Appalachian State (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) vs Wake Forest (3-0, 1-0 ACC)
Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 3:30pm est
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
Jeff Sagarin Ratings
App State: 67.25
Wake Forest: 76.81
Wake Forest is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 7 points (rounded)
Sportsbook: Wake -4
Series: Wake Forest leads 14-7-1
Last meeting: Wake Forest 20, App State 10, September 8th, 2001
Ya’ll, it has been a long time coming for this one. Think about all the events and memories that have been made in your life since the last time Appalachian and Wake Forest met on the gridiron. If you had a child born in 2001, they are getting their drivers license this year. Dale Earnhardt’s death was still fresh on many Carolinian minds and the World Trade Center was still standing. A lot has changed, but the hunger for these two schools to play football hasn’t diminished. Eighty-eight miles of US 421, partially named by famous stock car drivers on some stretches, is all that separates these two schools. Unfortunately, college football started becoming less about the game on the field and more about padding the back pockets of those who keep watch over athletics. Appalachian and Wake could have easily scheduled a win, or gone on the road to get a paycheck and keep the budgets in the black. Thankfully, these two schools have remembered what is important about one of the experiences of college football. Packed stadiums, plenty of atmosphere and a competitive spirit inside and outside the lines. Conference footprints have expanded so that the parishioners at service on Sunday do not recognize the schools opponents. Its hard to explain how much this just feels right. Appalachian and Wake Forest belong in the same breath. Even with scholarship discrepancies in the past, these two schools were neck and neck on the field more than enough times. Neither side wants to lose and both expecting a win. I’m not sure college football gets any better than that.
In 2001, the Deacons went 6-5, but did not get a bowl invitation. Since then they have had five winning seasons, and played in six bowl games. The 2011 was the oddball, finishing 6-7 after a bowl loss to Mississippi State. Most notably, the Deacons were ACC champions and played in the Orange Bowl in 2007, but fell to the eventual conference mate Louisville. Last season was the first winning season for Wake since 2008, getting a win in the Military Bowl and finishing 7-6. As has been the luck for Appalachian’s out of conference opponents, Wake has jumped out of the gates hot with three wins in rather dominating fashion to start the 2017 campaign.
In those three games, Wake has benefited from a stronger than usual defense, and an offense that has put a lot of points on the board. Wake has sixteen touchdowns and they have all been scored by the offense except one, a thirty yard interception return vs. Utah State. The Deacons have been balanced, with seven rushing touchdowns, and eight passing touchdowns. Senior quarterback John Wolford has contributed nine of those scores, three with his legs and six with his arm. Wolford has been surprising, but more importantly he has played smart, not throwing an interception. In fact, the Deacons have just one turnover on the season, an interception thrown by their third string quarterback.
Greg Dortch is one guy the Moutaineers must know where he is on the field at all times. Dortch has four touchdowns, leads the team in receptions and yards, and also returns kickoffs and punts. He has the abilty to burn you with his speed as he did vs Utah State on a catch and run or go up and make an acrobatic play in the end zone and get a foot down for a score, like he did at Boston College. The Demon Deacons have this kid for three more seasons, so this won’t be the last time Appalachian has to worry about him, as he’ll be a senior when the Mountaineers return to Winston-Salem in the 2020 season.
Wake Forest takes a committee/all hands on deck approach to their running game. Four players have at least 26 carries on the season, including Wolford. Cade Carney and Matt Colburn will not burn you, but they move the pile and are tough to tackle. Arkeem Byrd fits the bill as a more traditional back at 6-1, 190 pounds. Byrd is also a redshirt freshman and will be around for awhile. Appalachian’s coaches will be familiar with him as they recruited and offered Byrd early in the 2015 recruiting process.
We’ve got to the point where we have to mention last week’s game. The Apps played about thirty minutes on Saturday in San Marcos, but gutted out a conference win. It was one on the lowest offensive outputs in terms of yardage in a win in a very long time. What is worse, is that several players felt the effects of the physical game well into the early week. Those day-to-day injuries typically heal enough once Saturday comes around, but it is something to keep an eye on. If anyone had a good performance, it was Terrance Upshaw. Most of his work came in the fourth quarter, and he scored the go-ahead touchdown. Upshaw didn’t lose a yard on any of his fourteen carries, which went for sixty yards and a touchdown. Upshaw now leads the team with 163 yards on the season. Taylor Lamb follows with 117 yards and Jalin Moore has 109 yards.
Another solid performance was turned in by the App State defense. They gave up one score over the top, but kept Texas State in check for the remainder of the game. They gave up a few yards, but didn’t allow a red zone touchdown. Anthony Flory was named the conference defensive player of the week with his nine tackles and two sacks. The Mountaineers repeatedly assualted Damian Williams, but that sucker just kept getting up.
Last week, I was all types of wrong in the closing paragraph. It could not have been worse. The bigggest miss in a long time. Something about last week was not right. Not sure what it was, but found myself pacing in the hours before kickoff. The nerves were obviously warranted. A lot of comparisons have been made to Miami from a year ago, leading into this game with Wake Forest. I cant buy them. This week will be different because it has to be. We have been warned. We have been through this “host a P5 program” at Kidd Brewer before. The Mountaineers probably played the worst game of the season last weekend. It has to get better and maybe it was a perfect time for a wake up call. I’m confident in saying that Kidd Brewer will be a much different place to play for Wake than it was when they visited Chestnut Hill in Massachusetts. The Deacons will likely be playing their best opponent of the young season as well. No offense to Presbyterian, Boston College, and Utah State. They arent exactly football hotbeds. They dont have the athletes that App has. Besides Wake limiting the opposing quarterbacks they have played, those signal callers they have faced have been pretty bad against everyone. Presbyterian QB Ben Cheek completed 2/9 passes for 41 yards vs. the Deacs. This season Cheek has still completed just 33% of his throws for 204 yards in three games, and he is their starter. Same story for Boston College. They played two guys behind center against Wake. They were a combined 18/41 for just 163 yards, which is under four yards per attempt. On the season, the primary BC starter is under 5 yards per attempt. That’s simply not good. Utah State: same stuff, different day. Their two QB’s combined for a 15/37 day last weekend, or a 40% completion rate. Their yards per attempt was higher than BC, right around 6 yards per, but that was buoyed by a 77 yard passing touchdown. Take that out, and guess what, exactly four yards per attempt. I don’t think Wake has played a competent QB yet and I think App’s defense has too much pride and talent to roll over and let anyone drop forty points on them like Wake has done to their opponents this season. It’s going to be a hard fought game, but in the end, this Saturday is for Appalachian.
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