Here we go with Week 4:
#17 Appalachian State (1-2, 0-1) @ Chattanooga (1-2, 0-1)
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
Surface: Polyethylene FieldTurf
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3.41 points
Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by ½ point (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 25-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 14, Chattanooga 12, September 24, 2011, Boone, NC
WXAPP’s Chattanooga Gameday Weather Trends:
Partly Cloudy, small risk for isolated shower
Kickoff: Temperatures in the upper 70’s to low 80’s
End of Game: Temperatures in the upper 60’s
Words cannot describe what Mountaineer fans have had to go through in the last few days. This program has received few beatings at home like they did last weekend. We all know about recent playoff losses that got out of control. However, this one beats all the rest. This was a loss that transcends postseason play and can only bring back memories of some of the all-time worst losses. This was not Furman or Georgia Southern. This was a team that Appalachian had pretty much owned for forty contests. This takes you back to losses that should have never happened. The outcome is one thing. Most fans can understand a game where both teams played well, and eventually, one team has to lose in the end. The way this loss happened is unexplainable. We saw what The Citadel was able to do against Georgia Southern and knew that the Bulldogs were catching up, but wrote it off as two option teams playing one another. Eventually someone had to win. Appalachian gave up 618 yards at home, while Georgia Southern gave up 253 to the same team on the road. Something about that is not right. There really is not any other way to say it. Somehow, we all move forward to a game that both teams, Appalachian and Chattanooga, have to consider must wins. Chattanooga’s schedule includes a non-Division I game that will not count toward victories needed for the playoffs. Appalachian cannot fall to 0-2 in conference play and have a chance at the title, considering this conference race just got wacky this past weekend.
Chattanooga has faced all of their non-conference opponents in a descending order of talent. They started with a loss FBS South Florida on the road before visiting Jacksonville State. The Gamecocks managed a three point win in a game that Chattanooga battled back from a 17-0 deficit in the second quarter. The game was destined for overtime when the Mocs tied the score at 24 with 39 seconds remaining. Jacksonville State worked into field goal range and kicked home the game winner with no time on the clock. Last Thursday night, Chattanooga controlled Glenville State for a 35-0 win that was more lopsided than the final score. That game saw Chattanooga unveil their bag of tricks, with passes to the quarterback lined up at receiver.
After Appalachian beat down Chattanooga quarterback BJ Coleman last year, Terrell Robinson took over and started in five games and eventually won SoCon Freshman of the Year honors. Robinson is adept at the zone read and is particularly elusive in the open field. Robinson finished with 417 yards rushing and 336 passing last season. This year, in two games, he has 33 rushing yards, 57 passing yards, and 52 receiving yards. Robinson, who goes by “Silk”, quit the team after the USF loss on a Tuesday. He was unsure of how his role with the team was going to play out with freshman Jacob Huesman, son of Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman, and he splitting playing time. Chattanooga fully intended to utilize a two quarterback system. Robinson had a change of heart within twenty four hours and was accepted back on the team, but did not play at Jacksonville State. Instead, Robinson was awarded time at receiver against Glenville State. Somehow, this two quarterback system might work itself out, but having the coach and his son involved will be an interesting story line for Mocs fans in the coming seasons.
Because of the two-headed quarterback, Chattanooga has completely changed their offensive philosophy in less than a year. When BJ Coleman was at the helm, The Mocs were a pass happy team. Now, Jacob Huesman and Robinson run a very balanced attack, but leans heavily toward the run. In three games, the Mocs have averaged fifty rushing attempts per contest, while grinding out 173 yards on the ground a game. Huesman leads the team with 213 total rushing yards. Huesman has also added 473 yards passing. If the Mocs can run on Appalachian, which seems easier to do nowadays, they will do it at will. Coach Huesman has always preferred a possession ballgame against Appalachian. He wants to burn the clock and give the Mountaineers fewer opportunities to score.
One has to take a long look to find any positives from last weekend. Stephen Miller’s 167 yards rushing with three touchdowns is a bright spot only because something had to be. Miller is now up to 305 yards and five touchdowns on the season, with all but 47 yards coming at home. Miller has only one good showing on the road wearing the black and gold, and that was against The Citadel last year. His other road rushing performances include: 15 yards against Va. Tech, 28 at Wofford, -1 at Furman, -2 at Elon. Miller seems to be fitting in the offense better than last year, but will perhaps see the best defense he has seen all season on Saturday. The Mocs are only allowing 106 yards a game on the ground, good enough for 29th nationally.
After what was one of his best performances as a Mountaineer, Jamal Jackson fell to earth with a dud in his tenth career start. For the first time, he was unable to reach 200 yards passing in a game. For the seventh time in his career, he threw an interception in a game. That is starting to become an unhealthy trend. In ten games started, Jackson has thrown an interception in all but three games. Conversely, he has also has thrown touchdowns in the same 7:3 ratio. Seven games with touchdown passes, three without. In those three games where Jackson did not throw a touchdown pass, Appalachian’s record speaks for itself: 0-3. Jackson is 6-4 as a starter, but three of those losses have come in his last four games played. Statistics are nice and look pretty and sell newspapers, but eventually, you have to put your team in position to win football games.
The Appalachian defense had its worst performance in decades. There are not many games where the Mountaineers give up 52 points, three 100-yard rushers and 7.3 yards per carry. It was an all-around ugly display. Either this is a sign of things to come, or this game is a complete aberration. We won’t know which the case is until we get a few more games played on the schedule, but until then, I am leaning toward the pessimistic view. The team will probably have a nice bounce back game this weekend. Surely will not expect or predict a blowout, but I can see a win. What is worrisome are the emotional highs and lows that may come with the rest of this season. It appears this team suffered from a very emotional high after the Montana win. It makes one wonder if this team actually believed in itself. What they need desperately is a tough hard fought win where a lead is never comfortable. If the Mountaineers come to the field every Saturday and are prepared for battle, then this season will bring success. There are not any easy games in this conference anymore. Most of these players on this team were recruited when Appalachian winning by large margins was the norm. The talent gap between the top and bottom of this conference has shrunk significantly in a short amount of time. Chattanooga has been dangerous since Russ Huesman has been coaching. Each game during the Huesman era between Appalachian and Chattanooga has been decided in fourth quarter and expecting anything different this weekend is foolish. One of these teams will end up with their third loss on Saturday, with little room for error for the remainder of the season. Hopefully that team is not Appalachian.
The First Pick:
Birds on a Train 22