Weeks 4-6 Recap
Week 4- App 35 - Coastal Carolina 17
Week 5- App 28 - UL 24
Week 6- App 41 - ULM 17
Record: 6-0, 3-0 Sun Belt
Week 7 @ South Alabama (3-9)
What a tough year for South Alabama in 2018.
Steve Campbell came in and things didn't go as planned with the power spread scheme. The Jags offense had its far share of struggles, scoring 17 points or fewer six times on the year and QB play was up and down with Evan Orth and Cole Garvin. The key will be new QB Cephus Johnson, who at 6’5” and 225 pounds also has good legs to move outside the pocket.
Jamarius Way is gone off the outside, but last year’s No. 2 receiver Kawaan Baker returns to lead the unit that has a lot of youth. O-line has been an issue. USA has some JUCO guys coming in pushing returnees for their starting gigs. On defense, this team must get better against the run as they were Shredded “with a capital S” last year. Against App State last year, they gave up 348 yards and 4 scores on the ground in a 52-7 whipping.
Injuries did not help the cause on defense last year, but this group upfront has potential to make some strides this season with guys like Jordon Beaton and Sean Brown on the front line - both over 300 pounds and DE Tyree Turner must find a way to get to the QB more often.
App State can’t find themselves looking ahead to the big showdown with Georgia Southern as a trip to Mobile is never easy. But it might not be to bad in 2019.
App 38 - USA 14 (7-0, 4-0 SBC)
Week 8 vs. Georgia Southern (10-3)
Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce you to hate at its finest.
App State vs. Georgia Southern: each fan base can’t stand the other. All time, App State has a slight edge in the series with an 18-14 nod with one tie back in 1935.
The 2018 was trip to Statesboro was disastrous for the Mountaineers. They packed their first FBS Top 25 ranking with them but returned without the ranking and starting QB Zac Thomas. And let’s not forget LB Jordan Fehr was ejected on a interesting call. Southern was a good as you could get last year at being smart with the football as the Eagles only committed 5 turnovers all season - fewest for an FBS team in the modern era.
Quarterback Shai Werts returns to lead the offense along with offensive coordinator Bob DeBesse who will be in his second year running his shotgun-pistol option scheme that was lethal last year. Georgia Southern will throw many different running backs at you as Wesley Kennedy, Logan Wright and Matt LaRoche all will getting reps in a stout backfield.
Up front, the Eagles have shuffled a couple guys around to fill some holes left by graduation, but overall the unit seems to be fine.
Defense plays off the offense with Southern. Since the offense generally uses so much clock per possession, the defense usually stays pretty rested. Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor return to lead the secondary unit that must find a replacement for Joshua Moon. Southern only gave up 21.5 points per game last year and the secondary was a big reason for that. Upfront, the Eagles will be OK as they were good against the run last year, but will look to improve at pass rushing.
Halloween night in Boone has been more treat than trick for Appalachian as this will be the 14th time in school history they will play a game on Oct. 31. The Mountaineers hold a 10-3 record on Oct. 31, including a 349-130 scoring advantage. This also includes a 70-24 haunting of Wofford in 2008. Back in Boone with a bad taste in their mouths after what happened last year, I’m not picking anybody but App.
App 28 - GSU 21 (8-0, 5-0 SBC)
Week 9 @ South Carolina (7-6)
After a gutsy win against Georgia Southern, Appalachian gets a few extra days to rest up and prepare for their second Power 5 game of the season: South Carolina.
This game will be a product of how SC’s BRUTAL schedule has went to this point late in the year. The worse the record for SC, the better I like App State’s chances and a bad season mixed with a possible App State loss could be what sends Will Muschamp out the door in Columbia.
Senior Jake Bentley is back to anchor the offense, but Bentley has had his fare share of Jekyll & Hyde moments in his career. Receiver Deebo Samuel has gone pro and that leaves Bryan Edwards and Shi Smith to step up and take the lead rolls in the passing game. The running game is something nobody knows what to expect. SC hasn’t shown enough production to warrant much worry, as they haven't finished higher than 12th in the SEC under Muschamp.
Senior defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw and end D.J. Wonnum return to lead what could be a very effective pass rushing unit. Jaycee Horn and Israel Mukuamu make up the back end of the defense and show just how good the defense could be if all three units are able to click. Linebacker is going to be where SC must show progression from 2018. T.J. Brunson returns in the middle but looks to bounce back after a quiet season a year ago. There seems to be some unproven depth behind him.
I like App State’s chances in this game depending on how South Carolina’s season has gone to this point. I like App State’s chances over UNC better than SC if I had to pick one. App State falls, but in a honorable effort.
SC 27 - App 21 (8-1, 5-0 SBC)
Next week, we wrap up the season as a showdown for the Sun Belt East is on the line and a spot at hosting the 2nd Sun Belt Championship Game.