By Bret Strelow | App State Athletics
BOONE, N.C. — From Senior Day, on all the way down to this weekend’s journey to Statesboro, App State’s common season is concluding with a collection of emotional, significant video games.
The Mountaineers (6-5, 3-4) stored their postseason probabilities alive with a house victory towards Outdated Dominion, and so they want a win at rival Georgia Southern (5-6, 2-5) on Saturday night time to clinch bowl eligibility. The Eagles, of their first 12 months below the course of head coach Clay Helton, are additionally a Saturday win away from changing into a bowl-eligible staff.
These are the stakes, past the bragging rights hooked up to each App State-Georgia Southern showdown.
“To play in a sport of this magnitude, with the historical past we have had with one another, I simply suppose it is probably the greatest video games in school soccer,” mentioned Shawn Clark, who skilled a three-game successful streak towards the Eagles as a mid-90s participant at App State and is 2-0 towards them because the Mountaineers’ head coach.
App State has 4 wins this season towards FBS competitors and two towards FCS groups, however solely one of many two counts towards bowl eligibility. Solar Belt Convention realignment left the Mountaineers with a late gap to fill on their 2022 schedule, and filling it with FCS program Robert Morris made essentially the most sense, however having two FCS video games has sophisticated the trouble to enhance this system’s good bowl-eligible mark to 8-for-8 as a full-fledged FBS program.
Identified historically for its run-based, triple-option offense, Georgia Southern has tried 513 passes and formally posted 325 speeding makes an attempt with an offensive coordinator, Bryan Ellis, who served as WKU’s co-offensive coordinator throughout a 2021 season through which the pass-happy Hilltoppers beat App State within the Boca Raton Bowl.
Counting on fast reads and releases, sixth-year senior quarterback Kyle Vantrease has been sacked solely seven occasions en path to main the Solar Belt at 319.2 passing yards per sport. He has thrown 22 landing passes and 14 interceptions whereas finishing 60.7 p.c of his makes an attempt.
A season-ending damage has sidelined receiver Derwin Burgess Jr. (717 yards and 7 touchdowns in 10 video games), however Khaleb Hood has caught 70 passes for 791 yards. Georgia Southern continues to be harmful within the operating sport, as Jalen White has rushed for 915 yards with 10 touchdowns this season. His 4 100-yard video games embrace a 143-yard effort final weekend towards Marshall’s stout protection, with 101 of the yards coming within the first quarter.
App State’s protection has allowed a mean of 269.2 passing yards in its 5 losses and held the opponent to lower than 100 passing yards in 4 of its six wins. The Mountaineers have held 5 opponents to lower than 90 speeding yards and gone 4-1 in these video games.
“It is a high-powered offense, and so they can actually throw the ball down the sector,” Clark mentioned. “They’re going to go three and 4 extensive many of the sport, however they will run the ball, as properly. We have now to do a extremely good job of getting push and we now have to do a incredible job of protecting our leverage on the again finish.”
Offensively, App State returned to kind final weekend by totaling practically 500 yards, together with greater than 200 passing yards from Chase Brice within the first 17 minutes. From there, with a large lead, a operating sport led by Ahmani Marshall (career-high 137 yards) did many of the injury.
A special offensive participant has led App State in speeding makes an attempt in every of the final 5 video games, with Nate Noel recording 18 two weekends in the past and Marshall amassing 19 towards ODU as accidents and different concerns affected the rotation.
The Mountaineers capitalized on just a few over-the-top passing alternatives, together with Kaedin Robinson’s 57-yard achieve on App State’s first play from scrimmage and Christian Wells’ 75-yard landing.
Georgia Southern’s protection ranks final within the Solar Belt by permitting 227.6 speeding yards per sport, partly as a result of South Alabama, Louisiana and Marshall rushed for a mean of 272.7 yards per contest through the Eagles’ present three-game skid.
Georgia Southern ranks thirteenth of 14 groups within the league by permitting 256.5 passing yards, however the Eagles are literally 4-1 when permitting greater than 300 passing yards this season. That features the victory towards Nebraska, plus back-to-back league wins towards JMU and Outdated Dominion in October, in addition to a Coastal Carolina sport through which the Chanticleers overcame a last-minute deficit to win 34-30.
“We have now to be ready for 3 totally different sorts of (defensive) fronts and about six or seven totally different coverages, as a result of they’re very a number of,” Clark mentioned. “It is a rivalry sport. Our children know we now have to win one other sport to go to postseason play and have one other probability to be champions. We have stubbed our toe this 12 months just a few video games and are not taking part in for a Solar Belt Championship, however nonetheless have a possibility to go to postseason play and play for a championship.”