Here we go with Week 12
Idaho (1-9, 1-6 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (6-5, 5-2 Sun Belt)
Saturday, November 29th, 2:00pm EST
TV/LIve Video: ESPN3
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WGVZ ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 59.94
App State is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 15 points
Sportsbook: App State -17.5, O/U 64.5
Series: first meeting
Last Meeting: n/a
Call it whatever you want it this point, but don’t call it a comeback. Indeed, Appalachian football has been here for years, and despite an eighteen game hiatus from dominant football, the Mountaineers are definitely back. There were plenty of doubters, and plenty of believers, but there is not a soul alive who thought the Mountaineers would have gone from 1-5 to where they are at this point. One game stands between the Mountaineers and a top three finish in their first year of FBS transition in the Sun Belt and a winning record. It has been over thirty years since the Mountaineers had back to back losing seasons, dating all the way back to the 1981-82 seasons. Last weeks win over the kings of the Sun Belt, Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns ensured at worst, a break even record. Has 6-5 ever felt so good? It has not. There is no way. Never has a team knocked off Arkansas State and Lafayette in back to back weekends on the road. Scott Satterfield has accomplished the feat twice, defeating the two in consecutive games, the only coach to do it, but even the head coach one-upped himself with his team full of road warriors. We have all been witness to some big time wins over the years by the Mountaineers. But rarely has a Mountaineer team surprised me with their play as much as this team has in the past five weeks. Anyone can win a few games in a row with luck, but the Mountaineers have had none bounce their way. This has been the most dominating stretch of football I have seen by any Mountaineer team. The only moment that could make it better is by sending the seniors off with one last win.
The stakes have changed a little bit. In the past five games, the opponent has been increasingly tougher, posing a different challenge with each passing week. But Idaho will bring to Boone a team that has one win on the season over a New Mexico State team that has two wins. That win was over a month ago and Idaho will have had a two week layoff since their last game they played on November 15th when they face off against Appalachian on Saturday. Idaho’s schedule has been a challenge all season. You might remember on college football’s opening weekend when Idaho travelled to Florida and the game was terminated after the opening kickoff. Idaho then went back on the road to Monroe the following weekend and have since had road trips to Ohio, San Marcos, Texas and Statesboro. The Vandals drew the short straw having to visit both of the transitional teams on the east coast. In fact, all seven road games that Idaho played were in states that bordered a major body of water, if you include Lake Erie. Enough geography, let’s talk about some football.
Vandal head coach Paul Petrino is most notably known for the infamous actions of his brother Bobby Petrino, who currently coaches Louisville. Paul was hired just twelve days before Scott Satterfield was in December 2012. Idaho is the first head coaching job for Paul Petrino after spending plenty of time with his brother at Louisville, Arkansas and the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino has only two wins to his name in his first two seasons, as Idaho beat Temple last year at home. Oddly enough, Petrino’s two wins have both come on Idaho’s homecoming game. Idaho is 0-13 on the road during Petrino’s tenure.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Linehan has followed a family lineage to Moscow, Idaho. His father Scott was also also a Vandal quarterback and is currently an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. Linehan leads the Sun Belt’s top passing attack. Although the Vandals average 280 yards a game through the air as a team, Linehan is only responsible for 230 yards per game on his own. Of the six Sun Belt quarterbacks with over 300 pass attempts this season, Linehan has fewer completions and touchdown passes than any of them. Linehan also has the second most interceptions in the conference with seventeen. Linehan is one of two Sun Belt traditional quarterbacks with more interceptions than touchdown passes.
Joshua McCain is arguably the best receiver in the Sun Belt from a numbers perspective. He leads the conference in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He is the only receiver in the conference with over 1,000 yards and he also leads the league with nine receiving touchdowns. He has 75% of his teams touchdown catches and is clear from the second leading receiver on his own team by 23 catches and 587 yards. To compare, Appalachian’s leading receiver in terms of yards, Malachi Jones, has 530 yards on the season.
Idaho’s rushing game averages just shy of 140 yards per game, but will face a tough test against Appalachian, who has only given up 82 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry on the ground in its last five games. Jerrel Brown and Elijhaa Penny have split carries for most of the season. The Vandals usually get into the game and the carries are split from that point based on production. Penny leads the team in touchdowns with ten as a larger running back, tipping the scales at over 250 pounds. Brown looks more like a typical back at 6’0 and 220 pounds. Brown is the senior and will be playing his last game on Saturday.
Guess what. We are going to talk about Marcus Cox some more because he is excellent. After carrying the load with 40 carries against Arkansas State, he followed that up with 36 carries and 151 yards against Lafayette. Cox’s stats in the last six games are the type of numbers some backs wish they see for the entire season: 958 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 yards per carry. The next victim is a team giving up 5.7 yards per carry, 250 yards a game and 29 total touchdowns on the season against the run.
You mention the success of the offensive line which is playing lights out. Not only have they paved the way for Cox and Upshaw, but they have kept Taylor Lamb upright for the past five games. The line has surrendered only 11 sacks on the season and never more than two in any game. Think about it. One sack in five games have equaled five wins. On top of that, the protection has allowed Lamb to make his throws and kept the pressure off of him. Lamb has only two interceptions in the past five games. The pick versus Monroe was assumed to be a free play, on top of the ball slipping out of his hands, while the there is no explanation to the interception from last week. There was not a receiver in the area and ball had to have slipped again or his arm failed him.
Rarely do we pull quotes from message board banter during the week, but this one stuck out at me from a Louisiana fan. Obviously frustrated that one of the new kids on the block beat them in their own house, the poster opined, “Appalachian is not a flashy team, but does a really good job of making the other team look bad.” Last I checked, making the other team look bad is a good way to win football games. Flashy sells tickets, but nothing keeps the fans coming back like winning football games.
The Mountaineers are looking up and another win on Saturday would be a great way to end a season with the possibility of a bowl game likely out of reach. Getting to a seven wins after four last year will have exceeded all expectations. Generally this game sets up as a perfect time for a team to get overconfident and lay an egg. Although Idaho has had a tough season, they have also had two weeks to prepare for the Mountaineers. A win would also give the Vandals some much needed momentum heading into the recruiting season, and give the Vandals a banner win. If the Mountaineers had played the style of a overconfident bunch, it would raise concern, but this team has a blue collar attitude about it. It seems everyone has bought into the game plans and understands their roles. The Mountaineers will be hunting for big plays on defense on Saturday. Idaho has given up 38 sacks on the season in just ten games. Appalachian has improved tremendously in that area from 2012. Last year, the Mountaineers had eight sacks the entire season, compared to twenty-six this season. The Vandals average 2.7 turnovers a game on offense, with their defense only forcing 1.5 per game. The Mountaineers did lose the turnover battle last week, but still wound up with a near twenty point win despite those miscues. I can see Idaho hanging around if they can keep it close early, but the fourth quarter will eventually spell doom. The Mountaineers outscore their opponents by 51 points in the games final frame while the Idaho is also outscored by its opponents by 42 points on the season. I expect two Mountaineers will go over 100 yards on the ground in a season ending win
The First Pick:
Jr. Joes 27