App State Football vs UL-Monroe

Appalachian State (5-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) vs UL-Monroe (4-3, 2-2 Sun Belt)

Saturday, October 30th, 2021 3:30pm EST

TV/Video: ESPN+

Radio: 97.3 FM North Wilkesboro, 96.5 FM/1450 AM Boone, 1320 AM Greensboro, 107.7FM/1450 AM Hendersonville, Varsity Network App

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: AstroTurf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 73.75

Monroe: 54.46

Home: 2.60

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21.89 points

Line: App State -27

Series: App State leads 5-1

Last Meeting: App State 31, Monroe 13, October 31, 2020, Monroe, LA

It’s hard to explain, why from one week to the next in football, a team can go from world beaters, to looking like they can’t beat anyone in the world. We presume to know what is going to happen from one week to the next, but we’ll never get there, and that is why we keep tuning in. Better than just tuning into the radio or television, is attending in person. Not everyone can do it every week, no matter the day of the week. The smallest crowd this year at Kidd Brewer Stadium was on a Thursday, when 28,377 attended. Intense crowd, great atmosphere. Elon on a Saturday: 30,224. Well darn, pretty good. Coastal Carolina on Wednesday: 31,061. Oh man. The stadium’s capacity is listed at 30,000. The Kidd Brewer average this year is 29,887. Athletics sent out an awesome tweet that included additional information. We are a football hungry school. We missed it last year, and are showing to the country what our team means to us. Just think about those numbers for a minute. Two of games were won by field goals and defense in the fourth quarter. That makes a huge difference in the outcome. We have not had those type of finishes often at The Rock, but it’s no surprise that when the team needed the help, we were there.

The resurgent Warhawks have been buoyed by improved coaching this season. Some were surprised that Terry Bowden found another job after the disaster at Akron, where he coached seven seasons and accumulated a 35-52 record. Fact is, Bowden had been a winner everywhere he coached, so success to date should not be all that newsworthy. Bowden did a decent job at Akron, just couldn’t get over the hump and stay there. That is the same challenge that Monroe faces for the remainder of the season. They are over .500 for the first time this late in the season since 2018, where they went 6-4 before losing their final two games. That was the last time the Warhawks had a legitimate chance of going to a bowl game. That road to a bowl game and six wins is possible, but it will be a long one. With five games remaining on their schedule, Monroe will be traveling for four of those games, and decided underdogs in three of them. Still, games at Texas State and back home for Arkansas State will be tossups.

Monroe began the season with Rhett Rodriguez as their starting quarterback. His father Rich Rodriguez is Monroe’s offensive coordinator. Father Rodriguez and Terry Bowden both played at West Virginia and coached at Salem College, but never at the same time. Rhett began his college career at Arizona, where his father was coaching prior to his dismissal. Rhett continued at Arizona and played sparingly before transferring to Monroe. During the win over Troy, Rhett was injured and suffered a punctured lung, and spent time in the ICU. He has yet to return to the field, which has paved the way for Chandler Rogers, who has appeared in every game this season. Despite starting Rogers against Coastal, Monroe still played backups Colby Suits and Jiya Wright. The same happened the following week against Georgia State. In the wins against Liberty and South Alabama, it was all Rogers. He took all the snaps in both games. All eight of Rogers’s touchdown passes have come in the last three games, along with averaging 267 yards passing in the last three. His 369 yards and four touchdowns were especially impressive against a South Alabama team that been known for a decent defense. Yet, the Jaguars have given up 33 to Texas State and 41 to Monroe in their last two road games.

The running game for the Warhawks can be deceiving when looking at statistics. Their offensive tempo leads to a lot of plays, and they have been scoring sporadically this season. Production has increased the last few weeks, but the first four contests of the season were especially rough. It’s almost hard to believe how bad they were during those games, yet still remained committed to it. Against Kentucky, Jackson State, Troy and Coastal, the Warhawks ran the ball 156 times for just 305 yards. That comes to less than 2 yards per carry. Two! Those next three games, Monroe ran 122 times for 570 yards, for a respectable 4.67 yard average. Conversely, yards gained via the pass also steadily increased in games five through seven. In the first four games, Monroe’s highest passing output was 168 yards against Troy. In the last three games, the fewest passing yards in a game was 225 against Liberty. Makes you wonder what caused the sudden increase in points and yards. The Rhett Rodriguez injury, scary as it was, may have been the catalyst for the offense. Or, Monroe has suddenly got things in gear after being beaten by Coastal, and playing three straight home games.

Flip the page. We are going from not talking about the game from two weeks ago to not being able to avoid the conversation this week. The running game put up the quietist 228 yards in recent memory. No back eclipsed 100 yards, but they didn’t need to. The night belonged to Chase Brice and Malik Williams. Brice provided a huge bounce back game with 347 passing yards and two touchdowns. He also added a very robust 34 yards on the ground on five carries. Malik Williams had a career night with ten receptions for 206 yards. Once the Mountaineers found the matchup they wanted, they exploited it time and time again. Corey Sutton tacked on a perfect night with six catches on six targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. Beyond that 575 yard output by the offense, it was the defense that kept the Mountaineers within striking distance after falling behind. The specials teams obviously played a role with the onside kickoff recovery that completely flipped momentum. The defense stood tall after App turned the ball over on downs, and fumbled in the second quarter, holding the Chants to just two field goals. Coastal scored just one touchdown in the second half, and were held to 30 yards on four possessions outside of that scoring drive.

So, who exactly are these Warhawks that App State will face on Saturday? They have been completely stymied by teams such as Kentucky, which can be expected. The Jackson State win by a 12-7 score was certainly interesting. But it was the Troy game that got the attention of the conference. Then the next two weeks, we saw the Monroe that everyone expected, getting beat handily by Coastal and Georgia State. Really the only outlier on their entire schedule to date is the Georgia State game. It represents their only home loss. Among peer games, there is an argument that Georgia State may be one of the more well-rounded teams in the conference, even though their record does not reflect. And Georgia State might also be the team that most resembles App State, that the Warhawks have played. As in, teams that prefer to establish the run and play sound defense. Among all opponents, every team that Monroe played were able to put some numbers on their defense. Kentucky, Troy and South Alabama all went for over 300 yards passing. Coastal, Georgia State and Liberty ran for 250 or more yards on Monroe’s 114th ranked defense that gives up over 6.27 yards per play this season. Some of those yards have been made up by turnover margin, as the Warhawks are +1.29 turnovers a game this year, which is fifth in the nation. Perhaps it takes App State a possession or two to figure out how to attack Monroe? Or the Mountaineers could come out slow like they did for Elon. App State has lost the turnover battle a couple times this season, which has kept games like East Carolina, Marshall, and Coastal maybe closer than they should be. Finally, the kickoff temperatures of the last three Monroe home games have been 81, 68 and 83 degrees respectively. The forecast is looking pretty icky on Saturday in Boone, with a high temperature in the mid-40s, with rain showers expected. A less than ideal situation for the visiting Warhawks.

The First Pick

ChickenHawks 16

Mountaineers 35

Appalachian Football @ Louisiana-Monroe

Appalachian State (5-3, 4-0 Sun Belt) vs Louisiana-Monroe (3-5, 3-3 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 4th, 2017 3:00pm 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

JPS Field at Malone Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf Revolution

Capacity: 30,000

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 64.28

Monroe: 52.05

Home: 2.14

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 10 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -9.5

Series: App State leads 3-0

Last meeting: App State 42, Monroe 17, November 19th, 2016

          What is they say about winning? Plenty of people have said many things about winning over the years. Vince Lombardi called it a “habit”. Lombardi called it the “only thing”. Kareem-Abdul Jabbar said you can’t win unless you learn how to lose. Mia Hamm was quoted, “Whoever said winning isn’t everything, never won anything”. All those are great, but my favorite line ever is by Vin Scully: Losing feels worse than winning feels good. That nails it every time. As Mountaineer football fans, over the years, we have walked out of a lot more stadiums with a smile on our face, than we have with a frown. But those frowns, they are the worst. They can ruin a lot more than the next few minutes, but sometimes the next few hours, and sometimes it can linger for a couple days even. Luckily, there are more games to play. Strike that. Thankfully there are more games to play. Truth is, the Mountaineers have been tight roping it for the last month. All it was going to take was a slight lean one way or the other, and it was going to come crashing down. But, there is plenty left at stake. Plenty of time to pick up the pieces, and plenty of time to figure out how to get back up and start the next streak. The pride of Appalachian will not allow this little bump in the road to get the best of us.

         Although the Monroe season started with losses to Memphis (7-1), and Southern Miss (5-3), they looked good in those losses and it appeared that Matt Viator was turning it around. A game with Florida State was cancelled as well, and is doubtful to be played unless the Seminoles need a win for bowl eligibility. After that start, the Warhawks followed with three straight wins in Sun Belt play, most notably over Louisiana, and were averaging nearly 51 points per game in those contests. But then, the bottom fell out. Three straight losses followed and the Warhawks were scoring less than 28 points per contest. Their defense was allowing fewer points, but the offense was not sustaining their earlier success.

          The story for Monroe is their offense, plain and simple. The Warhawks are at the top of Sun Belt in many offensive categories, including 2nd in scoring, total offense, and rushing offense. They rank third in the Sun Belt in passing offense. Freshman Marcus Green is second in the conference in all purpose yards, and is the only freshman in the top ten of that category. He does it all, returning kickoffs and punts, and has carried the load in the air, leading the team with 455 receiving yards and three touchdowns. Not far behind Green is quarterback Caleb Evans, who has 1,710 yards passing, and   nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. Where Evans gets you is on the ground. He’s their leading rusher with 412 yards and nine more touchdowns. Evans makes them go, but is not perfect. He an be found lobbing up passes lazily, and its a wonder more have not been intercepted. Balls floating around in the secondary could mean big plays for the App State secondary.

         For all the good that Monroe delivers on the offensive side of the ball, their defense is the exact opposite. They are gruesomely bad. They are 12th of twelve teams in pass defense, and total defense and opponents first downs. They are 11th in run defense and 9th in scoring defense. In two specific games I was able to watch, the Warhawk defenders appeared uninterested in pursuing ball carriers and their inability to tackle was almost embarrassing. In the past, Monroe was actually decent on defense, but it was their offense that was the reason they struggled.

         With eight games played this season, four on the road, and four at home, an ugly trend has reared its head with the App State offense. In road games, the offense has become incredibly predictable. How predictable you ask? Although Taylor Lamb has only attempted 16 more passes at home than on the road this season, he’s completed just three more passes. The difference is the kind of passes. Lamb’s yards per attempt at home is four whole yards higher than his road split. It’s hard to explain how the play selection could be that different. Last year that difference was one yard, which is still a huge discrepancy. But, Lamb also threw for over 300 more yards on the road last season than at home. In 2017, Lamb has thrown for nearly 600 more yards in home games, which is a 900 yard swing from one year to the next. This is not the result of a one game or two skewing the data. This is a complete flip in philosophy.

          So here we are again. The Mountaineers will take to the road for the second straight week for the only time this season. In every road game, the Mountaineers have failed to score first. Opponents have scored 71 combined points before the Mountaineers in such games. Monroe is not the type of team you want to chase all afternoon. They will wear you down. You have to get them uncomfortable, getting them away from their ground game. If the Mountaineers cannot find some offense this weekend, I’m not sure when they will. Last week was another example of fantastic adjustments by the defense to give the offense a chance to climb back, but they fell short in the final two minutes, allowing UMass to drive 54 yards in twelve plays for the tying field goal. It was the longest scoring drive the defense gave up. The defense will give up some points this weekend. That’s not in doubt. The question is whether or not the offense can score enough. Sure, thats the backbone of every game in any sport that is ever played. For me, Taylor Lamb and the Mountaineer passing game has to step up and extend the field. Monroe runs a 4-2-5 defensive set, that likes to pressure the line of scrimmage, more out of annoyance than to make a big play. Those passes App dropped out of the backfield last weekend need to be caught. Obviously the ugly parts of the game, penalties, and turnovers can’t be like last weekend either. This is as big as it gets this weekend for the Mountaineers as far as confidence goes for the rest of the season. I expect App to respond in a big way, 

The First Pick

Former Indians 20

Mountaineers 34

Appalachian Football @ Louisiana-Monroe

Here we go with Week 6

Appalachian State (4-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) @ Louisiana-Monroe (1-4, 0-1 Sun Belt)
Saturday October 17th, 7 PM 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

JPS Field at Malone Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf 
Capacity: 30,427
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:

App State: 69.83

ULM: 55.84
Home: 2.76
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 17 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -11.5
Series: App State leads 1-0
Last Meeting: App State 31, ULM 29; November 8, 2014 (Boone, NC)
Weather: Mostly sunny and clear 77/51

          Business has suddenly picked up in college football. Behind us are the money games and out of conference matchups. From here on out, the games are all about  the business of winning a conference championship. No disrespect to Georgia State. We know that you are a considered a conference game, but it just doesn’t feel like it. At least not yet. What really feels like Sun Belt football is playing the Louisiana schools on the road. No disrespect to the Georgia Dome, it is a nice facility, but the Panthers are lost in there. The real work is now before Appalachian as they travel to a more hostile atmosphere, one  where Mountaineer fans will be more scarce than they have been at any point this season. The most difficult part of the week will be focusing on the present and not looking ahead. To this point in the season, Appalachian  has been able remain on task, taking care of every opponent, not named Clemson, with ease. Forget about whether or not this team has been tested. The test has been about making improvements from one game to the next while also getting valuable playing time for those whose names may be called on down the line. The Warhawks will provide the next test. A team that has played a tough schedule will be looking to turn the tide in front of their home crowd. Hopefully, the Mountaineers have done their homework. 

           Monroe faces an uphill battle most years in regards to how they arrange their schedule. Regularly, the Warhawks are forced to schedule multiple Power Five schools in the same season in order to be able to fund their programs. ULM is one of the smaller schools in Sun Belt, with enrollment below 9,000 and their athletic budget represents that. In the past they have played two and three of those schools in the same season. It does not help their record, but it does help the pocketbook. This season, ULM will collect checks from Alabama, Georgia and Hawai’i. Their lone win was FCS Nicholls State. 

          Since the last time Appalachian played ULM, the Warhawks have played Georgia Southern twice, losing both, and have beaten New Mexico State along with Nicholls State. Monroe and Appalachian seem to be heading in different directions, as Appalachian has now won ten of its last eleven games. Monroe appears to be a very similar team that Appalachian played last year, with an offense that has its moments, but sputters for the most part. The Warhawk defense still likes to play very physical, but has been on the field a tremendous amount of time this season and it has shown. Monroe is giving up 34 points a game and has let teams gash them on the ground to the tune 243 yards per game. 

          Monroe has been forced to start redshirt freshman Garrett Smith at quarterback who has had some struggles this season. A lot of the Monroe offense is based on short throws that are easy to help Monroe run the ball. The idea is to get Smith in rhythm and build his confidence. Smith has thrown all but eleven passes this year for the Warhawks, who as a team has only been able to muster 5.9 yards per pass attempt. Thats a miniscule number at any level of football. Smith is the least effeicient quarterback in the Sun Belt of those who are qualified. His nine touchdowns passes are good enough for fourth in the Sun Belt, but his seven interceptions are second to only South Alabama’s Cody Clements who has played an extra game. 

           Ajalen Holley is who the Warhawks will lean on in the passing game. The junior is second in the conference in several receiving categories including receptions (39), yards (480). Holley has stepped in nicely for injured wide out Rashon Ceasar, who was a favorite to be a first team all conference selection. Ceaser had 26 catches for 272 yards in three games before being lost for the season to injury. Holley will be the target of a lot of Smith’s passses. Outside of Ceaser and Holley, no other Warhawk pass catcher has eclipsed 100 yards on the season. The ULM running game isnt much to speak of. Kaylon Watson leads the team with 155 yards on the season on only 39 carries. Garrett Smith has more official carries with 55, but his sacks count toward his rushing total, which account for a lot of lost yardage. Smith has 136 yards on the season, and likes to get those on mostly quarterback draws with empty backfields and five wide receiver sets. 

          Mountaineer fans should not have been surprised to see Georgia State sell out to stop the run last weekend. After Marcus Cox rumbled for 250 yards and three touchdowns last season against Panthers, they had only one hope to stay close, which was stacking the box and forcing Tayloor Lamb to throw. Considering Lamb’s perceived struggles, more due to a rough patch of weather, that was not a bad gamble on the part of Georgia State. But Lamb made the Panthers pay with a 45 yard completion on the first drive, a 29 yard touchdown pass on the second drive, and another 49 yard completion on the third drive. All of those big plays set up points and a quick 17-0 lead that Appalachian never relinquished. Instead of Nick Arbuckle being considered the better passer, it was Lamb who lit up the dome for 314 yards and  three touchdown passes to three different receivers. Lamb also added 53 yards on the ground, on four carries, inlcuding a 41 yard scamper in the second quarter that got the Apps out of the shadow of their own goal line. 

          As has been the story all season long, the Mountaineer defense put on another show against Georgia State. The defensive backfield did a great mixing coverages and forcing Arbuckle to think twice before throwing. Arbcukle was sacked twice and only managed a pedestrian 166 yards in the air while the App front seven held the Panthers to only 59 rushing yards on the game. It was the third time this season the Apps have held an opponent to less than 60 yards on the ground. The Mountaineers lead the Sun Belt in total defense by almost a 100 yards and have only allowed 11.4 points per game, a category which they lead by nearly two full touchdowns. The list goes on, but the picture has been well painted. This defense is not a beneficiary of a somewhat weak schedule. This is a dominant defense. Enter Monroe and an offense that has lacked consistency and a young quarterback who leans heavily on one receiver. This is potential disaster waiting to happen for the Warhawks this weekend. Monroe’s chance to win this weekend will be to do what Georgia State did. Try and stop the run and hope that they can catch Taylor Lamb on a bad day. Betting against the most efficient quarterback in the league might not be wise, but Monroe is going to have to take away something from Appalachian. The start of this game will be very important. Appalachian has outscored oppponets 45-3 in the first quarter this season while the Warhawks have been outscored 41-10. If those trends continue look for the Mountaineers to make easy work of ULM for their second conference win. 


The First Pick:

Gold Beaks 10

Mountaineers 35

Louisiana-Monroe @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 8

Louisiana-Monroe (3-5, 2-2, Sun Belt) @ Appalachian State (3-5, 2-2 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 8th, 3:30pm 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: 56.99

Monroe: 55.81

Home: 3.17

App State is favored by the Sagarin Rating by 4.5 points

Sportsbook: App State -3.5, O/U 54

Series: first meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

It has been some time since Mountaineer fans have experienced a winning streak. Nearly two years to be exact. Appalachian has a chance to extend its winning streak when it welcomes Louisiana-Monroe to The Rock for Black Saturday, which is always reserved for the best or toughest opponent on the schedule. Monroe was an easy choice for Black Saturday as its history in the Sun Belt dates back to 2001 and includes a Sun Belt Championship in 2005. Monroe played in their first bowl game in 2012 when they lost to Ohio in the Independence Bowl. The Warhawks left the division formerly known as I-AA in 1993 after winning a national championship over Marshall in 1987. This is the twenty-first season for Monroe in Division I and they have only generated one winning season, in 2012. Monroe went 6-6 three times in that same period of time. Getting to 6-6 this season would be a tall task, not only for Monroe, but also for Appalachian. Both teams certainly have their sites set on at least breaking even in 2014. Monroe would have to win on the road for the first time this season. Appalachian would most likely need to win both home games and steal one at Lafayette or Arkansas State. Chances are slim for either team to pull it off, but the race to six wins is a major accomplishment in the Sun Belt. Even if a 6-6 record is not rewarded with a bowl berth, just being able to tell recruits that you were bowl-eligible is a big deal. Before either team gets to six wins, one team has to get their fourth win this weekend, while the other will get that sixth loss. Monroe has dropped four straight games while the Mountaineers are feeling confident and hope to ride the momentum.

As previously noted, Monroe has risen through the ranks of college football like most Sun Belt schools. Similarly to Appalachian, Monroe had some success in the NCAA playoffs. The Warhawks made the playoffs four times from 1987-1993, with a 5-3 overall playoff record. That success vaulted the school into Division I where they were an independent, without a conference affiliation, for seven seasons before landing in the Sun Belt.

Fast forward to 2012, the year the Warhawks went 8-5 and made the headlines for their big win over #8 Arkansas on the opening weekend of the season. Monroe won that game in overtime before heading to Auburn the following week and losing in overtime. After Auburn, Monroe battled Baylor in a shooutout before falling by five points at home. Monroe then won five straight games, including three over Sun Belt opponents who are no longer in the conference. Monroe then split their final four games, losing to the Sun Belt stalwarts Lafayette and Arkansas State before defeating North Texas and Florida International. Monroe went 6-2 in conference play that year. Five of those six wins were over teams who have left the Sun Belt. Those two losses were in back to back weeks, just like Appalachian’s schedule stacks up after this weekend.

Much has been made about Monroe’s tough loss last weekend at Texas A&M, but I am not buying it. The Aggies were without sophomore quarterback Kenny Hill after a team suspension. Hill had over 2600 yards and 23 touchdown passes in his first eight games. Texas A&M had to start Kyle Allen who was seeing his first action as a college quarterback after being one of the most heralded recruits in 2013. Allen managed 106 passing yards on 13/28 passing and was responsible for two turnovers. Monroe’s game plan was to keep the ball away from the Aggies. They were successful, controlling the clock for close to 34 minutes despite only rushing for 78 yards.

Warhawk quarterback Pete Thomas ran the ball more times against A&M than he did in any game this season, although his nineteen carries only covered forty-four yards. Thomas also threw the ball more times than he had all season with forty-seven attempts. He is a big quarterback at 6’5 and 235 pounds and came to Monroe via NC State and Colorado State. Thomas started all twenty one games as a freshman and sophomore at Colorado State before being sidelined with an injury for the remainder of the 2011 season. He sat out the 2012 season and redshirted before heading to Raleigh where he appeared in nine games and made six starts. Thomas then took advantage of the NCAA rule allowing graduate students to transfer and play their fourth year of football at another school without having to sit out, a move made popular by Greg Paulus of Syracuse football via Duke Basketball and Russell Wilson currently of the Seattle Seahawks, who transferred to Wisconsin after leaving NC State. Wherever Thomas has played collegiately, he has been an accurate quarterback and has had decent passing yards, but his touchdown numbers are low. In his career, he has 7,744 yards and holds a 29/35 touchdown to interception ratio. His yards per pass, completion percentage and QB efficiency rating are all at career lows in this season.

The Monroe rushing attack is nearly not worthy of a mention. On the season, the Warhawks have rushed for 729 yards. In comparison, Appalachian has dropped back to back four hundred yard rushing games in its last two contests. Leading rusher Centarius Donald is a big back at 6’1 and 223 pounds but is a complete plodder after three knee surgeries. Donald’s 469 rushing yards have come primarily at home. Donald has only thirty carries on the road this season for 113 yards, at 3.8 yards per carry. As a team, the Warhawks average only 2.7 yards per carry and 91 rushing yards per game on the season. Against Troy on September 27th at home, Monroe managed just 29 rushing yards.

Appalachian had every answer last Saturday against Georgia State. The physical plant dominated the turf in convincing fashion, moving about four inches of heavy snow prior to kickoff, which paved the way for Marcus Cox. The sophomore from Dacula, Ga ran for a career high 250 yards and three touchdowns. Ricky Fergerson added another 130 yards on the ground which was aided by an 84 yard run in the third quarter. Appalachian converted three turnovers into twenty-one points en route to their second shutout of the season. Only Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana State, Stanford and yes, Appalachian State have two shutouts in FBS football this season.

So, after three games with big offensive numbers, Appalachian gets the Sun Belt’s top defense, in terms of yards allowed. But Monroe has yet to face three of the top five rushing offenses and total offenses in the Sun Belt this season. Monroe has played Texas State, who ran for 229 yards on the Warhawks and Arkansas State who rushed for 288 yards, but Monroe has games against Appalachian, Lafayette and Georgia Southern looming before the end of the season. My guess is Monroe will not be at the top of the conference in defense in four weeks. The Monroe secondary is also suspect over the top. Troy completed pass after pass where the Trojan receivers simply beat the defenders deep. The issue when playing the awkward 3-3-5 defensive formation of Monroe is protecting the quarterback. If Appalachian can keep Taylor Lamb’s pass attempts around twenty, the Mountaineers will be looking good. I can see a couple deep shots to Malachi Jones or Shaedon Meadors if the line can protect. Monroe’s offense is very similar to Troy. They like getting the ball in their receivers hands and allow them to make plays in the open field. Monroe will force you to make one-on-one tackles in space. Even though Pete Thomas runs a bit, he is somewhat of a statue if his first read is covered. The Mountaineer secondary will be tested if Appalachian cannot get some pressure on the quarterback. The spread is just about perfect for this game. For Monroe, it is a good number considering their solid kicking game and strong defense. But if the Warhawks want to win they have to get to twenty points. They are 1-5 scoring under twenty points and 2-0 scoring more than 20 points. They are gonna need at least 24 to beat the Mountaineers.

The First Pick:

Mountaineers 27

Indians 23