Here we go with Week 9:
Chattanooga (6-2, 4-1) @ Appalachian State (2-6, 2-3)
Time: 3:30 pm
TV/Video: AppState TV
Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 48.56
Chattanooga is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 5 points (rounded).
Series: Appalachian leads 26-10
Last Meeting: Appalachian 34, Chattanooga 17, September 22, 2012, Chattanooga
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends for the “Dirty”:
Mix of clouds, breezy, gusty and chance for a shower
Temps in lower 40’s for tailgate, warming to the mid 50’s by kickoff. Low 50’s end of game
For as many bad breaks and bounces, the Mountaineers endured most of the season; it seemed to turn around all at once for Appalachian in a game against its biggest rival. Neither Georgia Southern or Appalachian are the same teams they have been in the past, for various reasons. It was terribly noticeable at times, with countless penalties and otherwise sloppy play. The passion on the field was not missing. You could sense it in the air on Saturday that both teams badly wanted to beat the other. Perhaps the turning point occurred on the Eagles second drive when an illegal block was called on an Eagle lineman, with Southern up 7-0 and driving. This play put the Eagles behind the chains with a 2nd down and 23 yards to gain. Eventually the Eagles had to punt, and the Mountaineers went to work on the Eagle secondary. Kam Bryant completed three of four passes on the drive for 70 yards and ran twice for fourteen yards, including the equalizing touchdown that tied the game. The Mountaineers struck quickly, in an old fashioned drive that lasted less than two minutes. The following Mountaineer drive saw Appalachian penalized for 40 yards, but in effect they were good penalties. A couple of them were borderline, which forced the crowd into the game. Appalachian persevered through it all, eventually gaining 96 yards on the 15 play drive that technically only covered 56 yards due to penalties. In a strange way, despite the penalties, those extra plays got the Mountaineers in rhythm that carried them to a 38-14 blasting of Georgia Southern. The big thing about those flags that were thrown on that drive is that they were not procedural, but plays of passion and hustle that got the crowd back in the game. So what if Marcus Cox tried to get the crowd going when he was twenty yards away from the playing field? He was not taunting the other team. Shaq Counts may have held a little bit, but it is on the official to make the call. Everyone holds in football, sometimes you just get unlucky. What is important is that the Mountaineers have not quit, because any day Georgia Southern loses is a good day, especially when the Mountaineers win.
Before we get too overly confident and ahead of ourselves, we must understand how this game unfolded. Georgia Southern is down this year, primarily to blame due to the injured list. Without Jerrick McKinnon, the Eagles were a different team. McKinnon is a workhorse, and the attention a defense has to give to him opens up things for the rest of their offense. Without him, the Eagles became average on offense. The Georgia Southern defense played well overall, outside of the yardage they allowed to the Mountaineers. Several Mountaineer passes were well defended and were just beyond the outstretched fingertips of many Eagle defensive backs. On other instances, Eagle defenders were knocking each other down at the spot where a pass was completed which could have resulted in fewer completions for the Mountaineers. At times, Bryant was looking so good it was almost hard to believe how the Eagles didn’t get more hands on his passes.
Last week, our thoughts were that Appalachian could have missed their last chance to win a game for the remainder of the season. It is easy now to come off those statements. Once again, anytime you beat Georgia Southern, it makes you think differently. Looking back after seven games, it’s possible that the new Mountaineer offense needed to use some games to really get their feet under them, after losing two starters that were expected to produce on a weekly basis. Kam Bryant has played well this season, considering he has completed 67% of his passes in seven of the eight games he has played in. In three games, he has completed over 80% of his passes. Saturday was easily his best game, combing accuracy with passes of all distances, throwing for nearly 400 yards, and most importantly, not turning the football over. For the game, eleven of Bryant’s twenty-seven attempts were completed for 15 yards or longer.
Chattanooga has slowly climbed the ranks over the last half decade, trying to return to some level of competiveness in the conference. This year appears to be the year they have made the final push to return to relevancy. The Mocs opened the season with an ugly loss to UT-Martin that put their playoffs hopes in jeopardy, even if it was still August. Chattanooga already had a whale of schedule, with two FBS teams on the road, and two unconvincing non-conference opponents at home. Eventually, they were going to have to win same games that they had not been winning in the past to make a postseason push. Luckily, the Mocs throttled Georgia State in their second game, and have only suffered one hiccup since then, a two point loss to Georgia Southern. Chattanooga now sits at 6-2, but has three road games remaining, one being this weekend against Appalachian, which is followed by a trip to first place Samford, a home game against tricky Wofford, and then a trip to see Nick Saban and his elephants down in Tuscaloosa. The Mocs could easily be 6-6 in a month, or they could be sitting at 8-4, squarely on the playoff bubble. Either way, Chattanooga will be hungry this weekend for their first win in Boone since Ronald Reagan was in his first term as commander in chief.
Chattanooga has always been a tough test over the years for Appalachian. Even though the Mountaineers have won their last four games against Chattanooga, none have been really easy. Two games were decided by a combined three points, and two others were double digit margin of victories for the Mountaineers, but were played closer than the score indicated. The reasoning behind that is improved defensive play for the Mocs. To date, the Mocs have only given up 17.6 points per game, which is pretty good in this era of college football. Granted, their schedule to date has not been a powerhouse one. After allowing 31 points in the opener, the Mocs have held every opponent to 24 points or less, and three teams were held to 10 points or fewer. Chattanooga likes to shorten the game on offense, thus keeping their defense fresh and able to attack the quarterback. The Mocs are second in the conference in time of possession and third in sacks with 13, which equates to a sack every 14 times the opponents drop back to pass.
If you want to stop the Mocs, you must get in the face of Jacob Huesman, the quarterback and son of the head coach. Huesman is the Mocs leading rusher with 127 attempts, but trails injured running back Keon Williams by 39 yards. The ball is going to be in Huesman’s hands on every play from scrimmage, but about 35 times a game, he will be the one making the final decision, whether that be by running or throwing. Huesman rushes less often on the road, averaging 14.6 carries compared to at home, where he averages nearly 17 carries per game. Huesman also has lower numbers passing on the road, as he has yet to hit 100 yards passing in any game. Huesman has four passing games over 100 yards, all at home. It’s all in the numbers. Contain Huesman, and the Apps will have given themselves a chance to win. Offensively, the Mountaineers will have to do what they did last weekend. Bryant does not need 381 yards passing, but he needs to continue to be his accurate self and take care of the ball. The Mountaineers must also remain committed to the running game. Marcus Cox has proven he will get his yards steadily, and sometimes in bunches. It is amazing to think his longest carry of the year is only 23 yards, but we all know he has that ability to break a long one at the drop of a hat. Lastly, this game is all about tackling. The Appalachian defense attacked the ball well and wrapped up against Southern. Six Mountaineers had eight stops or more and none of them were John Law. Doug Middleton had his best game, probably of his career, along with Deuce Robinson. Middleton made seven solo stops, including one tackle for loss, a forced fumble, and an interception. Robinson had the lone sack, which was included in 3.5 tackles for loss and nine total tackles. This game will not be about offense, but which defense plays better. This one could be a high or low scoring game, but neither team is going to walk away with this one. The margin may ten points or greater, but it will be a one possession game in the fourth quarter.
The First Pick: