Appalachian Football vs Georgia Southern

Appalachian State (5-4, 4-1 Sun Belt) vs Georgia Southern (0-8, 0-4 Sun Belt)

Thursday, November 9th, 2017 7:30pm est

TV/Video: ESPNU

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: 62.25

Ga Southern: 45.87

Home: 2.14

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 18.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -17.5

Series: App State leads 18-13-1

Last meeting: App State 34, Ga Southern 10, October 27th, 2016

Boy, did this season come crashing down in a quick hurry. Three games left, none of them guaranteed and it’s November and the Mountaineers aren’t bowl eligible yet. Is it finally the right time for this season to turn around? We might be past that point. How difficult is it to pick everything up after a couple of soul crushing losses. Is it the right time, for your winless and most hated rival to see blood in the water. Georgia Southern would love nothing more than to finish off the Apps slim hopes of a conference title. They would never stop talking about it down there in Statesboro. And that is exactly the reason why we can’t let it happen. The motivation to just beat Southern is all you really need. Nobody gives a darn at this point what the records are. Nobody will care that you beat a spread. When they ask in twenty years what your record was when you played Southern, that will be what really matters. Ten seasons ago, App produced one of its most dominant teams, perhaps ever, but they didn’t beat Southern. We all know how much that games eats at those past legends to this day. These seniors have a chance to become to the first group of players to play in three bowl games in their three seasons of eligibility. That should be your motivation. Get over last weekend, and make a name for yourself that nobody will forget.

Goodness gracious. Where can we start with Georgia Southern? After just eighteen games, Southern relieved their coach, Tyson Summers, and began preparing for the future. They got a head start on searching for their fourth full time head coach this decade, while at the same time giving long time Eagle assistant Chad Lunsford an opportunity to audition for the job. In two games, Lunsford’s Eagles have failed to score twenty points in either contest and have averaged just over four yards a play combined in both games.

So what are the Eagles good at this season? Not really much of anything. Obviously, they are still running the ball, trying to get better with a traditional Southern attack on the ground. They do average 202 rushing yards per game, which is good for 33rd nationally, but they are the only team in top 50 in the country that averages less than four yards per carry, at 3.81 per carry. The Eagles have ten rushing touchdowns on the season. Just ten. That’s usually been done in two games by the Eagles, not eight. At 17.6 points per game, the Eagles rank 121st in the country. They have scored 17 points or fewer five times, and haven’t score more than 27 points in any game. The Eagles inability to score leaves their defense vulnerable, keeping them on the field forever, and eventually get gassed, and scored on. The defense is giving up 38.4 points per game. That is nearly a three touchdown margin per contest. This is not just a team with a bad record, its a team that is just plain bad.

The Southern leaders are familiar faces for Mountaineer coaches. Freshman quarterback Shai Werts made a late visit to Appalachian in his recruiting process before signing with the Eagles. Werts is your typical dual-threat quarterback, perfect for the Georgia Southern system, but he needs time and help. Werts leads the team in rushing attempts, is second in yards, and had two of his better games of the year after sitting out with an injury for the UMass game. Last weekend, Werts had a 22/28 passing game for 147 yards and a touchdown. Those aren’t crazy numbers, but for a Georgia Southern signal caller, you’ll take that every day. Werts’ leading receiver, Obe Fortune was also a former App recruit, and was committed to the Mountaineers for some time before changing his mind. Fortune’s 15 catches have covered 189 yards which includes a 50 yard touchdown.

Jalin Moore has had his setbacks this season. From one injury to the next, in and out of practice to putting up the performance he did last weekend without being 100% healthy. It will be mostly forgotten, but he did something that can maybe spark this team by showing some fire when the chips are stacked against you. Moore scored three straight touchdowns for the Mountaineers last weekend. He accumulated 198 total yards, highlighted by his 75 yard touchdown reception. He showed how to be a leader this past week without always being on the field during practice, but giving everything he had when his number was called. Despite this injury riddled campaign, he has still managed 5.0 yards per carry for the year and has amassed 717 total yards in the eight games he has played in.

We’ve all known what kind of team we have had for several weeks now. This is not a group than can overcome multiple mental mistakes and win comfortably. Twice in the past two weeks the defense has given up the go-ahead or tying score in the final moments. That is not what we have come to expect from a Mountaineer defense. It’s super disappointing to say the least, but it is a part of the growing pains of a team that is evolving with new contributors in places where we have been accustomed to familiar faces. The pains hurt, but they’ll pay off in the future. Beau Nunn and Colby Gossett can’t man the right side forever. We’ll be thrilled to have hopefully have three returning offensive lineman next season with significant playing time. There are plenty similar examples all over the field. Although those faces have to eventually change, this rivalry doesn’t. Just about every time Georgia Southern comes to Boone, especially in the modern era, the game has been played in the month of October. The last time this game was played in November in Boone was in 1939. Southern has won in Boone once in the month of November, in the series first game in 1932. Appalachian has won three straight in this series on three occasions, and can make it a fourth on Thursday night by getting back to the basics of playing sound defense. App has shown it can score points if it wants to, but sustaining drives has been the winning formula for this program over the last couple seasons. I am looking for the defense to make up for lost time and send the Eagles back down south for the winter.

The First Pick

EAGLLLLLLLLLES 10

Mountaineers 28

Appalachian Football @ Georgia Southern

Here we go with Week 8

Appalachian State (5-2, 3-0 Sun Belt) @ Georgia Southern (4-3, 3-1 Sun Belt)

Thursday, October 27th, 2016 7:30 est

TV/Video: ESPNU

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

Paulson Stadium

Surface: Shaw Legion 41 synthetic turf

Capacity: 25,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.59

Ga Southern: 62.73

Home: 2.42

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 5.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -5

Series: App State leads 17-13-1

Last meeting: App State 31, Ga Southern 13, October 22nd, 2015, Boone, NC
       

         Robbed of anticipation and talk, both smack and small, is the main issue for fans when they deal with midweek football. Especially, when the next game on the schedule is your most hated rival, that time to relax before the next game does not exist. The last win was, literally, almost yesterday, and it’s time to get geared up for another one. But, this one is not just another, it’s Southern. Dust off all your cliche rivalry talk, because it all applies. Is there another rivalry that has been so intense in such a short amount of time? These two schools have only played thirty-one games in their history, and only twenty-five games in the modern era, yet it seems every time they tee it up, it’s like the Hatfields and McCoys. The faces may change, but the disdain remains. This group of Eagles are enduring the strife of a new coaching staff that wants to do things differently with the same ingredients and get the same results. It’s not working out like they wanted. Appalachian enjoys its snugness of a tight coaching staff that maintains their winning ways and the proof is in the pudding. The Mountaineers are a win away from being bowl eligible, and Southern needs this game even more, as their schedule just gets tougher down the stretch. Thursday night might not be a turning point in this rivalry, but the winds are blowing a different direction this season in the Sun Belt. 

         It’s hard to imagine a Georgia Southern team with three losses before the end of October. The first true sign that the Eagles were stumbling occured about a month ago. Southern was visiting Western Michigan, a team they had handled easily in Statesboro a year before. The Broncos suffocated the Eagles rushing attack, limiting the big plays and keeping Matt Breida and Kevin Ellison below four yards per carry on the night. Since then, Western Michigan continues to row the boat as they find themselves ranked 20th in the country this week. Perhaps, the ultimate “uh-oh” moment for Southern came in their loss to Arkansas State. The Eagles were thoroughly dominated by the Red Wolves, but were able to hold a two score lead into the fourth quarter, thanks to five turnovers committed by Arkansas State. The Eagles play calling was their ultimate demise, electing to pass late in the game with a lead compared to milking the clock. Arkansas State scored in the closing seconds for a stunning come-from behind win. 

          Southern picked up a win over NMSU last weekend, just like Idaho did the week before playing Appalachian, to end their three game losing streak. However, the road victory did not lack for excitement. The Eagles did just enough for a 22-19 win over the now 124th ranked defense in college football. Both Southern and NMSU turned the ball over three times while The Eagles were outgained by the Aggies by a 432-404 margin. Matt Breida was held to 41 yards on fifteen carries. Kevin Ellison completed all eight of his passes, seven to Southern receivers and one to NMSU. 

          The fact is that Southern is slowly moving away from Willie Fritz football, who bolted to Tulane, into the offensive style of Tyson Summers, which calls for less option based running plays and a more run-pass option dimension. It’s not Georgia Southern football. We all remember Chris Hatcher and Brian Van Gorder and their efforts of modernizing football down in east Georgia. It didn’t work and they didn’t have a job long. The Eagles have three 100-yard rushing efforts on the season, two by quarterbacks. Not LA Ramsby. Not Matt Breida. Not Wesley Fields. Demarcus Godfrey ran for 124 yards against Savannah State, but has not carried the ball since. 

           Southern still employs the two quaterback system, generally starting the game with Kevin Ellison, and working in Favian Upshaw and rotating the two as the game allows. Unfortunately, the Southern offensive line has dropped off severely and Ellison and Upshaw have taken many hits in the last few weeks. Arkansas State made a point to gang tackle Ellison at every chance, while Georgia Tech used Upshaw as a punching bag. Upshaw did not play against NMSU and Tyson Summers did not show any of his cards when updating the media on the health of his signal callers ahead of this week’s game. Summers went so far as to say he could play three quarterbacks on Thursday night. 

          The defensive strategy the Mountaineers rely on was on display, front and center. Idaho could only manage a late touchdown and four field goals. It was the exact struggle we mentioned last week regarding Idaho. Not enough touchdowns, too many field goals. Appalachian may have allowed 295 passing yards, but it was a very quiet 295 yards. Appalachian was constantly disruptive, picking off Linehan three times and sacking him on four instances. The secondary occasionally gets up a bad reputation, but they remain in the top thirty in the nation in passing efficiency defense, having only allowed eight passing touchdowns in seven games. The Mountaineers twelve interceptions are also good enough for seventh nationally. 
            
           Georgia Southern will return home to Paulson for the first time in forty days. The Eagles spent an extra day in New Mexico for some reason. You would think after all that time away from home, Southern would like to get back as soon as possible. Neither App or Southern resemble their squads from two years ago, when the two faced off in their first ever Sun Belt game, and they aren’t the teams from one year ago either. But, if anything, the one common denominator from 2015 to ’16 is the App defense. Generally, you look at any football team, averaging 265 yards on the ground and think you have a big challenge ahead. This is a regressing Eagle team, averaging just a mere 4.6 yards per carry, and forcing the issue, running the ball just over 57 times a game. The Southern staff wants to throw more, but they don’t have the pieces in place yet to fully commit. The fact that Matt Breida has 378 yards and only one touchdown rushing is criminal. The Eagles have scored 204 points this season, but over one-fourth of those points were scored in their opening game against Savannah State. Since then, the Eagles have been stuck in the twenties for five of their last six games. They have the talent to do much more than they have, but they have not been put in the situation to succeed. Meanwhile, Appalachian has a chance to get a big road win, and they may finally have the services of Marcus Cox back on the field. If Cox is near 100%, his fresh legs will be a huge advantage for the Mountaineers on Thursday, and for the rest of the season. 

The First Pick

The Blues 21

Mountaineers 31

Georgia Southern @ Appalachian Footballl

Here we go with week 7

Georgia Southern (5-1, 3-0 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt)

Saturday October 22nd, 7:30 PM EST

TV/Video: ESPNU & 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 100.7 Bristol
Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf 

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings:

App State: 71.23

GS: 70.32

Home: 2.66

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 3.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -6.5

Series: App State leads 16-13-1

Last Meeting: Georgia Southern 34 App State 14; September 25, 2014 (Statesboro, GA)

Weather: Mostly sunny and clear Mid 60’s during tailgate and Mid 50’s at end of game

        
           Somehow, we have all made it to Wednesday.  But this hump day is unlike any other, its also our “Friday”, or Gameday Eve. Whatever you generally refer to as the day before the game day, it has a different feel. One cannot simply go to work or the grocery store this week in Boone without small talk about what will take place under the lights on Thursday night. It’s more than just a football game this week. A national television audience has brought an increased media presence to the High Country for Appalachian to show to the world what makes it a special place. Mix in the the opponent, easily the most hated of them all, and Thursday night has all the makings to be a night to remember. Luckily, there is something  to play for this season. Only two years removed from the Southern Conference, Appalachian and Georgia Southern have quickly vaulted to the top of the Sun Belt. As much as things change, they seem to stay the same. These two rivals have made the transition look incredibly easy. They are a combined 19-2 against Sun Belt opponents in their short history in the league. As it was the premier battle in the FCS for over two decades, it remains that way in the Sun Belt. In 2014, the conference rolled out the red carpet for App and Southern, pitting them against one another in their first Sun Belt game in their schools history. This season, the game is the main event on the Sun Belt calendar as perennial Sun Belt stalwarts Arkansas State and Louisiana were the warmup game on Tuesday. The winner gets a leg up in their conference title race and perhaps preferential treatment when bowl selections are made in about six weeks. Lastly, the winner gets to say to the loser, “We beat you” for the next calendar year.

            Southern’s option offense is basically the same style we have seen for years, with one major difference. Predominantly, the quarterback will take the snap from the shotgun or pistol compared to under center. Taking the snap from under center can be more difficult to defend as the quarterback can get lost behind the offensive line and the dive play can be very successful if the correct blocks are made. The shot gun formation gives an athletic backfield like Southern’s a better view of the outside running lanes, which is where Matt Bredia is really is difficult to defend. For Appalachian, getting to the outside will be paramount in containing the option. The Mountaineers must force the Eagle backs to think about where they are going when they get outside the hash marks. More thinking means less running and more time for the defense to pursue the ball.
     

     Offensively, both Georgia Southern and Appalachian are hitting their stride at the midway point in the season. Instead of looking ahead to this Thursday, Southern put up season highs in points and total offensive yards in their win over New Mexico State, while Appalachian also put up a season high in points, and eclipsed 650 total yards for the second time this season. The Mountaineers 654 yards against Monroe fell just short of the 677 yards they gained against Howard in the season opener. 
  

        By now, we all know the Eagles names. We know about Kevin Ellison and his ability as a runner and passer. Last year he eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark in both categories and became the 6th player in Southern history to pass and run for 2,000 yards in a career with his numbers against New Mexico State. Ellison was forced to sit out two games earlier this season, suffering from academic issue  in the past school year. He has started all four games since his return and is averaging a very balanced 157 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Favian Upshaw is rotating in every third series to give defenses a different look. Upshaw is considered by some to be the better passer, but his four interceptions in twenty-five total pass attempts tells a different story. 
      

     Another Eagle name Mountaineer fans are all to familiar with is Matt Breida, the lightning fast running back. Breida is unequivocably the bread and butter for Southern. When he is on, Georgia Southern wins. It’s that simple. Breida can change direction at any time, but his most important assett is his quickness. He can get to a hole in the defense and make everyone on the field chase him. It’s not often you see a running back average 10.4 yards a carry this late in the season. His 148 yards per game rushing not only leads the Sun Belt, but is also good enough for third nationally. L.A. Ramsby is the third leading rusher for the Eagles. Ramsby is a power back that is difficult to take down. He provides a perfect compliment to Breida. Ramsby’s six touchdowns are second only to Breida’s eleven scores. 

           Appalachian has stayed true to their word all season long as far offensive strategy goes, with intentions to run the ball to get favorable matchups in the secondary, and win those 1-on-1 situations. It’s no secret, yet hardly anyone has been able to hold them down long. Monroe had a quick start last weekend, and surely there were many Mountaineer fans sweating in the first half. Appalachian was patient, waiting for their defense to make big plays and for Taylor Lamb to find open receivers deep in the Wahawk secondary. Lamb was his brilliant self, throwing for 261 yards on only fifteen attempts, while never being sacked. Marcus Cox ran for  a somewhat quiet 122 yards and two touchdowns. Terrance Upshaw looked like he was 100% after battling an injury over the last couple weeks,  running for 76 yards on only nine carries.            

           Statistical comparisons can make for a lot of great conversation leading up to the game, but the real fun part about the game of football is seeing how teams react when things do not go their way. At some point in the game on Thursday, one team is going to be playing from behind. Both teams have not done a whole lot of playing from behind this season. Take away their games against Power 5 opponents, its pretty foreign. Georgia Southern trailed Western Michigan for four minutes and nineteen seconds in the first quarter of their second game of the season. That’s it. They have held the lead ever since. Idaho tied the Eagles for 16 seconds, and then Matt Breida went 83 yards for a touchdown on the next drive. Appalachian trailed for a total of seven minutes and twenty-nine seconds against Monroe last weekend and calmy took a ten point lead before halftime. That is all the Mountaineers have trailed this season, once again, outside of Clemson. The Mountaineers hold a significant defensive advantage in this matchup. This team does not like giving up points. Period. The Eagles, on the other hand, have given up some points in several of their games. On the season, Southern has surrendered 25 points per contest. Although neither Appalachian or Georgia Southern have played really tough schedules to date this season, Appalachian has the upper hand. Georgia Southern could be without several key defensive starters due to injuries and targeting punishments. Two will serve the suspensions in the first half while another did not return last week after his injury. The first half will be extremely critical in this game. Appalachian will need to take advantage of those Southern losses and roll to a lead at halftime. With the way the Mountaineers rotate players  on both sides of the ball, I fully expect the Apps to be the fresher team in the second half and thwart any chance the Eagles have of mounting a comeback. 
          

        
The First Pick:

More Beaks 24

Mountaineers 34

Appalachian State @ Georgia Southern

Here we go with Week 4

Appalachian State (1-2, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ Georgia Southern (2-2, 1-0 Sun Belt)

Thursday, September 25th, 7:30pm EST

TV/LIve Video: ESPNU & ESPN3

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WGVZ ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville

Paulson Stadium

Surface: Natural Bermuda Grass

Capacity: 25,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 56.20

Ga Sou: 64.15

Home: 4.06

Ga Sou is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 12 points

Sportsbook: Ga Sou 18.5, O/U 60

Series: Appalachian leads the all time series 15-12-1

Last Meeting: App State 38, Ga Sou 14, October 26, 2013; Boone, NC

Having only five days between games seems like a short time to remember why we all despise Georgia Southern. I feel robbed of the anticipation that is the the nastiest rivalry in the South that nobody knows about. But at the same time, only having the think about a blocked extra point to lose a game, on what was essentially the last play, for only five days seems like a deal compared the 2013 offseason. The last time it happened, we lost a head coach, and nearly two years later, we still have not recovered from that failed point after touchdown. That game the last true FCS game for Appalachian’s program, considering the Mountaineers were not eligible to win anything in 2013. Hopefully, the Illinois State and Southern Miss games serve as bookends to a dark time in Appalachian football history. Now, Appalachian officially begins its Sun Belt era, and luckily enough, Georgia Southern, and a nationwide audience are waiting. I can guarantee the memories of last Saturday night are forgotten by the players, painful as they might be. So many points were left on the field, yet the urge to continue the battle did not escape the black and gold. A freshman quarterback in his first start never wavered with his back to the wall and only two minutes to score. Taylor Lamb completed seven of twelve passes, accounting for all 75 yards of the final drive with his arm, while converting twice on third down and once on fourth down. Let me repeat. First career start. On the road. He had one job to do, which was put the ball in the end zone. Nothing fazed him. Paulson Stadium will not intimidate Lamb. He has been there plenty times before on the sidelines with his father. He’s hated Georgia Southern as long as he can remember, just like the rest of the Mountaineer faithful.

If you have not heard, Georgia Southern is all the rage in the Sun Belt. With their close losses on the road to ACC opponents NC State and Georgia Tech, they have become the new favorite to possibly win the conference. Considering their win over preseason contender South Alabama last weekend and their easy conference slate in which they avoid heavyweights Arkansas State and Louisiana-Lafayette, the Eagles have a real chance. The remaining potential speed bumps on their schedule include Louisiana Monroe late in the season and maybe Texas State can give them trouble. Oh wait. Nearly forgot about their game this week. Yep, those damn Mountaineers who have beaten the Eagles three times in a row and eight times in the last ten years. Those same Mountaineers that had no chance of beating the Eagles last year, but did. The same Mountaineers that nobody is giving a shot to win this year either.

The Eagles have changed their coach and their offense since the last time they tangled with the Mountaineers. Jeff Monken got out of Statesboro while he could, and went to West Point to lead the Black Knights of Army. Georgia Southern looked for their new head man in a similar way that Appalachian did back in late 2012. They wanted a guy that fit their current style offense. Willie Fritz, who was in this third stint at Sam Houston State was their guy. It was not a perfect fit, but the ideas were basically the same. Fritz prefers an option attack that spreads you across the field, compared to the old triple option attack with A-backs, B-backs, and flankers. In the end, the same principles apply defensively to control both offenses. Keep the offense off schedule, or behind the chains. Avoid the big runs and be prepared when the pass comes.

Speaking of the pass. Southern is doing a lot more of it under Willie Fritz than they have in years past. In eleven games in the 2013, the Eagles gained 36 first downs via the air. In only four games this season, Southern has already racked up 23 passing first downs. That is close to 2.5 more first downs per game from one season to the next, and for an offense built like Southern’s, that appears as almost a complete philosophy change. Kevin Ellison and former Appalachian recruit Favian Upshaw have split the quarterback duties, with most of Upshaw’s playing time coming against Georgia Tech. Upshaw was responsible for a errant late pitch against the Yellow Jackets that eventually cost the Eagles the game. Upshaw did not play at all against South Alabama last week while Ellison ran the ball sixteen times for ninety-six yards and a touchdown in the win over the Jaguars.

The running game remains the bread and butter for this offense to the tune of 357 yards per game despite the uptick in the passing game. For the most part, one of three guys will carry the load. Leading rusher, and most recent winner of the Sun Belt offensive player of the week, Matt Breida has been the primary workhorse. Breida has fifty carries on the season for an astounding 445 yards and seven touchdowns. That comes out to insane 8.9 yards per carry. Breida is the type of back that will not go down on first contact and also has the wheels to take it the distance. Ellison has a quiet 7.0 yards per carry when compared to Breida. La Ramsby, (yes, thats his first and last names), is the plower. He basically gets carries to give Eliison and Breida a breather while he eats up 3.4 yards of dust on 40 carries this season.

Now that App has gotten past the issue of which quarterback should play, we can focus on Taylor Lamb as the present and future behind the center for the Mountaineers. I’ll be the first to admit that I was not impressed with Lamb in fall practice. He was almost too smooth, never hurried and everything about him seemed to be in slow motion. He appeared visually unappealing because he was so consistent. Lamb did not make the flashy play, but also never committed a shockingly bad play either. Looking back, he played a lot more in the first two games than I thought he would and it opened the door at the bye week for him to become the man. Right now, Lamb and Kam Bryant are just about even talent wise, but Lamb has the higher ceiling, so it was an easy call for the coaches to promote his development by awarding him with game experience.

Unfortunately the demons of 2013 reared their head for the Mountaineer offense at Southern Miss. The Mountaineers advanced the ball into Southern Miss territory on eight of their fifteen drives. Of those eight, three touchdowns were scored, three field goals were missed and twice the Mountaineers had goal-to-go scenarios and came up with nothing. It was about as brutal a game to watch as possible from that standpoint. Add to that the eleven penalties for 59 yards. Most of the time you commit that many penalties, you are well over the century mark in penalty yardage. Brutal. The Mountaineers converted eight of their sixteen third down conversions and possessed the ball for over thirty-five minutes of the game. Two more statistics that lean toward winning a football game, and still, the Mountaineers lost.

The Mountaineers were aggressive on defense. It was nice to the see the team attack the quarterback in the backfield. Although Appalachian was only credited with two sacks, I believe Nick Mullen was feeling the pressure in the second half. Outside of the missed assignment on the Eagles final touchdown drive, where the defensive end was supposed to pick up running back George Payne, the defense was dominant. Had the assignment been made, it was likely that Southern Miss would have at least got an attempt on a long field goal while also running clock, and not giving the Apps too much time to answer.

So the Mountaineers first win over an FBS program as an FBS program will have to wait another week, err, five days. Thursday night will pit strengths vs. strengths with the Georgia Southern run taking on the Appalachian run defense. Even after a bad game against Michigan, the Mountaineers have responded in back to back games, now only surrendering 155 yards a game on the ground for the season. Georgia Southern’s running game is well documented. If App wants to win, they have to contain it while also limiting the opportunities the Eagles have in the passing game. The best way to do that might be by keeping the Eagles off the field. The Appalachian style of offense calls for tempo and quickly getting plays off, but oddly enough, it has led the Mountaineers possessing the ball for close to 32 minutes on the season. Conversely, Southern’s offense has not been on the field much, holding the ball for under 29 minutes per game. It’s pretty simple, they cannot score when they are not on the field. Containment is the key. The Eagles are going to fumble. They always do. At this point they have ten fumbles on the season but have only lost three. Six of those fumbles were from Kevin Ellison and one from Favian Upshaw. Those two have accounted for every lost fumble. If they put two on the ground and lose them, the Apps have a real chance to win. I am befuddled by the Vegas line. I understand Georgia Southern being favored at home, but 18 points is just way to many. I believe that is an overcorrection from last week. I’ll give the Eagles the edge as much as I hate to, but I expect both teams to put on a show for Sun Belt.

The First Pick

Mountaineers 23

The Stink 31

SoCon Tourney: Apps hold on in extra innings

An eleventh inning solo home run by Michael Pierson was the difference on Wednesday afternoon as Appalachian State beat Georgia Southern 3-2 in the first round of the 2014 SoCon Baseball Tournament.

For the second time in as many games, the Mountaineers used a ninth inning rally to extend the game, as they trailed by a run going into the final frame. Last Saturday, Appalachian trailed Furman by a run going to the ninth and used a walk off base hit by senior Tyler Zupcic to win and set up the matchup with the Eagles. Appalachian was 0-28 on the season when trailing after 8 innings, but have now managed to come from behind in their last two games.

Appalachian was kept off the board until the top of the seventh inning. Michael Pierson led off the inning with a single and eventually advanced to third base after a couple of Eagles wild pitches. With two outs, Georgia Southern pulled their starter, and SoCon pitcher of the year Josh Wirsu in the middle of Jaylin Davis’ at bat. The sophomore centerfielder was unfazed as he slapped a base hit up the middle to score Pierson.

The ninth inning began with with Preston Troutman reaching second base on an a throwing error. It was the only error in the game, and the Eagles paid for it. Pierson advanced Troutman with a grounder to the right side of the infield. One batter later, Dillon Dobson smashed a single through the left side with two outs to tie the game at two.

Both teams squandered chances to score runs in the tenth inning which set the stage for Pierson in the eleventh. Pierson curled a 1-1 pitch pitch off the foul pole in right field. At Joe Riley Park, the right field line is measured at 337 feet and the wind was blowing in from right field for most of the game. Pierson hit the ball to perhaps the most difficult part of the park for the winning run.

Both teams got excellent pitching from their starters despite neither factoring into the decision. Tyler Moore went eight innings only surrendering two runs on five hits, and walking none, Moore threw 91 pitches, which is a perfectly low count for a tournament format. Moore can be used later in the tournament should the Mountaineers advance. Robert Whaley picked up his third win of the year on thirty pitches and will most likely be unavailable on Thursday.

Appalachian was also the benefactor of great defense. Tyler Stroup made two great catches in the game, saving extra base hits. In the first inning, Stroup caught a ball as he collided with the left field wall nearly simultaneously. Stroup also made a diving catch in the ninth inning that would have given Georgia Southern a runner in scoring position had the play not been made. Jaylin Davis doubled up Georgia Southern in the tenth inning with two runners on base. Davis made the catch on the run and fooled the Eagle runner on second base, making the catch look easy. Davis then fired the throw behind the runner whose late slide was not in time to beat the throw.

Appalachian will now face Furman, who they played last weekend to advance in the winners bracket. A win would give Appalachian a day off on Friday, while the loser will play the winner of Georgia Southern and Western Carolina on Friday. Being a team without a tourney loss on Saturday would force the winner of the losers bracket to beat that team twice on Saturday to advance to the title game on Sunday.

Georgia Southern @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 8:

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

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: ESPN3

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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 


App State: 45.00

GSU: 58.48

Home: 3.76

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

Series: Appalachian leads 15-12-1

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

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly sunny skies

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

Kickoff: Temps in the mid to upper 40’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The First Pick:

Eagle Creek                 27

Mountaineers              22

Baseball adds series win over Ga Southern, midweek win at UNC-A

Jamie Nunn continued his consistent pitching with another strong 7 innings as the Mountaineers took game one from Georgia Southern on Friday evening 9-5. Nunn was once again over 100 pitches, and did walk four batters. He found trouble in the third inning, an inning that has become a weak spot for every Appalachian pitcher this season. Nunn allowed all four of his earned runs in the third inning. Despite the free passes, Nunn was able to improve to 6-2 on the season.

Appalachian worked the Georgia Southern pitching staff for fifteen hits. Jaylin Davis led the way with four hits and three RBI while Will Callaway added two hits and five RBI. Noah Holnes drove in the other Mountaineer run, giving the 3-4-5 hitters all of Appalachian’s RBI on the day. Josh Wilson and Taylor Thurber finished off the game allowing only two hits.

After twenty-two combined hits on Friday, App and Southern combined for only seven on Saturday afternoon in front of a record crowd at Beaver Field. Sam Agnew-Wieland gave the record crowd a show, allowing only two hits, while throwing a second complete game shutout in a week. Sam has been given several nicknames, from “Hyphen” to “Hacksaw”. The nickname of the week is Hacksaw, or Hack for short. Hack only needed 102 pitches, throwing 69 for strikes to complete the shutout.

Fortunately, for Appalachian, Hack was on fire when the Appalachian offense took a day off. The Mountaineers only had five hits, but made the most of them, scoring two runs. Will Callaway continued his hot streak with three hits. If there is one negative about Hack going nine innings, is that the Mountaineers young pitching staff is kept off the field to experience game situations.

Speaking of the young and inexperienced pitching staff, they showed their true colors in a back and forth game in which Appalachian was going for the sweep. Jeffrey Springs continues to have trouble making it deep in games, as he was able to get through 4.1  innings with his 86 pitches. Taylor Thurber came on for his usual long Sunday relief spot, but also struggled, giving up four hits in his two innings. Josh Wilson held the lead, striking out four of the five batters he faced before handing the ball over to Rob Marcello for the save with a two run lead. Marcello faced four batters. He hit one of them with a pitch and gave up three hits. Marcello was not able to retire a batter, which led to his second blown save of the season. The previous blown save came against Cornell, when Marcello gave up five runs in the top of the ninth.

From this point on, Appalachian would hit the road for a nine game stretch, including two SoCon series at UNCG and The Citadel. Greensboro is 4-8 in conference play while The Citadel is 6-6. A couple of series wins would be good for the Mountaineers, but however they came, four conference wins are needed in this stretch.

Against UNC-Asheville on Tuesday night, the Mountaineers pounded out fourteen hits, but left thirteen runners on base before eventually rallying for a 6-3 win over the Bulldogs. Chad Farmer got the start, and he has been sharing a very similar look to his outings as Springs has this season. Getting four or five innings this season from either one has been a blessing, but it comes with its adventures. Farmer was rolling along into the third inning before giving up a three run home run. The home run was all the runs Farmer allowed in his 4.1 innings while he struck out five batters. Tyler Moore would allow the tying run to come to the plate for Asheville in the ninth inning before giving way to Josh Wilson, who got the final out and his first save of the season.

The Mountaineers are now 18-10 on the season, and 8-6 in SoCon play. The remaining conference schedule is a combined 39-33 in league play, but the heavy hitters have to come to Boone while the weaker opponents are on the road. Prior to the season, we thought an 18-12 conference record was where this team would finish, and that seems to be on target for now. Considering three road conference series were played in the first half of the conference season, that number could inflate. Keep in mind, the cancelled game at College of Charleston will have huge implications on the conference tournament seeding. Currently, the top seven teams in the conference standings are separated by only three games.

Men’s Basketball 91 Georgia Southern 86

It was just two weeks ago when Appalachian ran off to a big lead over Georgia Southern at home, and then melted down, and allowed the Eagles to force overtime. The Mountaineers went on to win that game, but the result was more of a relief than anything. I was asked tonight by a big Mountaineer fan to sprinkle some magic ferry dust over the team to get them playing better, on a more consistent basis. We both agreed, this team looks really good when they play well, and really bad when they play bad. There is not a middle ground with this team.

With the teams playing so recently, there really is not a lot to talk about. Appalachian has a higher ceiling, meaning their best is better than Georgia Southern, but the Eagles hold the wild card. They are a team that is much better at home, where they have beaten Davidson and Charleston. At the same time, the Eagles lost to The Citadel at home and most recently, and snuck by Chattanooga by two points. This game all depends on which team is hot at the right time. For whatever reason, Appalachian has had a tough time in Hanner Fieldhouse and a road win would be big for their SoCon seeding situation.

Line opened up at +3 this morning for Appalachian and has since bumped to +4. The way the line moves have gone this season, means that Georgia Southern is definitely favored in this matchup. We thought the spread would be lower. This is a tough call, as even some of the better Appalachian teams over the years have had a tough time in Statesboro. I am going to hold my official pick until this afternoon, but I am currently leaning toward Ga. Southern. This could potentially be the first time I have picked against Appalachian since their first game of the season.

6:20 Line is consistent, this is a very tough call. I don’t like it, but I am gonna take App to cover. Maybe they will come through.

Postgame:

This is an example of another game that was not pretty, and provided more Maalox moments than any fan would like to see. Appalachian was down by ten points at halftime, surged ahead in the closing minutes, before allowing Georgia Southern to force overtime in the closing seconds for the second time this season.  Applachian held a seven point lead with 2:40 to play in regulation, but Southern went on a 11-4 run to erase the deficit. Mike Neal attempted four three throws in the final 0:37 that would have extended the Mountaineer lead and made it more difficult for Southern to tie. The Eagles also had a chance with three seconds to play to take the lead, but could only connect on one free throw, which sent the game into overtime.

Appalachian caught fire in the second half and overtime. The Mountaineers scored 27 points in the first twenty minutes of the game. In the second half, Appalachian exploded for 46 points and scored 18 in the five minute overtime period. In overtime, Appalachian made every shot they took, three from the field and twelve on the charity stripe. essentially that was the difference in the game. Even though Appalachian could have iced the game in regulation with free throws, they took advantage in overtime, and for the most part of the game. Appalachian did not finish with a great percentage on the line, but were able to get there enough to make it count. Forty-three free throw attempts has got to be the most attempted this season.

Nathan Healy tied his career high for the second straight game with 24 points and 11 rebounds, including two blocks and two steals. Mike Neal finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, but did commit eight of App’s fifteen turnovers. Jay Canty scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Tab Hamilton added 16 points, and hit two of App’s three field goals in overtime. Tevin Baskin fouled out, but scored 15 points in twenty five minutes of action.

Appalachian is now 12-5 against the spread this season, after starting the season with ten straight covers, losing five in a row, and now have won in back to back game. We continue to be one game behind the Mountaineers at 11-6. The early line for the Davidson game stands at 16, and this will probably move tomorrow with a late tipoff. The Mountaineers secured a huge win, almost a must win, in the SoCon standings. Western Carolina and Samford are slumping right now with four straight losses. Elon also lost last night, which puts Appalachian two game out of first place with seven to play. App and Elon have the same opponents down the stretch for the most part. Elon has the entire North Division remaining, along with Furman and Davidson, while App has played Western twice, and gets The Citadel, Davidson and Furman along with their remaining North Division opponents.

SoCon Men’s Basketball SoCon Overall
Team Record Pct Home Away Neutral Streak Record Pct Home Away Neutral Streak
North
Elon 8-3 .727 4-1 4-2 0-0 L1 15-8 .652 9-2 6-6 0-0 L1
Appalachian State 6-5 .545 4-1 2-4 0-0 W2 10-12 .455 7-3 3-9 0-0 W2
Samford 5-5 .500 3-2 2-3 0-0 L4 7-16 .304 4-5 3-9 0-2 L4
Western Carolina 5-6 .455 2-3 3-3 0-0 L4 8-15 .348 4-4 3-10 1-1 L4
UNCG 5-6 .455 4-2 1-4 0-0 W1 7-15 .318 6-6 1-9 0-0 W1
Chattanooga 4-6 .400 2-2 2-4 0-0 W1 9-14 .391 6-7 3-7 0-0 W1

Women’s Basketball 67 Georgia Southern 54

The final does not look all that impressive, but a road conference win is just what Appalachian needed. The Mountaineers had lost three conference road games, and won another in overtime. Appalachian extended a twelve point halftime lead to twenty points late in the game. Southern finished the game on a seven point run in the final minute to make the score look more respectable, but this game was never really in doubt for Appalachian.

Appalachian was dominated on the boards in the first half, getting outrebounded 22-13 by the Eagles. The Apps responded in the second half with an eleven rebound edge to win the battle on the boards. One disturbing statistic was the turnovers. Appalachian forced Georgia Southern into 14 first half turnovers while only committing three themselves. In the second half, Appalachian committed 19 turnovers, which is enough for an entire game. That is very uncharacteristic for the Mountaineers. Finally, after hitting 6/12 threes against Elon, Appalachian went back to their old form, and went without a three point basket for the entire game. Eventually, this has to improve. With Davidson and their zone defense coming to Boone on Saturday, Appalachian is going to have to hit some. Davidson is too big for Appalachian to rely on their post play.

Anna Freeman had her second big game in a row with 18 points and 6 rebounds, leading all scorers. Maryah Sydnor added 13 points and 8 rebounds. Courtney Freeman scored 15 points and snagged six rebounds. Kelsey Sharkey played another great defensive game with 11 rebounds and 7 steals, while also chipping in 7 points. From Kelsey, you will take that every game, although her weakness is her free throw shooting. She accounted for Appalachian’s six missed free throws by herself.

Men’s Basketball 64 Georgia Southern 62 (OT)

The most confusing team in the SoCon will make one of its longest road trips in conference play when Georgia Southern faces Appalachian on Thursday evening in Boone. The Eagles have struggled on the road this season, only posting two wins against Kennesaw State and Virginia Tech. Since the win at Virginia Tech, a team who the Mountaineers lost to three weeks prior to Southern’s win, the Eagles have gone winless on the road and have posted some pretty ugly losses. Southern has lost every true road game since and have averaged losing by 14.7 points per game. Southern has struggled when they have had trouble scoring this season. The Eagles have won all but one game where they have scored 62 points or more this season, and have lost all but one when they have scored 62 or fewer. That is a rather low magic number, while Appalachian has lost every game where the opponent has scored 72 points.

The Eagles feature three double figure scorers in Eric Ferguson (14.2), CJ Reed (11.7) and Tre Bussey (10.7), but beyond that, the productions falls off considerably. Their next three highest scoring players combine for 16.3 points per game. The Eagles are also a team that fouls a lot compared to their opponents, fouling the opponent close to eighteen times per game. That is an average good enough for a single bonus in both halves of play. In turn, the Eagles do not draw fouls well enough, and it shows as they are out-shot on the free throw line by over three percent.

Appalachian is a team that draws exactly nineteen fouls a game and shoots well from the free throw line, but can be streaky when they do not frequent the line enough in a game. Evidence is provided in their last two games, losses at Samford (11/18) and Chattanooga (16/23). Both games were decided by four points or fewer and another free throw here and there could have been huge in the closing minutes. Appalachian needs to own the glass on Thursday, as the Eagles only average just over thirty rebounds a game, while the Mountaineers average nearly thirty-six rebounds a game. The Mountaineers have out-rebounded Georgia Southern on the season by 21, in one less game.

Our first line we saw gave the Mountaineers an eight point advantage. Our first feeling was that eight was somewhat of a high number, until we started researching Georgia Southern. The Eagles are bad on the road, winning only two of nine games, and are coming off a terrible performance to the worst team in the league in The Citadel. That was coming off of beating Charleston and Davidson in back to back games. However, all those games came at home, and the Eagles are back on the road, and have to deal with a very chilly Boone climate off the court. History has shown that Georgia Southern teams have not fared well coming to the mountains, across all sports, when the weather outside is below 40 degrees. Appalachian has won five in a row over Georgia Southern at home. We are not confident about the eight points, despite Appalachian playing well this past weekend outside of a six minute stretch in Chattanooga. We would like to see a spread of 6.5 to be comfortable, but we are not likely to see it. I have a feeling the line might take off toward 9 once the day wears on. We will update throughout the day as usual, if the line does change.

12:38 PM UPDATE: Line has edged downward to -7.5 for the Apps. Leaning toward an Eagle cover.

5:16 PM UPDATE: Earlier this afternoon, the line dropped another whole point, all the way to -6.5, and that was the number we were looking for. It’s been a bore this year picking games, but we will ride the Apps at home.

Postgame:

For the second time in a week, Appalachian was forced to overtime by an inferior opponent by losing a double digit lead in the second half. This time around, Appalachian lost a 17 point lead with 8:44 to play before holding off Georgia Southern in overtime. Last week, Appalachian lost in overtime after losing a nineteen point lead on the road in Chattanooga. This time the Mountaineers managed to win, against one of the least talented teams in the conference.

When Appalachian took a 52-35 lead with 8:44 to play, the lead was large, but never seemed safe the entire game. This game was one where Georgia Southern was a couple of made shots away from making a run, and turning the game around. Over the next six minutes of play, Appalachian could not score, much less get the ball across halfcourt without having to work out of a trap. The Eagles managed to trim the lead slowly, as Appalachian could only manage five points in the last eight plus minutes of the game. In overtime, Appalachian “outscored”  Southern 7-5, which was good enough on this night.

So you ask, how did this lead evaporate? This game may be better explained than “The Chatty Collapse.” Jay Canty re-injured the same thumb he has had trouble with all season, and only played two minutes. Midway through the second half, Mike Neal suffered a foot injury, that was awkward to say the least. Neal took a contested three pointer and he drew contact from an Eagle defender, but no foul was called. Neal landed off balance, and tried to walk the injury off before crumbling to the floor in agony. Neal would not return to the game, and Appalachian’s lead would begin shrinking. Head Coach Jason Capel was forced to run with a lineup that included Chris Burgess, Tab Hamilton, Jamaal Trice, Nathan Healy, Tevin Baskin and Michael Obacha. Six players split minutes for the remainder of the game and overtime. This, after a long road trip that included another overtime game. We wrote a few days ago how this team was an injury away being run ragged as far as minutes played per player. Neal is considered on the plus side of questionable for Saturday against Davidson, while Canty is considered closer to doubtful than questionable for Saturday.

The spread came down to 6.5 points in favor of Appalachian, which would have worked out just fine had the Mountaineers not lost both Neal and Canty. So, after covering their first ten games, Appalachian has been figured out by Vegas and has dropped three straight covers. Two of those covers leave a sour taste in your mouth, as the Mountaineers had both games covered in the second half with ease, before falling apart and going to overtime. Appalachian is now 10-3 against the spread and our picks are 9-4. Depending on the injuries for the Mountaineers, I expect Davidson to be favored big time on Saturday, perhaps as many as 11 or 12 points. Davidson has not been a team that has ever played well against the spread, so this line will be especially intriguing on Saturday morning.