Appalachian State (4-3) vs Robert Morris (0-7)
Saturday, October 29th, 2022 3:30pm EST
Radio: FLAGSHIP 97.3 FM (North Wilkesboro), 96.5
FM/1450 AM (Boone), 99.1 FM/1060 AM/1030 AM (Charlotte),
105.3 FM/1320 AM (Greensboro), 790 AM (Johnson City),
107.7 FM/1450 AM (Hendersonville), Varsity Network App
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 73.24
Robert Morris: 22.99
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 52.19 points
VegasInsider Line: No line
Last Meeting: n/a
The first step was taken in the right direction. It can be easy to get off your path, and sometimes finding your stride again is twice as hard. But the Mountaineers found something last Wednesday night. It’s understandable if you are not sold yet. That’s a normal feeling. That path might still have some bumps along the way, but its important to be on it. The Mountaineers get a small break before a big game next week, on a short week no less. No looking ahead, but it is hard not to. Robert Morris should not present much of a challenge. That does not mean they are not trying to get better themselves. They’ll try to gain yards, get first downs, score points, and stop the Mountaineers from doing those same things. But this is a game where App State will want to take care of business early and allow those who do not get as much playing time, to have those opportunities to succeed.
The Robert Morris Colonials found the App State football schedule due to Marshall joining the Sun Belt this season. Originally, Marshall and App State were scheduled to play as non-conference opponents, and the hurried restructuring of conferences this past offseason sent the Mountaineers scurrying for a twelfth opponent. Imagine shopping for bread and milk at the grocery store when the snow is already falling. You get the idea. The last team that Robert Morris defeated was Campbell in 2021. And then Campbell turned around a year later and stomped the Colonials 41-10 on October 15th. In fact, in five of Robert Morris’ seven losses, their average margin of defeat is 32.4 points. The Colonials have scored 20 points once this year, in their season opener. Since, they have managed to score 8.33 points per game, and have reached double digit scoring just three times.
The quarterback position has been a merry-go-round for the Colonials this season. In their first game against Dayton, Anthony Chiccitt got his first collegiate start, and Jake Simmons came in for relief in the fourth quarter. The same scenario occurred in the second game against Miami (OH). Chiccitt started and Simmons finished. In their third game, Jake Simmons started, but Corbin Lafrance played most of the second half. In their fourth game, Simmons started again, but was relieved by Zach Tanner in the second quarter. In game five, it was Zach Tanner who started and gave way to Corbin LaFrance. Tanner and LaFrance also got playing time against Campbell, and it was back to Chiccitt last week against North Carolina A&T. Hope you were able to keep up. Of the four primary quarterbacks, neither has played in every game, yet they have all thrown interceptions, and only Chiccitt and Simmons have thrown touchdown passes. Tanner completes just 43% of his passes to his teammates, while 9% has gone to the opponents. That’s a really complicated way to say, he has thrown six interceptions on just sixty-two attempts.
As football goes, you need good quarterback play to win. You can have a variety of playmakers all over the field, but its starts with that quarterback. It’s clear that Robert Morris has lacked in consistency this season at that position. That makes it incredibly harder for wide receivers to do their job, when and when not to expect a pass to be delivered, or for the offensive line to know when that ball might be out, or where that quarterback might be in the pocket. But Robert Morris needs other pieces as well for their offense. Running back Alijah Jackson is the most trusted player in the Colonial offense. He has carried the ball 99 times for 335 yards, without finding the end zone. His 3.4 yards per carry average is second best on the team to quarterback Jake Simmons’ 4.3 yards per carry. But as noted previously, Simmons has played in just four games, and only has eight attempts on the ground. Anthony Purge and Kimon O’Sullivan have filled in at time, but neither has been efficient, both with less than 75 yards to their credit on the season on the ground.
After a slow start, the Mountaineers offense started clicking last Wednesday. It still wasn’t a full sixty minutes of football, but the trend line is heading in the right direction. As quickly as the Mountaineer run game dissipated several weeks ago, it came back in a hurry. Georgia State ran out to a 14-0 lead, and it looked like they might take that into halftime before the Mountaineers put together their best drive of the game. A 12-play, 75-yard drive that consumed five and a half minutes of game clock. That score right before the halftime break ignited a defense, which went on to force three second half turnovers. In turn, those turnovers turned into short fields, and with the aid of a Milan Tucker 63 yard kickoff return, allowed App State to score touchdowns on five straight drives. Whatever happened in the second quarter was the fire the Mountaineers needed. It was a perfect night for running the ball 64 times right at the Georgia State defense, who was helpless in stopping whichever running back that App threw at them.
Just about the only way to compare Robert Morris to anyone that App State has played this year is to look back at the Citadel game. Sure, both schools are in the FCS, but they are both very bad on offense. Fresh off a win last weekend at Western Carolina, Citadel scored over 20 points in a game for the second time this season. That has only happened once this season for Robert Morris. The Citadel is averaging 284 yards of offense this year, which is 112th out of 123 teams. Robert Morris is 122nd in the FCS at 222 yards per contest. Want an idea of how far 222 yards is? It’s not even a down and back of entire football field, including end zones. Robert Morris has a total of nine offensive touchdowns on the season, which ties them for dead last in total offensive touchdowns in the FCS, with Lafayette and Bucknell. Robert Morris has two more touchdowns than Iowa, which only has seven. Fort Lewis in Division II also has scored seven touchdowns on offense, which is dead last in that division. And there are about a dozen teams in Division III who have yet to score nine touchdowns on offense. That was one unplanned rabbit hole, but we found the bottom somehow. Back to the Citadel, a team who clearly runs the triple option. The Citadel has completed 49.5% of its passes this year, while Robert Morris sits at 50.5%, both figures that sit in the bottom twenty of all FCS schools. The Colonials are dead last in FCS in third down conversion percentage at 21.8%. This Robert Morris team might be the worst offensive team the Mountaineers have ever faced. It’s brutal. However, to consider that the Colonial defense allows just 34.1 points per game, with the help of only 10 points a game on offense, is actually commendable. There can be two sides of that coin. The Colonials red zone defense is 50th in FCS. They have defended 29 red zone drives, but have allowed just fifteen touchdowns in the red zone, while forcing eight field goals. That’s pretty stubborn defense. But the Colonials have also allowed fifteen touchdown from beyond the red zone. That’s a classic case of playing better defense when there is less field to cover. Is that enough to keep the Mountaineers out of the 60+ point total? It’s possible, but the real question should be whether Robert Morris can score.
The First Pick