Appalachian Football @ Idaho

Appalachian State (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) @ Idaho (2-3, 1-1 Sun Belt)

Saturday, October 14th, 2017 5pm est

TV/Video: 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 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN

Kibbie Dome

Surface: RealGrass Pro

Capacity: 16,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 68.09

Idaho: 54.68

Home: 1.97

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -13

Series: App State leads 3-0

Last meeting: App State 37, Idaho 19, October 22nd, 2016

        I’m still not quite sure what happened last Saturday. A game that was really sputtering along for three quarters suddenly became a shootout that was going to come down to one play made or not made by either side. Fortunately, Eric Boggs lays out to trip up a New Mexico State receiver on fourth down, a review finally favors the Mountaineers, and the ball changes hands and Jalin Moore ices it. There were several times in that fourth quarter that many fans surely had the same feeling in their gut that I did. “Uh, if we aren’t careful, we’re gonna lose this one.” Both teams seemed to be playing for the fourth quarter. New Mexico State went from a quick strike offense, to a ball controlling unit in hopes to wear out the App defense. The Mountaineer offense stubbornly kept forcing the ball to the running backs, in hopes that the big one would finally hit. Eventually they did, as Jalin Moore’s final six carries went for 129 yards, nearly half of his total. Next up is another team exiting the Sun Belt looking for their shot at the defending champ. Even worse, App has beaten these guys three times already, and perhaps, like New Mexico State, we’ll never play these guys again. This is Idaho’s last stand in big boy football and they’ll be looking to sack one last big time opponent before their days are numbered in the Sun Belt. 

           Idaho’s season in 2016 could not have been scripted any better, outside of the inevitable sendoff from the Sun Belt, the Vandals finished the regular season at 8-4 and went on to win the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over Colorado State 61-50 in a non-overtime game. Things haven’t been as smooth in 2017, as the Vandals beat Sacramento State 28-6, but then fell to UNLV, who lost to Howard, and Western Michigan. After a double-overtime win over now 1-4 South Alabama, Idaho got two weeks to prepare for a Louisiana team that was giving up the most points in the FBS. Idaho managed just a touchdown and three field goals and fell to the Cajuns, a team they had beaten a year ago. Idaho is now floundering with a 2-3 record, and the path to six wins looks daunting. The Vandals still have to play App, and have road games at Mizzou, Troy and New Mexico State.

         Matt Linehan has been the Idaho starting quarterback essentially since he stepped on campus. He’s been above average overall, but has not had the surrounding talent he deserves. This season is no different. Linehan has basically one receiver that over half his attempts go to and that’s Jacob Sannon. Linehan is up to 1075 passing yards on the season, which is well off pace for his previous three seasons. He’s averaging 215 yards a game in 2017, and his next lowest total was his freshman season, when he averaged 230 yards per game. His high water mark was when he threw for 273 yards in the win over South Alabama. He’ll have a shot to get to 10,000 career passing yards this weekend. In three games against the Mountaineers, Linehan has completed 61% of his passes for 745 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. 

          Back to Jacob Sannon, his 33 catches leads the team by a good bit. His next closest competition is Alfonso Onunwor who has 17 catches. Sannon is a senior who is finally getting his chance to shine. Eventually, his final season in Moscow will be his most productive, as he has already achieved career marks in yards and receptions. Aaron Duckworth has also been around awhile for the Vandals. Also a senior, Duckworth is averaging six yards per carry on the ground and leads the team with 439 rushing yards. He’ll have an outside chance at rushing for 1,000 yards this year. 

          Hey, look, that Mountaineer running attack got its groove back a bit. The offensive line paved the way for 350 yards on the ground on just thirty-eight attempts. What it came down to was continuing to work on big plays. Of those thirty-eight attempts, nearly a third of them, thirteen to be exact, went for 10 yards or more. Moore had seven such runs, Taylor Lamb three, and Terrance Upshaw three. Seven of Moore’s carries went for ten or more yards and accounted for 212 of his 241 yard total. It might not have been pretty the entire game, but when the stars aligned, they did in a big way. I’d expect to see more of the same this weekend against the 91st ranked run defense in football. 

          Nobody could have said they had seen an App State football team successfully secure six interceptions in one game prior to last weekend. Unfortunately, the Apps needed every last one of those interceptions to win the game. That doesn’t happen often. The so-called “double hat trick” or “Six-Pick” game comes at a perfect time. Idaho, which likes to the throw the ball more than most in the Sun Belt, is reminded this week on film what can happen when you mess with the Legion of Boone. Last year, Clifton Duck snagged a pair of interceptions off of Linehan. Josh Thomas corralled the other. And now enter Tae Hayes, who was one acrobatic play away from an unheard of four interceptions last Saturday. Combine that with a Idaho passing that game looks a little off at the moment. Certainly they could get it together this weekend, but it doesn’t look promising. Idaho has struggled to score this season like they did in 2016, where they hit the 30 point mark on seven occasions. This season the Vandals have scored 16 points twice, 28 points twice, and needed nine overtime points in Mobile to get to 29 points in that win. In this series, App has won by margins of 17, 18 and 27 points. If anything, App has proven in it’s two Sun Belt wins that a lot can change in a years time, and that everything is earned on the football field. But, Idaho has not shown much of doing anything exceptionally well this season. They are a true middle of the road team in 2017, and I think Appalachian has more than enough firepower on both sides of the ball to win this one. 

The First Pick

Starches 18

Mountaineers 33

Idaho @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 7

Idaho (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (4-2, 2-0 Sun Belt)

Saturday, October 22th, 2016 3:30 est

TV/Video: 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 870 AM, 100.7 FM Bristol/Johnson City, TN

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.66

Idaho: 53.23

Home: 2.42

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 20 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -21

Series: App State leads 2-0

Last meeting: App State 47, Idaho 20, November 14th, 2015, Moscow, ID

       If a football season were a mall parking lot, the Mountaineers just rolled over the speed bump and are on their way towards the second half of the season with games in six straight weeks. The Mountaineer defense is rounding into form after laying a zero on the Ragin’ Cajuns. More impressively, the Apps are doing it with a bunch of unfamiliar names in key spots. Linebackers Eric Boggs and John Law played minimally in the win over Louisiana, which paved the way for standout performances by their backups. Meanwhile, Idaho is rolling about as well as they ever have in the FBS. With four wins, the folks in Moscow are thinking about a bowl trip as they close their time at the FBS level. Pretty ironic, in the following season that Idaho announces to reclassify to FCS for football, that they have their best season in many years. Don’t blame Idaho for their geography. They knew when they joined the Sun Belt that is was going to be a short relationship, as the Sun Belt chose to go young and east for their future memberships. This will likely be the Vandals second and final trip to Boone for some time. They couldn’t have picked a better time of the year to visit, as the leaves are holding on for dear life and some Appalachian alums from far and wide make the annual trek to Boone for homecoming festivities. 

        Idaho’s football season has sputtered to an extent, but their big win over New Mexico State last week has garnered some attention. The Vandals hold a series lead over the Aggies by a count of 16-7. That makes up for over half of their all time wins over Sun Belt schools, which total 31, but not all count as Sun Belt league wins. The other three wins by Idaho this year are over UL-Monroe, UNLV and Montana State, which are a combined 7-13 on the season. Respectively, their Sagarin ranks are, 152, 114, and 187. Coincidentally, all those wins are by three points. But, just like Appalachian, the Vandals have two losses to Power 5 schools in Washington & Washington State. 

         By this point, most are familiar with Vandal quarterback Matt Linehan and his football family tree. We covered that two years ago and beat writer Bret Strelow did so more recently. Linehan has eight touchdown passes in seven games, but his passing numbers have not been fantastic. Linehan has only eclipsed 250 passing yards once this season, against NMSU, and half of those eight touchdown passes came last week as well. Linehan accumulated 476 passing yards against the Aggies and misfired on just seven of his pass attempts. He added a rushing touchdown and 28 yards on the ground in that win. 

      The Vandals will use five receivers on the field in many situations but three of their pass catchers make up for over half of their completed passes on the season. Deon Watson has caught 26 passes for 380 yards. Alfonso Onunwor sports a 27/283 slash while Trent Cowan adds 23/256. There is not a ton of difference between the trio. Watson broke out last week for 129 yards and a touchdown as did Onunwor, who had 117 yards and a touchdown. Cowan added 64 yards. All three performances were their season highs. Jordan Frysinger is sneaky, with only eight catches on the year, but averages 25.5 yards per catch, and has all of his catches in two games. 

          Appalachian took no prisoners last week in Lafayette. Several items are obvious, such as the shutout, the big day from Shaedon Meadors and the continued consistency from Jalin Moore. Not to be outdone, Colin Reed got his first start and found the end zone. Death, taxes, and App State tight end touchdowns are the only sure things in life. It’s nice to see that the Mountaineers can plug and play at several positions on both sides of the ball. The defense finished with ten tackles for loss and five sacks while keeping Cajun all-purpose threat Elijah McGuire to 53 yards on eleven touches. Overall Louisiana running backs could only muster 3.4 yards per carry. With only three points allowed in the last two games, Appalachian has vaulted to 19th in all of FBS in points allowed at 18.8 per game. 

          At first thought, the twenty-two point margin at open, now 21, that Appalachian was favored by in this game seemed like a lot for a team that has left half of the playbook in the locker room at halftime for most of the season. That’s not a bad thing really. Crusing to wins may be boring for the fans, but it is exactly what every football coach in America wants. Back to spread talk. The Apps pushed with the Vandals in 2014 with a seventeen point win, and covered a big 19.5 points last year in Moscow. In both instances, the Sagarin ratings were right in line with Vegas and that seems to be the case this season. This result all depends on how Idaho finishes their drives. It has been a season long  issue until last week, that the Vandals move the ball between the twenties, until they get to the red zone, and the space to work with gets tighter. As the field shrinks, there is less space for all those receivers to run and Linehan seems to get antsy in the pocket. Linehan will roll out, further decreasing the size of the field to work with, and his accuracy suffers when he scrambles. Idaho also lacks the ability to run the football between the lines, which leaves them to pass into the end zone. Luckily, Idaho has one of the best punters and kickers in the country in Austin Rehkow, who has 14 field goals in 2016. He can keep them close early, but chances are you aren’t beating Appalachian with field goals. The odds of Idaho and their 105th best red zone offense facing off against the Mountaineers and their 21st best red zone defense spells trouble for the Vandals. The Mountaineers will impose their will on the Vandals and wear them out late in this one. 

The First Pick

Starches 16

Mountaineers 34

Appalachian Football @ Idaho

Here we go with Week 10

Appalachian State (7-2, 4-1 Sun Belt) @ Idaho (3-6, 2-4 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 14th, 5:00 EST

TV/Video: 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

Kibbie Dome

Surface: RealGrass Pro

Capacity: 16,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.33

Idaho: 48.81

Home: 2.76

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

Sportsbook: App State -19.5

Series: App State leads 1-0

Last meeting: App State 45, Idaho 28 Saturday November 29th, 2014, Boone, NC

The tune might have changed slightly over the course of the last week or so, but the final chorus remains the same. Change a few notes, or even a word or two, and it will not matter. When the finals lyrics are sung, they include something like “compete for a conference championship and go to a bowl game.” That’s probably the words to a terrible song, but it works pretty good as a mission statement for a football program. Let us not forget how difficult winning football games can be. Even more trying, is completing a regular season with only one or two losses. Some of the best teams Appalachian has ever fielded have even had their troubles getting tripped up along the way. The seasons of 1995 and 2006 come to mind. In 1995, App finished 11-0 in the regular season, fell in the second round of the playoffs to Stephen F Austin, and finished 12-1. Disappointing end to the season, but a darn good season overall. In 2006, the Apps fell to NC State in the opener, but won the next 14 games. Pretty good season most would say. The difference of those two examples is simple. How you finish will be how you are remembered. That’s the chore for Appalachian over the next three weeks. Responding to adversity or a loss and forgetting it, putting it behind you and playing  the guy who in front  of you. All you can control is the future and and present, not the past. The past may define you, but learning from it is the greatest accomplishment.

At this point last season, this weeks opponents were on two different paths. Appalachian was in the midst of a program defining stretch of games, while Idaho couldn’t beat anyone, outside of New Mexico State. The Vandals appeared to look like the same team at the start of the 2015 season as they did in 2014. Idaho began with an 1-4 start, only edging the mighty Wofford Terriers by three points at home. After a bye week, Idaho looked like a completely different team for two weeks. The Vandals battled a bad connection on a flight to Troy in which they landed in Alabama five hours prior to kickoff, yet still managed to beat the Trojans 19-16. That Troy team was without the services of quarterback Brandon Silvers, but regardless, it was a shocking result. The following week, Idaho took care of Monore, 27-13 in a game that was only kept close by three Vandal turnovers. Suddenly, Idaho was 2-2 in Sun Belt play, and thinking about contending for a bowl bid.

The next two games on Idaho’s schedule were totally winnable, even though the Vandals had to hit the road. New Mexico State and South Alabama were struggling and it gave Idaho a chance to make some noise in the Sun Belt. Idaho led New Mexico State 20-0 late in the first half, and eventually 23-7 at halftime. A touchdown run by Matt Linehan extended the Vandal lead to 40-21 in the opening moments of the fourth quarter. From that point on, New Mexico State outscored Idaho 27-7 to force overtime. Idaho gave up 311 fourth quarter yards before falling in extra time.

That was the first collapse. South Alabama might have been worse from a special teams perspective. After leading 24-7 at halftime, Idaho gave up the opening kicoff in the second half for a touchdown. Later  in the third quarter, an Idaho fumble was scooped up by South Alabama and returned for a touchdown. On the ensuing possession, the Vandal punt was blocked deep in their own territory. The Jaguars would score on the next play. The teams traded scores before Idaho fumbled a kickoff return and allowed South Alabama to open up a 38-31 lead. Idaho then threw an interception on their next drive, which led to another score for the Jaguars. Idaho would continue to fight, but when they needed a stop the most, down 45-38, they let South Alabama score on a one play drive to put the game out of reach. There was enough ridiculousness in those two games to last a season, but Idaho was able to squeeze it into two halves of two football games.

Much has been said regarding former Idaho receiver Dezmon Epps, who was leading the team in receptions and yards. We say former because Epps has been dismissed from the team this week. Epps was  on a very short leash after some trangressions that occured during the offseason. Epps could not follow the rules set out by Paul Petrino, and he was shown the door. Since then, Epps’s dismissal has opened the door for two receivers. Callen Hightower has taken the opportunity and run with it. Hightower has 38 receptions and 390 yards on the season, but half of that production has occured in the last two games. Hightower has 19 catches and 200 yards in the last two games, including his only touchdown of the year. Deon Watson had season highs last week with 7 catches for 109 yards, which makes up for 25% of his season receptions and just under one third of the yards.

Matt Linehan has played in every game this season for Idaho except for Arkansas State. Besides that, he has taken nearly every snap for the Vandals. Linehan  is second in the Sun Belt in passing yards per game, but just fourth in efficiency. His troubles come from having the second most interceptions in the conference and being only fifth among qualified quarterbacks in the conference in touchdown passes. Idaho’s inabilty to have a consistent running game has put a lot of pressure on Linehan. Elijah Penny has carried the majority of the load for Idaho in the running game, and when he is in the backfield, defenses have sold out on stopping him. His 4.7 yards per carry isn’t terrible, but its by far the worst of the Sun Belt’s leading backs. Idaho does not run a lot of read option, and when the tailback is behind the quarterback in the formation, it is a dead giveaway of a run.

It would be overkill, to pile on and speak to injuries that have occured on the Mountaineer offensive line. We all know about, and it has obviously affected the offensive chemistry. The Appalachian defense, despite giving up half their seasons points in the last two weeks, has still played pretty well considering the circumstances. Arkansas State could have easily made last week look even worse had Appalachian not stood tall and forced three second half field goals. After giving up two touchdown runs in the third quarter early, the Apps kept the offense in the game with those late stands. The defense easily could have folded, but kept on. The defense is the best side of the ball the Mountaineers have going for them, but  will need some help from the offense to sustain a drive or two to keep the defense fresh late in the game.

Forget the point spread, and all the other nonsense. This game against Idaho is going to be a tough one. Idaho’s strength plays right into the weaker part of the Appalachian defense. Any team that can pass the ball and protect their quarterback just a little bit is going to be a threat every weekend. The Vandals have cut down on their sacks allowed from last season nearly in half. Idaho leads the conference in first   downs per game and is tied for first in third down conversions. The Idaho defense has been so awful the last two games, thay they are bound to make some improvements. But, if they can not adjust and their defense continues to play matador in the second half, this is a game that Appalachian should win with ease. The Mountaineers took a hit when they lost one offensive lineman. When the Apps subsequently lost their center, the offense stalled and was not able to produce points until the game was out of reach. The hope is that Appalachian can take advantage of a good matchup. With the running game against Idaho’s depleted defense to sustain drives and eventually wear out the defense, all while keeping Idaho’s offense of gaining any type of flow. I want to see Appalachian at least resemble what it looked like in the first half of the season. I fully expect the new starters on the line to take advantage of their opportunity and play well enough to get the Mountaineers their eighth win of the season.

The First Pick:

Vandalism            27

Mountaineers      41

Idaho @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 12

Idaho (1-9, 1-6 Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (6-5, 5-2 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 29th, 2:00pm EST

TV/LIve Video: 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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 59.94

Idaho: 47.95

Home: 3.15

App State is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 15 points

Sportsbook: App State -17.5, O/U 64.5

Series: first meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

Call it whatever you want it this point, but don’t call it a comeback. Indeed, Appalachian football has been here for years, and despite an eighteen game hiatus from dominant football, the Mountaineers are definitely back. There were plenty of doubters, and plenty of believers, but there is not a soul alive who thought the Mountaineers would have gone from 1-5 to where they are at this point. One game stands between the Mountaineers and a top three finish in their first year of FBS transition in the Sun Belt and a winning record. It has been over thirty years since the Mountaineers had back to back losing seasons, dating all the way back to the 1981-82 seasons. Last weeks win over the kings of the Sun Belt, Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns ensured at worst, a break even record. Has 6-5 ever felt so good? It has not. There is no way. Never has a team knocked off Arkansas State and Lafayette in back to back weekends on the road. Scott Satterfield has accomplished the feat twice, defeating the two in consecutive games, the only coach to do it, but even the head coach one-upped himself with his team full of road warriors. We have all been witness to some big time wins over the years by the Mountaineers. But rarely has a Mountaineer team surprised me with their play as much as this team has in the past five weeks. Anyone can win a few games in a row with luck, but the Mountaineers have had none bounce their way. This has been the most dominating stretch of football I have seen by any Mountaineer team. The only moment that could make it better is by sending the seniors off with one last win.

The stakes have changed a little bit. In the past five games, the opponent has been increasingly tougher, posing a different challenge with each passing week. But Idaho will bring to Boone a team that has one win on the season over a New Mexico State team that has two wins. That win was over a month ago and Idaho will have had a two week layoff since their last game they played on November 15th when they face off against Appalachian on Saturday. Idaho’s schedule has been a challenge all season. You might remember on college football’s opening weekend when Idaho travelled to Florida and the game was terminated after the opening kickoff. Idaho then went back on the road to Monroe the following weekend and have since had road trips to Ohio, San Marcos, Texas and Statesboro. The Vandals drew the short straw having to visit both of the transitional teams on the east coast. In fact, all seven road games that Idaho played were in states that bordered a major body of water, if you include Lake Erie. Enough geography, let’s talk about some football.

Vandal head coach Paul Petrino is most notably known for the infamous actions of his brother Bobby Petrino, who currently coaches Louisville. Paul was hired just twelve days before Scott Satterfield was in December 2012. Idaho is the first head coaching job for Paul Petrino after spending plenty of time with his brother at Louisville, Arkansas and the Atlanta Falcons. Petrino has only two wins to his name in his first two seasons, as Idaho beat Temple last year at home. Oddly enough, Petrino’s two wins have both come on Idaho’s homecoming game. Idaho is 0-13 on the road during Petrino’s tenure.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Linehan has followed a family lineage to Moscow, Idaho. His father Scott was also also a Vandal quarterback and is currently an assistant with the Dallas Cowboys. Linehan leads the Sun Belt’s top passing attack. Although the Vandals average 280 yards a game through the air as a team, Linehan is only responsible for 230 yards per game on his own. Of the six Sun Belt quarterbacks with over 300 pass attempts this season, Linehan has fewer completions and touchdown passes than any of them. Linehan also has the second most interceptions in the conference with seventeen. Linehan is one of two Sun Belt traditional quarterbacks with more interceptions than touchdown passes.

Joshua McCain is arguably the best receiver in the Sun Belt from a numbers perspective. He leads the conference in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He is the only receiver in the conference with over 1,000 yards and he also leads the league with nine receiving touchdowns. He has 75% of his teams touchdown catches and is clear from the second leading receiver on his own team by 23 catches and 587 yards. To compare, Appalachian’s leading receiver in terms of yards, Malachi Jones, has 530 yards on the season.

Idaho’s rushing game averages just shy of 140 yards per game, but will face a tough test against Appalachian, who has only given up 82 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry on the ground in its last five games. Jerrel Brown and Elijhaa Penny have split carries for most of the season. The Vandals usually get into the game and the carries are split from that point based on production. Penny leads the team in touchdowns with ten as a larger running back, tipping the scales at over 250 pounds. Brown looks more like a typical back at 6’0 and 220 pounds. Brown is the senior and will be playing his last game on Saturday.

Guess what. We are going to talk about Marcus Cox some more because he is excellent. After carrying the load with 40 carries against Arkansas State, he followed that up with 36 carries and 151 yards against Lafayette. Cox’s stats in the last six games are the type of numbers some backs wish they see for the entire season: 958 yards, 12 touchdowns, 6 yards per carry. The next victim is a team giving up 5.7 yards per carry, 250 yards a game and 29 total touchdowns on the season against the run.

You mention the success of the offensive line which is playing lights out. Not only have they paved the way for Cox and Upshaw, but they have kept Taylor Lamb upright for the past five games. The line has surrendered only 11 sacks on the season and never more than two in any game. Think about it. One sack in five games have equaled five wins. On top of that, the protection has allowed Lamb to make his throws and kept the pressure off of him. Lamb has only two interceptions in the past five games. The pick versus Monroe was assumed to be a free play, on top of the ball slipping out of his hands, while the there is no explanation to the interception from last week. There was not a receiver in the area and ball had to have slipped again or his arm failed him.

Rarely do we pull quotes from message board banter during the week, but this one stuck out at me from a Louisiana fan. Obviously frustrated that one of the new kids on the block beat them in their own house, the poster opined, “Appalachian is not a flashy team, but does a really good job of making the other team look bad.” Last I checked, making the other team look bad is a good way to win football games. Flashy sells tickets, but nothing keeps the fans coming back like winning football games.

The Mountaineers are looking up and another win on Saturday would be a great way to end a season with the possibility of a bowl game likely out of reach. Getting to a seven wins after four last year will have exceeded all expectations. Generally this game sets up as a perfect time for a team to get overconfident and lay an egg. Although Idaho has had a tough season, they have also had two weeks to prepare for the Mountaineers. A win would also give the Vandals some much needed momentum heading into the recruiting season, and give the Vandals a banner win. If the Mountaineers had played the style of a overconfident bunch, it would raise concern, but this team has a blue collar attitude about it. It seems everyone has bought into the game plans and understands their roles. The Mountaineers will be hunting for big plays on defense on Saturday. Idaho has given up 38 sacks on the season in just ten games. Appalachian has improved tremendously in that area from 2012. Last year, the Mountaineers had eight sacks the entire season, compared to twenty-six this season. The Vandals average 2.7 turnovers a game on offense, with their defense only forcing 1.5 per game. The Mountaineers did lose the turnover battle last week, but still wound up with a near twenty point win despite those miscues. I can see Idaho hanging around if they can keep it close early, but the fourth quarter will eventually spell doom. The Mountaineers outscore their opponents by 51 points in the games final frame while the Idaho is also outscored by its opponents by 42 points on the season. I expect two Mountaineers will go over 100 yards on the ground in a season ending win

The First Pick:

Mountaineers 45

Jr. Joes 27