Furman @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 11:

Furman (3-6, 2-4 7th) @ #12 Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 T2)

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.86

FU: 48.74

Home: 3.12 points

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

Series: Furman leads 22-17-3

Last Meeting: Furman 20, Appalachian 10, November 5, 2011, Greenville, SC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny. Mid 50’s for kickoff Great Fall weather for football! Let’s kick some butt!

It is amazing how quickly circumstances can change in a week. Last weekend, in a matter of about an hour, Appalachian’s season changed dramatically. The Mountaineers knocked off a top ranked team for the first time on the road in program history with a 31-28 win over hated rival Georgia Southern. Later that afternoon, Wofford fell in overtime on the road at Samford, which has now set up the most unique final weekend of conference play between top teams in conference history. Georgia Southern went from controlling its destiny to sitting back and watching it all unfold. The Eagles will share the trophy with someone, but they are not sure who that is. A win gives Appalachian a share of the trophy, but with a Wofford loss to Chattanooga, Appalachian would be declared the conference champion and would receive the automatic bid. A Wofford win and Appalachian would ensure a three way tie for the championship and the automatic bid would be determined once the final standings shake out. Raise your hands if you would have thought this Appalachian team would be in this situation after The Citadel game? After Wofford? Exactly. This conference race is easily the most intense in the history of the conference. Regardless, Appalachian has a chance to accomplish one of its goals it set forth at the beginning of the season, and they will have the opportunity in the comfy confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium on Black Saturday against the only team in the conference it has a losing record against. Can the Mountaineers finally break the 2012 curse that is the state of South Carolina?

That curse is the losing record Appalachian currently holds at home against the two other conference foes from the Palmetto State this season. In those games, Appalachian surrendered ninety points and 1,158 yards of total offense combined – 856 of those yards on the ground. The Mountaineers allowed points in seven of the eight quarters. They were out possessed by over twenty minutes in the two games. Luckily, the Mountaineers are probably done with option football in 2012, and will face a team that has a more traditional offense in the Paladins.

Furman’s offense is all about Jerodis Williams. The senior running back has had a great career, as he will probably finish his career in the top five all time in Furman history in rushing yardage. Williams is coming off of a 1,055 yard performance in 2011 where he scored nine rushing touchdowns. Williams began returning kickoffs halfway through the season and is also a threat in the passing game. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season against Western Carolina, Presbyterian and Wofford. Williams has hit the 1,000 yard mark this season as well in only nine games, which ranks him third in the conference behind only Eric Breitenstein and Stephen Miller. Williams has run for 85 yards or more in every game this season except one. Appalachian has done a great job on Jerodis in the past. During his freshman year, Appalachian was the only team on the schedule where Williams did not record an offensive statistic. Williams ran seven times for 59 yards against the Apps his sophomore year. Last season he was held to 48 yards on thirteen carries. Williams has scored a rushing touchdown against every team in the conference besides Appalachian. The same statistic was true with Eric Breitenstein two weeks ago before he broke through with two rushing touchdowns.

Furman is a team that is very young on the offensive side of the ball. They have one junior on the offensive line, while the rest of the front is manned by freshman and sophomores. Their starting fullback, an almost extinct position in football, is also a freshman. Another freshman, Reese Hannon is their starting quarterback, who took over for senior Dakota Derrick in the second game of the season. Hannon has put together a nice season, but one that is very typical of freshman quarterbacks. Hannon has thrown for 1,656 yards on the season with five interceptions and six touchdowns. However, four of his touchdown passes came in the overtime loss to Coastal Carolina. Hannon did not throw a touchdown pass in the entire month of October. Since his last touchdown pass, Hannon has thrown four interceptions and has seen his average yards per game drop from 234 yard per game in his first four starts to 179 yards per game in last four starts. Hannon is a pocket passer, but is mobile. He will run to buy time as the pocket breaks down, but will not dare run for yardage.

Hannon has some seasoned targets for receivers. Senior Will King leads the Paladins with 34 catches for 541 yard and three touchdowns. Tight end Colin Anderson was a preseason All-American by three different publications and was also a first team preseason SoCon selection. Teams have done a good job defending him this season as he only has caught 23 passes for 396 yards, compared to his junior season where he caught 40 balls for 696 yards and seven touchdowns. Anderson has yet to find the end zone this season. Junior Ryan Culbreath has added 28 catches for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Culbreath’s touchdowns came against Coastal Carolina.

Last week, we nailed just about everything we talked about. We let everyone know of Georgia Southern’s atrocious kicking game, which went on to miss three field goals. We talked up that Sean Price guy, and said Appalachian needed to get him the ball. When they did, good things happened to the tune of seven catches for 231 yards and a touchdown. If there is one thing we missed, was that Jamal Jackson should not play if he was not 100% healthy. We missed that one badly. Jackson calmly sat back in the pocket, took what the Eagles gave him, which equated to a career day. Jackson’s 383 passing yards were a career high, and was good enough for the eighth best passing yardage day by a Mountaineer in program history. Jackson continued to do what he always does when Appalachian wins, which is throw three touchdown passes and no interceptions. If it had not been for his injury against Western Carolina, he would easily be on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season, which has only happened twice in school history.

I remember sitting at the Chattanooga game in front of some of their fans when they asked me about Sean Price. The quote went like this, “What year is that #14, a senior?” The answer was polite and was received by a bunch or responses of disbelief. Sean Price is on the verge of doing something no freshman has ever done in school history. Only five Mountaineers have accumulated 1,000 receiving yards in a season in the black and gold. None of those men were freshman. The feat has been accomplished by some of the best including Bob Agle, Rick Beasley, Davon Foulkes, William Mayfield and Brian Quick. Mayfield benefited from a fifteen game season to accomplish his feat. The others played in twelve games or fewer. Price will be playing in his ninth game this Saturday and is only 86 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard mark. The Mountaineers are 6-0 when he catches a touchdown and 5-0 when he goes over 100 yards.

Stephen Miller had his second lowest rushing total of the season, but to say he was not effective is an understatement. Miller only carried nine times, but it was mostly a result of the Mountaineers being behind in the first half, and being able to move the ball in the air with ease. Miller did find the end zone for the tenth time this season and broke off a 26 yard run which was enough for Georgia Southern to respect the run and bought Jackson a few extra moments to find open receivers. Miller also caught two passes for twenty three yards. Even with only sixty rushing yards, Miller was effective, and that is all Appalachian needed from him on Saturday.

If anything, Appalachian should be motivated for this game. They easily could have packed it in last week, knowing their conference title hopes were slim. Georgia Southern was exactly what the Mountaineers needed to get back on track. They provided the extra spark that was necessary to beat the Eagles in their beloved back yard. Furman provides another type of motivation. Appalachian squandered multiple opportunities last year in Greeneville. The Mountaineers ventured into the Paladin red zone on many occasions and found themselves turning the ball over in one fashion or another. It was an ugly game that followed the emotional defeat of Georgia Southern the previous week at home. What that team earned by beating Southern last year was all lost in the loss to Furman. This Paladin squad does not have near the talent as last years team did. Their offensive youth and ineptitude in the defensive secondary should play heavily in the Mountaineers favor. Furman has allowed a touchdown pass in every game this season, and they rank 111th of 121 teams in defensive passing efficiency in the nation. Their defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing to every opponent outside of the pass heavy Elon and Presbyterian. As long as Appalachian can keep Jerodis Williams in check on kickoff returns, and not allow Furman to control the line of scrimmage, they should find themselves in the win column. The Paladins have had a week off to get ready for the Mountaineers and they have nothing to lose. Furman has not won in Boone since 1996, a very similar streak that Appalachian held over The Citadel. Hopefully the third time is the charm for the Mountaineers this season.

The First Pick:

Purple Pansies 28

Mountaineers 42

Appalachian Football @ Samford

Here we go with Week 7:

#13 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1 4th) @ #25 Samford (5-1, 3-1 T2) 

Time: 3pm EST

TV/Video: SamfordSports.com

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

Seibert Stadium         

Surface:  LSR Blade Synthetic Surface

Capacity: 6,700 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 60.82

SAM: 56.26

Home: 2.62 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 5-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Samford 17, October 22, 2011, Boone, NC

Accuweather Birmingham Gameday Weather Trends:

Pleasant with plenty of sun. Clear.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the lower 80’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 70’s

            Getting a win over Elon is something Appalachian has been able to do in football since 1964, spanning seventeen games. Getting away from Elon and their built up frustration of continuing to lose to Appalachian has been tougher for the Mountaineers. It has been awhile since Appalachian has come away from an Elon game without some major injuries. In the past, it has been Armanti Edwards and DeAndre Presley who have fallen victim to Elon and their questionable tactics. Elon did their best last season to knock out Jamal Jackson, but he was not having any of that business. However, this week, Appalachian lost its starters at center and bandit linebacker for several weeks. For whatever reason, these acts have continued over multiple graduating classes and coaching staffs and perhaps it will be easiest for Appalachian to leave the Southern Conference than for Elon to discontinue their ways. So we can add Alex Acey and Deuce Robinson to the list that includes Doug Middleton, Rod Chisholm and others who have been lost for significant parts of the season. The focus now turns to a very game Samford squad who is looking to do the same thing that Elon has not done since it entered the conference: beat Appalachian in football. Samford has not been around as long, but have provided some interesting games in their short time in the SoCon. All four contests have been competitive into the second half, yet Appalachian has taken the victory in each game. The last two games have resulted in the same final score. This game is huge for both teams, as a loss would give either team their second conference loss and all but eliminate them from the conference title. Can Appalachian make it five straight wins over the Bulldogs?

            Last season, we underestimated Samford’s passing game tremendously. Now graduated quarterback Dustin Taliaferro threw for 253 yards in the losing effort, but made tremendous strides from his junior to senior year. Current senior quarterback Andy Summerlin, who transferred from Memphis, has similar yardage numbers to Jamal Jackson, but without the hype. Summerlin has connected on 64% of his passes this season and went over 300 yards passing last week for the first time this season. However the conservative Samford offense has held him to only six touchdown passes this season, compared to Samford’s fourteen team rushing touchdowns. Summerlin is responsible for two of those rushing touchdowns. Summerlin has completed 21 to 23 passes in each game this season, despite his attempts fluctuating from 27 to 49. One issue for Appalachian is that they have not played against Summerlin on the field, and have only seen him on film. Sometimes it can take a half of football to understand player’s tendencies before being able to adjust. Getting pressure will be key for Appalachian. Both of his tackles on the offensive line are sophomores. Summerlin is a bigger quarterback, standing at 6’4 and 225 pounds and has been sacked eight times in the last three games, compared to zero sacks in the first three games.

            Somehow, Fabian Truss is still at Samford and still has another year of eligibility after this season. He was mainly a kick returner in his early career, but has accumulated six 100-yard rushing performances up to this point in his junior season, while still leading the SoCon in kickoff returns. Three of those performances have happened this season, against Furman, Western Carolina, and The Citadel. Truss’ first 100-yard game occurred in 2010 against Appalachian, when he carried six times for 100 yards, which included a 74-yard touchdown run. Last season, Truss was held in check by the Mountaineers for 16 carries and 65 yards. Truss had run for consecutive 100-yard games going into last year’s game against Appalachian. Truss is averaging nearly thirty yards per kickoff return this season, but Appalachian booted all six of its kickoffs out of the end zone last week. Appalachian leads the conference with 22 touchbacks on 36 kickoffs. Once again, the more the Mountaineers keep the ball out of Truss’ hands, the better. Kickoff returns are huge momentum plays in football, and the fewer times a team can return a kickoff, the fewer times they can make plays.

            Samford’s receivers are a very experienced unit. Leading the charge is Kelsey Pope with 31 catches, 317 yards and two touchdowns. Riley Hawkins is equally explosive with his 18 receptions for 292 yards and four touchdowns. Hawkins is easily the red zone threat as three of his four touchdowns have been shorter passes (5,14,20), while he caught an 82-yard touchdown catch last week against The Citadel. Hawkins has also averaged a very impressive 14.3 yards per punt return. Chris Cephus also has caught 18 passes for 281 yards and is more of a big play threat with his catches going for 15.6 yards on average.

            Despite losing the time of possession battle and being outplayed for a good portion of the game last week, Appalachian prevailed with timely defensive turnovers and fourth quarter touchdowns to defeat Elon. The Mountaineers allowed big performances to Thomas Wilson who threw for 419 yards and Aaron Mellete, who caught all three of Wilson’s touchdown passes, along with ten other passes that went for a total of 237 yards. Mellete was big in every game he played against Appalachian, but most importantly, he will end his career having never beaten the Mountaineers. Scott Riddle kept the seat warm for you Aaron. However, the game’s biggest performer was Jamal Jackson. For the first time in his career, Jackson threw for over 300 yards and won the game. His previous two 300-yard performances were losses to East Carolina and Furman. It was the second time in his career Jackson had thrown for four touchdown passes in a game, with the previous occurrence happening last season at Elon. Once again though, Jackson threw his customary interception. Jackson ran for a career high 94 yards on a career high 17 attempts. The rushing yardage was surprising considering the loss of Kameron Bryant, Jackson’s top backup, to a season ending injury the week before. However, Jackson does a really good job when he is running, getting out of bounds and avoiding hits when he called on to run. He never seems to put his body in jeopardy of the big hit which is something that is very tough to coach.

            Steven Miller turned out his second lowest rushing performance of the season, but also carried the ball only seventeen times, his second fewest carries of the season. Many of his carries were taken by Jackson, but the Mountaineers also saw the return of Rod Chisholm for the second straight game. Chisholm seemed to run harder this week on his carries and should be pretty close to 100% health. The emergence of Miller as a receiver has added another element to the Mountaineer passing game. Miller now has three receiving touchdowns on the season, all coming in the last two conference games. Miller is now up to 676 rushing yards and 181 receiving yards on the season. Andrew Peacock chipped in with a team high seven catches against Elon, giving him a team leading thirty reception on the year. Tony Washington only caught two passes, but made the best of them, which included a career long 54-yard touchdown reception where he broke several tackles before hitting the end zone. It was his first touchdown of the season.

            I have a high respect for Samford and their football team. They came into the conference and were a middle of the pack team from the start. They have played Appalachian tough in every game and have also beaten every team in the conference outside of Appalachian since they have joined. Summerlin and their passing game should be able to move the ball against the Mountaineers, who have given up the most passing yards in the conference this season. That number will probably even out once Appalachian runs into some of the more run-oriented teams in the conference, but nonetheless, the statistic exists. Samford leads the league in interceptions with 11, with Appalachian a close second with nine. I think those numbers are once again skewed based on schedule. Samford really has not run into any of the league’s better passing teams, with Appalachian owning the league’s top passing attack based on efficiency and yards per game. Gardner-Webb, who is 0-5, and averaging 228 yards per game in the air, threw for 320 yards on Samford. Six of Samford’s eleven picks have also come against inferior opponents. Three were picked off in the Furman game, on a quarterback that the Paladins are not even playing anymore. Another three interceptions came against West Alabama, a team who owns the 127th ranked passing offense in Division II. Western Carolina, Georgia Southern and The Citadel don’t exactly strike anyone as teams who as proficient in the forward pass. I think it is very possible Jamal Jackson continues his ways with opposing defenses. Jackson threw for 290 yards last season against the Bulldogs, and Travaris Cadet had his way with the Bulldog defense as well. I think Steven Miller is a better running back than Cadet. Samford gave up eight plays of twenty or more yards last year against Appalachian and I think that is where the Mountaineers will win the battle. I think Appalachian has better playmaking ability compared to all of the Samford offenses we have seen in the past. I believe you can almost count on Samford coach Pat Sullivan taking his chances if given the opportunity to jump on Appalachian quickly with a fourth down conversion attempt or fake field goal. Either way, I think the Mountaineers are the better team this weekend.

The First Pick:

Dogs from the Plains             27       

Mountaineers                         35


Coastal Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 5:

 Coastal Carolina (2-2) @ #17 Appalachian State (2-2, 1-1) 

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

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

Kidd Brewer Stadium         

Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 56.76

CCU: 48.09

Home: 2.38 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Appalachian 45, Coastal Carolina 28, November 25, 2006, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Plenty of clouds, chance for a shower, a storm perhaps. Bring rain gear.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

            We can break down last Saturday’s win over Chattanooga down in three phases. The first phase included the Appalachian team that appeared to be as bad as the team that played the week before. The second phase included a team that we had seen before: a feisty bunch that was going to play tough defense and fight to win a game. The final phase included the basic ingredients of an opportunistic defense and an offense that makes teams pay for their mistakes. Chattanooga made quick work of Appalachian with its early 10-0 lead, but the Mountaineer defense was strong enough to keep the deficit at ten, and not let it expand to fourteen points. Part of that was due to the ineptitude of an offensive attack by the Mocs, something that has plagued them in the Russ Huesman years. His teams have either been able to run or pass, but generally not excel at both aspects of offensive football. It was evident that the younger Huesman, Jacob, had some straight line speed and escapability, but was never able to really find a groove. Terrell Robinson did not see significant time outside of a couple snaps at wide receiver until the game was decided. Last week, the Mountaineers won, but they didn’t do it alone. They had a lot of help from the other sideline as well.

            Coastal Carolina enters the game having played a variety of opponents. They followed a tougher-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina A&T, with a surprise upset of Furman. Coastal was cruising with an eleven point lead entering the fourth quarter and led by ten points with less than five minutes to play. The Chanticleers gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes to trail by three before tying the game with a field goal as time expired. Coastal won in the third overtime with its defense as Furman failed the mandatory two point attempt on the last play of the game. Coastal then lost to then 20th ranked Eastern Kentucky at home in a rout and also lost last week at Toledo, despite hanging tight. The first thought was that Coastal might be getting the season together, but you have to look deeper. Toledo is currently 108th in total defense and 103rd in FBS against the pass. Playing Coastal Carolina actually helped their defensive numbers. Toledo has given up 614, 513, 351, 432 yards, respectively this season, to their opponents Arizona (12th total offense), Wyoming (73rd), Bowling Green (104th), and Coastal (36th FCS). Toledo is not exactly stopping anyone these days. I think Toledo might have even held up against the Chanticleers as well. The Rockets only put up 402 yards themselves against Coastal while averaging 429 yards on offense a game this season. Several people want to put a lot of stock into the most recent game, but I just can’t buy it. It’s almost the same way I feel about Appalachian right now as well.  

            The Chanticleers have gone all-in on their quarterback Aramis Hillary, the younger brother of former Appalachian wide receiver/kick returner CoCo Hillary. Last season, Aramis rushed the ball ten or more times twice, while this year he has hit the ten carry mark three times, averaging 11.5 carries per game. Last season, Hillary averaged 7.4 rushes per contest. Despite more opportunities to run the ball, his effectiveness has not carried over. Compare his 2011 and 2012 numbers: 3.3 ypc to 1.8 ypc. Knowing these numbers include yardage lost while being sacked, one can also see that Hillary is throwing the ball more this season than last. Hillary has attempted 27 or more passes in every game this season while only eclipsing that number twice in 2011. Those numbers eventually equal 15 more pass attempts per game this season that last year. Hillary is well on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season with well over twenty touchdown passes. Last week against Toledo, Hillary tossed for a career high 356 yards and three touchdown passes. Hillary has only thrown nine interceptions in his last fifteen games, but seven of those interceptions have come in his last six starts. .

            Hillary spreads the ball around the field quite well. His top three receivers have 19 catches or more through four games. Matt Hazel has 20 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Demario Bennett (19/232/2) and Niccolo Mastromatteo (20/214/1) have also contributed. Tyrell Banks has accumulated 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown while running back Jeremy Height has 12 catches for 81 yards. Hazel and Bennett provide some size at the position with both being over 6’2 and 190 pounds. The Coastal Carolina running game is not much to talk about. They will run so they can keep the pressure off of Hillary, but still, their offensive line has given up 2.5 sacks a game.

            Steven Miller continues to carry the rushing attack for Appalachian. I was expecting Chattanooga to be able to hold him down better than they did last Saturday. Miller carried 22 times for 94 yards and caught a 35 yard touchdown pass from Jamal Jackson as time was winding down in the second quarter. With those numbers, Miller has already eclipsed his numbers from last year in all three major categories, attempts, yards and touchdowns. Miller is averaging 21 attempts per game this season and has 399 total rushing yards. There is word that Rod Chisholm might be available this weekend, but I wouldn’t rush him back, especially considering how well Miller is running.

            Jamal Jackson bounced back from a first quarter interception to once again post nice numbers. The interception seems to be the norm for Jackson at this point in his career, as he has eleven interceptions in as many career games. As long has he throws three touchdown passes a game like he did against Chattanooga, those interceptions will be forgotten. Jackson is completing 65% of his passes this season and has thrown for 992 yards. In games Appalachian has won this season, Jackson has five touchdown passes and one interception, compared to the losses, he has two interceptions and zero touchdown passes. A big part of those two wins is freshman sensation Sean Price. People want to make comparisons to Brian Quick, but Price has a completely different skill set. Price uses his legs to run away from defenders where Quick used his body to shield the defense. Price has 18 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns in two games and is a pivotal part of the Mountaineer offense. Price made an exceptional play in the fourth quarter when he came out of nowhere to snag a sure interception away from Chattanooga, and also scored on the catch. Now that his suspension is finally over, hopefully the Mountaineer offense can really take off in the coming weeks.

We still have seen some inconsistent play from the Mountaineer offense. Remember that 21 Mountaineer points were scored directly off of Chattanooga turnovers. Only three Mountaineer drives reached the end zone and one started at the fourteen yard line. In the first half, two of those red zone drives resulted in three points. Appalachian is not going to run into many teams in the next few weeks that they will beat with a sputtering offense. Hopefully having everyone back in the fold on game day for the rest of the season will provide some much needed chemistry. This is Appalachian’s last test before six straight conference games to end the season. Appalachian needs a hard fought convincing win. I would rather not see a blowout of any sort. Coastal Carolina seems to have the right offense to keep the game interesting for a long time. However, I think this is a game that is won in the trenches. If the Mountaineer defense can contain another mobile quarterback like Hillary and keep the Chanticleers in long yardage situations, they will be successful. Chattanooga had 27 first down plays on Saturday night and twelve of them gained no yardage, or even lost yards. Another nine plays went for three yards or less. I would like to see the pass rush from Appalachian continue their ways from last week. Appalachian had four sacks last week, doubling their season total prior to the game. I think the Mountaineers will run to a victory this weekend, especially in a game where rain could be a factor.

The First Pick:

Birds from the Beach            24       

Mountaineers                         34

Montana @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 2:

#12 Montana (1-0) @ #11 Appalachian State (0-1)

Time: 6:30pm

TV/Video: ESPN Gameplan/ESPN3

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

Kidd-Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 61.71

UM: 66.77

Home: 3 points

Montana is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 points (rounded).

Series: Montana leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Montana 24, Appalachian 17, December 9, 2009, Missoula, MT

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Most Cloudy to Cloudy Skies. Rain a strong possibility for the game

Kickoff: Temperatures in the upper 60’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the mid 60’s


Last week, we compared two football programs and their ups and downs since their last meeting, which was three seasons ago. Similarly, the team that ended Appalachian’s season back in 2009 is the program they will face this weekend in their home opener. For only the third time ever, Appalachian and Montana, two of the best programs in FCS/I-AA history will play a football game. The previous two games were dandies, both basically decided on the games final play. Erasing the image of Jimmy Farris catching the game clinching touchdown over Appalachian All-American Corey Hall will always be tough. Perhaps even tougher, most of us watched Armanti Edwards play his final game as a collegian in a blizzard on television, thousands of miles from home. This time around, Montana finally hits the road to play the Mountaineers; the first such meeting between the two schools in the regular season. Montana was able to escape from South Dakota last week while the Mountaineers fell to East Carolina in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. Montana seems to be the same team they always have been, a power running team that will dominate the line of scrimmage, while Appalachian looked much like its former self, compiling 419 yards of offense despite only scoring three times. Only once last year did Appalachian eclipse that yardage mark on the road: Jamal Jackson’s first start against The Citadel.

Appalachian has been performed well historically in home openers. Appalachian has won 75% of their home openers overall and are 20-3 under Jerry Moore. Those three losses are significant to Appalachian’s performance as the season goes on. In 1993, Appalachian fell to Liberty 20-14. That is the only season that Moore has coached an Appalachian football team to a losing record (4-7). In 2000, Appalachian lost to Troy State 34-28, but would exact revenge on the Trojans in the first round of the playoffs 33-30. Appalachian eventually lost to Montana in the semifinals. And most recently, in 2009, the Mountaineers fell to McNeese State 40-35, and guess what happened that year? Appalachian lost to Montana in the semifinals. So if Appalachian loses on Saturday, what can we predict for Appalachian for the remainder of the season? Well a 33% chance of a losing record, and 66% chance we make the playoffs and have to go on the road to eventually play Montana again.

It has been well documented, how Appalachian had to replace a lot of coaches since the end of the 2011 season. Montana may have had it worse than Appalachian. A rash of player misconduct off the field in Montana led to the eventual firing of former football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletics director Jim O’Day. Several players were disciplined which included some dismissals. The Boone and Missoula communities are very alike, in that the towns revolve around football, and negative press is not something than many know how to deal with. Hopefully this weekend, both schools can put it all behind them and enjoy the game of football once again.

Montana’s win over South Dakota last weekend was a little eye opening. Not because it was a good win, but because the Griz had to come back from a halftime deficit to win. South Dakota is in their first year as a playoff eligible team in 2012. Their high point in 2011 was a win over Eastern Washington, but it is tough to judge statistics from last season’s schedule, one that was full of creampuffs and money games. Regardless, Montana ran for 315 yards against the Coyotes and advanced the ball in the air for another 253 yards. The Griz racked up 34 first downs, and had two players hit the century mark on the ground, but turned the ball over three times.

Redshirt sophomore Trent McKinney was 26/32 passing the ball for 214 yards which included two touchdowns and one interception. McKinney also ran the ball thirteen times for 65 yards in his first career game. Peter Nguyen averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his nineteen rushes and Dan Moore averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his twenty seven attempts. Both running backs scored a touchdown. Nguyen and Moore are also capable targets out of the backfield, combining for six catches against South Dakota. Wide receiver Sam Gratton caught five passes for forty-two yards and also threw a touchdown pass, a 39 yard score to Bryce Carver. Sean Hayes added another five catches for fifty three yards. The intermediate passing game from Montana could provide some issues for the Mountaineers with their injury concerns. Although the Mountaineers looked good against East Carolina, it was the tight ends and backs that did the most damage against Appalachian.

The Mountaineers fared better than the final score against East Carolina on Saturday. The game brings back memories from the Marshall game in 2002. A one possession ball game late in the third quarter in both instances got out of hand on one play. In 2002, Josh Jeffries was all over a Marshall fumble that would have given the Mountaineers the ball deep in Herd territory down only six points. Jeffries couldn’t possess the ball before it went out of bounds, and on the very next play, Marshall scores on a long touchdown pass and the rout was on. After pulling within a point Saturday, Appalachian gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and any momentum the Mountaineers gained was lost in the heat and humidity of Greenville.

Jamal Jackson looked good even despite his one interception. The interception wasn’t a bad throw, it must have slipped out of his hands, but he had a receiver open behind the defense and was trying to make a play. He scored the only Mountaineer touchdown on a four yard run in the first quarter and finished the game with 300 yards passing. If there is a concern in Jackson’s eight career starts, it is that he has thrown at least one interception six times. In both instances where he did not throw a touchdown pass in a game, Appalachian lost on both occasions; the other being Furman last year.

The big story coming out of Greenville was the injuries the Mountaineers suffered. Rod Chisholm was lost to a broken hand until the leaves change colors and Doug Middleton was lost for the season due to a broken bone in his foot. At both positions, running back and defensive back, Appalachian was already suffering some injuries, with Stephen Miller working his way back into shape and Rodger Walker dealing with his illness.

Appalachian owes Montana one after all these years. A regular season win over Montana may not heal the wounds of the past, but it will do a great deal for Appalachian team that needs a marquee win over a team of relevance in the FCS. However, Montana’s record east of the Mississippi is about as bad as Appalachian’s is west of the muddy waters. Montana will not feel the effects of the time difference as it would in an earlier game, but they may have played right into Appalachian’s hand. Many have been witnesses to night games at The Rock, and for whatever reason, it brings out a different type of Mountaineer team. Some of the most special nights, and higher points totals in recent memory were games that started in the early to late evening. We know them simple as one name. Richmond. Halloween. Will Montana be added to that list? It all depends on the play from the Appalachian defense. With a freshman on the road for his first start in a hostile environment, Montana will most likely try to kill the crowd and the clock with long drives by establishing a run game. Jeremy Kimbrough, Brandon Grier, Troy Sanders and Patrick Blalock must be ready to attack the line of scrimmage and force the Grizzlies into long yardage situations. Those four combined for 40 of 80 total tackles and 21 of the 40 solo stops against East Carolina. In fact, all of Grier’s nine tackles were solo stops. In those long yardage plays, Ronald Blair, Davante Harris and Deuce Robinson need to apply pressure and make McKinney throw the ball when he does not want to. The Appalachian offense needs to find a rhythm early and attack the Montana defense straight on. In a game of this magnitude, the team that plays with a greater passion and desire will come out on top. Hopefully, those players will have big block “A” on their helmets.

The First Pick:

Care Bears 24

Mountaineers 28