Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. North Carolina Central 10/10/2009

Here we go with Week 5:

North Carolina Central @ #9 Appalachian State (2-2, 2-0 T1)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     62.55
NCCU:    29.15
Home advantage: 2.91 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 36 points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting
Last Meeting: n/a


The last time I checked, any win on the road in conference play is a good win. Whether you win by a point or forty, it is still the same. I am having a hard time understanding why there are some out there, who felt last Saturday’s game was in any way a negative result. According to Sagarin, the Mountaineers were supposed to lose. Should it have been considered an upset? I don’t think so. After studying the result all weekend, some interesting nuggets were discovered. The senior class at The Citadel had beaten every team in the conference, except Appalachian. The Citadel dominated the time of possession, did not turn the ball over, and still lost. The Citadel hit two long field goals, while two Appalachian field goal attempts were not successful. Everything I could see added up to The Citadel winning the war on the stat sheet, but they did not win the game. Personally, I think The Citadel played the best game they possibly could have, and still it was not enough to beat Appalachian at home. That says something to me about this Appalachian team. Despite being dominated in the first half, they came out in the second half and overcame their mistakes, persevered and finished on top in overtime. When it counted, Appalachian made the plays. That is what is most important about last Saturday.


There is always that one game a year, where you know absolutely nothing about the upcoming opponent. Appalachian had a similar game against McNeese, where the two schools had never met on the gridiron, but they knew about each other. Granted, North Carolina Central probably knows more about Appalachian than vice versa. Central is winless, despite three of their games decided by a touchdown or less. Their two lopsided losses were to Liberty and Duke. The close calls include losses to Morehead State, Hampton and an overtime loss to NC A&T last week.


The Central roster is loaded with experience on both sides of the ball. The Eagle starting “22” includes 14 juniors and four seniors. Nine of those juniors are on the defensive side of the ball as Central runs a 3-4 defense, which is very rare in college football. The defensive line is smallish for your typical 3-4 line, going less than 280 pounds across the board. The Eagles have three linebackers that are right around 6’1” and 240 pounds and another that figures to be much quicker. One would come to the conclusion that this defense can run and it will hit you as well. The defense is not to be overlooked. However the Eagles did give up 321 yards rushing to Liberty, a team that probably resembles Appalachian the most of the teams they have played.


The Central offensive attack is lacking, to be brutally honest. Through five games, they have turned the ball over 15 times. Seven of those turnovers were interceptions thrown by quarterback Michael Johnson. The sophomore quarterback is only completing 49% of his passes and has only thrown five touchdown passes. Johnson is a big player at 6’2” and 222 pounds as he and fellow quarterback Keon Williams have been sacked ten times. They have only converted an atrocious 23% of their third downs and only average 262 total yards a game.


As usual when Armanti Edwards plays The Citadel he takes it out on them. Edwards threw for 327 yards, ran for another 80 and was responsible for three touchdowns. Edwards had to play well as The Citadel actually cured their defensive woes in a week. The Citadel held Devon Moore to only 2.5 yards per carry, but Edwards and the offense adjusted. The Mountaineer offense went to screen passes and bubble screens to the outside and were able to pick up yardage by stretching out the Bulldog defense. The Mountaineers continued to spread the ball among its backs and receivers, with 5 players catching three or more passes. The play of the day was made when Edwards found an open Brian Quick down the sideline for a 74-yard touchdown that tied the game with only 4:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Appalachian kicker Jason Vitaris has caught some heat recently for some untimely field goal misses, that may have changed the outcome in the two losses. Place kicking is very similar to a shooting guard in basketball. There is only one way to get out of a bad stretch, and that is to shoot, or kick your way out of it. However, the kick in overtime to win the game may have just been the trick to get Vitaris back on track. Is there more of a pressure situation than having the game rest on the inside of your right foot? That may have been the biggest kick of his career. Missing that kick would have put the Appalachian offense back on the field, and given the upper hand back to The Citadel in the second overtime. That kick may be what gets everything clicking for this Mountaineer team.


I am not going to go into a long analysis of what I think will happen on Saturday. I feel pretty confident that the Mountaineers can take this one out. Central has plenty of athletes, but there is a reason they have not won a game this year. What is most important this week is that everyone have a great time. Homecoming is time for friends of old to meet again and enjoy college athletics. Everyone who reads this looks forward to football season like it is Christmas. We should also all enjoy it like it is as well. We as fans can not control everything that happens on the football field, but we sure can try. We cheer when good things happen, but we shouldn’t grumble and pout when bad things happen. Fans should cherish every win. Some Appalachian fans are having a hard time doing that of late. The Mountaineers will not win every game they play. We should always celebrate the win instead of griping over a loss. Mountaineer athletics is an important part of my life, but it is not everything. Let each and every Saturday be a day of fun, especially on Homecoming. Enjoy your tailgates, even if the weather does not cooperate. It sure as hell beats being at work. Go Mountaineers!! Beat the Eagles now, and the ones from Statesboro in two weeks.


The First Pick:


Eaglets Part 1           7

Mountaineers           35

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. North Carolina Central 9/18/2010

Here we go with Week 3:

North Carolina Central (1-1) @ #2 Appalachian State (2-0, 1-0 1st)

Time: 3:30pm

TV: None
Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium                
Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
ASU:     65.07
NCCU:    32.53        

Home advantage: 3.01 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 35½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 1-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 55, NC Central 21, October 10, 2009


            Last weekend’s game against Chattanooga, I mean, Jacksonville, was a tale of two halves, again. The Mountaineers used to be the team that shut opponents down in the first quarter while cruising to lopsided victories. This season, the Mountaineers are doing their best to keep fans in their seats a little longer and force them to buy an extra stadium cup or two of their favorite beverage. In all seriousness, it is a concern that could cost them a game if it is not corrected soon. Once again, for the second consecutive week, the Mountaineers scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half, and this time it was a knock out blow for Jacksonville. NC Central is not the passing team that Jacksonville is, so the Mountaineers will have another week to correct their play action defense before visiting Samford, a team that lives on the play action passing game.


            Running back Tim Shankle leads the offense for the NC Central Eagles. Shankle is in his senior year and could possibly eclipse the 2,000 yard career mark against Appalachian on Saturday. Shankle only needs 63 yards to reach that milestone, and has averaged 57 yards a game during his career. In the meeting last year against Appalachian, Shankle had 31 yards on 12 carries. His work will be cut out for him against an Appalachian defense that is ranked 27th in the country, giving up only 109 yards a game on the ground.


            The starter at quarterback could be the biggest question for the Eagles. Junior Michael Johnson played the entire game last week in the loss to Winston Salem State. A transfer from Tulsa, Johnson threw for 193 yards and no touchdown passes while also throwing two interceptions. Against Johnson C Smith, Keon Williams threw four touchdown passes while also gaining 62 yards on the ground while dominating the Golden Bulls 59-0. Whoever starts at quarterback will be looking for Geovonie Irvine, who has 12 catches for 141 yards on the season. Irvine stands all of 5’7”, and rocks the scales at 150 pounds.


            As the young season has progressed, the biggest question mark one month ago, has now become the most consistent player on either side of the ball for Appalachian. DeAndre Presley has done nothing but impress this season. The national leader in passing efficiency and total offense has completed 70% of his passes for 625 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions. On top of that, his running game has also improved in less than a week. After eleven rushes for 25 yards in week one against Chattanooga, Presley found plenty of room to run against Jacksonville, gaining 101 yards on 16 carries. After all Presley has done on the field during games, Coach Moore praises his leadership more than anything this season and that is about as big a compliment you can receive and means more than any touchdown ever will.


            Brian Quick was another star in the win over Jacksonville with his three touchdown receptions. Quick went over 100 yards again and now has eleven catches for 253 yards this season, averaging 23 yards per reception. What might be more important for Appalachian’s continued success is not the passes that Quick catches, but the passes he does not. There have not been many plays run this season where opposing defenses didn’t double team Quick with either a linebacker or another defensive back. As long as Quick remains healthy and forces defenses to pay attention, it just opens up more passing lanes for the likes of Matt Cline (10 catches, 98 yards) and Ben Jorden(6 catches, 88 yards). Throw in the return of CoCo Hillary this week and the receiving corps only becomes stronger. A return of the traditional running game will be needed before seasons end, but if DeAndre Presley and these pass catchers keep this pace up, good things will happen. There is not a defensive secondary in this division that can keep up with this group of players.


            Last year, two early Mountaineer turnovers deep in their own territory, led to fourteen NC Central points. Last week, the Mountaineers fumbled six times, but were fortunate enough to only lose two of those fumbles. Ball security should have become a key priority this week at practice. Turning the ball over to the other team cannot happen in the game of football if you expect to win. Rarely will you lose the turnover battle and win, especially when conference play starts. I am looking for a cleaner game for the Mountaineers. Penalties will happen and are slightly more tolerable, but I am hoping the Mountaineers don’t put it on the turf this weekend. A nice performance by the defense will also be appreciated. The Eagles managed less than 200 yards of total offense last year against Appalachian. Despite having six new starters on defense, this number better remain in tact this weekend, or Appalachian is going to be forced to win a shootout every week in conference play. The pass defense must improve. There are way too many experienced players on that side of the ball to have teams throwing over their heads. Finally, I think many fans want to see the return of the traditional running game. It was nice to see Presley run over 100 yards and very surprising to see Jamal Jackson run for 49 yards in limited action. Devon Moore is the missing piece, and although he carried 11 times last weekend, 3.5 yards a carry is not what Mountaineer fans are used to seeing. Hopefully Devon will be close to 100% soon, but I don’t think the Mountaineers will need him this week.

The First Pick:

 Red Beaks                13

Mountaineers           56