App State Football @ #22 Miami

Appalachian State (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs Miami (0-1, 0-0 ACC)

Saturday, September 11th, 2021 7:00pm EST

TV/Video: ESPNU

Radio: 97.3 FM North Wilkesboro, 600 AM Winston-Salem, 1270 AM Charlotte, 1450 AM Hendersonville, Sirius XM 80, TuneIn App

Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL

Capacity: 64,767

Surface: Bermuda Grass

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 75.58

Miami: 75.80

Home: 2.37

Miami is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2.59 points

Line: Miami -9.0

Series: Miami leads 1-0

Last Meeting: Miami 45, App State 10, September 17, 2016, Boone, NC

If you were lucky enough to be in attendance at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday or Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday evening, you were treated to some pretty fantastic performances. Attend both? Bucket list weekend. Obviously the win on Thursday is what we are here to talk about. Hey look, we beat East Carolina for the first time in 46 years. We all knew we were a better program, but you need that scoreboard to back it up. The score is what gets etched into the history books forever. Another opportunity exists this weekend. Miami is reeling a little bit. Fans are super disappointed about not being able to compete with one of the best dynasties in all the sport. It almost feels like the shoe is on the other foot circa 2016. App State wanted to beat Miami five years ago. There was hope, and Miami was down, but they were still Miami with little ol’ App State on the schedule, in just their third full year of FBS football. Now, App State can beat Miami? Are we trying to convince ourselves of that again, or does there exist optimism with facts to support it? Miami is not going to hand it to App State — they’ll have to have to earn it. Just the way we like it.

We venture back to the time machine in Week 2 to complete a two games series that came together out of nowhere nearly 6 years ago. It was a first of its kind scheduling event for App State, to host their initial Power 5 opponent in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Apps are returning the favor almost five years later. That series potentially opened the door for the Mountaineers to schedule the likes of other directional “Carolina” schools to eventually, maybe not, come to Boone. Looking at you, Gamecocks. Regardless, this return trip to Miami was scheduled before App State played in its first Camellia Bowl, which tells you exactly how quickly things can change in college athletics. In 2015, Miami was not performing, but they were still the Hurricanes, Despite that, they were able to roll the Mountaineers pretty easily in 2016, who were still working with FCS-type talent at many positions.

If you thought comparing the one opponent that App and ECU had in common last week was wild, just hang tight. Based on the ACC’s decision to play one nonconference game in 2020, the opportunity for common opponents was minimal. Miami chose to play UAB in its opening game last year, and won 31-14 over the Blazers. The week before, UAB beat Central Arkansas 45-35, but the last game UAB played prior to that was their 31-17 loss in the 2019 New Orleans Bowl to App State. Now those games were a long time ago, and likely do not mean much, but they remain interesting. Last year Miami was 8-3, and played six games against teams sporting a record over .500, and went 3-3 in those games. All of their 2020 losses were to bowl eligible teams in Clemson, North Carolina and Oklahoma State. Coupled with the opening week loss to Alabama, the Hurricanes have lost three straight football since last season. Enjoy the irony here, in that Miami’s last win in football was over Duke. Certainly those dots have been connected by now.

The Miami offense goes through their Heisman candidate D’Eriq King, who is in his second season with the school since transferring from Houston. A major offseason story for King and the ‘Canes was his recovery from an ACL injury he suffered in the bowl game against Oklahoma State. King had no issues moving around in the pocket, and using his legs to escape the pass rush when pressured against Alabama. Still, King was sacked four times, lost a fumble on one sack, and had two interceptions. One of the interceptions was a tipped pass, and the other, King just threw into too much traffic. Only twice did King throw passes over twenty yards against Alabama. King netted ten yards on his nine carries against Alabama, and rushed more times than any other Hurricane in 2020. His receivers are really good, top to bottom, but none are head and shoulders above the rest. That’s not intended as bulletin board material, but more as a compliment. Several of them can hurt you. More importantly, Miami is really good at tight end with Will Mallory who was fifth on the team in receptions in 2020, while backing up Brevin Jordan who was a fifth-round selection of the Houston Texans. In all, Mallory and Jordan accounted for 60 receptions for 905 yards and eleven touchdowns for offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee last season.

For an opening weekend of college football, App State could not have asked for much better. Defeating an in-state rival on a neutral field in front of a national audience is the kind of stuff memories are made of. Old friends made new friends in downtown Charlotte on a perfect day and night for football. The new guy, Chase Brice, probably thinks he could have played better, but you will not find any complaints here. Forget the pedigree, expectations or uncertainty, Brice helped choreograph an App State win. The newspaper article might not land on the refrigerator door, but it was the first step in the right direction for the entire offense. A very balanced attack looked nearly unstoppable in the second quarter when the Mountaineers rallied from a 6-0 deficit to lead by two touchdowns at halftime. Ten players caught passes with Thomas Hennigan and Corey Sutton leading with four receptions and one touchdown each. The Mountaineers run defense allowed just 86 yards on the ground and Pirates committed one, two, or too many penalties to hang with App State.

This could be one of the tougher matchups to predict. Miami played the defending national champion last week, and one the best programs in college football history that remains in the middle of a historic run. Alabama has been making a lot of programs look bad on any given day. Can we actually read anything into that game? Does it tell you anything about Miami? Just because Miami could not keep up with Alabama last week does not mean that they cannot have a successful season, and make a lot of teams look bad. It’s almost like it is Week 1 all over again for Miami. The Hurricanes response this week will be critical. Manny Diaz and staff really need a win. We know how this works for App State. Not a must win, but in order to take the next step as a program, beating Miami will go a long way. It’s not often that the Mountaineers get their opportunities to play a game like this after having one under its belt. Prior to 2019, games against Georgia, Tennessee and Penn State were on opening weekend. In 2019, App State took advantage of having worked out some kinks to knock off North and South Carolina. Is that the recipe for P5 success? We’ll see. But we do know, that in 2020, Miami secured double digit margins of victory over five opponents. Those opponents were UAB, Louisville, Florida State, Pitt and Duke. Those teams were a combined 21-30 last season. There might not be much to this, but it does seem to be worth noting. Manny Diaz has long been known as a good defensive coordinator, but the Canes surrendered 27ppg last year and 408 yards per game in total offense. The Hurricanes scheme tends to use their overall speed to create havoc for opposing offenses. They tout their tackles for loss and turnovers in the media guide. That could be a major key for App State on Saturday. Limit negative plays, such as penalties, and take care of the ball. But is the havoc defense enough? If those negative plays are limited, and the turnover jewelry stays in its trunk, does a good defense exist? One last thing on D’Eriq King. He is 24 years old, and six projected starting NFL quarterbacks are younger than he. At Houston he played wide receiver in his first two seasons before moving to quarterback on a more full time basis in his later years, while still running the football quite a bit. He’s played a lot of football, yet has appeared in just sixteen games in his last three years of football, while also rehabbing an injury.

The First Pick

Depressions 30

Mountaineers 21

Appalachian Football @ North Carolina

Appalachian State (2-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs. North Carolina (2-1, 1-0 ACC)

Saturday, September 21st, 2019 3:30pm

TV/Video: Fox Sports Southeast

Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM

Kenan Memorial Stadium

Capacity: 50,500

Surface: RootZone 3D Blend AstroTurf 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.40

UNC: 76.43

Home: 2.64

North Carolina is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 8.67 points

Line: North Carolina -3

Series: North Carolina leads 1-0

Last meeting: UNC 56, Appalachian 6; September 21, 1940, Chapel Hill, NC

WxCrum Forecast: Sunny with temps in the low to mid-80’s

So, we have a big football game on our hands? Is that what people are telling me? Last I checked, it’s still September. Hard to have a big game this early in the season. Important games are usually slated for December, or late October against some school from south Georgia. Rings and trophies are absent for this matchup. Oh, bragging rights, you say? We got bragging rights. It’s nothing but a few spoken words, but words that some have been waiting to utter their entire lives. Finally, the Mountaineers have a chance to pound their chests while both squads are on somewhat of an equal playing field. Even when App State played Wake in 2017, the scholarship count might have been equal, but a few of those men in black were FCS recruits. And for many of those who were not FCS recruits, they were still quite young. In early 2017, the FBS transition for App State was still in its infancy. Fast forward two years, and now the Apps have a full FBS cupboard. Athletic budgets aside, this is as equal a footing as App State has had against any of the Tobacco Four on the gridiron. Counting Duke, but probably should not. So yeah, this is finally about bragging rights. It certainly helps boost the confidence of App fans that we have had success at this level. It helps that we have that culture, and that expectation to win. It helps that we really really, want to beat the ever-living you know what out of those Heels, even if it isn’t at their signature sport. So, Mountaineer fans will load up the tailgate wagons and drive themselves to the destination of the next battle. They will give their ALL, and if it does not work out in their favor, they’ll try again the following week.

The Tar Heels have played three games this season, but arguably, they have only played three quarters of football. Of the seventy points the Heels have scored this season, thirty-eight of them have been scored in the final frame. That’s roughly 54% of their points scored in 25% of game action. That doesn’t sound bad until you realize that the other 46% of Carolina’s points occurred in 75% of play. Choose your narrative. The Heels can hang around long enough in games, stay within striking distance until they kick the offense into high gear late. Luckily for the Heels, they have been able to keep opponents under 30 points in all their games. Wake jumped out to a 21-0 lead, and held on for dear life, winning 24-18. Eventually a team will run away from them. But, they do have the ability to come back, and strike quickly. On their two touchdown drives against Wake, the Heels went a combined 160 yards on 11 plays in just 4:38 of game time. Similar situation against South Carolina. Two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, 14 plays, 193 yards, 5:37 of clock used. That’s getting it done.

All the talk in Chapel Hill this football season has been about Mack Brown, the former App State head coach from way back in 1983. Stop reading this if that is the first time you are hearing about this news. The rest of talk has been about freshman QB Sam Howell, the Sun Valley product who spurned Florida State late in recruiting. It’s early in his career, but he’s played well in spots, and has looked really bad in others. Howell has not taken every snap, but most of them. Howell has 701 yards and 6 touchdowns in three games. He has not thrown an interception, but he has been sacked twelve times. That’s a lot even if he had taken every snap. Overall, the Carolina quarterbacks have been sacked thirteen times on the season, which is 125th out of 130 teams in the country. App State head coach Eli Drinkwitz described Howell as a player who believes in his abilities and has a big, talented arm. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t look at the stat sheets and assume Howell doesn’t like to tuck and run. His sack yardage factors into his rushing totals. Take those out, and he has 20 carries for 62 yards.

North Carolina’s running back room is a mystery. You have two guys with somewhat identical statistics. They have combined for 77 carries and 440 yards between them, but just one rushing touchdown. All together, the entire rushing attack is just 79th in the country, at just under 160 yards a game, and 3.83 yards per carry. However, Javonte Williams and Michael Carter have pretty much split carries in the first three games. In the first two games it was mostly Williams who looked like the better back. He had 28 carries for 178 yards against South Carolina and Miami. Then suddenly, against Wake, he was held to just 27 yards on nine carries. His fumble in the first quarter that set up a Deacon touchdown might have had something to do with his poor performance. Michael Carter received 16 carries against South Carolina, eleven against Miami, and then thirteen against Wake. Williams role kinda plunged, while Carter’s stayed consistent. Carter had 96 yards against Wake on thirteen carries, but fifty of those yards came on one play. Take that away and he had a 3.83 yard per carry average for the game, which is oddly the same average as Carolina’s season total.

We have finally reached that part of the career of Darrynton Evans. We are just past the midway point of his eligibility, yet he already holds a school record with three kickoff returns for a touchdown, a mark formerly held by Jimmy Watkins. We have only seen eight kickoff returns for touchdown in App State history since 1966. Evans has three of them, one in each full season he has played. He also currently holds the career kickoff return average record, which currently sits at 26.5 yards per return. That is an entire yard higher than Charles Fowler, who sits in second place. This is mentioned for one reason. Evans is special. We have seen phenomenal play makers at App State over the years, but Evans could be the best. Aside from kickoff returns, in Evans’ last eight games, he has 1,032 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Looking for bright spots outside Evans’ game against Charlotte is somewhat tough. It’s been a long time since App State has played that poorly in a second half, and still managed to pull out a win. The warning shot was fired. The Mountaineers have given up five passing touchdowns in 2019, compared to only eight last season. Opponents yards per attempt is also up by nearly 2.2 yards per attempt. Defending third downs is easier when the offense you are facing has further to go. App State is just 70th in third down defense in 2019, allowing a .370 conversion rate, compared to just .317 a year ago. North Carolina is struggling mightily on third downs, and that has to be something App State takes advantage of on Saturday. Part of why Wake was able to win last week, is that the Heels had two first downs and were 0-8 on third down conversions in the first half.

Let’s try and remove the colors and letters from the jerseys for a moment. This game appears to be pretty even on paper. If anything sets these two teams apart, its experience. Appalachian clearly has the upper hand in that department. But is that experience occasionally a detriment? Are the Mountaineers too set in their old ways, or is this random sputtering on both sides of the ball a real concern. Mind you, this is the second straight game, where both teams have mostly a new coaching staff. Eventually the newness is no longer an excuse, because we are at the quarter pole of the season. There have been nearly as many practices in September, as there were in August, as there were in the spring. It’s time for both teams to step up if they want their seasons to extend past twelve games. Per usual, all the pressure is on the home team, North Carolina. They are supposed to win, right? The Heels have more resources at their disposal. It’s just a tuneup game. The Tar Heels have still yet to score thirty points in a game, despite their abundance of chunk plays with their offense. The problem is the red zone. Now, you can look up that Carolina has scored on every possession they have had in the red zone, and then also notice, they have only made 11 trips in three games, good enough for 109th in the country. You also notice they have scored just five touchdowns in those situations. The Tar Heels are tied for 3rd in the country in red zone field goals. That’s not a statistic you want to be good at. Sure, points are great, but most days, 6 > 3. You know what’s coming, It’s App red zone statistics. The Mountaineers have scored touchdowns on nine of ten red zone chances. Appalachian is one of three teams in the country(Baylor, Navy), yet to kick a red zone field goal. On one hand you have team that kicks a ton of field goals, and the other that has not kicked any. It’s not the deciding factor in football games, but it is a major situational variable in who has a better chance to win. Another key, turnovers. Again, I believe both these teams are pretty even, so something has to give eventually. North Carolina sits at +.33 on the season in margin, while App State is +1.50. The winner of this game likely also wins that pesky turnover battle, and I’ll take the more experienced offense that has played together over a patchwork offensive line with a true freshman quarterback.

The First Pick

Wethers 23

Mountaineers 31

Appalachian Football vs Wake Forest

Appalachian State (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) vs Wake Forest (3-0, 1-0 ACC)

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 3:30pm est

TV/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, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Fieldturf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 67.25

Wake Forest: 76.81

Home: 2.41

Wake Forest is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: Wake -4

Series: Wake Forest leads 14-7-1

Last meeting: Wake Forest 20, App State 10, September 8th, 2001

Ya’ll, it has been a long time coming for this one. Think about all the events and memories that have been made in your life since the last time Appalachian and Wake Forest met on the gridiron. If you had a child born in 2001, they are getting their drivers license this year. Dale Earnhardt’s death was still fresh on many Carolinian minds and the World Trade Center was still standing. A lot has changed, but the hunger for these two schools to play football hasn’t diminished. Eighty-eight miles of US 421, partially named by famous stock car drivers on some stretches, is all that separates these two schools. Unfortunately, college football started becoming less about the game on the field and more about padding the back pockets of those who keep watch over athletics. Appalachian and Wake could have easily scheduled a win, or gone on the road to get a paycheck and keep the budgets in the black. Thankfully, these two schools have remembered what is important about one of the experiences of college football. Packed stadiums, plenty of atmosphere and a competitive spirit inside and outside the lines. Conference footprints have expanded so that the parishioners at service on Sunday do not recognize the schools opponents. Its hard to explain how much this just feels right. Appalachian and Wake Forest belong in the same breath. Even with scholarship discrepancies in the past, these two schools were neck and neck on the field more than enough times. Neither side wants to lose and both expecting a win. I’m not sure college football gets any better than that. 

In 2001, the Deacons went 6-5, but did not get a bowl invitation. Since then they have had five winning seasons, and played in six bowl games. The 2011 was the oddball, finishing 6-7 after a bowl loss to Mississippi State. Most notably, the Deacons were ACC champions and played in the Orange Bowl in 2007, but fell to the eventual conference mate Louisville. Last season was the first winning season for Wake since 2008, getting a win in the Military Bowl and finishing 7-6. As has been the luck for Appalachian’s out of conference opponents, Wake has jumped out of the gates hot with three wins in rather dominating fashion to start the 2017 campaign. 

In those three games, Wake has benefited from a stronger than usual defense, and an offense that has put a lot of points on the board. Wake has sixteen touchdowns and they have all been scored by the offense except one, a thirty yard interception return vs. Utah State. The Deacons have been balanced, with seven rushing touchdowns, and eight passing touchdowns. Senior quarterback John Wolford has contributed nine of those scores, three with his legs and six with his arm. Wolford has been surprising, but more importantly he has played smart, not throwing an interception. In fact, the Deacons have just one turnover on the season, an interception thrown by their third string quarterback. 

Greg Dortch is one guy the Moutaineers must know where he is on the field at all times. Dortch has four touchdowns, leads the team in receptions and yards, and also returns kickoffs and punts. He has the abilty to burn you with his speed as he did vs Utah State on a catch and run or go up and make an acrobatic play in the end zone and get a foot down for a score, like he did at Boston College. The Demon Deacons have this kid for three more seasons, so this won’t be the last time Appalachian has to worry about him, as he’ll be a senior when the Mountaineers return to Winston-Salem in the 2020 season. 

Wake Forest takes a committee/all hands on deck approach to their running game. Four players have at least 26 carries on the season, including Wolford. Cade Carney and Matt Colburn will not burn you, but they move the pile and are tough to tackle. Arkeem Byrd fits the bill as a more traditional back at 6-1, 190 pounds. Byrd is also a redshirt freshman and will be around for awhile. Appalachian’s coaches will be familiar with him as they recruited and offered Byrd early in the 2015 recruiting process. 

We’ve got to the point where we have to mention last week’s game. The Apps played about thirty minutes on Saturday in San Marcos, but gutted out a conference win. It was one on the lowest offensive outputs in terms of yardage in a win in a very long time. What is worse, is that several players felt the effects of the physical game well into the early week. Those day-to-day injuries typically heal enough once Saturday comes around, but it is something to keep an eye on. If anyone had a good performance, it was Terrance Upshaw. Most of his work came in the fourth quarter, and he scored the go-ahead touchdown. Upshaw didn’t lose a yard on any of his fourteen carries, which went for sixty yards and a touchdown. Upshaw now leads the team with 163 yards on the season. Taylor Lamb follows with 117 yards and Jalin Moore has 109 yards. 

Another solid performance was turned in by the App State defense. They gave up one score over the top, but kept Texas State in check for the remainder of the game. They gave up a few yards, but didn’t allow a red zone touchdown. Anthony Flory was named the conference defensive player of the week with his nine tackles and two sacks. The Mountaineers repeatedly assualted Damian Williams, but that sucker just kept getting up. 

Last week, I was all types of wrong in the closing paragraph. It could not have been worse. The bigggest miss in a long time. Something about last week was not right. Not sure what it was, but found myself pacing in the hours before kickoff. The nerves were obviously warranted. A lot of comparisons have been made to Miami from a year ago, leading into this game with Wake Forest. I cant buy them. This week will be different because it has to be. We have been warned. We have been through this “host a P5 program” at Kidd Brewer before. The Mountaineers probably played the worst game of the season last weekend. It has to get better and maybe it was a perfect time for a wake up call. I’m confident in saying that Kidd Brewer will be a much different place to play for Wake than it was when they visited Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts. The Deacons will likely be playing their best opponent of the young season as well. No offense to Presbyterian, Boston College, and Utah State. They arent exactly football hotbeds. They dont have the athletes that App has. Besides Wake limiting the opposing quarterbacks they have played, those signal callers they have faced have been pretty bad against everyone. Presbyterian QB Ben Cheek completed 2/9 passes for 41 yards vs. the Deacs. This season Cheek has still completed just 33% of his throws for 204 yards in three games, and he is their starter. Same story for Boston College. They played two guys behind center against Wake. They were a combined 18/41 for just 163 yards, which is under four yards per attempt. On the season, the primary BC starter is under 5 yards per attempt. That’s simply not good. Utah State: same stuff, different day. Their two QB’s combined for a 15/37 day last weekend, or a 40% completion rate. Their yards per attempt was higher than BC, right around 6 yards per, but that was buoyed by a 77 yard passing touchdown. Take that out, and guess what, exactly four yards per attempt. I don’t think Wake has played a competent QB yet and I think App’s defense has too much pride and talent to roll over and let anyone drop forty points on them like Wake has done to their opponents this season. It’s going to be a hard fought game, but in the end, this Saturday is for Appalachian. 

The First Pick

Top Hats 22

Mountaineers 27

Miami @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 3

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

Saturday, September 17th, 2016 12:00 EST

TV/Video: ESPN

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, WHKP 107.7 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490, WAZZ 94.3 Fayetteville; WPWT 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 72.03
Miami: 80.68
Home: 2.61
Miami is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 6 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: Miami -4
Series: first meeting
Last meeting: n/a

       We’ve made it, almost. Saturday isn’t quite here yet, but it’s getting closer and the talk of looking ahead and focus can be set aside. Five-time national champion Miami is coming to Boone, and our small mountain town may never be the same. Plenty of big games have been played at Kidd Brewer, and plenty of lofty rankings have come with the opponents that have battled against Appalachian, but none bigger than what we’ll witness this Saturday. The Hurricanes are perfectly nestled into the Top 25. The Mountaineers might have the most talented team they have ever assembled. The Hurricanes are adjusting with a new coaching staff, a young roster, and the first road trip as a group this weekend. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are settled in, having just completed their home opener, and are patiently waiting just like everyone, for the biggest game of their lives. 

       Miami has hardly been tested on the young season. They have easily taken care of two in-state opponents in Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic. Neither team will be very good this season, and it’s doubtful either sees postseason football of any sort. The Hurricanes kept it very simple in those opening wins, getting adjusted to playing together and tuning their offense to Mark Richt’s liking. Miami has safely kept the ball on the ground, playing to the strength of their offensive line. Their defense blitzes about half the time and early returns show that success, as Miami leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss. 

       When Miami hired Mark Richt, both sides were looking for a fresh start. Miami had been through a series of head coaches since 2007, and their record of 64-49 since that time was unlike what the ‘Canes had been used to. Richt was a good coach in his previous 15 seasons at Georgia, but not great enough for the high demands of coaching in the SEC, despite 14 winning seasons, 15 bowl games, 145 wins and six occurrences with the Bulldogs inside the top 10 of the final AP Poll. Richt’s return to Miami was a homecoming, as he backed up eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly when he played for the Hurricanes from 1978-82. 

       Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s name has been mentioned in the same breath as Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as one of the first signal callers to be selected in 2017 NFL Draft, assuming both declare. Over the course of the year, Kaaya will get better with Richt’s coaching, but has started the season a little slow. That follows a sophomore season season where Kaaya also underwhelmed, throwing just 15 touchdown passes, compared to his freshman season where he threw for 26 touchdown passes. Some fail to remember that the 2014 Miami team included Phillip Dorsett and Duke Johnson, both who are contributors for their respective NFL squads, the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. Kaaya has hovered around a 60% completion percentage his entire career and prefers to stay in the pocket rather than use his legs.

       As mentioned earlier, Miami has been running the ball all over their opponents this season. Three runningbacks ran for over 100 yards against FAMU, and two rushers eclipsed that mark against FAU. Thus far, the Hurricanes have 652 rushing yards on only 75 attempts, good for a team average of 8.7 yards per carry. Mark Walton leads with 271 yards and five touchdowns while Joseph Yearby is not far behind with 226 yards and three touchdowns on the young season. 

       If we want to be super critical, Appalachian has really yet to put together a full 60 minutes this season. With only seven points scored in the second half in two games, one can only wonder if the Apps have been holding their cards close to their vest. The offense was super vanilla last week in the second half against Old Dominion, but the defense was never really threatened, even after repeated attempts by ODU to gain a new set of downs on fourth down. Marcus Cox was his typical self, with 18 carries, 133 yards and three touchdowns. 

       This Miami game is not measuring stick for Appalachian this season. Regardless of the result, there will still be 9 games left to play in the regular season, and the goals of winning the Sun Belt remain. However, the opportunity lingers. We are fully aware of how big a win like one over Miami will be for the program. Recruiting, donations, interest in the school, etc. We have all seen it first hand. What App fans have not had, is the chance to celebrate as one in our own house. But, before we can rejoice in victory, we must win a football game. Small detail, right? The Mountaineers have been tested this season, and surely that bad taste from Tennessee has not been forgotten. Miami has cake walked in their opening games, and have been able to out-athlete their opponents. Miami has been comfortable, playing in their own digs, with all the luxuries that come with being at home. If the same attention that was given to Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd over two weeks ago is repeated, Appalachian will really put itself in good position. The Miami program and coaches have played in many games with racous crowds, but not the 2016 version. How many times has this 2016 Miami team traveled on the road to a town that might be holding the biggest event in its history? I’m not saying Miami isn’t good, or can’t be good this season, I just don’t think they’ll be good enough this Saturday. 

The First Pick

Storks 20

Mountaineers 27

Women’s Basketball 68, Virginia Tech 71

Pregame:

Appalachian State will look for an upset in their first road game of the season tonight versus Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers and the Hokies are both playing their second game of the season, as Appalachian dominated Lees-McRae while the Hokies fell at home to Old Dominion on Friday. The Hokies return four starters from a team that went 7-23 last season and finished tenth in the ACC. The Hokies were picked to finish eleventh this season while the Mountaineers were tabbed the preseason favorite in the Southern Conference.

The Hokie roster includes four seniors, highlighted by Alyssa Fenyn who has started 79 of her 91 career games. Fenyn led the team in assists last year with 88 while averaging 8.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Aerial Wilson led the Hokies in minutes played last year, averaging 35 minutes a contest while averaging 12.1 points per game. Wilson scored two points in the season opener.

The Hokies and Mountaineers have had a few common opponents over the last couple years. Last year, the Hokies fell to NC State last year at home, while the Mountaineers defeated the Wolfpack in the WNIT in Raleigh. Both Appalachian and Virginia Tech lost to Virginia twice last year. Two seaons ago, Virginia Tech notched a seven point win over Elon, while the Mountaineers defeated Elon by an average of 23 points per game in three games. The Hokies also lost twice to Wake Forest two seasons ago, while the Mountaineers defeated the Deacons in Winston Salem.

Postgame:

A very physical game finished in heartbreaking fashion for the Mountaineers. Appalachian had the ball with a chance to tie on the game’s final possession and Raven Gary’s layup attempt rolled off the rim with just under five seconds remaining. Virginia Tech hit a free throw and intentionally missed the second free throw to provide the final margin.

Virginia Tech led the game early before the Mountaineers went on a 12-0 run midway through the first half to push their lead out to six points. The Hokies battled back slowly with three point shooting to draw within three points at halftime. The Mountaineers shot 52% in the first half along with hitting six of seven free throws. The Hokies did not get to the foul line in the first half.

The second half saw Virginia Tech run out to their biggest lead of the game at seven points just five minutes into the final frame. The Mountaineers forced Tech into several fouls as they slowly clawed back throughout the entire second half. Five Hokies finished with three fouls and another finished with four. Appalachian was brilliant from the free throw line in the second half, nailing fourteen of their sixteen attempts.

Appalachian could not find answer for Tech’s set plays. The Hokies did a great job of cutting to the baseline after dribbling out of the corner and finding an open shooter time and time again. Four Hokies finished in double figures with Alysssa Fenyn leading with 13 points. Monet Tellier netted 12 points, including a trio of three pointers. Conversely, the Hokies simply could not stop Anna Freeman, who finished with a career high 36 points, adding 8 rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and two steals. Freeman hit six of her eleven three points attempts, falling just one three pointer shy of tying a school record. Courtney Freeman added 11 points and nine rebounds.

The game was a homecoming of sorts for Maryah Sydnor, who grew up in nearby Radford, Va. Sydnor was perhaps nervous playing in front of a swarm of friends and family which included members of her high school basketball team. Sydnor played twenty three minutes recording a steal and two points. On any other night, this Appalachian team would have handled Tech easily with better defense, and another scoring threat outside of the Freeman duo.

Appalachian State Baseball (41-16) vs. #15 Virginia (39-18-1)

Appalachian jumped out to a six run lead after two innings and held on to beat Virginia 6-5, and advance to the regional championship against the winner of Oklahoma and Virginia, who will battle in an elimination game. Seth Grant battled for six innings, giving up six hits and five runs while striking out four batters. Ryne Frankoff came on for the seventh and eighth innings, giving up three harmless hits. Nathan Hyatt worked the ninth for his sixteenth save of the season while walking one batter and striking out another.

The offensive attack was led by a three hit effort from Trey Holmes. Preston Troutman also recorded two hits and scored a run. All six Mountaineer runs were scored by different players. The Mountaineers capitalized by throwing errors on Virginia in the second inning. Appalachian commited four errors themselves, but were able to play through the mistakes. Tyler Zupcic did not play with a strained knee ligament, and Preston Troutman played centerfield with Brandon Burris playing in left. Appalachian is now one win away from advancing to its first ever super regional. Appalachin will have two chances to win one against either Virginia or Oklahoma.