Here we go with Week 3
Miami (2-0) @ Appalachian State (1-1)
Saturday, September 17th, 2016 12:00 EST
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
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 72.03
Miami is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 6 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: Miami -4
Series: first meeting
Last meeting: n/a
We’ve made it, almost. Saturday isn’t quite here yet, but it’s getting closer and the talk of looking ahead and focus can be set aside. Five-time national champion Miami is coming to Boone, and our small mountain town may never be the same. Plenty of big games have been played at Kidd Brewer, and plenty of lofty rankings have come with the opponents that have battled against Appalachian, but none bigger than what we’ll witness this Saturday. The Hurricanes are perfectly nestled into the Top 25. The Mountaineers might have the most talented team they have ever assembled. The Hurricanes are adjusting with a new coaching staff, a young roster, and the first road trip as a group this weekend. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers are settled in, having just completed their home opener, and are patiently waiting just like everyone, for the biggest game of their lives.
Miami has hardly been tested on the young season. They have easily taken care of two in-state opponents in Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic. Neither team will be very good this season, and it’s doubtful either sees postseason football of any sort. The Hurricanes kept it very simple in those opening wins, getting adjusted to playing together and tuning their offense to Mark Richt’s liking. Miami has safely kept the ball on the ground, playing to the strength of their offensive line. Their defense blitzes about half the time and early returns show that success, as Miami leads the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.
When Miami hired Mark Richt, both sides were looking for a fresh start. Miami had been through a series of head coaches since 2007, and their record of 64-49 since that time was unlike what the ‘Canes had been used to. Richt was a good coach in his previous 15 seasons at Georgia, but not great enough for the high demands of coaching in the SEC, despite 14 winning seasons, 15 bowl games, 145 wins and six occurrences with the Bulldogs inside the top 10 of the final AP Poll. Richt’s return to Miami was a homecoming, as he backed up eventual Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly when he played for the Hurricanes from 1978-82.
Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya’s name has been mentioned in the same breath as Clemson’s Deshaun Watson as one of the first signal callers to be selected in 2017 NFL Draft, assuming both declare. Over the course of the year, Kaaya will get better with Richt’s coaching, but has started the season a little slow. That follows a sophomore season season where Kaaya also underwhelmed, throwing just 15 touchdown passes, compared to his freshman season where he threw for 26 touchdown passes. Some fail to remember that the 2014 Miami team included Phillip Dorsett and Duke Johnson, both who are contributors for their respective NFL squads, the Indianapolis Colts and Cleveland Browns. Kaaya has hovered around a 60% completion percentage his entire career and prefers to stay in the pocket rather than use his legs.
As mentioned earlier, Miami has been running the ball all over their opponents this season. Three runningbacks ran for over 100 yards against FAMU, and two rushers eclipsed that mark against FAU. Thus far, the Hurricanes have 652 rushing yards on only 75 attempts, good for a team average of 8.7 yards per carry. Mark Walton leads with 271 yards and five touchdowns while Joseph Yearby is not far behind with 226 yards and three touchdowns on the young season.
If we want to be super critical, Appalachian has really yet to put together a full 60 minutes this season. With only seven points scored in the second half in two games, one can only wonder if the Apps have been holding their cards close to their vest. The offense was super vanilla last week in the second half against Old Dominion, but the defense was never really threatened, even after repeated attempts by ODU to gain a new set of downs on fourth down. Marcus Cox was his typical self, with 18 carries, 133 yards and three touchdowns.
This Miami game is not measuring stick for Appalachian this season. Regardless of the result, there will still be 9 games left to play in the regular season, and the goals of winning the Sun Belt remain. However, the opportunity lingers. We are fully aware of how big a win like one over Miami will be for the program. Recruiting, donations, interest in the school, etc. We have all seen it first hand. What App fans have not had, is the chance to celebrate as one in our own house. But, before we can rejoice in victory, we must win a football game. Small detail, right? The Mountaineers have been tested this season, and surely that bad taste from Tennessee has not been forgotten. Miami has cake walked in their opening games, and have been able to out-athlete their opponents. Miami has been comfortable, playing in their own digs, with all the luxuries that come with being at home. If the same attention that was given to Josh Dobbs and Jalen Hurd over two weeks ago is repeated, Appalachian will really put itself in good position. The Miami program and coaches have played in many games with racous crowds, but not the 2016 version. How many times has this 2016 Miami team traveled on the road to a town that might be holding the biggest event in its history? I’m not saying Miami isn’t good, or can’t be good this season, I just don’t think they’ll be good enough this Saturday.
The First Pick