Elon @ Men’s Basketball

7:57 AM: Elon is favored by a whopping three points today over App. The Mountaineers covered a double digit spread on the road earlier this year at Elon.

The Phoenix dropped two in a row in the Western swing in conference play recently, at Sammie and Chatty. Elon won over WCU on Thursday.

Elon is 6-20 ATS on Saturdays it’s last three seasons, while the Apps are shockingly 15-8 ATS. Elon usually doesn’t play well in Boone.

@bigCasu: Elon has only won once in Boone since they joined the SoCon. Will Capel’s crew
break another dubious stat line today with a loss?

1:29 PM: Official pick, Elon -3.

Post game: App had on their best shooting performances for the season on Saturday, but Elon shot better in all three categories to hang on for a seven point win. It was enough to cover the minuscule three point spread. It was our second straight win on the season. Next up is The Citadel at home on Thursday, where I expect close to a double digit spread in favor of the Apps.

Men’s Basketball @ Elon

6:49 AM: Elon is a 14 point favorite tonight, but the Phoenix are only 4-7 ATS the spread this year. #AppStateBBall

1:10 PM: App/Elon spread stands at 14. Not likely to move with a team, (App), involved that has yet to cover in any lined games (0-5). Sneaky gut feeling that App might cover tonight.

6:16 PM: Point spread has dropped to 13 tonight for App & Elon. Kind of what I expected. Has to turn around eventually. I’ll take the Apps to cover despite losing a point from earlier today.

9:03 PM: Apps lose 75-66 after trailing by 15 at halftime. Largest deficit was twenty points. Canty scored twenty points and Baskin added 19. My instincts were correct. Elon falls to 4-8 ATS and App covers for the first time this year. Improves to 1-5 ATS.

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

Men’s Basketball 58 Elon 61

Coaches like to tell their teams that the next basketball game, is the biggest one of our season. Appalachian’s game against Elon will be the biggest game to date, as a win or loss in either direction has big implications as far as tournament seeding and bye possibilities. Elon holds a 2.5 game lead over Appalachian and if the Mountaineers could cut the lead to 1.5 games, the pressure would be on Elon, as Appalachian would also hold the tiebreaker over Elon, going 2-0 against the Phoenix this season. A loss would all but end Appalachian’s chances to win the North Division. Who would have thought the Mountaineers would be in this position after the way they started the season?

Elon is fresh off of beating Furman by four points last Saturday. Elon’s big man, Lucas Troutman hurt his ankle in the win, only playing five minutes and is considered questionable for Thursday. Troutman was the team’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game. Troutman scored fourteen against Appalachian earlier this season. Sharp shooter Jack Isenbarger is putting up 14.1 points per game, but only scored nine points in the first meeting. Isengarger has only been held to single digit scoring seven times this season. Tab Hamilton did a great job defensively against Isenbarger in the first game.

The defensive end is where Appalachian is going to have to win this game. Elon has shot 50% or better only four times this season, winning every games except against Appalachian. After losing to Appalachian, Elon secured seven straight wins, but has cooled off of late, losing by ten at Wofford prior to their win over Furman. The key will be keeping Elon from shooting threes, as three players have hit 40 or more threes this season. Samson Tanner has also been a huge spark plug for Elon lately. Tanner did not score against Appalachian in the first game, but has scored 82 points in his last nine games. Tanner averaged 5.4 points prior to going scoreless against Appalachian, but has averaged 9.1 points per game in his last nine games. Elon is 0-3 this season when Tanner does not score.

Appalachian only has three road wins this season, two in conference play. Last year, Elon barnstormed the Mountaineers in Burlington. Alumni Gym is not exactly what I would call a tough place to play, but it is very cozy and their students are annoying to listen to. Nathan Healy and Tevin Baskin both had big games the last time out against Elon as they forced Lucas Troutman into four fouls and only 25 minutes played. The Apps must attack the rim and challenge Elon in the paint. Appalachian does not have what it takes to get into a jump shooting contest against Elon.

10:14 AM UPDATE: Elon is currently favored by 8.5 points. This line is going to move today at some point, and I don’t think we will see 9. I think this will settle at 8. I am leaning Elon tonight, based on last year’s game.

6:56 PM UPDATE: Elon has to cover nine big ones. I just don’t think they will do it. I think it’s possible, but this game means too much for Appalachian to come out flat. One more time for the Apps.

Postgame:

It happened again. Appalachian led by seven points with 4:23 to play in the second half. From that point on, Elon outscored Appalachian 14-4 to all but clinch a first round bye in the SoCon tournament. Appalachian now must chase down Western Carolina, who defeated UNCG 70-68. In fact, Appalachian fell from second place to fourth in the North. That is how fragile the standings in the division are right now. Every win is big, and every loss is devastating. If App is not careful, a loss to Greensboro on Sunday could put them in fifth place, with every other team in the North playing a winnable game.

Elon started the game quickly and ran out to an early lead, but Appalachian countered with a 13-4 run in the first half to take a 21-14 lead. Elon battled back to tie the game at 23 thanks to Jack Isenbarger scoring four points before Appalachian called a timeout. Isenbarger would hit a three with just under a minute left in the first half to give Elon a 31-26 lead at halftime. Appalachian only scored 5 points in the last 7:47 of the first half. If you add the last few moments of each half together, Appalachian combined to score 9 points in the final twelve minutes and change of each half.

The game was one where several Mountaineer players did not show up, and this team cannot afford not to have everyone playing well and expect to win. Tab Hamilton was scoreless. Mike Neal was 3/10. Nathan Healy was in borderline foul trouble parts of the game and could not play as aggressive as he would like to. The team shot under 40% for the game, and only hit 3/16 from behind the arc. The real difference, App recorded seven assists, while Elon assisted on fourteen of their twenty-two made baskets.

Appalachian did manage to cover the spread, which would have been much sweeter if they could have held on for the win. They move to 13-7 on the year while our picks lag behind one game, as has been the case the entire season. Greensboro will bring a challenge, as Appalachian can be better than UNCG when they want to be, but the Spartans have one of the best one-two punches in the conference in Armstrong and Simpkins. Should be an interesting line tomorrow.

Women’s Basketball 80 Elon 62

Appalachian is in a very precarious spot. A win is highly needed and a very surprising Elon team is coming to town looking to steal a win from the reeling Mountaineers. Elon has jumped out to an 8-2 conference record, including a win over Chattanooga at home. The Phoenix hold a game and a half lead over Appalachian in the conference standings and currently sit in third place, only one game out of first place Chattanooga and Davidson. Elon is 3-6 on the road this season, one of the worst records on the road of SoCon teams. Their wins include at Western Carolina, Charleston and Wofford. Appalachian will easily be their biggest road test thus far in conference play outside of Davidson, who beat the Phoenix by fifteen last weekend.

Elon is led by Ali Ford, their senior guard who leads the conference in scoring at 17.1 points per game. Ford is quietly campaigning for player of the year honors by also leading the conference in free throw percentage and ranks second in three pointers made per game. Ford has had up and down games in her career against Appalachian, having never beaten the Mountaineers in seven career games. Ford will usually have a good half, but has rarely put together a complete game for Elon. If Ford is not on her game, Elon will have a hard time beating Appalachian. Kelsey Evans has also had a very nice season for Elon, averaging 14.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per contest.

Appalachian has been on somewhat of a slide for a couple weeks. They are still playing good basketball, but nowhere near their potential. That should point to how well Appalachian can play. Even though they have been playing below their expectations, Samford still needed a buzzer beater to win, and Chattanooga lost a thirteen point advantage before holding on. Appalachian’s toughest games this season have been on the road, so hosting Elon will be different for them. Elon will be Appalachian’s toughest home opponent this season.

Anna Freeman needs to become slightly more selfish with the ball. She is the best player in the conference, and has underachieved slighty this season. Playing against Ali Ford should give her all the motivation she needs to have a good game against the Phoenix. Appalachian will also need more production from the wing, including getting the perimeter game going with Katie Mallow and Farrahn Wood. The three pointers need to start falling so Appalachian can open up the defense and start hitting the paint with more consistency.

Postgame:

Darcie Vincent employed a bold strategy against Elon and it worked to perfection. Vincent went with Jessica Barrios to start at point guard in an obvious defense strategy that worked to perfection. We are pretty sure Barrios started her first career game, and spent most of the game smothering Elon star Ali Ford. Vincent then through off Ford by rotating Raven Gary and Michelle Taylor against Ford for the remainder of the game. That strategy could not have worked better. Ford picked up a technical foul during the game, that led to her fouling out with four minutes to play. By that time, the game was well decided, as Appalachian led the entire game. The Mountaineers shot the ball from all spots on the court 47% from the field, 50% from three, and 71% from the free throw line.

Ali Ford still managed to score her 18 points, but it was a very quiet night from her. Appalachian kept her getting hot from behind the arc, which is one of her biggest strengths. Eight of her eighteen points came on the free throw line, and she turned the ball over seven times. Outside of Ford, Elon could not find a second threat to score in Ford’s stead. No other Elon players scored in double figures, and the Phoenix could only manage shooting 30% for the game.

We were looking for Appalachian to involve Anna Freeman more in the offense, and they did. Freeman scored 26 points, her second highest total of the season, while also adding ten rebounds. It was the sixth double digit rebounding game of the season, and Anna’s fourth double-double of the season. The Apps are 4-0 this season when Freeman secures a double-double. Maryah Sydnor added 19 points and six rebounds while Kelsey Sharkey added 10 point and nine rebounds in 26 minutes.

Men’s Basketball 80 Elon 70

Appalachian hosts Elon at approxiamately 4:30pm Saturday afternoon in a game that will have tiebreaker implications as far the SoCon tournament goes. Realizing this is only the third conference game for both teams this season, both teams know each game between divisional opponents has been critical the last several years. Both teams stand 1-1 in the conference standings and could really use a win for confidence. A 2-1 conference record looks and feels a lot better than 1-2. This is the first home conference game of the season for Appalachian. Elon will be playing their second conference road game.

Elon has been playing like team that prefers a slower pace and does a really good job of taking care of the basketball. Yes, Elon averages close to 70 points per game, but have only managed 54.5 points per contest in two conference games. The Phoenix have also only committed twelve turnovers in each conference game, against Charleston and Georgia Southern, both members of the Southern Division. Elon has used the same starting lineup in all but two games, and are led by forward Lucas Troutman and sharp shooting guard Jack Isenbarger. Troutman averages 14.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. Isenbarger averages scoring 14.6 per game, and leads the team in three pointers and free throws made. Sebaston Koch is also deadly from three point range shooting 44.6% behind the arc while also snagging 4.9 rebounds per game.

For Appalachian, the season has slowly turned around for the positive. Part of that turn around is having their starting point guard back in Mike Neal. Even though Neal has not put up monster numbers, the team has a better chemistry with him in the game. Neal has averaged 7.6 points and 3.8 assists per game. Tevin Baskin has been turning it up the level play as well in the last few games. He has seen increased playing time and has pushed his averaged to 9.5 points per game. Nathan Healy has continued to shoot well from all points on the floor. Healy is a 55% shooter from the field, 44% three point shooter and 88% free throw shooter. Jay Canty continues to lead the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game, but has fallen off recently while he battles a sore thumb.

We are guessing the spread to be somewhere in the 3.5 to 6 point range in favor of Elon. The Phoenix has a much higher RPI, and defeated South Carolina, while the Mountaineers fell just short. However, Elon has not won in Boone since 2007, and is 2-13 all time in Boone. Appalachian played perhaps its best game of the season last year in a 15 point home win over the Phoenix. We will update in the morning on the actual number. Appalachian is still the only undefeated team against the spread in college basketball at 8-0 on the season. Our picks are 7-1 on the season.

12:18 AM UPDATE: Elon opens as a 1.5 point favorite. We had some slight premonitions that we were off in this game, and that we could be looking at a pick’em. However, Appalachian at +1.5 at home, where Elon has only won twice in fifteen previous attempts, seems pretty fair. An easy play would be to buy 0.5 points down on the Apps to ensure a push. We will update our play in the morning once Vegas has time to change they line if they seem necessary.

Postgame:

Appalachian trailed by as many as 12 points in the first half, but rallied for their second straight SoCon win in a 80-70 victory over Elon. The Phoenix started the game with everything falling. At one point, they had hit seven of their first nine shots to take a quick twelve point lead. In fact Elon led by twelve points on three different occasions in the first half, at 21-9, 29-17 and 31-19. Appalachian went on a 15-3 run to end the half, and tie the score a 34.

The second half was tight early on, but Appalachian eventually stretched the lead out on the back of its superb three point shooting. Five different Mountaineers combined to hit ten threes. Nathan Healy and Mike Neal each hit three apiece. Neal hit every one of his attempts. Appalachian finished with five players in double figures, led by Healy’s 22 points, 8 rebounds and four steals. Tevin Baskin came off the bench and continued his strong play with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Mike Neal added 17 points and three assists. Tab Hamilton added ten points, but his best work was done on Elon star Jack Isenbarger, who was held to nine points, making only one three pointer. Ryley Beaumont has the game of his life, hitting 11/13 shots for 26 points while grabbing nine rebounds.

Appalachian has now won four straight games and five of six. Even more impressive, Appalachian has now covered in all of its lined games this season. Eventually oddsmakers will figure out Appalachian, currently 9-0 against the spread. Our pick was correct again and we have improved to 8-1 on the season. Greensboro is next at home and Appalachian will most likely be favored against the struggling Spartans, who are 3-11 on the season, and 0-2 in SoCon play. We believe Appalachian will be favored by 3 to 5 points. As usual, we will update the line in the morning.

Elon @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 6:

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

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 


Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 


ASU: 60.36

EU: 49.26

Home: 2.53 points

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

Series: Appalachian leads 30-9-1

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

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Increasing clouds, chance for shower late afternoon.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The First Pick:

Knee Benders 27

Mountaineers 41

#29 Appalachian State Baseball (18-5, 7-2) @ Elon (14-11, 8-4)

 As much as Appalachian football has domintaed Elon in the last half century, the Elon basbeall team has been equally superior to Appalachian, who has only defeated the Phoenix twelve times in the past 56 years. Elon has played a very tough schedule this season, but has yet to pull off a win against some of the stronger teams on their schedule, while Appalachian has its four wins against Louisiana State and Duke to fall back on. This is a big series for several reasons. First, Appalachian looks to remain perfect in SoCon play, while Elon is sitting at 6-3 in conference. A series win for either team will be big. A sweep for either team would be very big. Secondly, for Appalachian, a series win would provide loads of confidence for a team that has struggled against Elon in the past. Lastly, for Elon, if they were to fall to 7-5 or even 6-6 in conference play, it would be tough for them to win the conference regular season championship. Both teams sport great pitching staffs, but Elon has struggled scoring runs this season and have lost four in a row, two of those to Davidson, who Appalachian swept earlier in March.

Game 1

ASU Sr. RHP Ryan Arrowood (4-0, 4.03 ERA) vs. Elon Jr. LHP Dylan Clark (5-1, 1.26 ERA)

A weather delay got in the way of Appalachian Baseball collecting its 18th win for the second time this week. A forty seven minute lightning delay forced Appalachian to the bullpen in the fifth inning and three huge errors allowed Elon to score ten runs, the most Appalachian had given up all season. Will Helms (0-1, 2.70) was charged with his first career loss. Ryan Arrowood (4-0, 4.59) gave up four runs on seven hits in only 4.1 innings of work. Arrowood also walked three batters to only four strikeouts. Only seven of Elon’s ten runs were earned.

Five of the twelve Mountaineer hits came from Daniel Kassouf (.427) who drove in three runs and hit his ninth homerun of the season. Tyler Tewell (.356) and Tyler Zupcic (.318) also collected two hits each. Tewell recorded his third triple of the season while Zupcic collected his eight double.

Game 2:

ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (3-1, 3.52 ERA) vs. Elon Jr. LHP Spencer Medick (0-0, 3.18 ERA)

When Seth Grant went to the mound on Saturday afternoon, he had no intentions of handing the ball back to Chris Pollard at any point during the afternoon. Grant pitched a complete game shutout of Elon, his second of his career, scattering five Elon hits. The Phoenix could only manage one runner past second base, on a sixth-inning triple. Grant did not allow Elon to record more than one hit in any inning, and only walked one batter while striking out four batters. Grant moved his record to 4-1 on the season and dropped his ERA by almost a whole point, to 2.72.

The Mountaineer offense woke up after the seventh inning, extending their one run lead after the eighth and ninth innings. Daniel Kassouf hit his SoCon leading 10th homerun in the eighth inning on blast to center field. It was his fifth homerun is as many SoCon games. The ninth inning saw three Mountaineers touch the plate as Tyler Tewll (.364, 3 HR, 21 RBI) drove in two runs on a two-out double. Dowdy tripled the next at bat, driving in Tewell to give the Mountaineers the final score of 5-0. Every Mountaineer starter recorded a hit with Hector Crespo and Tewell recording two hits each.

Kassouf’s RBI launched him into the lead in all three SoCon triple crown categories, with a .424 batting average, his 10th homerun and a four way tie with 30 RBI. Will Callaway stole his SoCon leading 15th base of the season in the sixth inning. Seth Grant also leads the conference in batters striking out looking with 16.

Game 3:

ASU Jr. LHP Rob Marcello (3-0, 1.82 ERA) vs. Elon RHP David Whitehead (0-2, 5.16 ERA)

Elon responded to their shutout loss on Saturday with a 11-2 win over the Mountaineers. Rob Marcello (3-1, 3.09) had a rough day on the mound giving up nine hits in only 5.1 innings. Tyler Moore gave up a grand slam in the sixth inning.

The Mountaineers only recorded seven hits on the day with Daniel Kassouf (.427) and Jeremy Dowdy (.305) collecting two hits each. Hector Crespo stole two bases in the losing effort. In a very interesting side note, four batters were hit by pitches, with each side alternating the bean balls. Elon starter David Whitehead hit Trey Holmes and Will Callaway.

Updated SoCon Standings

Charleston           10-2

Appalachian         7-2

Samford                7-2

Elon                      8-4

Western Carolina   4-2

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Samford Postgame and Chattanooga Pregame

The Lady Mountaineers had to stave off a second half rally from the Samford Bulldogs, but held on down the stretch to win 57-53 on the road. It was Samford’s first conference loss at home all season. The Mountaineers improved to 23-4 on the season and 17-2 in conference play. The Mountaineers dominated the boards with a 45-31 advantage. Maryah Sydnor scored ten points and grabbed eight rebounds. Kelsey Sharkey added seven points, eight rebounds and four assists. Anna Freeman added 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and four blocks.

Later in the day, the Davidson Wildcats lost on the road at Chattanooga, Appalachian’s next opponent, and in turn gave up control of their own destiny. Appalachian has clinched at least a share of the regular season title and can win it outright with a win on Monday evening. The top three seeds in the conference tournament are now determined. Appalachian, Chattanooga and Davidson are the top three seeds, but the order is not set. If Samford and Elon tie, the tiebreaker would go to Samford, so they are locked in as the 4 seed. Elon is locked in as the fifth seed. Regardless of seeding, those two are now guaranteed a matchup in the SoCon tournament in the 4/5 game.

Since Appalachian is guaranteed to be first or second seed, we can now look into potential first round matchups. If Appalachian is the top seed, they will play the winner of the 8/9 game, which could include Charleston, Wofford or Georgia Southern. If Appalachian is the two seed, they will play the winner of the 7/10 game. The seven seed will come down to Monday’s results which will be either Western Carolina or Furman. No matter, the opponent or their seed, Appalachian will have beat their first round opponent twice already this season.

SoCon Standings

App State        17-2        @Chattanooga

Davidson        16-3        @ Samford

Chattanooga     15-4      Appalachian

Samford         12-7           Davidson

Elon                11-8           Western Carolina

Furman          9-10            Ga. Southern

Updated SoCon North Standings 2/23/2012

So what has changed in a day? Everything. As expected, Elon lost big on the road at Davidson. Western led by double digits in the first half over Samford, but the Bulldogs made a late push before falling by two points on the road. UNC-Greensboro has locked the North Division championship with the Elon and Samford losses. Greensboro’s game against Elon on Saturday means nothing to them, but plenty for the Phoenix. With a win and a Samford loss, Elon clinches the two seed. If Elon and Samford tie at 9-9, the 2 seed goes to Samford, with two head to head wins over Elon. If they tie at 8-10, it brings the winner of Appalachian and Western Carolina into play. A three way tie with Appalachian gives Samford the two seed, Appalachian the three seed and Elon the four seed via head to head games against the three schools. Appalachian split those four games, while Elon was 1-3 and Samford was 3-1. If there is a three way tie between Elon, Samford and Western Carolina, the four seed goes to Elon with a 1-3 record against the tied schools. Samford is 2-2, getting swept by Western Carolina, and in turn sweeping Elon. Western would be 3-1 against the tied schools and grab the two seed. In short, these four teams can be in any of three seeding spots, and in some cases four, depending on the results on Saturday afternoon.

Getting the two seed is critical and only Samford controls their own destiny with a win. What is the big difference between the third, fourth and fifth seeds? The third seed in the North plays The Citadel in the first round of the tournament. The fourth seed plays the fifth from the South and the fifth seed plays the fourth in the South, which will either be Charleston or Furman, who are currently tied at 8-9. Charleston is most likely to take the four seed, with a game against Citadel on the road, which is really a couple miles up the street, while Furman travels 30 minutes up the road to Spartanburg. If Furman and Charleston stay tied after Saturday, Charleston gets the four seed since they beat South Division champion Davidson while Furman lost to the Wilcats twice.

SoCon North Standings

UNCG      10-7       @Elon

Elon             8-9        UNCG

Samford       8-9      @UTC

App St          7-10     @WCU

WCU             7-10      App St