Appalachian Football vs Savannah State

Savannah State (0-0, 0-0 MEAC) @ Appalachian State (0-1, 0-0 Sun Belt)

Saturday, September 9th, 2017 3:30pm 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

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,150 (est)

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 68.75

Savannah State: 13.03

Home: 2.41

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 58 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: n/a

Series: Appalachian State leads 1-0

Last meeting: App State 41, Savannah State 6, September 17th, 2011

        Occasionally, it’s not your day. Forget about how well you prepared, how rested or how healthy, or what you had for breakfast. Sometimes that moment you walk into work, someone says something to you the wrong way, or messes up the report despite telling them how important it was to make it right. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t work out. So you rise and grind one more day, guzzle coffee the same way and hope the result is different. That is essentially what happened to the Mountaineers last Saturday. For every positive play, a negative closely followed. Now it does not matter what happens this weekend. No amount of touchdowns or scoring margin will help us change anything that has happened in the past. But we can look forward to the future. The athletic department has installed it’s largest set of temporary bleachers for the 2017 season and oh yeah, a brand spanking new video board awaits the fans this Saturday. This weekend also presents itself as a tune up game before conference play starts next weekend. It’s the last chance for the Mountaineers to get it right before the games really start counting. The foremost goal for this program every season is to win the conference championship and this season, it starts a week earlier than it ever has while Appalachian has been in the Sun Belt. One more game for certain true freshman to get the kinks out and gel with their new teammates and one last first time to start a season for outgoing seniors who have been a part of one the most memorable runs in program history.          

         Savannah State presents a bit of an unknown quotient for the Mountaineers. They only played ten games last year, and have yet to play a game this season. Last year the Tigers won three games, none of them on the road. They lost 54-0 in their opener at Georgia Southern in 2016, before anyone knew how terrible the Eagles were. The Tigers have won a total of seven games since the last time they played Appalachian in 2011, so getting three wins last year was a major improvement. Second year head coach Erik Raeburn was 78-13 at Wabash College, a Division III school located in Indiana, and led his squad to five playoff berths in eight seasons. 

           The strength of the Tigers is more likely their defense. Despite only two defenders being named to the preseason MEAC third team on defense, those two defenders made the second team last season at the end of the year. They like to blitz and will do whatever it takes to get to the quarterback. The offense leaves something to be desired, averaging just 14 points in 2016, and rushing for fewer yards last season as a team than App State’s own Jalin Moore. The Tigers managed just 12.1 first downs per game and just 3.9 yards per play over the course of the season. Expect improvements from Savannah State as they know the offense needs work. Quarterback TJ Bell returns as a dual threat option and will handle a load of the offensive burden. 

           Last week the Mountaineers were without two of their main playmakers in the passing game due to injuries. Having known that last week, might have made this prediction a little different. Although passing the ball is not a huge part of the App offense, it is a part that needs to be a threat. As the first half grew on last week, it was evident App had zero intentions of throwing the ball vertically down the field, opting for safer attempts to the sideline or to running backs in the flat. A vertical threat is essential and without it, the Mountaineers became very predictable as the game progressed. It appears that Shaedon Meadors might be out for an extended time while Darryton Evans could be back much sooner. That leaves a lot heavy lifting in the hands of some true freshman to get a lot of experience early in their career. 

          Because the passing game was so inept and careful, it took a major toll on the App ground game. Georgia made sure that Jalin Moore didn’t beat them. Much like last year, after Moore replaced an injured Marcus Cox, he was a little impatient waiting for his running lanes to develop. Timing is everything in the zone blocking scheme and Moore seemed too excited last weekend. Sometimes it takes a few games to really start clicking. I would expect to see Moore get back to form this weekend, and hopefully we can see some depth at the running back position later in the game.          


          There is not a ton to be said about analyzing a game that will more than likely lead to a very lopsided score. Before those who panic get my attention, I am fully aware that Howard beat UNLV this past weekend. Yes, that same Howard the Mountaineers have played in the past, but UNLV is nothing near as talented as the App State is. If UNLV were to come to Boone, you are more than likely looking at a three score margin. Some indexes have UNLV rated behind several, as in closer to twenty, FCS schools. Its not happening this weekend. Just as App can be a bought game for some schools, it works the same for Savannah State. I would like to see the Tigers win the rest of their games, after Saturday of course. The question is not how, but by how much. I do not believe in the fifteen years I have been writing this little Wednesday night think piece that I have seen the Sagarin rankings have such a large spread between App and its opponent. When App faced Campbell in 2014, the expected margin was 34 points. The Mountaineers went on to win 66-0 in a game that was interrupted by a severe thunderstorm. In 2011, the Apps had 49.5 point expected margin, and didn’t get there against Savannah State. I can’t bring myself to pick something outrageous, but if App is running base plays and the Tigers cant stop them, it will get out of control quickly. Usually the App coaching staff is not one to run up a score for the sake of it. We tend to get the game under control and coast. I feel like that is a more likely outcome. Give me the Mountaineers by six …. touchdowns. 


The First Pick

Tiggers 6

Mountaineers 48

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. Savannah State 9/17/2011

Here we go with Week 3:

Savannah State (0-2) @ #3 Appalachian State (1-1)        

Time: 6pm


Kidd Brewer Stadium         

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings:

ASU: 64.92

SSU: 18.27

Home: 3.08 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 49.5 points (rounded).

Series: First Meeting  

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Clouds, Fog, Light Rain/Drizzle; “Wedge Event” STAY POSTED

Kickoff: Mid to upper 50’s

No matter the opponent, one of my favorite games of the year is the night game. It brings back great memories of previous night games in Appalachian football history. It is tough to remember them all, but the ones that stand out are the 1994 win over #1 Marshall, the semifinal victory over Richmond in 2007, and the 2008 Halloween thrashing of Wofford. Since then, the night games have not been as memorable, and probably because of the results in 2007 and 2008. The Mountaineers scored 125 points in those two games. The last two night games did not bring the same pizzazz, but you must consider the circumstances. Since then, Appalachian has played Presbyterian in 2008 on a soggy night, and the Citadel’s triple option last year. Unless you are a die hard football fan, sitting in the rain, or watching three yards and a cloud of dust, is not that exciting. Chances are it will not be too exciting this week either, but that does not diminish the opportunity to see the Mountaineers dressed in black under the lights. Now that is what I call a Black Saturday.

Savannah State is another program, much like last week, that is very tough to get a handle on. In their first game, they lost to Division II power Albany State by three, and last week got manhandled by Southeastern Louisiana, a middling program from the Southland Conference. The Savannah State Tigers have only won two games against Division I opponents in the last ten seasons. Just like A&T, Savannah State has a new coach in Steve Davenport, who is the 7th head coach for the Tigers since they moved to Division I in 2000.

Justin Babb is the primary running back for the Tigers. Babb has received 60% of the carries this year for the Tigers, but has only managed 70 yards on 29 carries. Babb has caught a touchdown pass, but Savannah State has yet to record a rushing touchdown as a team. Babb has also thrown a pass this season that fell incomplete. Keep a lookout for the halfback pass this weekend. Quarterback AJ Defilippis is not flashy, but has played mistake free football this season. Despite only completing 41% of his passes, he does have three touchdown passes without an interception, and threw for 315 yards against Albany State. 

Appalachian fans got what they expected last Saturday. The lopsided win over NC A&T was punctuated by a balanced offense that racked up 491 total yards. Brian Quick produced a career best game that included 11 catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Cedric Baker-Boney also ran 12 times for 111 yards and a touchdown. Baker-Boney might have made his case to be the starting running back when the conference season begins. Baker-Boney did have one carry that went for 48 yards, but when you take out that carry, and then take his average per carry, it turns out he averaged 5.7 yards per attempt. On the other hand, Travaris Cadet carried seven times for 71 yards. That ten yard average looks good until you take away his 50 yard run. Six carries for twenty-one yards turns into a 3.5 yard per carry average.     

DeAndre Presley bounced back and was extremely sharp against A&T. Presley completed 19 of 23 passes for 197 yards, and two touchdowns. The statistic I am most intrigued about Presley is the amount of running he has done while he has been the full time starter. We all remember last year against Elon when Presley suffered a head injury. Before that game, Presley had averaged 14.2 rushes per game. Throw in the East Carolina game in 2009, where he had 12 rushes, and Western Carolina in 2008, 25 rushes, all games that he started, that average goes up. Since the injury against Elon, Presley has averaged 11.1 rushes per game. In two games this year he has 20 carries. Before the injury, Presley carried 15 or more times in four of seven games. Since, he has carried 15 or more times twice in ten games. During this time, the receiving corps and offensive line has been fairly constant. Several questions could be asked about this statistic, but it is one I am going to keep an eye on all season.

We never want to look ahead to the next opponent, but the 2011 schedule is unique. It is fairly obvious that we could have played one of the best teams in the country in Week 1, followed by two of the worst teams the following weeks. The real litmus test will come against Chattanooga. We all know there is no reason to take these three games very seriously, but at the same time, we are hungry as fans, and we want to see something that will excite us. Throughout his glorious coaching career at Appalachian, Jerry Moore has always stressed to win the conference, and the rest, as in the playoffs, will take care of itself. Never before, have I felt like the first three games were like an NFL preseason. We all know about a young offense outside of our All-Americans, and a defense that is adjusting to a new scheme. However, I also get this feeling we are hiding something. We could see some of it this weekend as a teaser for things to come. We could also end up seeing a lot of Jamal Jackson and other younger players. I think it is extremely important to develop those without as much experience. You never know when they are going to be called onto the big stage. Savannah State knows what they are up against on Saturday. The Tigers were outmatched last week, and it will not be any easier this weekend at The Rock. The Mountaineers will be able to name their score and look for another defensive touchdown.


The First Pick:

Jungle Cats                  13

Mountaineers              70