App State Football @ Texas State

Appalachian State (3-2) vs Texas State (2-3)

Saturday, October 8th, 2022 7:00pm EST

TV/Video: ESPN+

Radio: FLAGSHIP 97.3 FM (North Wilkesboro), 96.5
FM/1450 AM (Boone), 99.1 FM/1060 AM/1030 AM (Charlotte),
105.3 FM/1320 AM (Greensboro), 790 AM (Johnson City),
107.7 FM/1450 AM (Hendersonville), Varsity Network App

Bobcat Stadium

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: Field Turf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 75.46

Texas State: 51.13

Home: 2.07

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 22.26 points

VegasInsider Line: App State -19

Series: App State leads 6-0

Last Meeting: App State 38, Texas State 17 November 7, 2020, San Marcos, TX

The more things change, the more they stay the same. The Citadel was no match for the Mountaineers as the home team broke a two game winless streak against their former conference foe. App State started the game much like the hurricane that hampered attendance, striking quickly and cruising to a large lead before the second became a game of handoffs and clock killing. You can almost use that same phrase when describing the Mountaineers next opponent. Texas State is trying different ways to win football game, yet the results have not really paid off as of yet under their fourth year coach. App State will be playing its second game of the season on the road, oddly, both being played in Texas. The Mountaineers survived the heat in September, but the High Country has been in the throws of fall for a few weeks now. That Texas heat in October may come as a larger shock to the bodies this time around. Luckily, not much energy was exerted last week, and there will be a few extra days of rest prior to the next conference matchup.

This game will be the seventh in the series between the two teams, and sixth while conference mates in the Sun Belt. In those six games, App State has had to travel to San Marcos four times since 2017. The Mountaineers hosted the Bobcats twice, in 2016 and 2019. Unbalanced scheduling and realignment has led to this somewhat, but it does not truly explain the cross division discrepancy. It’s likely that the next time these two play after this Saturday will be in Boone, but in what year that will be is a complete unknown. Switching gears a bit, the Bobcats have played twenty football games since they last faced App State. In those twenty games, Texas State is 7-13, which is about par for the course in San Marcos. But in those seven wins, the Bobcats have beaten just five teams, as they have claimed two wins apiece over Arkansas State and Florida International. The other victims included an overtime win over South Alabama, an eight point win over UL-Monroe, and a victory over Houston Christian University, the school formerly known as Houston Baptist.

Of the games Texas State has played this year, their record stands exactly where you thought it might be, but they have played some absolutely boring games. In both wins and losses, the closest game they have played was the opener, on September 3rd, in which they lost by 24 points. It’s been blowouts all season long, so even after five games, its hard to tell what Texas State has this year. Last week the Bobcats were thumped in their Sun Belt opener by James Madison, who on paper, appears to have played their game with ease. Against Nevada, the game was close at halftime, just a one score deficit at 14-7, but the Bobcats fumbled twice in the third quarter and gave way to Nevada winning comfortably. Against Baylor, a similar scenario played out. A third quarter fumble on their opening drive flattened Texas State, and they gained just seventy-eight yards on six drives for the remainder of the game. And once again, against James Madison, they played their best second half of the season, but spotted the Dukes a 19-0 lead at half. The Bobcats have yet to play two halves of football, and it has shown in all of their losses.

It’s quite funny, that of the wins that Texas State was able to acquire over the last twenty games included Arkansas State. Mainly, because two of their main contributors on offense went through Jonesboro. You may remember the name Layne Hatcher, who officially began his career at Alabama, where he redshirted and transferred to A-State way back in 2019. He started nine games in 2019, and then didn’t start at all in 2020. He earned 7 starts in 2021 before leaving town. He’s taken every snap for Texas State this year. The Mountaineers defense harassed Hatcher last year into three interceptions and four sacks in the 48-14 win over Arkansas State. In 2020, App State also picked off Hatcher once and sacked him twice in Boone. This season, Hatcher has thrown 11 touchdown passes in five games, but the interceptions are still bugging him, with six picks being thrown. Those have all occurred in four games. Lincoln Pare is the second leading rusher for Texas State in 2022, but was the leading rusher for Arkansas State in 2021. Pare has back to back eighty yard performances in his last two games after getting just thirteen carries in the first three games of the season.

The Mountaineers were extremely hard to defend on Saturday; when they had the ball. App State scored seven touchdowns on just 20:09 of possession. In fact, one of the craziest statistics of all, the Mountaineers had the ball for one play on offense in the third quarter and scored on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Chase Brice to Christan Horn. App State ran 47 plays for the game, spreading the ball to five running backs, with neither getting more than seven carries. In fact, it was probable redshirt candidate Kanye Roberts with a game high seven carries that he took advantage of for 70 yards. Camerun Peoples stretched his legs for a seventy-three yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Dashuan Davis also found himself wide open for a 44-yard touchdown catch in the opening quarter. All of these big plays equated to the Mountaineers averaging 11.6 yard per snap. When you are moving the ball at that clip, possession will be hard to come by, but as long as the defense can keep the other team off the board, its a negligible statistic.

Texas State is going somewhere. Nobody knows where that is. This is a program that has struggled mightily for years. Since their move to FBS, its been an uphill battle in the mud. This was a once proud program with some success in Division II and FCS. They won back to back FCS titles in 1981-1982. They had a couple playoff berths in the FCS days, but since they have entered FBS, it has been tough. Texas State currently holds a winning record against one Sun Belt school. They lead South Alabama 4-3, and are 4-4 against Georgia State. Those schools were recent football startups. Between App State, Ga. Southern and Coastal Carolina, they are a combined 2-12. They have never beaten Louisiana in nine tries and are 1-11 against Troy. How do they start getting better? Maybe its by recruiting better. Recently, Texas State has relied heavily on transfers. The Bobcats list 50 players on their roster who have not transferred in from another college or university. Sixty-nine others have transferred in from all over the country. San Marcos is almost like an island of misfit college football players. Their head coach Jake Spavital is in his fourth year. He’s been given one more year than his predecessor Everett Withers to get this ship righted. Withers won seven total games and two conference games in three years. Spavital has won nine games, and seven in conference play in his first three years. There is some improvement, but is it enough? Texas State has had one season since moving to FBS with an over .500 won-loss record and they have still have not played in a bowl game. Eventually, Texas State will find what they are looking for, whether that be wins on the football field, a new coach, or perhaps even a new conference. In the meantime, they are here playing games, and their opportunities to get those wins might be as good as ever. The Sun Belt West appears to be wide open for the first time in several years. There is an outside chance of winning five or maybe even six games, but they’ll need to start playing cleaner football. They’ve turned the ball over eleven times this season and opponents have accepted 33 penalties committed by the Bobcats. They’ll need long drives and touchdowns to keep up with App State, but the numbers say it’s unlikely to happen.

The First Pick

Wack in Black 15

Mountaineers 38

#23 Appalachian Football vs Texas State

Appalachian State (9-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) @ Texas State (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 23rd, 2019 2:30pm

TV/Video: ESPN+

Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: FieldTurf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 78.60

TS: 48.83

Home: 2.31

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 32.08 points

Line: App State -30

Series: App State leads 4-0

Last meeting: App State 38, Texas State 7, November 10, 2018, San Marcos, NC

WxCrum Forecast: Rain with temperatures creeping close to 50 for a high.

By late Saturday night, App State had worked their way into a rout of Georgia State by doubling them up on the scoreboard. The day did not start that way. After a late morning report that indeed Dan Ellington would suit up and start for Georgia State, questions were bouncing off all social media walls. It had not exactly been reported what Ellington’s injury was, but if you had watched football before, you knew it was serious. And then, we move onto the actual game itself. The Mountaineers fall into a 21-7 hole and things appeared bleak. Luckily for App State, Corey Sutton and Shaun Jolly can catch football in a variety of ways, and can also score touchdowns. Most of the day was spent in slight disoriented panic until order was restored moments before halftime. The Mountaineers do not win games like that often, and that is a true testament to the resiliency of this team. This was not trailing by a touchdown out of the gate at North Carolina, or by a field goal at South Carolina. This was a two touchdown deficit. Thankfully, the Mountaineers got it together and return home for hopefully the second of the last time of the season.

New Texas State head coach Jake Spavital is in charge of starting over in San Marcos. Since the Mountaineers have joined the Sun Belt, no team has more permanent head coaches than Texas State, with three. The Statesboro Eagles have also had three head coaches, but one left for greener pastures. So, let’s rephrase. The previous two head coaches at Texas State, prior to Spavital, resigned and were fired, respectively. All in all, not good. Texas State did not give Everett Withers a full recruiting class. Now Spavital is a really young offensive mind, which is all the rage at any level of football right now. Digging deeper, administrations and front offices love the Air Raid concepts that Spavital learned from Dana Holgorsen, Kevin Sumlin and Kliff Kingsbury. Spavital has coached a long list of successful college quarterbacks in his coaching career that has lasted just over a decade. They include Brandon Weeden, Geno Smith, and Johnny Manziel who spent time in the NFL, and Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray and Will Grier, who remain rostered by NFL teams.

What you see, is what you get with the Texas State schedule and won-loss record. Not sure Bobcat fans could have expected anything else. Texas State won their FCS game against Nicholls State, edged South Alabama in a coin flip game, and beat a full strength Georgia State squad back in September in triple overtime at home. All three of their wins have come at home. But its those road games where Texas State doesn’t show up. In those four games, the Bobcats have been outscored 157-41, but to some decent teams in Texas A&M, Southern Methodist, Louisiana and Arkansas State. Yet, this will be the Bobcats longest road trip of the season by a lot. With nothing to play for except pride, can the Bobcats mount an effort that would send shockwaves through the conference?

The reason Jake Spavital was hired was to find and develop a quarterback at Texas State. That has been their sore spot for years. Spavital might still be looking. Tyler Vitt started the season for the Bobcats, but eventually gave way to Gresch Jensen. During the UL-Monroe game, Jensen was concussed and Vitt was back to being the starting quarterback. Neither Jensen nor Vitt have appeared in every game. That leads to part of the struggles of this Texas State offense, which is averaging just 18.7 points per game. The two have combined for 18 interceptions on the year and just 13 touchdown passes. The twelve picks thrown by Vitt is really mind boggling when you consider he has played in just seven games. Both quarterbacks have completion percentages in the low 60% range. Jensen is a transfer from Fullerton College in California, while Vitt is a sophomore at Texas State. Last year, Vitt threw for 106 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the loss to App State.

After scoring just one offensive touchdown against South Carolina the Mountaineers exploded for eight touchdowns against Georgia State. The first two offensive series for App State were three and outs that resulted in -5 yards of offense. After a first quarter touchdown, another punt and interception resulted, and then the touchdowns flowed. While the offense was lighting up the scoreboard, the defense turned away Georgia State on eleven straight possessions. By that time, the game was firmly in hand. Both sides of the ball looked ugly early on, but as soon as App State made their adjustments, it was light outs. Corey Sutton and Darrynton Evans were responsible for two insane plays, one a juggling pinball catch, and the latter a heads up, hand on the ground touchdown run after the appearance of being down by contact. For a game that began with so much angst and anxiety, the Mountaineers cruised to their fifth road win of the season.

The spread for this week’s game is the biggest of the season in Sun Belt play for the Mountaineers. The difference between this spread and the South Alabama game is all about where the game is being played – in Boone. Texas State does not do many things well on the football field. They cannot convert or defend well on third downs. They are one of the worst teams in the country as far as moving the ball on offense, and they just don’t score enough. Because of their inability to move the ball and score, their defense is eventually worn down as a game progresses. Now regardless of their struggles, they will throw the ball around a lot. Despite their hideous touchdown-interception ratio, the Bobcats are third in the league with 244.6 passing yards per game. Yet, they are on the low end in the conference with just 6.6 yards per attempt. Texas State throws a lot of short passes and they are second in the conference in completions and attempts. Running the ball just does not suit them. They are dead last in the conference by a large margin with just 83 yards per game on the ground. Ninth place Arkansas State has Texas State cleared by 50 yards per game. They’ll struggle to get to 1,000 yards rushing as a team over twelve games. That’s a tough way to win football games in college, where having a running game does matter. The Mountaineers will have their way with Texas State in an old fashioned “name your score” type game.

The First Pick

TeisCats 10

Mountaineers 42

Appalachian Football @ Texas State

Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1 Sun Belt) @ Texas State (3-6, 1-4 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 10th, 2018 4:00pm 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

Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium 

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: Fieldturf Duraspine Pro

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 75.41

Texas State: 45.68

Home: 2.44

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 27.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -20.5

Series: App State leads 3-0

Last meeting: App State 20, Texas State 13,  September 16th, 2017, San Marcos, TX

WxCrum Forecast: Cloudy, chance of an evening shower, Temps hovering around 50

Nothing feels better than getting back in the win column. The losses have to happen in order for the wins to be appreciated to the fullest extent. Not only did the Mountaineers enjoy getting back in the win column, but they had to have enjoyed doing it in front a lot of their fans in a visiting stadium. That game felt like a flashback to the days in the Southern Conference when Mountaineer fans would pack the stadiums of opponents who were never prepared for the onslaught of concession requests. The lines for cold soft drinks moved about as efficiently as Coastal Carolina’s offense. The Mountaineer defense held the Chanticleers to a season low in total yards and were never really threatened. The win kept the Mountaineers in the Sun Belt East division chase with Georgia Southern falling in Monroe. That makes this week’s game so very important. Appalachian will play its final road game of the season, at a venue that gave the Mountaineers some trouble last year. The Mountaineers avoided disaster pulling out a seven point win last year in San Marcos. A scheduling anomaly sends Appalachian back to Texas in consecutive years and now the Mountaineers will be more familiar with their surroundings as they travel. It’s also looking like the weather will also be more comfortable considering the late summer heat the Mountaineers also had to endure last season. 

Since Appalachian has joined the Sun Belt, Texas State has been arguably the worst team in the conference. The Bobcats have just seventeen wins since the 2014 season, and that includes a seven win season in 2014, the last time they finished with a winning record. Back-to-back 2-10 seasons were the lowest points in 2016 and 2017, but Texas State appears to be turning it around a little bit, even if the results do not actually reflect their improvement. Currently with three wins, and three monster tasks ahead of them to close the season, the Bobcats might be pushing toward a bowl campaign next year. Until then, Texas State has App State, Troy and Arkansas State to close the 2018 season out. 

The true story behind the Bobcat season has been the quarterback play. It seems like from one week to the next, its been a guessing game as to who would take snaps prior to each game. Willie Jones III has played in seven games, sitting out against both Louisiana schools in non consecutive weeks. Tyler Vitt has played in six games, not playing in three of them, and neither of the last two games. Jones has taken advantage of his playing time, rushing for 172 yards in the last two weeks combined and scoring two of his three rushing touchdowns. Vitt is less of a runner, averaging less than three yards per carry on the season, but he did register a 92-yard day against the Ragin’ Cajuns. 

 Chances are pretty good the Mountaineers will see Willie Jones III on Saturday to start the game. Jones III easily had his best passing day of the season last week against Georgia State’s beat up secondary. Jones III completed 21/26 passes for 325 yards and two touchdowns. A lot the Texas State passing attack is of the shorter variety. The Bobcats like to get the ball to their skill players on the outside. But Georgia State is a “get well” game for a lot of opposing offenses. Jones III had a 93 yard touchdown pass against the Panthers, and another 69-yard completion that did not result in a score. On both attempts, a blown coverage by Georgia State led to the big plays. 

The Texas State defense is somewhat underrated as a unit. The are currently fourth in points allowed in the Sun Belt at 27.7 points per game, trailing three schools that all have winning records. It’s rare to see a team with just three wins lead in that category. The Bobcats are also third in total defense, allowing just 380 yards per game. It’s a balanced affair, as they rank in the top half against the run and the pass. The Bobcats only trail the Mountaineers in terms of defensive pass efficiency, highlighted by allowing just eleven passing touchdowns on the season. 

What happened in Conway last weekend was not any more or less than it needed to be. It was business-like beat down that was just not completely reflected on the scoreboard. The Mountaineer defense never let Coastal Carolina get comfortable on offense. The tandem of Darrynton Evans and Marcus Williams Jr moved the chains all night long as they combined for 262 of the Mountaineers 278 rushing yards. Both backs averaged over five yards per carry. In what appears to be a spot start for Jacob Huesman, the redshirt sophomore was useful, connecting with six different receivers. He had two very fluky interceptions, one that accounted for the only points in the game for Coastal. Huesman also flashed some touch with a beautiful touchdown pass to Corey Sutton. Seems just about every pass thrown to Corey Sutton near the end zone is a work of art.

I’ll come clean about Texas State. They are the least interesting team in the conference to write about. A lot of it has to do with missing them in our first two years of Sun Belt play, and not being as familiar. Last year, it was App State’s first conference game, and I believe a lot of people underestimated them. In 2017, Texas State started a graduate transfer with SEC experience at quarterback. This year, you’ll see the sophomore in Willie Jones III and maybe even the freshman Tyler Vitt. By now, the Bobcats have the Mountaineers attention. Texas State will not have one of their better tacklers, Bryan London II for the first half of the game on Saturday due to an ejection for targeting last week in Atlanta. On the other hand, Appalachian will have the services of one Zac Thomas, who has advanced through concussion protocol and has been deemed healthy enough to play. Without Thomas the last two games, the Mountaineer offense was reserved at best. Thomas has the big arm and the mobility to extend plays which was somewhat lacking the last two games. It will be a tough test against an underrated defense for a quarterback who has not seen a meaningful game snap in over three weeks. I can see the first few drives setting the tone for both sides. The Bobcats have won two straight, but the likes of New Mexico State and Georgia State are not exactly top notch competition. 


The First Pick

Kitties 13

Mountaineers 35

Appalachian Football @ Texas State

Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) @ Texas State (1-1, 0-0 SBC)

Saturday, September 16th, 2017 7pm 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
Jim Wacker Field at Bobcat Stadium
Surface: Fieldturf Duraspine Pro
Capacity: 30,000
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 68.77
Texas State: 46.29
Home: 2.41
App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 20 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: App State -23
Series: App State leads 2-0
Last meeting: App State 35, Texas State 10, November 5th, 2016
         College football’s preseason is over and its time to for the real games to start. The games that determine a conference champion and defines where your team plays in the postseason if they deserve it. For the first time in Appalachian’s history, they will play a football game in the state of Texas. It was not long ago, the Mountaineers had not won a game east of the Mississippi River, but it’s inclusion in the Sun Belt has allowed for wins in Idaho, New Mexico and Louisiana. Hopefully that trend continues for the Mountaineers in conference play. Texas State is on an upswing, but its been a slow process for Appalachian alum Everett Withers. They’ve installed an offense and defense that resembles what the Mountaineers are currently running. The talent is not completely there, but similarly to what Appalachian faced a few years ago, they are playing younger players who just lack experience. Eventually they’ll catch up, but it will take a lot of work to learn how to win, especially for a program whose last winning season was in 2014. That season did not result in bowl berth for the Bobcats, and the bottom fell out in the last two seasons, winning only five games in that span. Appalachian looks to stay the course and keep piling up wins in Sun Belt play as the season wears on. Before 2017 concludes, the Bobcats will likely trip someone up, just not this weekend. 

         Texas State started off the season with a win over Houston Baptist, an FCS school in the Southland Conference, which includes the likes of McNeese State, Sam Houston State and Central Arkansas. That game was a little closer than it should have been, as the Bobcats edged out the Huskies by nine points. Houston Baptist had a Sagarin rating in the twenties, and Texas State should have won more comfortably. Colorado disposed of Texas State with ease last weekend. The Buffaloes were 36 points favorites, but failed to cover in a 37-3 final. Texas State only trailed 14-0 at halftime before Colorado got serious and put them away with seventeen third quarter points. 

         In both games, Texas State managed to eclipse the 150 yard rushing mark. They ran the ball 41 times vs Houston Baptist and 47 times versus Colorado. Last year, the Bobcats couldn’t run the ball if they wanted to. App held them to 14 rushing yards on 28 carries. This sudden improvement is noticeable. Where Texas State continues to struggle is passing the ball. With only 262 yards in the air in two games, to go along with two interceptions thrown and zero touchdown passses, the Bobcats are still a work in progress on the offensive side of the ball. 

            Damian Williams is one of the Bobcat quaterbacks, transferring in from Mississippi State as a graduate. He appeared in six games in both 2013 and 2014, redshirted in 2015, and played in five contests in 2016. Williams is dual-threat quarterback who is fourth on the team with 47 rushing yards and is the only quarterback to throw in both contests this season. Freshman Willie Jones III, has also played in both contests, but stuck to running the ball vs Houston Baptist. Jones completed both his passes vs Colorado, but was also sacked twice. 

           The Bobcat running backs are a mixed bag. A quick look shows three backs are getting the majority of the carries. Anthony Taylor has 85 yards on sixteen carries, with a long of 55. Take out that long run, and you have fifteen carries for thirty yards, or two yards a carry. It’s the same story for Anthony Smith, 82 yards on 12 carries, with a long of 48. Take out the max, and you have eleven carries for 34 yards, which equates to just over three per carry. Robert Brown Jr does it a little differently, with the most carries among running backs with 22 for 73 yards. His ten yard long does not affect his average of 3.3 yards per tote.                            

            Taylor Lamb nearly had a perfect game in the air (12/15 327 yards, 5 TD’s). Sometimes you don’t complete 80% of your passes in practice. Just to put this performance in perspective, Lamb threw a touchdown pass for every three attempts he dropped back, and every 2.4 attempts he completed a pass. The five touchdown passes were a career high, eclipsing games versus Texas State (oh!) in 2016, Old Dominion and Arkansas State in 2015 in which he threw for four touchdowns in each game. It was only his fourth 300-yard passing game of his career, but we know he is as equally dangerous on the ground. However, Lamb was quiet on the ground, likely by design, with only 9 yards vs Savannah State. Lamb had averaged 71 yards per game on the ground over the last seven games. Last week also gave Lamb 18 straight games with at least 100 yards passing. The game propelled Lamb over 7500 yards passing in his Appalachian career.

         The Mountaineer defense was incredibly impressive. Savannah State managed just 114 total yards and only converted one of its thirteen third down attempts. The Tigers ran fifty-one plays and gained roughly 2.2 yards per play, while earning just six first downs. Twenty-nine Mountaineers assisted on a tackle over the course of the game and three sacks were recorded by four relatively unknown Mountaineers. Caleb Spurlin and Demetrius Taylor each had one, while Cameron Pack & Josh Houser combined for another.

        Moving the ball on a stout Mountaineer defense will be the biggest challenge for Texas State on Saturday. The commitment to the run for Texas State is admirable, but faces a hungry front seven from Appalachian. Outside of a couple long runs given up at Georgia, the Mountaineers have been extremely steady in the early going. The Apps have held its first two opponents to a combined 3.9 yards per rush, and are likely better than that this weekend. Getting Texas State in a long yardage situation on third down seems like a good strategy for a team that struggles to throw downfield and has converted just six of its twenty-nine third downs on the young season. Coach Withers mentioned earlier this week that he wants to makes teams one dimensional as a defefensive strategy, so their focus will be on trying to stop the Mountaineer running game, and forcing Taylor Lamb to throw the ball. If I were coach, I would be careful trying to sneak up a safety in run support. Lamb showed last week what happens when you get overzealous and give him an open throwing lane or a free running tight end. Lamb finished and did so in quick order. Just when you expect both tight ends to stay in and block, one of them releases and the coverage doesn’t have time to rotate. The wishing well at the San Marcos Outlets might be full of Coach Withers maroon pennies this week if he thinks he can slow down a team that ripped his group for 303 ground yards and four passing touchdowns a season ago. 


The First Pick

Kitties 14

Mountaineers 35

Texas State @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 9

Texas State (2-5, 0-3 Sun Belt ) @ Appalachian State (6-2, 4-0 Sun Belt) 

Saturday, November 5th, 2016 3:30 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: Fieldturf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 71.79

Texas State: 42.77

Home: 2.44

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 31.5 points (rounded)

Sportsbook: App State -32

Series: App State leads 1-0

Last meeting: App State 41, Texas State 34, October 4th, 2004, Boone, NC


         Everyone has a favorite restaurant they prefer to have a decent meal. Generally that meal is one that is prepared the same way every time. Perhaps you might skip lunch in preparation for this great meal so you can make room. Occasionally that grand dish doesn’t perform up to standards. Perhaps there are new cooks in the kitchen. Maybe the waitress didn’t remember put on the same perfume or the tea isn’t sweet enough. Maybe the meat or fish was not as fresh and did not deliver. The meal still filled you up, and you’ll still go back to the restaurant, but you leave a little unfulfilled. That’s the best I can describe last week’s experience at Georgia Southern. At the end of the day, a win over the Eagles in Paulson will do the trick. It does not mean any less in the win loss column, but it does not feel right when the students are not telling you that you are number one, while dropping a four letter word or two. Georgia Southern, please come back. We need you to be competitive for the Sun Belt to be fun. Please, get it figured out. In the meantime, we’ll keep knocking off Sun Belt opponents one by one waiting for your return. 

          Texas State is the next victim for the Mountaineers. It’s that simple. The Bobcats, formerly of the FCS and in their sixth season of FBS football have had mixed results. Many forget that Texas State was 7-5 and 5-3 in Sun Belt play in 2014, but were left out of the bowl picture. Late season wins over Arkansas State and Georgia State turned out to be, too little, too late for Texas State. Outside of that one winning season, Texas State has a couple of 6-6 seasons in their short tenure in FBS. Some remember the Texas State debacle in the 2005 FCS playoffs which directly impacted Appalachian’s first national chmapionship. The fourth seeded Bobcats took a knee late in the fourth quarter of a tied game with three time outs to head to overtime. Northern Iowa prevailed in the extra period of that semifinal, and the rest is history. 

          This season has not been kind to Texas State. It’s never easy when a new coach takes over. Everett Withers, the former Mountaineer, is doing his best with fewer than the max of 85 scholarships due to massive turnover in the offseason. That has led to a ton of first year players getting significant minutes early on in their career. Eventually, that will payoff, but in the current moment, it leads to disappointment. Texas State made some noise early this season in its first game with a triple OT win over Ohio. That has been the only D-1 win for the Bobcats to date. Texas State gets the three leaders of the Sun Belt in their final five games along with Idaho and New Mexico State on the road. They are unlikely to be favored in any of those matchups. 

         Withers and his staff rolled up tons of offense in two years at James Madison, and that is the plan as well in San Marcos. They intend to run upwards of eighty offensive plays a game with plans of slowly wearing out defenses. The Bobcats are averaging about 38 passes a game, but aren’t really moving the ball down the field. They live for the short pass, and hoping a receiver can make a play with it, rather than relying on the quarterback to make a throw. Quarterback Tyler Jones is averaging just 6.5 yards per attempt, and only 10.4 yards per completed pass. As a team, Texas State’s 4.7 yards per play is dead last in the Sun Belt. Their inability to drive down the field, and volume of clock stopping incompletions have led to a poor time of possession margin. The Bobcats are losing that battle by nearly nine minutes per game. 

           We will see Texas State throw the ball all over the yard and to a bevy of receivers. Six of them have over twenty receptions, including leading rusher Stedman Mayberry who also leads the team in receptions. Mayberry’s receptions also do not go very far, averaging 7.6 yards per catch. Mayberry tacks on just over 60 yards rushing per game, but you’ll only see him get around 15 carries. The Bobcats have just two 100-yard receivers on the season, and both came in their wins. 

          After a somewhat nervous first fifteen minutes in Statesboro, the Mountaineers finally settled down and slowly destroyed Georgia Southern, scoring the game’s final 34 points. The level of dominance led to one of the most lopsided results in the series. Appalachian rolled up 299 rushing yards while also holding the Eagles to just 65 yards on the ground. That same story might be repeated this weekend against Texas State.  The Bobcats are giving up 234 yards a game on the ground while Appalachian is second in conference play with 208 yards via the run. Appalachian nearly had three players break the century mark against the Eagles, and having two break 100 yards against Texas State seems like a really safe bet. 

           The goal is not to make it sound like Texas State isn’t very good.  That’s pretty evident. They aren’t very good and just about every Texas State weakness plays right into a Mountaineer strength. Be prepared, this could be a very boring game to watch as a fan. Appalachian’s real challenge will be to keep from looking ahead to their next game while at the same time, playing loose and avoiding injuries. The health of this Mountaineer team is a major plus at this time of the season, and backups have had the chances to get plenty of playing time. That really showed against Georgia Southern last week when twenty-four different players made a tackle, and the leading tackler, Eric Boggs had just six stops. That is the fewest tackles that the leading tackler for an entire game has had this season. Georgia Southern had zero plays that went for over 20 yards and did not eclipse 100 total yards until the last drive. Long story short, this defense is playing outstanding. To think, that after four Sun Belt games, the black shirts have yet to give up a touchdown that has mattered in the least bit is really astounding. Forget that the offense is not quite what we want it to be. It’s plenty for the best defense in the conference and a top twenty defense nationwide. This offense will be more than enough to take on the 121st ranked defense in Texas State. The Bobcats are worse than Akron on defense in total yards and touchdowns allowed per game and they get to deal with Appalachian’s full compliment of backs. This will be decided quickly, and the only question is the margin. 

The First Pick

Strutters 7

Mountaineers 42

App Men look to sweep Bobcats

It has been a long season for the Mountaineers in Jim Fox’s first season as head coach. Wins have been scarce, sometimes coming in streaks, and that is exactly how Appalachian hopes to finish the season. Prior to last Saturday’s win over first place UL-Monroe, Appalachian had not won a game in three weeks, dating back to a 65-62 win over Troy on February 7th. 

The Mountaineers won four games in a row in January in an eight day span. However, that streak was preceded by a four game losing streak and followed by back to back losses. All in all, seven of Appalachian’s ten wins were split by a three-game and four-game winning streaks. 

Throughout the season, the trend in Mountaineer wins has been the play of Frank Eaves. In each and every Appalachian win, Eaves has been the leading scorer for the Mountaineers and has averaged 23 points per game in those contests. In the previous game against Texas State, Eaves scored a career high 31 points. 

This season, Appalachian is 10-15 against the spread. The Mountaineers have been better on the road this season than in the Holmes Convocation Center. The Apps are only 3-6 ATS at home, with all wins coming against Sun Belt competition. Conversely, Appalachian has straight up wins in all of those matchups, against South Alabama, Georgia State and UL-Monroe. 

Appalachian is currently a 1.5 point underdog in tonight’s matchup against Texas State. Texas State was a 7 point favorite earlier in the year when they lost to the Mountaineers. The Bobcats are also 3-6 on the road against the spread and 1-7 ATS when the total is in the 120’s. App seems like a safe pick getting a couple points at home.