Here we go with Week 2:
#12 Montana (1-0) @ #11 Appalachian State (0-1)
TV/Video: ESPN Gameplan/ESPN3
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
Jeff Sagarin Ratings:
Home: 3 points
Montana is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 2 points (rounded).
Series: Montana leads 2-0
Last Meeting: Montana 24, Appalachian 17, December 9, 2009, Missoula, MT
WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends:
Most Cloudy to Cloudy Skies. Rain a strong possibility for the game
Kickoff: Temperatures in the upper 60’s
End of Game: Temperatures in the mid 60’s
Last week, we compared two football programs and their ups and downs since their last meeting, which was three seasons ago. Similarly, the team that ended Appalachian’s season back in 2009 is the program they will face this weekend in their home opener. For only the third time ever, Appalachian and Montana, two of the best programs in FCS/I-AA history will play a football game. The previous two games were dandies, both basically decided on the games final play. Erasing the image of Jimmy Farris catching the game clinching touchdown over Appalachian All-American Corey Hall will always be tough. Perhaps even tougher, most of us watched Armanti Edwards play his final game as a collegian in a blizzard on television, thousands of miles from home. This time around, Montana finally hits the road to play the Mountaineers; the first such meeting between the two schools in the regular season. Montana was able to escape from South Dakota last week while the Mountaineers fell to East Carolina in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated. Montana seems to be the same team they always have been, a power running team that will dominate the line of scrimmage, while Appalachian looked much like its former self, compiling 419 yards of offense despite only scoring three times. Only once last year did Appalachian eclipse that yardage mark on the road: Jamal Jackson’s first start against The Citadel.
Appalachian has been performed well historically in home openers. Appalachian has won 75% of their home openers overall and are 20-3 under Jerry Moore. Those three losses are significant to Appalachian’s performance as the season goes on. In 1993, Appalachian fell to Liberty 20-14. That is the only season that Moore has coached an Appalachian football team to a losing record (4-7). In 2000, Appalachian lost to Troy State 34-28, but would exact revenge on the Trojans in the first round of the playoffs 33-30. Appalachian eventually lost to Montana in the semifinals. And most recently, in 2009, the Mountaineers fell to McNeese State 40-35, and guess what happened that year? Appalachian lost to Montana in the semifinals. So if Appalachian loses on Saturday, what can we predict for Appalachian for the remainder of the season? Well a 33% chance of a losing record, and 66% chance we make the playoffs and have to go on the road to eventually play Montana again.
It has been well documented, how Appalachian had to replace a lot of coaches since the end of the 2011 season. Montana may have had it worse than Appalachian. A rash of player misconduct off the field in Montana led to the eventual firing of former football coach Robin Pflugrad and athletics director Jim O’Day. Several players were disciplined which included some dismissals. The Boone and Missoula communities are very alike, in that the towns revolve around football, and negative press is not something than many know how to deal with. Hopefully this weekend, both schools can put it all behind them and enjoy the game of football once again.
Montana’s win over South Dakota last weekend was a little eye opening. Not because it was a good win, but because the Griz had to come back from a halftime deficit to win. South Dakota is in their first year as a playoff eligible team in 2012. Their high point in 2011 was a win over Eastern Washington, but it is tough to judge statistics from last season’s schedule, one that was full of creampuffs and money games. Regardless, Montana ran for 315 yards against the Coyotes and advanced the ball in the air for another 253 yards. The Griz racked up 34 first downs, and had two players hit the century mark on the ground, but turned the ball over three times.
Redshirt sophomore Trent McKinney was 26/32 passing the ball for 214 yards which included two touchdowns and one interception. McKinney also ran the ball thirteen times for 65 yards in his first career game. Peter Nguyen averaged 5.4 yards per carry on his nineteen rushes and Dan Moore averaged 5.5 yards per carry on his twenty seven attempts. Both running backs scored a touchdown. Nguyen and Moore are also capable targets out of the backfield, combining for six catches against South Dakota. Wide receiver Sam Gratton caught five passes for forty-two yards and also threw a touchdown pass, a 39 yard score to Bryce Carver. Sean Hayes added another five catches for fifty three yards. The intermediate passing game from Montana could provide some issues for the Mountaineers with their injury concerns. Although the Mountaineers looked good against East Carolina, it was the tight ends and backs that did the most damage against Appalachian.
The Mountaineers fared better than the final score against East Carolina on Saturday. The game brings back memories from the Marshall game in 2002. A one possession ball game late in the third quarter in both instances got out of hand on one play. In 2002, Josh Jeffries was all over a Marshall fumble that would have given the Mountaineers the ball deep in Herd territory down only six points. Jeffries couldn’t possess the ball before it went out of bounds, and on the very next play, Marshall scores on a long touchdown pass and the rout was on. After pulling within a point Saturday, Appalachian gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown and any momentum the Mountaineers gained was lost in the heat and humidity of Greenville.
Jamal Jackson looked good even despite his one interception. The interception wasn’t a bad throw, it must have slipped out of his hands, but he had a receiver open behind the defense and was trying to make a play. He scored the only Mountaineer touchdown on a four yard run in the first quarter and finished the game with 300 yards passing. If there is a concern in Jackson’s eight career starts, it is that he has thrown at least one interception six times. In both instances where he did not throw a touchdown pass in a game, Appalachian lost on both occasions; the other being Furman last year.
The big story coming out of Greenville was the injuries the Mountaineers suffered. Rod Chisholm was lost to a broken hand until the leaves change colors and Doug Middleton was lost for the season due to a broken bone in his foot. At both positions, running back and defensive back, Appalachian was already suffering some injuries, with Stephen Miller working his way back into shape and Rodger Walker dealing with his illness.
Appalachian owes Montana one after all these years. A regular season win over Montana may not heal the wounds of the past, but it will do a great deal for Appalachian team that needs a marquee win over a team of relevance in the FCS. However, Montana’s record east of the Mississippi is about as bad as Appalachian’s is west of the muddy waters. Montana will not feel the effects of the time difference as it would in an earlier game, but they may have played right into Appalachian’s hand. Many have been witnesses to night games at The Rock, and for whatever reason, it brings out a different type of Mountaineer team. Some of the most special nights, and higher points totals in recent memory were games that started in the early to late evening. We know them simple as one name. Richmond. Halloween. Will Montana be added to that list? It all depends on the play from the Appalachian defense. With a freshman on the road for his first start in a hostile environment, Montana will most likely try to kill the crowd and the clock with long drives by establishing a run game. Jeremy Kimbrough, Brandon Grier, Troy Sanders and Patrick Blalock must be ready to attack the line of scrimmage and force the Grizzlies into long yardage situations. Those four combined for 40 of 80 total tackles and 21 of the 40 solo stops against East Carolina. In fact, all of Grier’s nine tackles were solo stops. In those long yardage plays, Ronald Blair, Davante Harris and Deuce Robinson need to apply pressure and make McKinney throw the ball when he does not want to. The Appalachian offense needs to find a rhythm early and attack the Montana defense straight on. In a game of this magnitude, the team that plays with a greater passion and desire will come out on top. Hopefully, those players will have big block “A” on their helmets.
The First Pick:
Care Bears 24