Furman @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 11:

Furman (3-6, 2-4 7th) @ #12 Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 T2)

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: Field Turf

Capacity: 24,050

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.86

FU: 48.74

Home: 3.12 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 13 points (rounded).

Series: Furman leads 22-17-3

Last Meeting: Furman 20, Appalachian 10, November 5, 2011, Greenville, SC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Sunny. Mid 50’s for kickoff Great Fall weather for football! Let’s kick some butt!

It is amazing how quickly circumstances can change in a week. Last weekend, in a matter of about an hour, Appalachian’s season changed dramatically. The Mountaineers knocked off a top ranked team for the first time on the road in program history with a 31-28 win over hated rival Georgia Southern. Later that afternoon, Wofford fell in overtime on the road at Samford, which has now set up the most unique final weekend of conference play between top teams in conference history. Georgia Southern went from controlling its destiny to sitting back and watching it all unfold. The Eagles will share the trophy with someone, but they are not sure who that is. A win gives Appalachian a share of the trophy, but with a Wofford loss to Chattanooga, Appalachian would be declared the conference champion and would receive the automatic bid. A Wofford win and Appalachian would ensure a three way tie for the championship and the automatic bid would be determined once the final standings shake out. Raise your hands if you would have thought this Appalachian team would be in this situation after The Citadel game? After Wofford? Exactly. This conference race is easily the most intense in the history of the conference. Regardless, Appalachian has a chance to accomplish one of its goals it set forth at the beginning of the season, and they will have the opportunity in the comfy confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium on Black Saturday against the only team in the conference it has a losing record against. Can the Mountaineers finally break the 2012 curse that is the state of South Carolina?

That curse is the losing record Appalachian currently holds at home against the two other conference foes from the Palmetto State this season. In those games, Appalachian surrendered ninety points and 1,158 yards of total offense combined – 856 of those yards on the ground. The Mountaineers allowed points in seven of the eight quarters. They were out possessed by over twenty minutes in the two games. Luckily, the Mountaineers are probably done with option football in 2012, and will face a team that has a more traditional offense in the Paladins.

Furman’s offense is all about Jerodis Williams. The senior running back has had a great career, as he will probably finish his career in the top five all time in Furman history in rushing yardage. Williams is coming off of a 1,055 yard performance in 2011 where he scored nine rushing touchdowns. Williams began returning kickoffs halfway through the season and is also a threat in the passing game. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season against Western Carolina, Presbyterian and Wofford. Williams has hit the 1,000 yard mark this season as well in only nine games, which ranks him third in the conference behind only Eric Breitenstein and Stephen Miller. Williams has run for 85 yards or more in every game this season except one. Appalachian has done a great job on Jerodis in the past. During his freshman year, Appalachian was the only team on the schedule where Williams did not record an offensive statistic. Williams ran seven times for 59 yards against the Apps his sophomore year. Last season he was held to 48 yards on thirteen carries. Williams has scored a rushing touchdown against every team in the conference besides Appalachian. The same statistic was true with Eric Breitenstein two weeks ago before he broke through with two rushing touchdowns.

Furman is a team that is very young on the offensive side of the ball. They have one junior on the offensive line, while the rest of the front is manned by freshman and sophomores. Their starting fullback, an almost extinct position in football, is also a freshman. Another freshman, Reese Hannon is their starting quarterback, who took over for senior Dakota Derrick in the second game of the season. Hannon has put together a nice season, but one that is very typical of freshman quarterbacks. Hannon has thrown for 1,656 yards on the season with five interceptions and six touchdowns. However, four of his touchdown passes came in the overtime loss to Coastal Carolina. Hannon did not throw a touchdown pass in the entire month of October. Since his last touchdown pass, Hannon has thrown four interceptions and has seen his average yards per game drop from 234 yard per game in his first four starts to 179 yards per game in last four starts. Hannon is a pocket passer, but is mobile. He will run to buy time as the pocket breaks down, but will not dare run for yardage.

Hannon has some seasoned targets for receivers. Senior Will King leads the Paladins with 34 catches for 541 yard and three touchdowns. Tight end Colin Anderson was a preseason All-American by three different publications and was also a first team preseason SoCon selection. Teams have done a good job defending him this season as he only has caught 23 passes for 396 yards, compared to his junior season where he caught 40 balls for 696 yards and seven touchdowns. Anderson has yet to find the end zone this season. Junior Ryan Culbreath has added 28 catches for 342 yards and two touchdowns. Both of Culbreath’s touchdowns came against Coastal Carolina.

Last week, we nailed just about everything we talked about. We let everyone know of Georgia Southern’s atrocious kicking game, which went on to miss three field goals. We talked up that Sean Price guy, and said Appalachian needed to get him the ball. When they did, good things happened to the tune of seven catches for 231 yards and a touchdown. If there is one thing we missed, was that Jamal Jackson should not play if he was not 100% healthy. We missed that one badly. Jackson calmly sat back in the pocket, took what the Eagles gave him, which equated to a career day. Jackson’s 383 passing yards were a career high, and was good enough for the eighth best passing yardage day by a Mountaineer in program history. Jackson continued to do what he always does when Appalachian wins, which is throw three touchdown passes and no interceptions. If it had not been for his injury against Western Carolina, he would easily be on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season, which has only happened twice in school history.

I remember sitting at the Chattanooga game in front of some of their fans when they asked me about Sean Price. The quote went like this, “What year is that #14, a senior?” The answer was polite and was received by a bunch or responses of disbelief. Sean Price is on the verge of doing something no freshman has ever done in school history. Only five Mountaineers have accumulated 1,000 receiving yards in a season in the black and gold. None of those men were freshman. The feat has been accomplished by some of the best including Bob Agle, Rick Beasley, Davon Foulkes, William Mayfield and Brian Quick. Mayfield benefited from a fifteen game season to accomplish his feat. The others played in twelve games or fewer. Price will be playing in his ninth game this Saturday and is only 86 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard mark. The Mountaineers are 6-0 when he catches a touchdown and 5-0 when he goes over 100 yards.

Stephen Miller had his second lowest rushing total of the season, but to say he was not effective is an understatement. Miller only carried nine times, but it was mostly a result of the Mountaineers being behind in the first half, and being able to move the ball in the air with ease. Miller did find the end zone for the tenth time this season and broke off a 26 yard run which was enough for Georgia Southern to respect the run and bought Jackson a few extra moments to find open receivers. Miller also caught two passes for twenty three yards. Even with only sixty rushing yards, Miller was effective, and that is all Appalachian needed from him on Saturday.

If anything, Appalachian should be motivated for this game. They easily could have packed it in last week, knowing their conference title hopes were slim. Georgia Southern was exactly what the Mountaineers needed to get back on track. They provided the extra spark that was necessary to beat the Eagles in their beloved back yard. Furman provides another type of motivation. Appalachian squandered multiple opportunities last year in Greeneville. The Mountaineers ventured into the Paladin red zone on many occasions and found themselves turning the ball over in one fashion or another. It was an ugly game that followed the emotional defeat of Georgia Southern the previous week at home. What that team earned by beating Southern last year was all lost in the loss to Furman. This Paladin squad does not have near the talent as last years team did. Their offensive youth and ineptitude in the defensive secondary should play heavily in the Mountaineers favor. Furman has allowed a touchdown pass in every game this season, and they rank 111th of 121 teams in defensive passing efficiency in the nation. Their defense has allowed over 100 yards rushing to every opponent outside of the pass heavy Elon and Presbyterian. As long as Appalachian can keep Jerodis Williams in check on kickoff returns, and not allow Furman to control the line of scrimmage, they should find themselves in the win column. The Paladins have had a week off to get ready for the Mountaineers and they have nothing to lose. Furman has not won in Boone since 1996, a very similar streak that Appalachian held over The Citadel. Hopefully the third time is the charm for the Mountaineers this season.

The First Pick:

Purple Pansies 28

Mountaineers 42

Coastal Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 5:

 Coastal Carolina (2-2) @ #17 Appalachian State (2-2, 1-1) 

Time: 3:30pm

TV/Video: GoASU TV

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; ESPN 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WCOG 1320 Greensboro, Winston Salem, WMFR 1230 Greensboro, High Point; WSML 1200 Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.9 Raleigh, WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnson City; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine, WDNC 620 Durham, WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium         

Surface:  FieldTurf

Capacity: 24,050 

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 56.76

CCU: 48.09

Home: 2.38 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 11 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 2-0

Last Meeting: Appalachian 45, Coastal Carolina 28, November 25, 2006, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:

Plenty of clouds, chance for a shower, a storm perhaps. Bring rain gear.

Kickoff: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

End of Game: Temperatures in the mid 60’s

            We can break down last Saturday’s win over Chattanooga down in three phases. The first phase included the Appalachian team that appeared to be as bad as the team that played the week before. The second phase included a team that we had seen before: a feisty bunch that was going to play tough defense and fight to win a game. The final phase included the basic ingredients of an opportunistic defense and an offense that makes teams pay for their mistakes. Chattanooga made quick work of Appalachian with its early 10-0 lead, but the Mountaineer defense was strong enough to keep the deficit at ten, and not let it expand to fourteen points. Part of that was due to the ineptitude of an offensive attack by the Mocs, something that has plagued them in the Russ Huesman years. His teams have either been able to run or pass, but generally not excel at both aspects of offensive football. It was evident that the younger Huesman, Jacob, had some straight line speed and escapability, but was never able to really find a groove. Terrell Robinson did not see significant time outside of a couple snaps at wide receiver until the game was decided. Last week, the Mountaineers won, but they didn’t do it alone. They had a lot of help from the other sideline as well.

            Coastal Carolina enters the game having played a variety of opponents. They followed a tougher-than-it-should-have-been win over North Carolina A&T, with a surprise upset of Furman. Coastal was cruising with an eleven point lead entering the fourth quarter and led by ten points with less than five minutes to play. The Chanticleers gave up two touchdowns in the final two minutes to trail by three before tying the game with a field goal as time expired. Coastal won in the third overtime with its defense as Furman failed the mandatory two point attempt on the last play of the game. Coastal then lost to then 20th ranked Eastern Kentucky at home in a rout and also lost last week at Toledo, despite hanging tight. The first thought was that Coastal might be getting the season together, but you have to look deeper. Toledo is currently 108th in total defense and 103rd in FBS against the pass. Playing Coastal Carolina actually helped their defensive numbers. Toledo has given up 614, 513, 351, 432 yards, respectively this season, to their opponents Arizona (12th total offense), Wyoming (73rd), Bowling Green (104th), and Coastal (36th FCS). Toledo is not exactly stopping anyone these days. I think Toledo might have even held up against the Chanticleers as well. The Rockets only put up 402 yards themselves against Coastal while averaging 429 yards on offense a game this season. Several people want to put a lot of stock into the most recent game, but I just can’t buy it. It’s almost the same way I feel about Appalachian right now as well.  

            The Chanticleers have gone all-in on their quarterback Aramis Hillary, the younger brother of former Appalachian wide receiver/kick returner CoCo Hillary. Last season, Aramis rushed the ball ten or more times twice, while this year he has hit the ten carry mark three times, averaging 11.5 carries per game. Last season, Hillary averaged 7.4 rushes per contest. Despite more opportunities to run the ball, his effectiveness has not carried over. Compare his 2011 and 2012 numbers: 3.3 ypc to 1.8 ypc. Knowing these numbers include yardage lost while being sacked, one can also see that Hillary is throwing the ball more this season than last. Hillary has attempted 27 or more passes in every game this season while only eclipsing that number twice in 2011. Those numbers eventually equal 15 more pass attempts per game this season that last year. Hillary is well on his way to a 3,000 yard passing season with well over twenty touchdown passes. Last week against Toledo, Hillary tossed for a career high 356 yards and three touchdown passes. Hillary has only thrown nine interceptions in his last fifteen games, but seven of those interceptions have come in his last six starts. .

            Hillary spreads the ball around the field quite well. His top three receivers have 19 catches or more through four games. Matt Hazel has 20 catches for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Demario Bennett (19/232/2) and Niccolo Mastromatteo (20/214/1) have also contributed. Tyrell Banks has accumulated 11 catches for 126 yards and a touchdown while running back Jeremy Height has 12 catches for 81 yards. Hazel and Bennett provide some size at the position with both being over 6’2 and 190 pounds. The Coastal Carolina running game is not much to talk about. They will run so they can keep the pressure off of Hillary, but still, their offensive line has given up 2.5 sacks a game.

            Steven Miller continues to carry the rushing attack for Appalachian. I was expecting Chattanooga to be able to hold him down better than they did last Saturday. Miller carried 22 times for 94 yards and caught a 35 yard touchdown pass from Jamal Jackson as time was winding down in the second quarter. With those numbers, Miller has already eclipsed his numbers from last year in all three major categories, attempts, yards and touchdowns. Miller is averaging 21 attempts per game this season and has 399 total rushing yards. There is word that Rod Chisholm might be available this weekend, but I wouldn’t rush him back, especially considering how well Miller is running.

            Jamal Jackson bounced back from a first quarter interception to once again post nice numbers. The interception seems to be the norm for Jackson at this point in his career, as he has eleven interceptions in as many career games. As long has he throws three touchdown passes a game like he did against Chattanooga, those interceptions will be forgotten. Jackson is completing 65% of his passes this season and has thrown for 992 yards. In games Appalachian has won this season, Jackson has five touchdown passes and one interception, compared to the losses, he has two interceptions and zero touchdown passes. A big part of those two wins is freshman sensation Sean Price. People want to make comparisons to Brian Quick, but Price has a completely different skill set. Price uses his legs to run away from defenders where Quick used his body to shield the defense. Price has 18 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns in two games and is a pivotal part of the Mountaineer offense. Price made an exceptional play in the fourth quarter when he came out of nowhere to snag a sure interception away from Chattanooga, and also scored on the catch. Now that his suspension is finally over, hopefully the Mountaineer offense can really take off in the coming weeks.

We still have seen some inconsistent play from the Mountaineer offense. Remember that 21 Mountaineer points were scored directly off of Chattanooga turnovers. Only three Mountaineer drives reached the end zone and one started at the fourteen yard line. In the first half, two of those red zone drives resulted in three points. Appalachian is not going to run into many teams in the next few weeks that they will beat with a sputtering offense. Hopefully having everyone back in the fold on game day for the rest of the season will provide some much needed chemistry. This is Appalachian’s last test before six straight conference games to end the season. Appalachian needs a hard fought convincing win. I would rather not see a blowout of any sort. Coastal Carolina seems to have the right offense to keep the game interesting for a long time. However, I think this is a game that is won in the trenches. If the Mountaineer defense can contain another mobile quarterback like Hillary and keep the Chanticleers in long yardage situations, they will be successful. Chattanooga had 27 first down plays on Saturday night and twelve of them gained no yardage, or even lost yards. Another nine plays went for three yards or less. I would like to see the pass rush from Appalachian continue their ways from last week. Appalachian had four sacks last week, doubling their season total prior to the game. I think the Mountaineers will run to a victory this weekend, especially in a game where rain could be a factor.

The First Pick:

Birds from the Beach            24       

Mountaineers                         34