Here we go with Week 11:
Furman (3-6, 2-4 7th) @ #12 Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 T2)
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
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
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