Appalachian Football vs Gardner Webb

Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs Gardner Webb (1-2, 0-0 Big South)

Saturday, September 22nd, 2018 3:30pm 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: 30,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 75.86

Gardner Webb: 30.45

Home: 2.67

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 48 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: NL

Series: App State leads 7-0

Last meeting: App State 45, Gardner Webb 7, October 6, 2007

WxCrum Forecast: Increasing Clouds, with chances of rain, Temps in the Mid 70’s

As a fan, dealing with a bye week is brutal enough. This past weekend was worse. Watching college football on television is usually fun, but when your team is not playing when they were scheduled to, just steps from your own doorstep? Just about as bad as it gets. Football fans have that every week routine. It begins on Monday with teleconferences and news articles, and progresses throughout the week with coaches shows and practice reports. Next thing you know, its Thursday, the day before you might travel to a game. And you do it over and over again. Week after week, the players, coaches, fans, journalists, equipment managers and everyone in between, embrace that grind. There are not many more magical times of the year than football season. September without a football game is like Easter without eggs, Christmas with no ham, and Kool-Aid without sugar. It just isn’t the same. Eventually we all move on, and the games return and its all forgotten, but it was a grim time for several days. Hopefully, when toe meets leather on Saturday afternoon, we’ll all be back in our happy place: the win column. 

The head coach of the Runnin’ Bulldogs is 1983 alum Carroll McCray, who is in his sixth season in Boiling Springs. Previously, McCray was in charge at Austin Peay from 2003-06. McCray spent his first four years in the coaching world under one Sparky Woods from 1983-87 in Boone, NC at App State. McCray carries a 38-77 all time record, and more recently is 22-38 at his alma mater. His lone winning season in his ten year head coaching career came in his first season at Gardner-Webb, where his team went 7-5. The Runnin’ Bulldogs play a tougher than usual schedule for a Big South squad. Besides their first two losses of the season coming to North Carolina A&T and Western Carolina, Gardner-Webb also faces off against 2017 FCS playoff participants Monmouth and Charleston Southern to close the season. Currently ranked in the top ten of the FCS polls, Wofford and Kennesaw State also loom on the horizon for Gardner-Webb.

Although it has been a short time since App State has been in FBS, it feels like ages ago. Watching film of Gardner-Webb and Western Carolina brought back a lot of memories. A smattering of fans, 2,257 “attended” the game, that was moved up one day to avoid Hurricane Florence. Gardner-Webb racked up 246 total yards of offense on 70 plays. For much of the game, these two teams didn’t seem like they were very far off in regards to talent, but the box score paints a different story. The Bulldogs gained 145 yards rushing, but also lost 48 yards on the ground. All in all, they gained 2.4 yards per rush on their forty attempts. 

No longer feeling sorry for Zac Thomas, the sophomore was perfect against UNC-Charlotte. No, seriously, he completed all fourteen of his passes, for 295 yards and three scores. Very tidy numbers. Two of his scores, to Corey Sutton and Dominique Heath were absolute dimes, right on the pylons. Thomas added twenty-nine yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown. His next incomplete pass will draw groans and boos from the crowd. Kidding aside, Thomas has exceeded expectations quickly, and fans are chomping at the bit to see what he can do next. 

Maybe the next thing that Zac Thomas will do is throw a pass to Corey Sutton and let him leave defenders sprawled out in his wake. Oh, sorry, that has already happened and we’ll probably see it again before too long. Thomas hit eight receivers against UNCC, with Sutton being the main beneficiary. Sutton’s catches went for 27, 38 and 90 yards. That gives him a decent slash line for two games at 9/242/2 on the season. Also benefiting is Malik Williams, who snagged three passes for 51 yards, including a big catch and run for 38 yards that set up App State’s third touchdown of the day in the 45-6 trouncing of the 49ers. 

There have been few murmurs of football the last two weeks with much of the focus being placed on hurricane relief. Sure, we stomped the mud a few times over the last several days over the assumed unwillingness of our last scheduled opponent’s desire to play the Mountaineers anywhere. It was an emotional time for all involved. But alas, here we are, with what seems like a second beginning to the football season. Gardner-Webb provides one final tuneup prior to hitting the conference slate for eight straight games. I want that twelfth game back as much as anyone, and we’ll get it back, and hopefully at home if we take care of what is ahead of us for the next two-plus months. Gardner-Webb’s roster is mostly homegrown and very young. Leading rusher Jayln Cagle is from Kannapolis. Leading receiver Kyle Horton played high school at Charlotte’s Mallard Creek. Four of their top six tacklers are also from North and South Carolina. Even their kickoff specialist is from Newland. This team will have something to prove, despite nearly two dozen freshman seeing game action this year. They have not had much offense to speak of, but they get up, wipe themselves off and continue to play. The effort is there, the execution, not so much. Gardner-Webb has not scored at all in the second half this year in either loss, and have just managed 16 points in their last 120 minutes of football. Additionally, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have never scored more than 17 points on Appalachian, while the Mountaineers have scored 30 or more in five straight games. By the time Saturday is over, it should be six in a row. 

The First Pick

Runnin’ on Fumes 10

Mountaineers 56

Men’s Basketball 82, Campbell 101

Pregame:

Appalachian (1-1) travels to Big South Opponent Campbell (1-1) in its first road game of the season. Last year, Appalachian slipped by the Camels at home in a close game, winning 77-74. The Mountaineers are coming off an ugly loss at home to High Point. The on court energy was non-existent against the Panthers, as High Point made a point to embarrass the Mountaineers. High Point was projected to finish in fourth place in Big South, while Campbell has been tabbed as the Big South favorite in their division.

Darren White and Trey Freeman are all conferfence selections for the Camels. White scored twenty or more points ten times last season while also hitting double digits in twenty-eight games. White was second on the team at 16.8 points per game. White began his college career at James Madison before transferring to Midland Junior College, where he played with Mountaineer guard Jamaal Trice. White recorded a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Camels last outing against Northwestern State. Freeman led all Big South freshman in scoring at 13.9 points per game and was named the Big South Conference Freshman of the Year. Freeman also led the conference in foul shooting at 87%, which was also good enough for 26th nationally.

Darian Hooker is another Camel that the Mountaineers will need to keep a close eye one. Hooker led Campbell in scoring last year at 17.9 points per game. Hooker is deadly from three point range, shooting 46% from long distance last year, after shooting 38% during his freshman season.

Appalachian will need to rebound from its first loss of the season and simply put it behind them. The Mountaineers will need better games from their seniors. Nathan Healy and Jamaal Trice need to show some leadership and will this team to a better effort, at minimum. Jay Canty cannot do this all by himself. Another player is going to have to emerge as a second scoring threat before Mike Neal returns from suspension. Chris Burgess had a nice game against High Point, but is still very rough around the edges.

It does not appear we will get a spread for this game. Campbell only garnered two lines last year, in the massive BracketBuster event against Northwestern State and in the first game of their conference tournament against Winthrop. Both of those lines were a point or less and Campbell lost on the court and on the books in both games. Most certainly, we can begin our picks next week with East Carolina and Virginia Tech. I fully expect the Mountaineers to be double digit underdogs in both games.

Postgame:

Appalachian started the game with turnovers on its first three possessions and Campbell never looked back as they never trailed in the game. The story of the game was red hot shooting percentage from the Camels, who shot 66.7% from the field for the game. Essentially, that is making two of every three shots taken. The Camels ended the game with 42 made field goals, with twenty-six of those baskets being assisted. The Camels also enjoyed a 54-34 advantage in the paint and a 23-0 edge on fast breaks.

Darren White was magnificent for the Camels. White poured in a career high 36 points while snagging seven rebounds. Darian Hooker added 17 points and five assists while Reco McCarter added thirteen points for the Camels.

We talked about wanting to see more from the seniors and they responded. Nathan Healy scored 18 points on 7/9 shooting including two three pointers while grabbing six rebounds. Jamaal Trice scored 14 points off the bench, but did manage to play 36 minutes in the game. Trice added seven assists, but the rest of the Mountaineers could only manage seven assists. Tevin Baskin also came off the bench to play 28 minutes and scored 18 points and added seven rebounds. Tab Hamilton quietly scored 18 points himself, hitting a trio of three pointers.

Adding to the Campbell’s hot shooting, Appalachian played poor defense in transition and in the half court. That is evidenced by the Camels scoring over half of their points in the paint. The Mountaineers have no true inside presence, so we may see more of that in the future. Michael Obacha has been thrown in the fire it will take him some time. It is not Obacha’s fault though. Brian Okam seems to get in his own way more than anything. Okam did not see the floor against Campbell. Chris Burgess came back down to earth after his best performance of the season against High Point. Burgess played 23 minutes, turning the ball over five times and only recording one assist and scoring two points. Burgess and the Mountaineers must get into an offense that requires more passing of the ball, and working as a team, rather than a dribbling contest. On a couple occasions, Burgess left his feet as a passer, and that does not work in the college game when you are only 5’8″.

Appalachian has now begun its season with two double digit lopsided losses to Big South teams. The Mountaineers only win is over a NAIA Montreat. At this rate, it may be a while before Appalachian records its first Division I win of the season. It appears this entire season will come down to the SoCon Tourney in March. The Mountaineers will have to be playing their best basketball of the season at that point.

#24 Appalachian State Baseball (37-12, 20-7 SoCon) vs Gardner-Webb (28-25, 10-11 Big South)

First time in school history.

It has been a common theme for Appalachian State baseball this season. There have been so many instances, it is hard to cover them all. However, Appalachian added another school first to its resume this weekend. Appalachian comes into the final week of the regular season ranked 24th by Baseball America, which only ranks twenty five teams compared to other news outlets who rank thirty teams. The honor comes on the heels of winning its fourth series in a row, and second in a row on the road in conference play. Last weekend’s opponent, Samford, had a chance to win the conference going into the series, but Appalachian squashed those hopes with a 9-7 win on Sunday.

Gardner-Webb will be a different opponent for Appalachian on Tuesday. The Runnin’ Bulldogs are only 6-10 on the road this season, with wins over Wofford, North Carolina, Liberty, Charleston Southern, UAB and Prebyterian. The Bulldogs are 0-2 this season when playing a road game following a road win. Gardner-Webb will also be without the services of starting pitcher Andrew Barnett, who got the start against Appalachian earlier this season. Barnett did not get the win, but kept Appalachian guessing and struck out eight batter in 6.1 innings. Barnett was the starter for Gardner-Webb on Friday evening’s loss to Presbyterian. It’s a possibility that we see Matt Fraudin (1-5, 3.84) who has ten starts on the season. It also possible we see Brock Wilson (4-2, 3.37) who has started six games this year. Fraudin started on Saturday but only threw 44 pitches before being lifted. Wilson has only surrendered one home run in 34.2 innings of work and opponents bat .211 against him.

ASU Fr. LHP Jeffrey Springs (1-0, 4.82 ERA) vs. GWU Jr. RHP Brock Wilson (4-2, 3.37 ERA)

In somewhat of a surprising move, Chris Pollard handed the ball to freshman southpaw Jeffrey Springs against Gardner-Webb. It was Springs’ ninth apperance of the season and his first start since facing South Carolina on the road – 61 days ago. It was announced before the game that Springs would only throw about 50 pitches and his rust was apparent early on. Springs hit two batters, walked two and allowed a run and three hits in his three innings of work. Following Springs, seven other Mountaineer pitchers were needed to finish the game, including solid performances from Jordan Jessup (2 IP, 1 R, 1 H, 4 K), Jamie Nunn (0.2 IP, 2 K) and Nathan Hyatt ( 1 IP, K, S), who tied a school record with his 13th save of the season.

Only five Mountaineers recorded hits on the evening with Tyler Zupcic leading the charge with three hits. Zupcic scored twice and raised his season average to .344. Brandon Burris started in right field as Tyler Tewell was behind the plate giving Jeremy Dowdy a much needed rest. Burris drove in two runs on one hit, and made a fantastic diving catch in right center field to keep a run off the board for Gardner Webb. Daniel Kassouf added a sacrifice fly and Preston Troutman also drove in a run and was walked once.

Appalachian has the chance to reach the forty win mark this weekend, (Thurs-Sat) with a series against Western Carolina. Appalachian’s magic number is two to win the conference title. Any combination of two Mountaineer wins of Charleston losses secures the championship and the first overall seed in the conference tournament. The difference between the first and second seed is massive. First seed would potentially play at 5pm on the first day of the tournament compared to 10am for the second seed, depending on where Furman finishes. Furman is the host institution and game times may be adjusted to allow the Paladins to play the 5pm game as long as it stays in the winners bracket.

Southern Conference Tournament Bracket