladins. Furman has been the common denominator in most of these games, but no matter how you look at it, every SoCon school from South Carolina has lost a football game to the Big South.

            Charleston Southern will come to Boone with their shiny 4-0 record and win over The Citadel, but that unblemished record is slightly tarnished if you give it a close look. The Buccaneers’ opponents sport a combined record of 2-11. Charleston Southern has beat a team whose only win is Western Carolina, in The Citadel, and another team whose only win is over Virginia-Wise, in Campbell. That resume is not as strong as it looks in the end. Their competition certainly has not been that strong since their opening season win, and this weekend will be the first time they play in a stadium with an actual home crowd to deal with. In the past couple seasons, the Buccaneers have not played well on the road in hostile environments against the likes of Illinois, Florida State, Central Florida and Hawaii. In those games, Charleston Southern was outscored 234-17, giving up 60 or more points in three of those contests.

            The Buccaneers run the all too familiar triple option offense, but not exclusively. Quarterback Malcolm Dixon has thrown for 470 yards and five touchdowns in the first four games. His stats are very consistent, throwing no more than 16 times in any game, and no fewer than 13 times. Dixon can run too, but the Bucs will go away from Dixon in the run game if it isn’t working. Against The Citadel and Norfolk State, Dixon ran 12 times for a total of 5 yards. In the games against Campbell and Shorter, two inferior opponents, Dixon ran 34 times for 237 yards. Seems to be a good idea to keep Dixon in the pocket, as he only completes about 58% of his passes, but containing him will be a key. Dixon had not been sacked all season until last week, when Norfolk State accumulated three sacks and forced Dixon’s only interception of the season as well. Christian Reyes is the leading rusher for the Bucs, who usually gets a heavy volume of the carries. Three times this season, Reyes has carried the ball twenty times or more, and he can take it 5’10 and 218 pounds. That makes Reyes the heaviest player on the Buc offense outside the offensive line and tight end.

            Charleston Southern runs the ball on average on three out of every four plays they run. The hard part about a triple option offense is guessing when they will throw the ball. Unlike your typical Wofford and Georgia Southern offenses, who generally pass the ball less often, and are under center on most plays, Charleston Southern will pass out of the shotgun formation. That makes it quite easier on the defensive coordinator to scheme against an offense. Similar to Elon last weekend, Charleston Southern will stick to their game plan regardless of the score. In their win over The Citadel, the Bucs had fallen behind 16-0 late in the first half, but were able to take advantage of a Citadel defensive mistake and a turnover on a punt return to bring the score to 16-14 at half. In the second half, the Bucs rushed for 131 yards and scored all of their touchdowns in the second half on the ground to defeat the Bulldogs. Appalachian will need to adjust to this hard headed game plan, something they were not able to do last week. Luckily Appalachian scored just enough points and use a ground attack of their own to seal the game. It was something special to see last weekend, watching the Mountaineer offense looking more like what it is supposed to. Despite 400 combined passing yards from two different quarterbacks, the Mountaineers ran the ball down the throat of the Elon defense when it mattered. Marcus Cox put on a performance that Appalachian fans had never seen. Cox became the first player in school history to record 100 receiving yards and 100 rushing yards in the same game. Kevin Richardson, Steven Miller, Travaris Cadet, Jimmy Watkins, Damon Scott, John Settle and many others before had never accomplished that feat until Marcus Cox started his first game. Obviously expectations for the remainder of his career will be high, but those should be tempered, as he is still just a true freshman, but it seems the Mountaineers have found their back of the future.

The First Pick:

The other Bucs            24

Mountaineers              38

Appalachian Football @ Elon

Here we go with Week 3:

Appalachian State (0-2) @ Elon (1-2)

Time: 6 pm EST

TV/Video: elonphoenix.com

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Rhodes Stadium

Surface: Natural Grass

Capacity: 11,250

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 58.12

Elon: 48.39

Home: 5.04

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 4.5 points (rounded).

5dimes.com: App State -5.5

Series: Appalachian leads 31-9-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Elon 23, October 6th 2012, Boone

WXAPP’s Burlington Gameday Weather Trends:

Gameday: Chance for a few showers through the day, but wouldn’t bet the farm on a washout

Kickoff: Temps near 80

End of Game: Temps in the mid 70’s

            We could almost write the same paragraph today as we did two weeks ago. Luckily, we have all had time to mellow out after a surprising loss to North Carolina A&T. It was Appalachian’s first home loss to an in-state non-conference opponent in a very long time. It was nearly a repeat of the week before. A sluggish offense could only muster six first half points after missing a two point conversion attempt on its first touchdown drive. More importantly, a couple of poor coaching decisions put the Mountaineers in a do or die situation at the end of the game. Late in the fourth quarter, after the Appalachian defense had done their part to keep the Aggies off the scoreboard, the Mountaineer offense decided to go for it on fourth down near midfield. The offense couldn’t stay on the field, and gave up valuable field position at a critical point in the game. The defense forced a three and out, but Appalachian was given a long field. Had the field position been better, there might have been more time left in the game to attempt a shorter field goal or possibly get in position to go ahead with a touchdown. In the first half, the Mountaineers attempted to drive the length of the field in the closing minute, but Jamal Londry-Jackson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Perhaps the Mountaineers were better suited to take a 14-6 halftime deficit into halftime instead of forcing the issue which eventually backfired.

            We have to come to a realization that something has to change. There may not be a championship banner to hang at the end of the season, or a playoff berth to deem success, but plenty can be lost, and gained, over the next ten weeks. Appalachian has scored nine points in the first half this season. It’s not easy coming from behind to win games. It simply is not a winning formula on a week to week basis. Appalachian has to get off to a better start in games. Whether Jamal-Londry Jackson has cured what has ailed him over the last two weeks remains to be seen. Frankly, we don’t care who plays, but whoever it is has to be ready to go without any hesitation. Londry-Jackson has been as scared as a mouse in the pocket, looking down and flinching at the closest defender. Once that happens, the play is over. Kam Bryant may have more flaws that are consistent with someone who has played as little as he has, but Bryant has stepped into his throws in the pocket, and delivered the ball with greater accuracy than his senior counterpart. Bryant is also the future, and the next ten games could give him the work he needs heading into Appalachian’s first year in FBS football in 2014.

            We predicted a defensive shutout. It was quite a bold call that nearly came true. The Appalachian defense gave up ten points, and on most Saturday’s in the new era of college football, that is going to be enough to win to you a lot of games. The problem was the offense and special teams giving up fourteen points. We mentioned a “defensive or return touchdown” would be the way the Aggies got on the board, but unfortunately we were too good on this prediction as A&T scored two non-offensive touchdowns. The defense went on to give up only twelve first downs for the game, two of those coming by penalty. The defense also only allowed 244 total yards while only giving up 3.8 yards per play. Elon will provide a different challenge as they will test the Mountaineer secondary. The Phoenix prefers to throw the ball, averaging forty-one pass attempts a game.

            Elon has had an up and down season, having played their money game, their cupcake, and then the in-state opponent that they also expected to beat, but did not. Not only did North Carolina A&T knock off Appalachian two weeks ago, but they went home on a high and beat Elon the following week, and did it in somewhat convincing fashion. The Aggies held the Phoenix to ten points and only twenty-three yards rushing. Elon did not gain a first down by running the ball the entire game, and averaged less than two yards per carry in the game. Elon has never been very successful in the run game, focusing more on the air attack, but what A&T did to Elon is impressive. In its other games, Elon was trounced by Georgia Tech 70-0 and then they picked up a win over West Virginia Wesleyan 49-7.

The Phoenix will certainly be up for Appalachian as they always have been, and might hope to catch the Mountaineers while they are down, but Elon has gone backwards since Pete Lembo left for Ball State. Current Head Coach Jason Swepson is 9-16 overall in now his third season, and has yet to record a winning season. Of his nine wins, you can count Western Carolina (2), NC Central (2), Concord, WV Wesleyan, WV State, Furman and The Citadel. The Furman win in 2011 represents his only win over a SoCon opponent with a winning record. Swepson could be on the chopping block if he cannot turn it around quickly this season.

Elon has been spreading the ball around well to begin their season. They have featured a three man rotation at running back between Tracey Coppedge, BJ Bennett and Karl Bostick. All three have rushed the ball between 27-29 times, with Coppedge carrying a 5.2 yard per carry average compared to Bennett (3.7), and Bostick (3.1). Coppedge also leads the team with 151 yards rushing. As a team, the Phoenix are averaging 3.6 yards per carry. Thirteen different receivers have caught a pass, with veterans Rasaun Rorie and Kierre Brown leading the way with over a dozen catches each. Six Elon receivers have caught seven passes or more. In comparison, only eight Mountaineers have caught a pass, with only four players catching more than six passes.

                         The typical statistics come up every year when Appalachian and Elon face off on the gridiron. Elon hasn’t beaten Appalachian since 1964, a span of seventeen games. This might be Elon’s last chance to beat the Mountaineers as both teams are changing conferences in the future and both schools future conferences take them in different geographical directions. In the SoCon era, Appalachian has scored no fewer than 24 points in every game against Elon, and has scored 34 points or more in seven of those ten games. The Phoenix have only managed 30 points on two occasions against Appalachian. Expect Elon to try and jump on Appalachian early like they did in 2011. The Phoenix raced out to a 21-0 lead before Appalachian eventually won 28-24. In that game, Elon tried to burn clock long before the game was over. Elon’s offensive line couldn’t hold up, and the Mountaineers covered better in the secondary, leading to five sacks. The Mountaineer defense could be the difference again this time in Burlington, assuming they can get some help. We still believe the Appalachian defense has held its own this season. Only ten points were given up two weeks ago, and the defense kept Appalachian in the game as long as they could in Missoula in the opening game. Elon looks average on paper and has not shown many signs of being all that competitive in the last season or so. Elon’s defense has yet to record a sack this season and only has one interception in three games, while only recording four quarterback hurries and have only forced one fumble. Appalachian should use that vanilla defense to their advantage and get the running game going. If the Mountaineers are going to struggle running the ball like they have thus far for the rest of the season, it could be a long final season in FCS. Scott Satterfield has some big decisions to make in the 72 hours or so. Does he go with Kam Bryant? Does he reinstate Sean Price if his punishment has been served? How does he treat the more recent off field issues of Ronald Blair? Does he make a change at running back? All of these questions will be answered by 6pm on Saturday, but the real quandary resides with how the players who are on the field respond when it is their time to shine.

The First Pick:

Ashy Birds                  20       

Mountaineers              27