Western Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 12:

Western Carolina (2-9, 1-6 SoCon) @ Appalachian State (3-8, 3-4 SoCon)

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: http://www.nmnathletics.com/liveEvents/liveEvents.dbml?&&&&&DB_OEM_ID=21500

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

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 45.46

WCU: 36.80

Home: 3.87

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 58-18-1     

Last Meeting: Appalachian 38, Western Carolina 27, October 27th 2012, Cullowhee          

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends

Early morning rain should give way to marginal improvement throughout the game

Windy and gusty with temps in the mid to lower 40’s. Bundle up!

            For the final time, Appalachian will play a football game as a member of the Southern Conference. For the last time in the foreseeable future, the Mountaineers will lace it up against Western Carolina with a symbol of their mountain heritage on the line. On Saturday, Appalachian will recognize their favorite Chancellor who has put his heart and soul into this campus for over thirty years. The Mountaineers will play sixty more minutes of football and the divorce from the I-AA/FCS division will be final. For the first time in decades, the season is complete before Thanksgiving, and we have known it since March. Mountaineer fans have zero excuses for avoiding the cold weather this weekend. Next year, the conference logo on the field changes, and so will all of the opponents. This Saturday is last time you can guarantee seeing the Mountaineers and Catamounts battle it out for a jug that will likely not move for ten years or more. Appalachian will have three players gunning to break or extend school records. More importantly, fourteen seniors and three juniors are getting dressed in the black and gold for their final game having involuntarily sacrificed their vision of chasing a national championship. They deserve your support. We urge you all to show them how much they mean to you, one final time.

            It was a typical day in Spartanburg last Saturday as a small crowd filed into Gibbs Stadium. The cool morning gave way to bright sunshine for a couple hours before drifting back behind the clouds. The Wofford offense nearly mirrored the weather pattern for the day. The Terriers ran up 228 yards of offense in the first half and took a four point lead into the half. The Mountaineer defense sealed the deal, stifling Wofford to three punts and a fumble on the Terriers first four possessions of the second half. In turn, Appalachian scored 23 unanswered points in the second half with drives that killed clock and kept the Wofford defense grasping for air. In all the Mountaineers possessed the ball for 37:00 of game clock, running 83 plays, with 49 of those plays coming in the second half. Despite a 3.5 yard team average per running play, the Mountaineers were persistent, running the ball forty times between two players. Marcus Cox ran a remarkable 35 times in the game for 119 yards and added three touchdowns. Kam Bryant spread the ball around to seven different receivers, including him, when he caught one of his passes that was batted back to him for a loss of twelve yards. Hopefully Kam will learn to let ball fall to the ground the next time that happens.

            What was lost as the game unfolded was the effort the Mountaineers played with throughout the entire game. On two of Marcus Cox’s touchdown runs, he was dragging Wofford defenders as he powered into the end zone. Late in the second half Appalachian faced a fourth down and five from the Wofford 33-yard line. That area of the field is a virtual Bermuda triangle that provides a difficult decision on the play call. A missed field goal gives the opponents great field position, while a punt could possibly net a very small gain as well. The call was to keep the offense on the field. Kam Bryant completed a pass to Andrew Peacock right at the yard marker, as Peacock stretched the ball out towards the line to gain with two defenders wrapped around him. Somehow, Peacock wiggled free of one tackler and lunged forward for the first down. Perhaps Peacock had enough to gain with the initial stretch, but it would have been to close to call. Certainly the SoCon officials would have found a way to inch the chains past the ball in the backyard of their beloved Wofford Terriers.

            The worst joke of this season has been made several times during casual conversations between Mountaineer fans, whether online or in person. “I don’t care how this season goes, as long as we beat Western.” It was then and still now sounds as if Mountaineer fans are speaking like their mountain brethren. We have never heard the words uttered from a Catamount fan, but one would certainly think that could be the motto of the residents of Cullowhee and Sylva, obviously with the names of the schools switched. For the first time since about 2005, Catamount faithful may feel like they can swoop in and steal the jug with a program that has shown improvement on the field, even if does not reflect in their record. The Catamounts could have clinched a SoCon title share on that day in 2005 with a win, but instead it was the Mountaineers who clinched. It will be difficult task for the Catamounts, as the jug has made several trips from Boone to Cullowhee, but not since October 6th, 1984 has it been in the possession of those wearing the purple and gold.

            The biggest hurdle that former Appalachian coach, current Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir has overcome this season is finally breaking the losing streak to SoCon opponents. When the Catamounts beat Elon in overtime on Homecoming, it was Speir’s first win against a Division I opponent and first against a SoCon opponent as well. It snapped a 33-game losing streak to Division I opponents and a 26-game SoCon losing streak, both which dated back to 2010. Since that win, the Cats have dropped games to Georgia Southern and Furman, giving up points in all eight quarters, allowing 33.5 points a game, and surrendered a combined total of 613 yards on the ground, at a clip of 6.5 yards per carry.

            The Catamounts have ventured throughout the season with a two quarterback system in which both Troy Mitchell and Eddie Sullivan have played in ten games each. Mitchell has been the primary starter for the majority of the season, and presents a dual threat under center. Mitchell has 1,589 passing yards and 542 rushing yards on the season. Mitchell and Sullivan have combined to throw sixteen interceptions on the season to only fifteen passing touchdowns. Mitchell has been better throughout the season, with fewer interceptions, a better completion percentage, but has been known to fumble. Mitchell averages just fewer than thirteen rushing attempts in games he has played, and burned Appalachian several times last year for long runs as the Mountaineers dropped back in coverage late in the game.

            If the Catamounts are going to run on Saturday, it is most likely going to have to come from Mitchell. He has to be decisive when he decides to take off from the pocket and avoid taking hits. The healthier he is throughout the game will improve the Catamounts chances. Secondly, Mitchell needs to avoid giving up the big play. Western quarterbacks have only been sacked twenty times season, but the Mountaineers were able to sack Mitchell seven times in 2012. Appalachian should stick to the offense that has been working for them over the past month. The short passing game has been effective, and could be a vision of the future for the Mountaineer offense. Appalachian has built that attack by remaining committed to the run game. Although Marcus Cox has seen his yards per carry go down throughout the year, his workload has increased, which has opened up the passing game. Kam Bryant has been the most accurate passer in school history this season, and it will take some sort of extraordinary event for him not to break the record currently held by Armanti Edwards. Marcus Cox is also right at the doorstep of breaking another record held by Edwards. Cox needs 119 yards on Saturday to break the record. Cox has already become just the third freshman at Appalachian to run for 1,000 yards in a season. That combination of Bryant and Cox are the present and the future of the Appalachian offense and it would be a great honor for both of them to start their young careers in such fashion. This season may have been one of fewer than expected wins, a younger than expected roster combined with even more unexpected disappointments, but if there was ever time for a season like this one, it was when championships, playoff bids and bowl bids were unattainable. The next offseason will be one filled an announcement of the Mountaineers first FBS schedule, the largest recruiting class and program that is ready to take it to next level. We will all surely miss the short drives and front row parking spaces at visiting stadiums, but the best Appalachian football is still to come.

The First Pick:

Can’t Amounts           20

Mountaineers              38