Western Carolina @ Appalachian Football

Here we go with Week 12:

Western Carolina (2-9, 1-6 SoCon) @ Appalachian State (3-8, 3-4 SoCon)

Time: 3:30 pm

TV/Video: http://www.nmnathletics.com/liveEvents/liveEvents.dbml?&&&&&DB_OEM_ID=21500

Radio: WKBC 97.3 Wilkesboro, Charlotte, Winston Salem, Hickory & High Country; WATA 1450 Boone, Blowing Rock; WCOG 1320 Winston-Salem, Greensboro; WMFR 1230 High Point, Greensboro; WSML 1200, Burlington, Greensboro; WCMC 99.3 Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill; WZGM 1350 Black Mountain, Asheville; WTOE 1470 Spruce Pine; WPWT 870 Bristol, Johnston City; WZGV 730 Charlotte, Rock Hill, Salisbury; WDNC 620 Durham, Raleigh; WHKP 1450 Hendersonville; WAZZ 1490 Fayetteville; WLON 1050 Lincolnton

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Surface: FieldTurf

Capacity: 23,150

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

App State: 45.46

WCU: 36.80

Home: 3.87

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 12 ½ points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 58-18-1     

Last Meeting: Appalachian 38, Western Carolina 27, October 27th 2012, Cullowhee          

WXAPP’s Boone Gameday Weather Trends

Early morning rain should give way to marginal improvement throughout the game

Windy and gusty with temps in the mid to lower 40’s. Bundle up!

            For the final time, Appalachian will play a football game as a member of the Southern Conference. For the last time in the foreseeable future, the Mountaineers will lace it up against Western Carolina with a symbol of their mountain heritage on the line. On Saturday, Appalachian will recognize their favorite Chancellor who has put his heart and soul into this campus for over thirty years. The Mountaineers will play sixty more minutes of football and the divorce from the I-AA/FCS division will be final. For the first time in decades, the season is complete before Thanksgiving, and we have known it since March. Mountaineer fans have zero excuses for avoiding the cold weather this weekend. Next year, the conference logo on the field changes, and so will all of the opponents. This Saturday is last time you can guarantee seeing the Mountaineers and Catamounts battle it out for a jug that will likely not move for ten years or more. Appalachian will have three players gunning to break or extend school records. More importantly, fourteen seniors and three juniors are getting dressed in the black and gold for their final game having involuntarily sacrificed their vision of chasing a national championship. They deserve your support. We urge you all to show them how much they mean to you, one final time.

            It was a typical day in Spartanburg last Saturday as a small crowd filed into Gibbs Stadium. The cool morning gave way to bright sunshine for a couple hours before drifting back behind the clouds. The Wofford offense nearly mirrored the weather pattern for the day. The Terriers ran up 228 yards of offense in the first half and took a four point lead into the half. The Mountaineer defense sealed the deal, stifling Wofford to three punts and a fumble on the Terriers first four possessions of the second half. In turn, Appalachian scored 23 unanswered points in the second half with drives that killed clock and kept the Wofford defense grasping for air. In all the Mountaineers possessed the ball for 37:00 of game clock, running 83 plays, with 49 of those plays coming in the second half. Despite a 3.5 yard team average per running play, the Mountaineers were persistent, running the ball forty times between two players. Marcus Cox ran a remarkable 35 times in the game for 119 yards and added three touchdowns. Kam Bryant spread the ball around to seven different receivers, including him, when he caught one of his passes that was batted back to him for a loss of twelve yards. Hopefully Kam will learn to let ball fall to the ground the next time that happens.

            What was lost as the game unfolded was the effort the Mountaineers played with throughout the entire game. On two of Marcus Cox’s touchdown runs, he was dragging Wofford defenders as he powered into the end zone. Late in the second half Appalachian faced a fourth down and five from the Wofford 33-yard line. That area of the field is a virtual Bermuda triangle that provides a difficult decision on the play call. A missed field goal gives the opponents great field position, while a punt could possibly net a very small gain as well. The call was to keep the offense on the field. Kam Bryant completed a pass to Andrew Peacock right at the yard marker, as Peacock stretched the ball out towards the line to gain with two defenders wrapped around him. Somehow, Peacock wiggled free of one tackler and lunged forward for the first down. Perhaps Peacock had enough to gain with the initial stretch, but it would have been to close to call. Certainly the SoCon officials would have found a way to inch the chains past the ball in the backyard of their beloved Wofford Terriers.

            The worst joke of this season has been made several times during casual conversations between Mountaineer fans, whether online or in person. “I don’t care how this season goes, as long as we beat Western.” It was then and still now sounds as if Mountaineer fans are speaking like their mountain brethren. We have never heard the words uttered from a Catamount fan, but one would certainly think that could be the motto of the residents of Cullowhee and Sylva, obviously with the names of the schools switched. For the first time since about 2005, Catamount faithful may feel like they can swoop in and steal the jug with a program that has shown improvement on the field, even if does not reflect in their record. The Catamounts could have clinched a SoCon title share on that day in 2005 with a win, but instead it was the Mountaineers who clinched. It will be difficult task for the Catamounts, as the jug has made several trips from Boone to Cullowhee, but not since October 6th, 1984 has it been in the possession of those wearing the purple and gold.

            The biggest hurdle that former Appalachian coach, current Western Carolina head coach Mark Speir has overcome this season is finally breaking the losing streak to SoCon opponents. When the Catamounts beat Elon in overtime on Homecoming, it was Speir’s first win against a Division I opponent and first against a SoCon opponent as well. It snapped a 33-game losing streak to Division I opponents and a 26-game SoCon losing streak, both which dated back to 2010. Since that win, the Cats have dropped games to Georgia Southern and Furman, giving up points in all eight quarters, allowing 33.5 points a game, and surrendered a combined total of 613 yards on the ground, at a clip of 6.5 yards per carry.

            The Catamounts have ventured throughout the season with a two quarterback system in which both Troy Mitchell and Eddie Sullivan have played in ten games each. Mitchell has been the primary starter for the majority of the season, and presents a dual threat under center. Mitchell has 1,589 passing yards and 542 rushing yards on the season. Mitchell and Sullivan have combined to throw sixteen interceptions on the season to only fifteen passing touchdowns. Mitchell has been better throughout the season, with fewer interceptions, a better completion percentage, but has been known to fumble. Mitchell averages just fewer than thirteen rushing attempts in games he has played, and burned Appalachian several times last year for long runs as the Mountaineers dropped back in coverage late in the game.

            If the Catamounts are going to run on Saturday, it is most likely going to have to come from Mitchell. He has to be decisive when he decides to take off from the pocket and avoid taking hits. The healthier he is throughout the game will improve the Catamounts chances. Secondly, Mitchell needs to avoid giving up the big play. Western quarterbacks have only been sacked twenty times season, but the Mountaineers were able to sack Mitchell seven times in 2012. Appalachian should stick to the offense that has been working for them over the past month. The short passing game has been effective, and could be a vision of the future for the Mountaineer offense. Appalachian has built that attack by remaining committed to the run game. Although Marcus Cox has seen his yards per carry go down throughout the year, his workload has increased, which has opened up the passing game. Kam Bryant has been the most accurate passer in school history this season, and it will take some sort of extraordinary event for him not to break the record currently held by Armanti Edwards. Marcus Cox is also right at the doorstep of breaking another record held by Edwards. Cox needs 119 yards on Saturday to break the record. Cox has already become just the third freshman at Appalachian to run for 1,000 yards in a season. That combination of Bryant and Cox are the present and the future of the Appalachian offense and it would be a great honor for both of them to start their young careers in such fashion. This season may have been one of fewer than expected wins, a younger than expected roster combined with even more unexpected disappointments, but if there was ever time for a season like this one, it was when championships, playoff bids and bowl bids were unattainable. The next offseason will be one filled an announcement of the Mountaineers first FBS schedule, the largest recruiting class and program that is ready to take it to next level. We will all surely miss the short drives and front row parking spaces at visiting stadiums, but the best Appalachian football is still to come.

The First Pick:

Can’t Amounts           20

Mountaineers              38

Women’s Basketball 63 Western Carolina 32

One way to look at this game, is that Appalachian did a great job of playing defense and holding Western to only 32 points. Otherwise, Appalachian was fortunate that they had one of their worst offensive nights against one of the worst teams in the conference. Considering the Mountaineers only gave up 50 to Wofford on Saturday, you have to like where this team is headed. According to Darcie Vincent, Appalachian could have “scored a 100 with all of those missed layups.” That is vintage Darcie, always urging her team to play better, and that there is always room for improvement. Eventually this kind of talk may fall on deaf ears, but we are certainly a fan of giving 100% on every given night.

Western was awful on a special level. The Catamounts shot 11/52 for the night, good enough for 21%. That number is what Western had to improve to, as much of the second half, the Catamounts were shooting in the teens. The Cats somehow managed to hit two three pointers – of their nineteen attempts. Eight of their thirty-two points came on the free throw line. That one fourth of their points, on the free throw line. Usually, that is a good thing, but not when you are held under a point a minute. Western actually had two players score six points, and eleven of their players scored. Usually when eleven players score in a game, its a good thing, but not so for Western Carolina tonight.

Several Mountaineers turned out big games. As per usual, Anna Freeman was the leader in several categories, but also outhustled basically the entire Catamount team. Anna finished with 12 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and 4 blocks. Western Carolina only had one block. Maryah Sydnor took home the honors of the game’s leading scorer with 16 points, 5 rebounds and 4 steals. Kelsey Sharkey continues her solid play, scoring 8 points, but adding 12 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 blocks. Courtney Freeman rounded out the double digit scorers with 11 points and 7 rebounds. Next up for the Mountaineers is Charleston on Wednesday, part of a doubleheader with the men playing the Citadel. The Cougars have been hot recently, just beating Davidson last week and Samford on Monday night.

Men’s Basketball 74 Western Carolina 65

For the first time this season, in its twenty-first game, Appalachian will finally play its first game this season against a conference opponent for the second time. Way back in December, Appalachian went to Cullowhee, holding a ten point lead at halftime, and an eight point lead with ten minutes to play, before finally falling to the Catamounts by six points. It was the scene of the crime of the infamous “Worst Free Throw Ever”, now with a lowly 18 million YouTube views. That game was actually a sign of things to come for Appalachian. The Mountaineers controlled most of the game, before losing late. Reminds us all so much of just about every game in the last three weeks, namely Chattanooga, Georgia Southern, most recently Charleston. The difference between that game, and those most recent games are that the expectation level was different. In December, when the Apps played Western, they were still without Mike Neal, and nobody expected the Mountaineers to win that game. When Neal returned, the Mountaineers started playing better, and the expectations grew with a miniature winning streak in early January.

It is almost like the season has come full circle to an extent. The Mountaineers are back to their ways of losing games where they held leads, or went scoreless for long periods of time. Another difference is that Western has lost four of their last five games, mostly to teams that Appalachian has played very recently. Western has kept their games close, but have not been able to close them out, very similar to how Appalachian is playing. Western’s slump began on January 14th with a loss to Elon, which they followed up with a loss to Samford on the road. The Catamounts then outscored Chattanooga, before losing by single digits to both Georgia Southern and Davidson.

Western features four players averaging double digit points, led by Trey Sumler at 17.6 per game. Tawaski King is their main post player, socring 11.5 points a game while grabbing 5.8 rebounds. Three pointer shooter Tom Tankelwicz has hit 58 treys on the season while shooting at a 40% clip. Brandon Boggs chips in 10.4 points per game.

The question for Appalachian is whether or not Mike Neal will make a difference in this game. Appalachian took good care of the basketball with only nine turnovers in the first matchup, but could not hit a shot in the second half from anywhere. The real different is the play of Tevin Baskin, who only played two minuted in the first game. Baskin brings a lot of athleticism to the Mountaineer lineup, and really is the only fresh player on the team. Baskin has been scoring points and grabbing rebounds in bunches in the last few games, but the problem is, Appalachian has not been winning.

Western has lost the last four games against the spread where they were favored, and is 4-0-1 in its last five games where they are underdogs. Appalachian, as we have detailed on a weekly basis, has been the streakiest team in college basketball against the spread. The Mountaineers covered the first ten games, and have not covered their last five games. Something has to give soon, or does it? I think these two teams are very even, and the Mountaineers were undermanned back in December. My educated guess is that we could see a PK or Appalachian favored by two points.

8:51 AM UPDATE: When we checked the line late last night and this morning, the Mountaineers were considered 1.5 point favorites, and that seems just about right for me. Since I want the Apps to win, I will gladly take a small number.


Appalachian held off a late Western Carolina rally and held on for their fifth conference win of the season in a nine point win. Appalachian controlled most of the game, leading by as many as fourteen points in the first half. Western never led in the game, but cut Appalachian’s lead to one point with two minutes to play at 65-64. The Mountaineers finished the game on a 9-1 run, with Nathan Healy scoring seven of his 24 points in the final two minutes.

Healy scored 15 points in the first half, responding well from his dismal performance against Charleston two nights earlier. Healy was quiet in the second half, scoring only one field goal in the first eighteen minutes of the second half. Healy scored on a three, a dunk and two free throws in the closing minutes, and it was perfect example of his all around game. Healy added eight rebounds, seven steals and two timely blocks to his line for the game. Appalachian has now split the season series with its first conference opponent and it has put them at 5-5 in conference play, just a half game behind Samford for second place in the SoCon North. Elon has a commanding three game lead over Appalachian with only eight conference games remaining.

Appalachian tipped off as a 1.5 point favorite and broke the losing streak against the spread, to go 11-5 on the season. Our picks are one game behind at 10-6 for the season. Appalachian’s next opponent, Georgia Southern will most likely be favored against the Mountaineers. For whatever reason, Georgia Southern has always been a tough road game for the men. Factor in how Appalachian blew a huge lead at home just a few games ago and could not cover against the Eagles.

Women’s Basketball 77 Western Carolina 46

Appalachian will host in-state rival Western Carolina on Saturday afternoon as the first part of a doubleheader starting at 2pm at the Holmes Center. The Mountaineers (8-3, 1-1) have defeated Western Carolina (4-9, 2-1) seven straight times including in last year’s SoCon Tournament. The Catamounts are surprisingly over .500 in conference play, although their win are over some conference cellar dwellers. Neither UNCG nor Wofford are considered contenders in conference play. The fourteen point win over Wofford win looks pretty good when you consider their scrappy style of play. However, their loss to Georgia Southern is confusing. No matter how you slice, Western is 2-1 against teams who are 1-12 in conference play. The Catamounts have beaten up on the bottom of the conference.

Western Carolina is led by senior Diamond Hunicutt who leads the team in scoring at 8.1 points per game. Hunnicutt is one of two players on the Western roster to start every game. The other is Ali Lane, who was named to the all-freshman team last year while starting 29 of her 31 games. Lane led the team in steals last year and is second on the team with 14 steals this season. Lane averages 7.5 points per game. Western’s roster features three players with who have hit at least ten three pointers on the season.

Appalachian continues to be lead by its talented threesome of Anna & Courtney Freeman and Maryah Sydnor. Anna scored her fewest points of the season in her last two games. Anna scored nine against Davidson and ten against Furman. Despite only scoring 19 points in her last two games, Anna is still averaging 18.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game to go along with 4.1 assists and 3.1 steals per contest. Courtney Freeman is on a similar slump, perhaps because she started the season so hot. Courtney has cooled off to scoring 14.8 points per contest while grabbing 6.3 rebounds. Sydnor continues to play strong, as she has bumped her average up to 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. Raven Gary continues to get back into game shape, as she is the team’s best ball handler. Gary chips in 5.9 points and 3.7 assists a game in the eight games she has played in this year.


There was not much to say from this game. Western Carolina is vastly inferior to Appalachian. The Catamounts had more fouls than points for a large majority of the first half. By the time Western Carolina broke double digts, as in scoring their tenth point, the Mountaineers had already built a twenty-nine point lead, and the margin stayed around that number most of the game. The Mountaineers cruised to a 77-46 win.

Lindsay Simpson was the only Catamount to score in double figures with 15 points. Simpson was responsible for the only two three pointers the Catamounts were able to make. Western shot 27% for the game, and their starting five managed only four baskets on twenty-six attempts. Only three of Western’s sixteen field goals were assisted on.

Appalachian’s terrific trio paced them once again in scoring. Courtney Freeman led all scorers with 19 points. Anna Freeman added 17 points, 9 rebounds and five assists. Maryah Sydnor contributed with 16 points, 8 rebounds and four assists. Appalachian only made two three pointers, something it needs to improve on. Vincent emptied the bench in the rout, with every players seeing action. Khadejah Wilkerson was not dressed out Davidson and was not on the bench that we noticed on Saturday. Via instagram, we took note to a foot injury she may have sustained so it is possible that she will redshirt.

Next up for Appalachian is Wofford on Monday evening.

Davidson 4-0 1.000 2-0 2-0 0-0 W4 7-7 .500 3-0 3-6 1-1 W3
Chattanooga 4-1 .800 3-0 1-1 0-0 W1 11-3 .786 6-0 4-3 1-0 W1
Elon 4-1 .800 2-1 2-0 0-0 W4 7-7 .500 5-2 2-5 0-0 W3
Samford 4-1 .800 3-0 1-1 0-0 W2 7-7 .500 5-1 2-6 0-0 W2
Appalachian State 3-1 .750 2-0 1-1 0-0 W2 9-3 .750 4-0 3-3 2-0 W2
College of Charleston 3-2 .600 1-1 2-1 0-0 L2 7-7 .500 3-2 4-5 0-0 L2
Furman 2-3 .400 1-1 1-2 0-0 W2 6-8 .429 4-2 2-6 0-0 W2
Western Carolina 2-3 .400 2-1 0-2 0-0 L2 4-10 .286 3-4 1-6 0-0 L2
Georgia Southern 1-5 .167 1-1 0-4 0-0 L2 2-13 .133 1-3 0-9 1-1 L2
Wofford 0-5 .000 0-2 0-3 0-0 L5 5-8 .385 1-3 3-5 1-0 L5
UNCG 0-5 .000 0-3 0-2 0-0 L5 3-11 .214 3-7 0-4 0-0 L5


Men’s Basketball 64 Western Carolina 70


Ready or not, Appalachian will begin its conference schedule on Saturday afternoon in Cullowhee against hated rival Western Carolina. The Mountaineers are still looking for their first Division I win of the season and would love nothing more than to get it against Western. The Catamounts (3-6, 1-0) have had an interesting season thus far, knocking off Furman in their conference opener, but dropping games to the likes of UNC-Asheville and Austin Peay. Western also has wins over Mars Hill, which doesn’t count, and Howard. The teams Western has defeated has a combined 3-16 record. Western’s opponents have beaten St. Andrews, Montreat, and American. So, if you think Appalachian has had a tough season, consider, Western Carolina because their season does not look too much better.

This will be Western’s first home game since beating Mars Hill on November 11th, and are coming off a week of significant travel. The trip from Cullowhee to Eastern Kentucky is not an easy drive, and the Catamounts visited Illinois earlier this week. Western gave The Illini a heck of a battle, very similar to the one Appalachian gave to Virginia Tech a couple weeks ago. Both games were tied late before the schools from power conferences went on late runs to pull away. Both teams covered near twenty point spreads.

Western is led by three double digit scorers in Trey Sumler, Tawaski King & Tom Tankelewicz. Sumler leads all scorers at 17.6 points per game and is eight points away from his 1,000th career point. Sumler has a quick dribble and is second on the team with seventeen three pointers. King is an undersized post player who takes up a lot of space. Although he is listed at 6’8″ and 245 lbs, I am willing to bet he is more like 6’7″ 255. King is scoring 14.1 points per game and pulling down 5.5 rebounds per game, but is a great player to target late in games at the free throw line. Tankelwicz is a transfer from Charleston Southern who leads the team in three pointers with twenty-five. This will be Tankelwicz’s first game against the Mountaineers.

As a team, Western remarkably shoots the same percentage from the field as they allow at 45%. Where the Catamounts get in trouble is that they have allowed more made free throws made (153) by their opponents than they have attempted themselves (143). Even worse, Western’s opponents are shooting 8% better at the free throw line, but that could be attributed to the Catamounts eight road games this season.

Appalachian is on a six game slide although the appearance is that this team is coming together a little bit. Last weekend at Missouri was only a sixteen point loss, but the Mountaineers were never in it and I believe it was anomaly compared to how they have played recently. Appalachian should be amped for their rivals, but have lost two straight in Cullowhee. Jay Canty leads the Mountaineers with 18.1 points per game and is fresh off of SoCon Player of the week honor for his efforts against Missouri and Duquesne. Canty adds 6.3 rebounds and 3,2 assists per game. The key for the Mountaineers will be to defend the perimeter while also getting back in transition. Appalachian has allowed right at 50% shooting from their opponents for the season. Western is not a great rebounding team, so Appalachian will need to take advantage on the offensive glass.

As we mentioned several times, we were expecting a spread of somewhere between 7 and 9 points in favor of Western Carolina. This morning, Western was a 8.5 point favorite, and in less than four hours, the line jumped to 10 points for the Catamounts. If we follow our trends from the past, Appalachian has been a really good team on the road as double digit underdogs. I imagine this line will drop back down to 9.5 points before all is said and done. Our picks are 3-1 on the season, and Appalachian has covered four straight road games. Appalachian was 2-1 was last year as a double digit dog, and was never a double digit dog in conference play. Western Carolina has covered three striaght, but never as a double digit favorite. I think this is an easy pick for the Mountaineers.


After jumping out to a ten point lead at haftime, Appalachian crumbled down the stretch with a lack of offense and allowed Western Carolina to escape with a six point conference win. It was the first time in the thirty year history of the Ramsey Center that Western beat Appalachian three consecutive times. The Mountaineers have now lost seven straight games. The Mountaineers shot 33% in the second half, and 38% for the game.

The game was well played from a possession standpoint. The two teams combined for only 17 turnovers, with neither having a real advantage. In college basketball, that is almost unheard of. The teams hit the exact same number of free throws, but Appalachian had four more opportunities. The Mountaineers finished 17-28, good enough for 60%.

Jay Canty was the Mountaineers leading scorer for the fifth time this season and fourth time in his last five games. Canty finished with 22 points and 8 rebounds while playing all forty minutes. Nathan Healy 15 points and 9 rebounds, four on the offensive end. Jamaal Trice continues to struggle, as he scored five points in twenty five minutes on 2/11 shooting, 1/6 behind the arc.

Despite the Mountaineers losing for the seventh straight games, Appalachian continues to boggle the minds of the bookkeepers in Vegas. Appalachian has now covered for its fifth straight game as a team, and our correct pick moves us to 4-1 on the season. We must enjoy the success while we have it, because the makeup of this team will change significantly when Mike Neal returns, and the Mountaineers play some home games. Next up is Missouri-Kansas City, which has an awesome mascot. The Roos will be considered favorties, but without a common opponent, picking this game will be tough. I am expecting an 11-13 point spread, obviously in favor of UMKC.

Appalachian Football @ Western Carolina

Here we go with Week 9:

#16 Appalachian State (5-3, 3-2 4th)   @ Western Carolina (1-7, 0-6 9th)

Time: 3:30

TV/Video: Catamount Sports All Access

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

EJ Whitmire Stadium         

Surface: Desso Challenge Pro 2

Capacity: 13,742

Jeff Sagarin Ratings: 

ASU: 58.62

WCU: 39.23

Home: 2.47 points

Appalachian is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 17 points (rounded).

Series: Appalachian leads 57-18-1

Last Meeting: Appalachian 46, Western Carolina 14, November 12, 2011, Boone, NC

WXAPP’s Cullowhee Gameday Weather Trends:

Mostly Cloudy with the chance for showers, with temperatures in the mid 60’s.  

            Just as everyone has forgotten about “the fumble” and the “roughing the quarterback who is selling a fake handoff”, we must talk about it a little more. Whether Jamal Jackson’s pass went forward or backwards can be talked to death, but my original thought was that he had to be down. Regardless, Jackson should have tucked the ball and not allow the officials to be put in the position to make a bad call. It turned out to be the biggest play of the game. The other call, questions every defensive strategy of football since the game was invented. Decades ago, the game of football was primarily a game of running plays, options, and tons of formations with adjectives identifying some type of bone. In those days, the phrase that was used went something like this, “if you think it has the ball, hit it”. Generally, that rule still stands, except in modern day football, where quarterbacks cannot be touched if they do not possess the football, whether you believe it or not. That call was not as painful, but it epitomized the day. For whatever reason, the sun was shining on the Terriers last weekend. The elimination game that it was, has basically taken away all hope the Mountaineers had of winning a conference championship in 2012. At best, Appalachian will share the trophy, most likely with two other teams, one that it beat, one that it did not. Next up: the Catamounts. From the looks of it, this is the same ole sorry Catamounts, except half of their coaching staff had different addresses last year at this time. Will the Mountaineers accept the challenge and kick Western while they are still down, or will Appalachian give up and call it a season?

            Roughly ten and a half months ago, the rivalry between Appalachian and Western added another nasty chapter. Western continued to be up to their old habits of replacing a football staff just about every fourth or fifth year. Appalachian’s season had ended somewhat abruptly, despite evidence that alluded to a shorter season than in the past. Western Carolina decided that they would fill their football vacancy by hiring recruiting coordinator Mark Speir away from Appalachian. Brad Glenn, John Holt, and Trey Elder hitched a ride with Speir to Cullowhee while sending shockwaves throughout the Southern Conference football world. There is plenty more to the story which does not need to be discussed, especially considering the number of versions. Western had basically picked Appalachian’s pocket while the Mountaineers were still wondering what had happened to their own season. In the end, Appalachian has perhaps an extra loss at this point in the season, while, Western still has their one win over Mars Hill. Some things never change.

            Speaking of Mars Hill, they have been Western Carolina’s whipping boy for the last two seasons. It is the only team Western has beaten in its past twenty-five football games. Luckily for Western, they have beaten Mars Hill twice. Of those past twenty fives games, only five have been decided by ten points or less. Two were the wins over Mars Hill, and two have occurred this season, in losses at home to Samford and last week on the road at Elon. The Catamounts have shown some signs of putting together an offense under Speir and company, but their defense is atrocious. Western is averaging right at 25 points per game, something they have not accomplished in Cullowhee since 2007. However, until the Cats can start stopping people, they will not see their win totals increasing anytime soon.

            To give you an idea how bad this Western defense is, allow me to put it in perspective. The Catamounts are dead last in rushing defense, in the country. And this is not a figure based on who they have played. Outside of Appalachian, Western has run heavy Chattanooga and Alabama remaining on their schedule. The 333 rushing yards per game they allow might actually get worse. Six times, the Catamounts have given up 42 or more points – this season. Coincidentally, Western only allowed Samford 25 points, the same number that Appalachian allowed to the Bulldogs. Western has given up an average of 513 yards per game, which is somehow only the third most yards given up in the country. There is one defensive category that Western leads the conference in, and which is fumbles recovered, but that comes with the silver lining, because everyone runs the ball on them.  

            Western has been rotating their quarterbacks this season, almost with no pattern to follow. Troy Mitchell has been getting the majority of the work the last couple weeks. Mitchell has passed for 489 yards on the season and has rushed for 316 yards. A good majority of those rushing yards, 236 of them to be exact, have occurred in his last three games on a total of forty eight carries, which is good enough for a respectable 4.9 yards per carry. Mitchell threw his only two touchdown passes of the season last week against Elon. Eddie Sullivan is the other quarterback, who has played mostly in games two through five, against Marshall, Wofford, Samford and Furman. Sullivan appears to be the better passer as he dropped back a little over thirty six times per game in during those four weeks. Sullivan has thrown six interceptions to only four touchdowns and has totaled 916 yards passing on the season. Interestingly enough, Sullivan leads the Catamounts in rushing on a per game basis, as his averages just edge out Mitchell, due to not playing in two games. Sullivan has carried 50 times on the season for 246 yards.

            Overall, it was a tough game against Wofford for most of the Appalachian offense. The running game averaged a paltry three yards per attempt. Every Mountaineer with multiple catches averaged less than eight yards per reception outside of Tony Washington, who caught seven passes for 75 yards. More importantly, catching the ball was a huge issue, especially in the first half. Jamal Jackson was erratic to say the least. You know its coming. Jackson threw his token interception, which extends his streak to six straight games with an interception. Jackson’s record when throwing more interceptions than touchdowns: 0-5. Jackson’s record when throwing zero touchdown passes: 0-4. Jackson’s record when not throwing an interception: 3-0. With any luck, Jackson will avoid finding the other team this weekend. Western Carolina is the only team in the conference that has yet to intercept Jackson in his career, but then again he has only played them once. It has to stop at some point, right?

            We talked about the defense last week, and what they needed to do to keep Wofford down, which was avoid the big play. The Mountaineers could not hold down the Terriers, as they allowed six different rushers to bust 20+ yard gains, led by Eric Breitenstein and his 57 yard run in the first quarter. On top of that, Wofford hit a big pass play, which was all they needed to keep the threat alive. More concerning, Appalachian lost linebacker Brandon Grier for most of the game which was a huge loss, and his availability for this Saturday is up in the air. The defensive secondary spent most of their day tackling Wofford running backs, but could see a little bit more play at their natural positions this weekend. Western has one of the bigger receiving corps in the conference going 6’0” at two positions and 6’4” at another. You could see Western possibly try to attack the Appalachian secondary which could be a tad rusty.

            Although a conference championship is probably out of the question, making the playoffs is not. No Jerry Moore that has been 8-3 has ever missed the playoffs, and even if Appalachian were to slip up once more before the season is over, a 7-4 record with an expanded playoff field is probably a safe bet, just depending which game is lost. This weekend, outside of the obvious battle for the Old Mountain Jug among friendly coaching staffs, should be an Appalachian win. Western will have to pull off one of its best outings of the season on both sides of the ball, and they have every reason to. Appalachian has won seven straight games in the rivalry, but Western always seems to trip up Appalachian when they are a little down. Although Western only has two wins against Appalachian in the last couple decades, Cullowhee is the place where the upset usually occurs. Mark Speir may have the utmost respect for Appalachian, but that does not mean he doesn’t want the win. This game will thrive on emotion and momentum, and Appalachian doesn’t need to get caught up in all the hoopla. This Appalachian team needs to move on. Last weekend was a game that was decided on a few plays, even if the scoreboard doesn’t reflect how the game was played. This weekend is another day to play and prove all the doubters wrong. Hopefully we can see a more explosive offense, while at the same time getting back to Appalachian football.

The First Pick:

Can’t Amounts             24       

Mountaineers                42

#24 Appalachian State Baseball (38-14, 21-9 SoCon) @ Western Carolina (32-22, 16-14 SoCon)

Three months ago, when Appalachian was picked 5th and 6th respectively by the SoCon coaches and media, it had to feel like a slap in the face to a team that was returning eight of nine positions players and four of five starting pitchers. The Mountaineers did lead the conference with five preseason all-conference selections, with Daniel Kassouf, Tyler Zupcic, Ryan Arrowood and David Port living up to their billing. However, a warm winter, and tons of hard work have put the Mountaineers in the position to capture their first league crown since 1987. On top of it all, the Mountaineers control their own destiny. In years past, the last series of the regular season was all about tournament seeding positioning, and in some years, working just to get into the tournament. The Mountaineers might be catching fire at the right time. Earlier in the season, winning on the road was a concern in conference play. The Mountaineers struggled at Elon and Georgia Southern, only able to to win one game in each of those series. In the last month, Appalachian has swept Wofford and won a series at third place Samford, two teams that are loaded with veteran pitching. That brings us to this weekend, with Appalachian needing two victories against a team that resembles Elon and Georgia Southern more than Wofford and Samford.

Western Carolina leads the league in batting average (.312) and total hits (569). Compared to the Mountaineers, Western is averaging one-third of a hit more than the Mountaineers per game. Appalachian is hitting .311 on the season and leads the SoCon in several other meaningful offensive statistics, including slugging percentage, on-base percentage, doubles, triples and steals. As noted, Western can hit the ball as well, as they are in the top half of the league with 36 home runs hit and may have one of the better top to bottom lineups in the league. Eleven different Catamounts have hit the long ball, with two players having hit seven on the season. Six Catamounts are hitting over .300. However, Appalachian’s pitching staff leads the league, only giving up 16 home runs on the season and sports the best fielding percentage in the conference.

Personally, I think this series comes down to which team plays the best situational baseball. Which team can get that clutch hit and who can get runners into scoring position more often. I also think that the late innings will be huge for both teams. Both teams have above average starting pitching and good closers. The Appalachian bullpen has been a little shaky in the last couple weeks, and Western has a bullpen that can give up its fair share of hits as well. Two of the most worked Catamount relievers, Adam Curtis and John Nadale, are giving up batting averages of .290 and .316, respectively.

Game 1

ASU Sr. RHP Ryan Arrowood (9-0, 3.66 ERA) vs. WCU So. RHP Jordan Smith (4-4, 3.19 ERA)

After multiple weather delays on Thursday evening, Appalachian headed to Friday afternoon with a five run deficit and down to its final nine outs. The game resumed with Appalachian batting in the seventh inning with a runner on first base. Trey Holmes and Preston Troutman recorded back to back singles to give Appalachian its first run of the game. Noah Holmes grounded out at the bottom of the order, but moved his brother and Troutman into scoring position with two outs. The top of the lineup, Hector Crespo and Tyler Zupcic both walked to cut Western Carolina’s lead to 5-2. Will Callaway singled up the middle in the next at bat to score two runs. Daniel Kassouf followed Callaway’s single with one of his own to tie the score at 5 at the stretch.

Appalachian scored another run to take its only lead of the game at 6-5 in the top of the eighth inning on another RBI hit by Preston Troutman. However, Western Carolina would put together a rally of their own, touching up Mountaineers Tyler Moore and Jamie Nunn for three runs in the bottom half of the inning. The Mountaineers could not muster a hit in the ninth inning. Momentarily, the Mountaineers have their backs to the wall, with only two games remaining to play and their magic number still stuck at two.

The rally by the Mountaineers got Ryan Arrowood off the hook for the loss, but at the same time, gave freshman Jamie Nunn his first career loss. Appalachian left seven runners on base for the game, with Tyler Tewell responsible for four of the stranded runners. Will Callaway and Preston Troutman were the only Mountaineers with multiple hits as they both recorded two hits and two RBI each. Jeremy Dowdy did not make the trip in order to rest his back for the conference tournament. Josh Zumbrook is the second catcher for the weekend in case Tyler Tewell is injured.

Game 2

ASU Sr. RHP Seth Grant (6-2, 2.82 ERA) vs. WCU Jr. LHP Morgan McKinney (6-3, 3.79 ERA)

For eight innings, Appalachian baseball could not come up with the clutch hit, leaving nine men on base while heading to the ninth inning without a run to their name. Much like the game from Thursday Night, the game was delayed from the onset by lightning. It was long enough to cool down the Mountaineer bats, which had scored six runs in the final three innings of Thursday’s game which resumed at 4pm on Friday.

Something happened in the ninth inning. Western Carolina picked up a huge insurance run in the bottom of the eight, which made Appalachian’s comeback bid that much more difficult. Western Carolina starter Morgan McKinney came out for the ninth, to attempt the complete game, at which time he had thrown 125 pitches. Trey Holmes led off the ninth inning with a single after startiing the count down 0-2 and fouling off three other pitches. Preston Troutman flied out the next at bat, which set the stage for freshman pinch hitter Alex Leach, who was stepping in for only his 19th at bat of the season. Leach fell behind early in the count before lacing an opposite field single to left on another two strike count. A fielding error allowed Holmes and Leach to move up to 2nd and 3rd base, respectively.

At the top of the lineup, Hector Crespo hit a slow chopper to the pitcher that he could not handle, and was able to reach base on error, loading the bases. Tyler Zupcic followed with a slow chopper up the first base line that was also tough for the pitcher to control and he beat the throw, scoring Trey Holmes. The lead had been cut to 4-1 with Appalachian’s most dangerous hitters waiting. Will Callaway singled through the right side of the infield, on another two strike count, scoring Leach. Western now led 4-2. A wild pitch followed that scored Crespo from third, and a throwing error back to the plate scored Zupcic, tying the game. Daniel Kassouf struck out, but another wild pitch by Western scored Callaway from third, giving Appalachian a 5-4 lead. It appeared Appalachian would tack on a few more runs with Tyler Tewell and Brandon Burris recording back to back singles, but Trey Holmes struck out for the final out of the inning.

Nathan Hyatt entered in the ninth and issued a pair of walks but shut down Western with a game ending strike out to secure Appalachian their first conference title since 1987. Earlier in the day, Greensboro came back from a 7-2 deficit to defeat Charleston 10-8. Throughout the evening, a roller coaster of emotions from a fan’s perspective had come to a thrilling end. A small celebration ensued at the mound after the final out was recorded. Outside of four innings, Appalachian had been dominated by the Western pitching staff in the first two games of the series. The regular season finale has no meaning outside of Appalachian securing the outright title with a win. Appalachian will play Furman on Wednesday at 5pm regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s games.

Eight Mountianeers connected on twelve hits, lef by Tyler Zupcic who was 3/5 with an RBI, and an outfield assist in the first inning that kept a run off the board. Brandon Burris and Trey Holmes added two hits each. Seth Grant worked seven innings, striking out five and only allowing one earned run. For Grant, it was his fifth stright start without a decision. Western closer Preston Hatcher was tagged with his first loss of the season, while Hyatt picked up a school record with his fourteenth save of the season.

Game 3

ASU Jr. LHP Rob Marcello (6-3, 4.28 ERA) vs. WCU Fr. RHP Jeremy Null (4-4, 4.88 ERA)

Appalachian had an opportunity to win the conference title outright with a Saturday win over Western Carolina. The top seed for the conference tournament was already in place, but winning the conference outright would have been icing on the cake. Appalachian started the scoring in the fourth inning when Will Callaway was hit by a pitch on a full count to put the leadoff batter on base. Daniel Kassouf stepped up and launched a 2-1 pitch over the left field wall to give him his 17th home run of the season, breaking an Appalachian record that had stood since 1982, and was tied in 1986. Western Carolina would respond in the bottom half of the inning with a run, as the Mountaineers led 2-1 after four complete innings.

Western Carolina would score five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Rob Marcello was pulled after allowing two doubles and a HBP to start the inning. An error by Hector Crespo also contributed to the Catamount runs. Jordan Jessup finished the inning without an earned run considering inheriting one runner and two runners scoring on Crespo’s error. Appalachian would respond in the top of the sixth inning with four runs on only three hits. Noah Holmes knocked in two runs and scored in the inning.

The score would remain tied at six until the bottom half of the seventh inning. Jamie Nunn was able to record two quick outs with a strikeout and groundout before allowing a single and hitting a batter. A conference on the mound ensued that resulted on Nunn remaining in the game. His next pitch was sent over the wall by pinch hitter Dykota Speiss to give Western a 9-6 lead. Appalachian scored one run in the top of the ninth, but it was not enough as they fell 9-7 to end the regular season.


Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Western Carolina Postgame (SoCon Tourney)

Appalachian started quickly and never really looked back in an eighteen point win over Western Carolina in a SoCon Tournament quarterfinal game. Appalachian raced out to a 19 point lead in the first half before allowing a barrage of three pointers from Western Carolina that cut the lead to four at halftime. After the break, the Lady Mountaineers did not allow Western to score until the 12:21 mark of the second half, and by then the Mountaineers had pushed their lead back to double digits.

Although it was a dominating performance, it was sufficient and suffocating. The Catamounts could only manage 18 points in the second half and committed 29 turnovers for the game. Appalachian was led by Anna Freeman who scored 17 points and grabbed eleven rebounds. “TC” Weldon scored sixteen points and six steals. Chattanooga awaits the Mountaineers in the semfinals as they came back from a five point halftime deficit to defeat Furman.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball vs Western Carolina (SoCon Tourney)

Appalachian could not have written a better script for its opening game in the Southern Conference Tournament. Appalachian will avoid its nemesis Georgia Southern, a team that gives Appalachian matchup problems and face Western Carolina, who defeated the Eagles in overtime on Friday. The Mountaineers defeated the Catamounts twice this season and have won six straight games overall against their in state rival. Appalachian beat Western by 36 points in Cullowhee and 19 points at home. Western Carolina was 6-2 in February in league play.

Appalachian State Women’s Basketball: Chattanooga Postgame

The Mountaineers had a chance to win the conference championship outright, but the Chattanooga Lady Mocs had other plans. Chattanooga led by ten at the half and held on for a 80-71 win. The win did not help the Mocs tournament seed, they were already guaranteed the third seed, but it did not stop them from shooting lights out most of the night. The Mocs shot just below 50% from the field, hit eight three pointers, and was also 20-24 from the free throw line. Appalachian had several opportunities to tie in the second half, but committed costly turnovers down the stretch. Anna Freeman led the team with 22 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, three steals, and two blocks. Freeman also became ASU’s all time lead shot blocker.

The Mountaineers still share the conference championship with Davidson, and will be able to call themselves conference champions and hang another banner in the Holmes Center next season. However, the players and coaches are sure to have a bad taste in their mouth. I am sure the team is hungry to face whoever stands in their way to winning the conference tournament and berth to the NCAA tournament. Their first opponent will be the winner of Georgia Southern and Western Carolina. The Eagles have given these Mountaineers fits in the past and the Catamounts have played a lot better in the second half of the season. Appalachian has the best road record in the league at 11-4 and won their only nuetral court game.