Appalachian State entered last week as the highest-ranked team in Sun Belt Conference history and they managed to improve their standing with an impressive win over UL Monroe. The Mountaineers moved up to No. 21 in the AP Polls this week and they could have a chance at a New Year’s Six bid if they can finish the season with an undefeated record. Can the Mountaineers keep their positive momentum going on the road versus the Jaguars on Saturday afternoon?
Mountaineers continue to make historyAppalachian State made history last weekend, becoming the first Sun Belt team to win a game as a ranked team. The Mountaineers improved to 6-0 and 3-0 in Sun Belt play with a resounding 52-7 victory versus Louisiana-Monroe last weekend. Running back Darrynton Evans ran for 136 yards and a touchdown and the defense limited Louisiana-Monroe to just 213 yards of total offense to remain undefeated. Junior quarterback Zac Thomas also had one of his best games of the season, throwing for 214 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception, while adding another 58 yards and a score on the ground. The victory makes the Mountaineers bowl eligible for the fifth consecutive year. Since making the transition from the FCS to the Sun Belt, Appalachian State has never missed out on making a bowl game.
Thomas has been even more efficient in his second season as a starter for the Mountaineers. The 6-foot-1 signal-caller comes in with 1,163 passing yards, 13 total touchdowns (three rushing), and only three picks this season. He enters this week with 31 career passing touchdowns and only nine interceptions. As good as Thomas has been, this Mountaineers offense relies on moving the ball on the ground, where they are averaging a healthy 232.7 yards per game. Evans leads the team in yards (672) and touchdowns (10) through six contests.
After giving up a score on the opening drive last week, the defense flexed its muscles, forcing three turnovers and limiting the Warhawks to just 2-for-13 on third downs. Nearly half (82 of 213) of UL Monroe’s total yards came on the opening possession and Warhawks’ quarterbacks finished the game just 11-of-27 passing for 102 yards and two interceptions. Appalachian State’s defense has given up seven points or less three times this season, including each of their last two contests. They come in allowing just 21.7 points and 357.8 yards of total offense per game.
Ball security becoming a problem for JaguarsSouth Alabama has a few extra days to prepare for Appalachian State after being defeated by in-state rival Troy 37-13 last Wednesday. Cephus Johnson finished with just 183 passing yards and two interceptions, while Ka Minter rushed for 86 yards in a losing effort for the Jaguars, who dropped their fifth consecutive contest. The Jaguars showed some fight early, but the offense stalled in the second half and was held to just three points after halftime. South Alabama was out-gained 432 to 274 in the loss and the Jaguars are now averaging just 15.7 points per game through three Sun Belt contests.
Johnson, a 6-foot-5 sophomore from Mobile, Alabama, will be making his ninth career start under center for the Jaguars on Saturday. After throwing two touchdowns the week prior, Johnson had two passes picked off last week and he’s now thrown seven interceptions already this season. South Alabama has lost 16 turnovers this season (121st in FBS) and Johnson has thrown seven interceptions in six games. Despite his ball security issues, Johnson has the unwavering support of his coaches and backup quarterback Tylan Morton is expected to redshirt for the remainder of the season.
Cam Taylor absolutely crushed Cephus Johnson, setting up Alex Davis for the easy touchdown. pic.twitter.com/grlwMHsp3x— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) August 31, 2019
On defense, the Jaguars come into the week allowing 30.4 points and 404.7 yards of total offense per contest. They’ve also struggled to stop the run through six games, allowing 203.6 rushing yards per game (109th in FBS). That’s going to be another major point of emphasis this week against a Mountaineers’ offense that ranks 18th in the nation in rushing offense.
- Mountaineers are 6-0 ATS vs. a team with a losing record.
- Mountaineers are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 road games.
- Mountaineers are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games after allowing less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Jaguars are 14-31-1 ATS in their last 46 games on fieldturf.
- Jaguars are 7-20 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- Jaguars are 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.