Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. South Carolina State Playoffs Round 1 11/29/2008

Here we go with The First Round:

#13 South Carolina State @ #2 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 20,150
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     73.91
SCSU:    55.86
Home advantage: 2.77 points
ASU is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 21  points (rounded).

Series: ASU leads 1-0
Last Meeting: ASU 24, SCSU 0; November 17, 1984


This years Selection Sunday was less suspenseful than the same Sunday evening in 2007 for Appalachian State. Instead of the questions of who and where, the question this past weekend was more along the lines of who? Most Mountaineer fans and playoff experts had it narrowed down to a few teams, depending how much emphasis that the selection committee placed on the economy and geographic proximity. Finally, the draw was the South Carolina State Bulldogs from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The stage is now set. The Mountaineers march into the playoffs will begin like it has the last three seasons, at Kidd Brewer Stadium, where the Mountaineers have won 41 of their last 42 games and twelve in a row.


South Carolina State has the chance to surprise the Mountaineers. In 2005, Appalachian faced another unfamiliar foe in Lafayette. The Leopards received the lone bid from the Patriot League and Appalachian was also the second seed. In 2006 and 2007, Appalachian faced Coastal Carolina and James Madison in the first round, teams they had defeated at home in the previous seasons. Lafayette gave Appalachian a good game before falling 34-23. South Carolina State is in the same spot, the lone automatic bid from their conference and once again, Appalachian is the second seed. The difference between Lafayette in 2005 and the 2008 South Carolina State team is speed. South Carolina State has it and Lafayette did not. Also, The Bulldogs run a Multiple Pro I formation, which also has spread tendencies, compared the Lafayette and the offense of days past, the I formation.


William Ford is the most dangerous player for SC State. Ford has rushed for 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ford has a very quick first step and can sometimes get lost in the backfield considering the size of quarterback Malcolm Long (6-3, 257). Ford is complimented well by backfield mate Travil Jamison who has run for 567 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ford is the smaller, quicker back at 5-11, 185 pounds while Jamison runs for the tough yards at 6-0, 200 pounds.

Malcolm Long has some of the best receivers in the MEAC to throw to. Oliver Young has caught 47 passes for 587 yards and four touchdowns. Phillip Morris has reeled in 35 catches for 547 yards and five touchdowns and NC State transfer Octavius Darby has 26 catches for 450 yards and four touchdowns. In all, five different Bulldogs have four or more touchdowns between the backs and receivers. SC State really likes to spread the ball around and it shows on the stat sheet.


Appalachian advanced to the playoffs by running the table in the Southern Conference, posting a perfect 8-0 record. The last time Appalachian had a unblemished league record was in 2006, when they won 14 straight games to close the season. The Mountaineers rested some players against Western Carolina in order to be prepared for the playoffs and they gave other players their chance to shine. DeAndre Presley started his first career game and was awarded as the conference freshman and offensive players of the week. It was the first time in seventeen years that the conference had given two awards to the same player. Presley started in the absence of All-SoCon quarterback Armanti Edwards, who was still recovering from a hip pointer. Edwards expects to start for the Mountaineers against SC State.


The difficult task in comparing teams from different conferences is judging the strength of the conference. The MEAC has been a league that has received one bid to the playoffs for several years. The Southern Conference has been a multiple bid conference for as long as I can remember. It seems this year, like most others, the Southern Conference is strong than the MEAC. SC State has some very impressive statistics, especially on the defensive side of the ball. SC State has limited opposing offenses to 248 yards per game. They also limited teams to only 2.6 yards per rushing attempt. They have only given up 23 touchdowns and have shutout their last three opponents. However, I don’t think those numbers could hold up if the Bulldogs had to play the likes of Wofford, Elon and Georgia Southern. Appalachian’s statistics cant hold up to SC State in certain circumstances. However, any team that can hold an arch rival to 72 total yards has to have a good defense. Appalachian has proved each week that they have one of the best red zone defenses and can really go after the football by forcing 25 turnovers.


So what does it all add up to? We could be looking a shootout on Saturday. SC State scores right at 30 points a game and Appalachian averages 39.3. The two teams combine for 851 yards of offense a game. But this is different. This is the playoffs. Each possession is important and sometimes, if you are not accustomed to the pressure, players can do overplay. Despite the relative youth, these Appalachian players know what it takes to play in tough games. Appalachian battled back after trailing Western Carolina in the first half. Elon scored late in the second half and took a slim lead before Appalachian rallied. SC State has not had to play a tough game for almost a month now. They have cruised to extremely lopsided victories. How will SC State respond if they get down early? That may be the toughest hurdle for SC State to overcome. If the Bulldogs can stop the Mountaineers in the first quarter, they will become more confident and the longer you let a team hang around, the better they feel about winning. The first quarter is the most important for SC State. The Bulldogs must also avoid penalties. SC State has averaged 7.8 penalties for 72 yards per game this season. That is roughly 9.2 yards per flag. Appalachian will be able to move the ball on SC State, and the Bulldogs don’t need to help the Mountaineers with their field position. I think this will be a very tough game. William Ford is the real deal and Appalachian has struggled with stopping the run between the tackles. SC State must control the clock and keep Appalachian off the field. It will be a difficult thing to do considering SC State has only averaged 27:12 of possession per game. I think this is the game where Appalachian finds success through the air and makes a couple huge defensive plays.

The First Pick:


Dog Tired             27

Mount Up              41

Appalachian State Football: Appalachian vs. South Carolina State Round 1 FCS Playoffs 11/28/2009

Here we go with The First Round:

#7 South Carolina State @ #5 Appalachian State

Time: Noon

Stadium: Kidd Brewer Stadium
Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 21,650
Jeff Sagarin Rankings:
ASU:     64.51
SCSU:    58.45

Home advantage: 3.12 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin rankings by 9 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Appalachian 37, South Carolina State 21, November 29, 2008


Another year, another championship and another uninteresting playoff match up. That song could be sung by both South Carolina State and Appalachian in 2009. When you have similar champions from year to year and the NCAA selection committee is so concerned about travel costs, the odds are good that you will start seeing the same teams more often. In the past four years, Appalachian has been matched up in the playoffs with a team from South Carolina or Virginia. This time around, its even the same opponent from last year’s playoffs. Its starting to feel like South Carolina State is in the SoCon and they are the team that Appalachian plays after Western Carolina. This is not going to turn into a gripe about playing South Carolina State in back to back playoffs, but more of a gripe about not having a playoff system that actually crowns a National Champion. This week’s winner will play the Richmond and Elon winner, which was also exactly the same as it was in 2008. This whole deal is starting to get predictable and that makes it no fun for the funs. South Carolina State thought they were worthy to host a game, and maybe they should have hosted. If they hosted they would most likely play another school, one that they may have not had to play in the past. Every team deserves a fair shot, and this selection process does not deliver it for the fans, coaches or players. It is starting to resemble the other upper division of college football.


Since so little has changed between these two schools in the past year, some much further digging will be required. In the mean time, each team’s best player from 2008 is still around. William Ford is the Bulldogs leading rusher, despite being off of his 2008 pace just a bit. Ford has rushed for 372 fewer yards and four fewer touchdowns in 2009. Obviously teams crowded the box against the Bulldogs in an effort to contain him and the SC State offense. Even backfield mate Travil Jamison has rushed for 239 fewer yards and 11 fewer touchdowns. That’s a total of 611 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns missing from one year to the next. Most teams that lose that kind of production will not win consecutive conference titles, but SC State did. So where did all the offense go?


Quarterback Malcolm Long has had similar numbers from 2008, but they did not come close in the passing game to make up for what they lost in the running game. Long threw for 340 more yards in 2009 and has also completed a higher percentage of his passes by 7% and his average per attempt has increased by 1.32 yards to eight yards per attempt in 2009. One hopes that a quarterback can get better with more experience, and that is exactly what Malcolm Long has done. Long has also lost about 15 pounds from last year, which has improved his quickness and running ability. Long ran for zero touchdowns on the ground in 2008, but has five rushing touchdowns in 2009.


Long’s top receiver is junior Oliver Young who has had at least four catches in every game against FCS opponents. Young has been on a hot streak the last couple weeks with 12 catches for 289 yards and four touchdowns against conference rivals Morgan State and North Carolina A&T. Young has increased his yards per receptions by three whole yards and has caught nine touchdown passes on the year. Last year against Appalachian State, Young was held to just one catch for 18 yards.


Just like last year, Appalachian is wondering about its quarterback situation. Armanti Edwards was injured for the second time in as many years in the game against Elon. Last year, DeAndre Presley filled in against Western Carolina. This year it was Travaris Cadet, a former transfer from Toledo who filled in nicely last week. Cadet ran for 58 yards and threw for another 101 yards, but more importantly, did not turn the ball over. Cadet managed the game and did all he needed to do to beat Western. More importantly, Cadet got the ball to Devon Moore who ran for a career high 191 yards and two touchdowns, and topped the 1,000 yard mark for the season. Right there is where the comparisons stop. In the 2008 playoffs, Appalachian was down to its fifth-string running back and the ground game was ineffective. This season, Appalachian will start an all conference performer who can do a little bit of everything. Moore has 15 rushing touchdowns on the season, including 28 receptions for 248 yards.


The Mountaineer defense has stepped up its game in the last month of the season. Since giving up 34 points to Wofford, Appalachian has held every opponent to fewer points per game that their average. In that five game stretch, Appalachian has held opponents to a meager 17.4 points per game. At this time, that total would be good enough for 7th in the nation. In that same five game stretch Appalachian has only allowed 275 yards of total offense per game, another total that would good enough for 12th in the nation. Appalachian’s defense has also started to force turnovers. In those same five games, Appalachian has forced 11 turnovers, while only giving up 6 on offense. That +1 advantage in the turnover department would rank 11th in the nation. Those are three critical statistics when a defensive unit is measured. Are you giving up points and yards, and are you taking away the football from the other team? Appalachian’s defense has been doing that with the best of them at the most important time of the season.


This playoff game is one of only two in the first round between top 10 teams, the other being Richmond and Elon. This game will perhaps have the feel of a quarterfinal or even a semifinal game. South Carolina State and Appalachian are two teams that have tough defenses and running games that are difficult to stop. The difference in this game start with Appalachian’s running game. As previously noted, Appalachian started a fifth-stringer last year and Armanti Edwards’ injury was worse than what had been diagnosed. Edwards carried 19 times for 42 yards in the win, but was rarely successful. This time around, the coaching staff has a better feel for Armanti’s injury, and will probably run him only a couple times, if at all. Devon Moore can certainly handle the load and it will be a little different than what South Carolina State saw last year. Moore has averaged 17.5 carries a game in 2009 and will most likely see 20 carries on Saturday. South Carolina State’s William Ford is not having the season he did last year, but he is not to be forgotten. Ford ran for 117 yards and a touchdown last year against Appalachian. The difference for South Carolina State could be Malcolm Long, who has been more accurate this season. Long completed only 17 passes on 40 attempts against the Mountaineers last year. Appalachian’s secondary is among the top units in the nation, with 14 interceptions and only allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 56% of their passes. I think this Appalachian team is a little different that last year’s version and that will throw South Carolina State off their game a bit. The Bulldogs will not roll over and play dead, but overall, Appalachian is healthier than they were last year and it will show.

The First Pick:

Dog Tired                  20

Mountaineers           34