Appalachian Football @ Montana

Here we go with Week 1:

#12 Appalachian State (0-0) @ #20 Montana (0-0)

Time: 9 pm EST

TV/Video: ESPN3, ESPN Gameplan

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

Washington-Grizzly Stadium         

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 25,217

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 62.99

Montana: 61.61

Home: 3.01 points

Montana is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 1 ½  points (rounded).

Series: Montana leads 2-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 35, Montana 27, September 8, 2012

WXAPP’s Missoula Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny Skies, Kickoff Temps: Mid 80’s, Halftime: Mid to upper 70’s, End of game: Lower 70’s. Mostly clear throughout     


            It has been a quarter century since there has been this much change in the Appalachian State football program. The offseason after the 1988 campaign still does not compare to the earth shaking changes that were made earlier this spring and summer. The Mountaineers will begin the 2013 season with a brand spanking new coach, a new helmet logo, and a new conference affiliation to look forward to in 2014. There are now more scholarships in the future, as well as a twelve game season that will become the norm. Lost in the shuffle is the old traditional playoff format, whose field was increasing despite the lack of talent, and the odds of hosting a game in the typically rough December weather of the High Country. Also new on Jack Branch Drive is a defensive coordinator that hopes to restore the era of a dominant Appalachian defense, one that used to put more points on the board than the offense in some instances. There has been plenty of change in the mountains these past few months. The teacher has made way for the pupil, and he brings with him all of the lessons that make Appalachian a special place. What occurs off the field will be dealt with in the same manners as they always have, yet what happens between the lines might be what changes the most.

            Nearly a year ago, Montana visited Appalachian for the first time to open the home slate for the Mountaineers. The much anticipated contest was the first between the two schools in the regular season. Twice before, the Mountaineers had fallen on the games final play in the playoffs in Missoula. Last year was somewhat of a victory for Appalachian that healed some old wounds. It wasn’t quite a semifinal playoff win, but it was enough to quench the thirst. A thrilling game saw Appalachian bolt to a quick lead in the first quarter and clinch the victory in the closing minutes by current Jacksonville Jaguar Demetrius McCray. It was a win that was sorely needed for the Mountaineers to avoid starting the season 0-2.

            The star of the game for the Mountaineers on that night was Jamal Jackson. For Jackson, who now honors his mother after changing his last name to Londry-Jackson, 2012 was his first year as a full blown starter for the black and gold. Jackson was unconscious, completing 70% of this passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for another touchdown along with 65 yards on the ground. As has been the theme this off season, those numbers will likely change. Londry-Jackson underwent knee surgery after last season to fully repair the injury he suffered in the Western Carolina game. Londry-Jackson is reportedly nearing 100%, but may never be fully healthy once the season starts. Londry-Jackson carried the ball 16 times in that game, and I would be surprised if we see half as many attempts. Also on that night a year ago, Londry-Jackson had Sean Price to throw it to, who caught a team high eight passes that night. Price will most likely not play this weekend has he serves a suspension for some ill-advised decision making. The Mountaineers will only fly as high Londry-Jackson. He needs to stay healthy throughout the season and showcase his passing ability versus his agility in the run game this weekend in Missoula.

            If a team is going to have some bad luck, and lose a player to suspension, it might as well come from the most talented position on the roster. Losing Price this weekend is a big hit, but the Mountaineers will have many weapons running routes on Saturday. Tony Washington and Andrew Peacock provide a perfect combination in all aspects for Appalachian. Washington is perhaps more of the possession receiver than Peacock, but also has game breaking ability. Washington has been honored by several media outlets for his skills in the return game. Peacock is slighter than Washington by an inch and ten pounds, but is a true x-factor on the field. Peacock was second on the team with 79 catches a year ago, and caught five or more passes in eleven games. Peacock also threw two touchdown passes in the final two games last season.

            Despite losing Steven Miller and his 1,750 total yards and fifteen touchdowns to the NFL’s Detroit Lions, the Appalachian running back situation may have improved. Former walk-on Ricky Fergerson, a sophomore, has earned the starting running back role. Behind him are converted quarterback Paul Magloire and true freshman Marcus Cox. Magloire is a true downhill runner with tremendous upper body strength while Cox can stretch the field on the ground and in the passing game. Fergerson is a bit of an unknown with only five career carries, but can hide behind the line at 5’8” and is maybe the better option in pass protection. Chances are high that all three get significant playing time on Saturday.

              The biggest question of the season is found on the defensive side of the ball. There is no question that Nate Woody has brought with him a formula that has worked in the past with what many would consider lesser talent than his previous coaching stop. Eventually it will work, but how long will it take for a very young group to really grasp the scheme? In the trenches the Mountaineers feature a pair of seasoned defensive ends in Ronald Blair and Deuce Robinson. In the middle Thomas Bronson anchors the line. Stephen Burns who started most of the season in 2012 and Greg Milhouse will also see their share of snaps at the tackle position in Woody’s 3-4 alignment. The linebackers are where the youth is officially served. Two freshmen will join two seniors who have not seen a ton of playing time over the years. John Law and Rashaad Townes are the young duo who will be joined by Michael Frazier, who is back on defense after a year at H-back, and Karl Anderson, who has played well when needed in the past. This youth at linebacker occurs every three or four years at Appalachian and the Mountaineers always seem to reload at that position. The secondary provides almost as much turnover in names as the linebackers, especially at the safety position. Joel Ross and Rodger Walker are both all-SoCon caliber bookends on their good days. Freshman Alex Gray may remind some of Corey Hall who played in the late 1990’s as a long and rangy safety that hardly ever let a receiver get behind him.

            Montana looks to be about the typical Montana from past decades. They are big on the offensive line and rely heavily on the running game. They are also experienced on that side of the ball, as the starting five have earned eleven varsity letters. Last year, despite trailing for nearly the entire game, the Grizzlies still ran the ball 45 times, even without being incredibly effective as a team. Montana averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Last year the Griz started freshman Trent McKinney at quarterback against Appalachian, who completed half of his attempts for over three hundred yards and three touchdowns, but was doomed by his trio of interceptions. McKinney is listed as the backup to Jordan Johnson for Saturday. Johnson did not play last year dealing with his own legal troubles in which he was eventually acquitted. How Johnson will adjust to the year off from live football will be something to watch. Halfback Jordan Canada returns from a near 600 yard season. The bulk of Canada’s carries came late in the season, and he was effective much of the time, averaging right at five yards per carry.

            The Montana defense has received some credit from last year being a team that was stingy against the run, allowing less than 100 yards a game on the ground. Looking at the flipside, the Griz were second to last in passing yards allowed, ranking 120th in the country. Part of that ranking was helped by giving up a 660 yard passing day to North Dakota State, but the Griz also gave up a three 300 yard passing games, and four more games they allowed 247 yards passing or more. There are a bunch of upperclassmen in the Montana secondary which makes one believe that they might have improved in that area, at least with experience, but a complete turnaround is going to take some time.

There are certainly questions marks on both defenses. One team has a very youthful group while the other has shown their holes last season. Appalachian and Scott Satterfield have embraced a mentality, “Always Attack”, that promotes running to the line quickly between offensive snaps. The quicker you go, the less time the defense has to react, and to substitute. We have seen instances of this attitude in the past, but never a full onslaught for sixty minutes. In his first game under the helm, what exactly can we expect from the virgin head coach? With all this change, one may wonder if it might be too much all at once, and wonder how long this transition will take. If there is anything about Saturday night that we can be certain of, is that Appalachian is probably going to throw the ball close to forty times. Jamal Londry-Jackson may run a few times, but if anything, it will be to keep the defense honest and it will be toward the sideline, away from any trouble. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that the Mountaineers leading rusher, in way of yards and carries will not be Ricky Fergerson, who was not extremely healthy for the entirety of fall camp. The Appalachian defense may look rough in spots, but I believe they will be very opportunistic by forcing a key turnover. I could easily see Montana rolling up 250 yards on the ground, as the physicality of the opening game and the volume of Washington-Grizzly Stadium take a toll on a young defense. The last time the Mountaineers played in Missoula, they were flagged for ten penalties for nearly a hundred yards. That lack of focus can prolong drives, and usually favors the home team. Although Montana is coming off a 5-6 season, this is their first regular season night game in school history. The Griz have also scheduled a “Maroon Out”, where fans are encouraged to wear nothing but the schools most dominant color on Saturday evening. Appalachian has had good success on the road when schools have scheduled similar events. Appalachian is 0-9 east of the Mississippi, but that will have to change if they want to guarantee success in the Sun Belt and FBS in years to come. Conversely, the Mountaineers have faired well all time in televised games, including a 5-2 mark on ESPN Gameplan.

The First Pick:

Care Bears                   28       

Mountaineers              31

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

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian @ Montana FCS Playoffs Semifinal 12/12/2009

Here we go with The Semifinals:

#5 Appalachian State @ #1 Montana

Time: 4pm

Stadium: Washington Grizzly Stadium
Surface: Sprint Turf

Capacity: 23,117
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     69.21
UM:    70.66

Home advantage: 3.20 points

Montana is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 4 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Montana leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 16, Montana 19, December 9, 2000


The semifinals of the FCS playoffs are unlike any other championship contest that the NCAA offers. In the other major sports, You advance to a Final Four, a Frozen Four or a College World Series. Those sports include a group of teams. In FCS football, in order to get to the championship, you have to be one of two teams. That’s why the semifinals are so special. It is almost like the championship game before the championship game. You are one win away from a title game, but also just one loss before ending your season. This semifinal will not only decide who gets to play next week in Chattanooga, it also may decide who the team of the decade is in FCS football. Both Appalachian and Montana have won 18 games in the playoffs in the last ten years. They have also combined for 18 playoff appearances. Montana won their second National Championship in 2001 and has appeared in four championship games. Appalachian’s three National Championships from 2005-07 are also well documented. The winner will get bragging rights until 2012 and 2013, when the two schools are scheduled for a home and home series. Until then a chance to play in the National Championship is on the line.


Despite being perennial FCS powers, Appalachian and Montana will meet for only the second time this weekend. Fans of both schools remember how the previous game ended and a very similar finish is also expected this weekend. Montana lofted a pass over the head of Appalachian All-American safety Corey Hall that was caught for the game winning score in overtime in Missoula. Montana had dominated that game throughout in the cold and snow. However, when they snow stopped around halftime, Appalachian founds its groove and fought to tie the game in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. That game has been on the minds of Appalachian fans since. There have been several occasions where Montana and Appalachian were paired in the same bracket of the playoffs, but they have not met again until now.


Montana is currently undefeated but there season has not come without many close games. The Grizzlies nearly exited in the first round of the playoffs before staging a comeback for the ages against South Dakota State. Montana trailed 48-21 with just over 20 minutes of regulation remaining. Montana rang off 40 straight points to win by 61-48, in what be one of the greatest playoff comebacks in Montana history. Montana also struggled against winless Idaho State before kicking a field goal as time expired to win 12-10. The Grizzlies have also won three other game by seven points, against UC-Davis, Northern Arizona and Eastern Washington.


The Grizzlies are lead at quarterback by Andrew Selle, who has been magnificent of late. Selle has thrown three touchdown passes in three straight games and has completed 66% of his passes in that stretch. On the season, Selle has thrown for 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Oregon transfer Justin Roper will relieve Selle at times in order to change the pace of the game. Roper has thrown eight touchdown passes and three interceptions while averaging 73 yards per game passing.


Montana has a very underrated tandem of running backs in Chase Reynolds and Thomas Brooks-Fletcher. Chase Reynolds has run for 1246 yards  and 20 touchdowns this year. Reynolds ran for over 100 yards on six occasions, but has only averaged 50 yards on 3.6 yards per carry in his last three games. Brooks-Fletcher ran for 89 yards against Stephen F. Austin on 14 carries. It was only the third time of the season that Brooks-Fletcher received double digit carries in a game. Both backs are great coming out of the backfield as they combined for 41 catches for 287 yards on the year.


Speaking of catching passes, Marc Mariani has been the go to receiver for whoever is lined up under center for the Grizzlies. Mariani has 69 catches for 1,278 yards and 12 touchdowns. In five games this season, Mariani has gone over the 100 yard receiving mark, including both playoff wins. Half of Mariani’s touchdown receptions have come in the last three games. Mariani also handles most punt return duties as he averages 16.4 yards per punt return and has returned a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown this season.


For Appalachian, they are lead by Armanti Edwards, whose resume speaks for itself. Edwards engineered three touchdown drives in the last nine minutes against Richmond to overcome a ten point deficit and lifted the Mountaineers to the next round of the FCS playoffs. Edwards was able to run with some efficiency against Richmond, despite a sloppy field. Edwards ran for 51 yards and two touchdowns on twelve carries. In the passing game, Edwards averaged over ten yards per completion and his only touchdown pass came with ten seconds remaining to Matt Cline for the winning score.

Appalachian balanced the offense against Richmond, as they accumulated 216 yards in the air and 228 on the ground against the nation’s twentieth ranked defense. It was the most yards and points Richmond had surrendered all season long. Devon Moore helped pave the way on the ground for the Mountaineers. Moore carried for 175 yards on 22 carries, including two touchdowns. It was the sixth time this season Moore had eclipsed the 100 yard rushing mark. Moore also has run for multiple touchdowns six times this season. Moore has completed 17 touchdowns on the season.

Matt Cline has been the Mountaineers main receiving threat all season and the Richmond game was no different. Cline caught nine passes for 87 yards, including the go-ahead touchdown. Cline, who has been tagged as a possession receiver has 78 catches for 880 yards on the season. Brian Quick is the deep threat for the Mountaineers. A former high school basketball player, at 6’5” Quick can out jump any defender and is an easy target in the red zone and in the middle of the field. Quick has 51 catches for 847 yards and four touchdowns. In the absence of CoCo Hillary, Blake Elder has added 9 catches for 121 yards in the playoffs.


This game should be a classic. A game between two of the premier programs  in the division is something fans of both schools have been waiting on for years. Both teams have dynamic offenses that can score points in bunches. The team that scores last, might punch their ticket to Chattanooga. However, the similarities do not carry over to the defensive side of the ball. Montana plays very soft coverage in the secondary, while ASU will play mostly man coverage. The Montana defense gives up 247 yards a game through the air, which ranks 104th nationally.  Montana has also given up 20 passing touchdowns to its opponents, which also ranks near the bottom of the division. Montana is also in the bottom third of the division in sacks per game. Appalachian fans know the best way to defend the Appalachian passing game is to get in Armanti Edward’s face and force him to throw on his back foot. If Montana gives Edwards time to throw, he will take everything the Montana defense gives him. That could make for a long day for Montana, who has not faced a multiple spread offense all season long. Montana will have to keep up with Appalachian on the scoreboard. Montana has plenty of playmakers that can make that happen. Montana will need more then Marc Mariani catching passes. Appalachian cornerback Cortez Gilbert is one of the best cover corners in the nation and he is backed up by strong safety Mark Legree, who has 17 career interceptions. Montana needs to get their running backs active in the passing game early and see if they can work in some deep throws later in the game. Montana must sustain drives and keep the Appalachian offense off the field, which has been effective at times. Montana has had two very odd games in a row and they can not rest their laurels on a potential 40 point comeback or being given the football ten times. Appalachian will simply not let that happen. Montana has had the easier schedule of the two schools and I think that will pay off big time for Appalachian in the late stages of the game. Appalachian will get a lead and protect it with the running game. Montana has only faced an average of 30 rushing attempts a game this season, while Appalachian will hand it off close to 42 times per contest. This one will be won in the fourth quarter and Appalachian will advance to its fourth title game in five years.



The First Pick:


Care Bears               30

Mountaineers           38