Old Dominion @ Appalachian Football 

Here we go with Week 2
Old Dominion (1-0) @ Appalachian State (0-1)

Saturday, September 10th, 2016 3:30 EST

TV/Video: American Sports Network, ESPN3, WCCB (Charlotte), WRDC (Triangle)

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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 70.28

Old Dominion: 51.99

Home: 2.61

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 21 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -21

Series: App State leads 1-0

Last meeting: App State 49, Old Dominion 0, September 26th, 2016, Norfolk, Va


Everyone has a story about the big fish that jumped off the hook, that you know, was like, “this long”.  Oddly enough, one never has any video evidence of how big that fish was or how close it was to really being in the boat. The analogy seems fitting for what occured last week in Knoxville, but DVR’s all across App Nation will have the evidence for years to come. Orange clad fans sang a similar song for those rooting for Appalachian in the parking lots afterwards. Condolences of “good game”, “ya’ll got a great team”, “I’m a huge fan”, “Win the rest of them”, have been heard on the plains in Auburn, the river banks in Chattanooga and the hills of southern Michigan. Nobody likes hearing those words after the toughest of losses, because it sure doesn’t make you feel any better. Those kind words were met with blank stares and utter exhaustion, but after the agony subsides, one realizes what they witnessed and what is to come. It is truly amazing how the lowest of lows can quickly be turned into oodles of optimism and anticipation. 

Tennessee has been beat to death. We’ve all had an extra two days to discuss, so it’s time to turn our attention to Old Dominion, and the Monarchs will have plenty of reason to get excited. A lot has been thrown around regarding the 49-0 thumping the Mountaineers dished out not even a year ago. Much like the second quarter from Clemson in 2015, Appalachian returned the favor in a 28-point second frame that gave the Mountaineers a five touchdown lead at half. The Mountaineers had two weeks to prepare for the Monarchs in 2015, and will have that advantage in 2016 as well. Due to weather, Old Dominion’s game with Hampton was delayed to Sunday afternoon. 

The Monarch faithful really like their chances in 2016 to breakthrough in Conference USA and earn their first bowl bid in school history. ODU will host CUSA heavy hitters Marshall and Southern Miss in consecutive weeks in November. A non-conference win over UMass in October would put them in striking distance for at least a 6 win season. The Monarchs return enough weapons on the offensive side of the ball to keep them in many games, but will hope a young defense can mature quickly. 

In a effort to keep their starting runningback fresh, Old Dominion handed off to Ray Lawry only 14 times in the opening win over Hampton. By the time Lawry had faced Appalachian in 2015, Lawry had nearly 60 carries in two games. Lawry looked solid in his limited role, eclipsing 100 yards and scoring one touchdown on the ground and finishing off a catch and run 59-yard touchdown score in the first quarter. Lawry is a workhouse and when healthy, ODU has shown it isn’t scared to give him ball continuously. Six times in 2015, Lawry went over twenty carries, but ODU was only 3-3 in those games. 

The quarterback Appalachian faced last year has now been relegated to a backup role and it was clear he was not ready in 2015 to handle the pressure. Shuler Bentley threw for only 133 yards and added two interceptions. This season, converted wide receiver David Washington appears to have a handle on the starting duties. Washington began his career at ODU as a quarterback, converted to receiver for most of 2014, and is now back under center. Many claim Washington is the best athlete on the Monarch roster. Washington is mobile and will run when called upon. Luckily for the Appalachian defense, they are familar with backfields that feature an athletic quarterback and a powerful tailback. 

The Mountaineer offense was not called on to make many plays last week. Their job was to control the clock, give the defense a blow or two and take care of the ball. Despite the conservative game plan, Appalachian had every opportunity to pull it out. Marcus Cox was his typical steady self, pacing the rushing attack with 115 yards, while also making a spectacular move to stay on his feet to lead to the second, and final, touchdown for the Mountaineers. Deltron Hopkins was used in misdirection plays successfully. Although his statistics counted as receptions, those plays are really runs by design. 

How about that Mountaineer defense? I am not sure anyone expected that level of quickness, discipline and gang tackling from that group. Jalen Hurd might not get 28 carries in a game for the remainder of the season for Tennessee. Hurd had two games where he amassed 28 carries or more last season, and in those games he averaged 3.6 ypc against Florida and 4.4 ypc versus Missouri. Appalachian held Hurd to 3.9 yards per carry. Joshua Dobbs did not have a negative rushing yard day in all of 2015, yet the Apps held him to -4 yards on nine carries and was also sacked twice and pressured on two other occasions. 
Nobody is expecting a sequel in 2016, but to imagine anything different with the effort the Mountaineers displayed in Knoxville last week would be laughable. This game could be uglier than last year in Norfolk, but the scoreboard is unlikely to represent it. Last year, the Apps were just seven point favorites on the road, but the feelings of the players after a less than stellar result at Clemson, and the attitude that has been displayed this week are reciprocal. Not only will the Mountaineers respond to the current challenge, but they must. An unfavorable result this weekend is hard to imagine and the thoughts of being 0-2 early in the season could be dangerous. Old Dominion has a much better offense than they displayed in 2015, but it will always be tough to gauge early results against lesser teams. Their weakness relies in the back seven of their defense. The Monarchs cannot afford to sell out and stop the run. They just don’t have the options to defend off the play action pass. Old Dominion will have to play a massive game in the trenches to keep it close. All the pressure is on their defensive line to defend the multiple looks Appalachian will throw at them and even their best is likely insufficient. 

The First Pick

Lioness  19

Mountaineers  38

Appalachian Football @ Old Dominion

Here we go with Week 3

Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ Old Dominion (2-1, 0-0 CUSA) 

Saturday September 26th, 3:30 PM

TV/Video: American Sports Network

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

S.B. Ballard Stadium

Surface: Astroturf GameDay Grass 3D

Capacity: 20,118

Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
App State: 60.99
Old Dominion: 51.31

Home: 2.65

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -7.5

Series: first meeting

Last Meeting: n/a

Weather: Mostly cloudy to cloudy and breezy. Rain likely throughout the day. Low 70’s 


          According to Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson, games like this weekend’s are the ones the conference needs to win. After a couple weeks of paying the bills, Appalachian travels to Norfolk for more than just a football game, but for an audition of what could be at the end of the regular season. Appalachian and Old Dominion have the same mindset when it comes to  games between fellow members of the Group of Five conferences. The games are highly important to each program’s place within the Group of Five. Each win is one game closer to getting to six wins, which is the minimum requirement to be considered for the post season. When bowl committees are looking for schools to invite to their game, they want to know who wins on the road and who sells tickets. Neither team wants to be sitting at 6-6 hoping for a telephone call that may never come. Old Dominion and Appalachian are both in their first year of bowl eligibilty and it would mean a lot for both schools to reach that goal this season. Both schools fan bases expect to win. Anything short of that will be a disappointment and leave their team sitting with an even win-loss record or less. 

          Old Dominion has arguably fielded the best startup program in recent memory. In only their 7th season of football, the Monarchs have accomplished just about all you can ask for in that short period of time. In the two years they were eligible for the FCS playoffs, they qualified. Honestly, Old Dominion has been spent more time transitioning their program as a startup in FCS and later into FBS than they have been eligible for any conference title or postseason game. In 2014, the Monarchs finished 6-6, their fewest wins in program history. They have done it right by winning games throughout their short history, but FBS football is a different animal. The Monarchs endured a five game losing streak last season before finishing with three wins to close the season. 

          Along with getting the transition to FBS football behind them, Old Dominion is now transforming its once pass happy offense to a style that is more run heavy. Part of that is due to redshirt freshman quarterback Shuler Bentley. Once an offense that would routinely pass the ball 40-50 times a game, Bentley has only dropped back seventy-seven times this season in three games, an average of just under twenty-six passes per game. Bentley is only completing 53% of his passes and averages under six yards per attempt. Fortunately, Bentley has managed the game well only turning the ball over once in those three contests. 

          Luckily, Shuler Bentley has Ray Lawry to help take the heat off of him in the backfield. Lawry was leading the country in rushing yards prior to Old Dominion’s game against NC State last week. But Lawry was held in check by the Wolfpack defense to the tune of 15 yards on eleven carries. Much like what Clemson did to Appalachian the week before, they focused on the Monarch strength, completely took it away and forced a young quarterback to make some throws with pressure in his face. Even after last weekend, Lawry is averaging 6.5 yards per carry and has 453 yards on the season. Seven of the ten Monarch touchdowns this season have come form Lawry. Old Dominion goes as Lawry does. If he is getting his yards, it bodes well for the Monarchs to run him behind a very big offensive line. 

             The Monarch defense has never really been one to write home about, but they believe they are making strides in that department. It does not seem to show in the statistics. Old Dominion has left their defense on the field for over 32 minutes a game on average. NC State held a 2-1 time of possession advantage over the Monarchs. The two FBS opponents ODU has faced have scored 34 and 38 points, respectively. Eastern Michigan has been one of the worst FBS programs for a very long time and NC State is not close to contending in the ACC this season. 

          Appalachian will have had two weeks to recover and stew over their lopsided loss to Clemson when the ball is teed up this Saturday. The team was so ready to get back to work on Tuesday after a long weekend, that Scott Satterfield called it the best practice of the season. The bye week appears to have been a highly  needed repose from the grind of practice that has been continuous since early August. Many newspaper articles have cited the bad taste after what happened in Clemson. The defense played better than the final score, but the offense had one of their worst games since last season. Turnovers are the undoing for any football team at any level. It was going to be tough for Appalachian to pull off a win, and nearly impossbile being -3 in the turnover battle. 
           The first two games have served as an exhibition of sorts. Appalachian has faced both ends of the spectrum of college football, the good and the really bad. The next ten games will all be played against Group Of Five teams. This is the time for Appalachian to prove who they really are. Old Dominion will be playing their third straight home game, and Appalachian could serve as a swing game for them. Next week Old Dominion faces Marshall on the road in their Conference USA opener. I hate using the term, but this game has some “trap”-like tendencies. Defined as the game between two very big games, Old Dominion may not be done licking their wounds from a very physical game against NC State. If anything, the Mountaineers will be fresh and looking to enact some frusturation on their next opponent. They key to this game is simple. Whichever team is able to stop the opposing running game the best will likely win. Ray Lawry is the guy that carries the ball for Old Dominion with 70 carries in three games. The Monarchs substitute him out sparingly. Appalachian will rotate Marcus Cox(36-204) and Terrance Upshaw(18-115) in effort to keep both players fresh, not only for this game, but for the remainder of the season. So not only do I feel that Appalachian can run better, but I think they can stop the run better from ODU. The edge at quarterback also leans the way of the Mountaineers with Lamb having an extra year of expeience, and hungry to get on the field to attone for his miscues at Clemson. Regardless of what the weather does this weekend, I just think Appalachian is better this Saturday. 

The First Pick:
Lioness 21
Mountaineers 31