Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Will App State Hold Another Opponent to Single Digits?

After opening Sun Belt play vs. West Division foes South Alabama and Arkansas State, App State plays Louisiana at home for the second year in a row. The Ragin’ Cajuns are the only West Division team to appear on the Mountaineers’ schedule every year since they joined the league in 2014. App State has a 4-0 lead in the series. It won 35-16 on the road in 2014, 28-7 at home in 2015, 24-0 on the road in 2016 and 63-14 at home on Senior Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium in 2017.

Kidd Brewer Stadium
App State is unofficially No. 29 in the AP Top 25 (with a program-best 51 voting points) and No. 31 in the Amway Coaches Poll (with a program-best 55 voting points). It has outscored its last four opponents 204-32, including 65-0 in the second half, and the Mountaineers are No. 1 nationally by averaging 6.4 defensive three-and-outs per game (32 in 69 total possessions). At 40-10 in its last 50 games, App State joins Alabama (47-3), Clemson (46-4), Ohio State (45-5), Oklahoma (41-9) and Wisconsin (40-10) as the only programs with 40 wins in the last 50 games.

App State is No. 4 nationally in scoring offense (48.4 points per game), No. 8 in scoring defense (15.4 points per game), No. 7 in yards allowed per game (288.2), No. 11 in offensive yards per game (496.8) and No. 1 in special teams touchdowns (four). It’s the only FBS team that ranks in the top 11 in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, and total defense. App State leads the Sun Belt in scoring offense, scoring defense, total offense, total defense, rushing offense, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, kick returns, sacks against, opponent first downs, opponent third-down conversions and opponent fourth-down conversions.

App State has given up single-digit points in an FBS-best four straight games for the first time since 1998. That year, it won 31-6, 28-7, 51-0 and 19-0 vs. Wofford, Chattanooga, VMI and Eastern Kentucky. UAB has the nation’s second-longest streak with three straight games of giving up single-digit points. App State is averaging an FBS-best 6.4 defensive three-and-outs a game and is No. 2 at 46.4 percent (behind San Diego State’s 48.0). It limited Arkansas State to three conversions in 17 third-down tries.

With a game canceled by Hurricane Florence, App State is one of only four FBS teams to have played just five games — the others are NC State, North Carolina and Akron. Still, the Mountaineers are tied for the No. 5 spot nationally with 23 players who have contributed in the tackles for loss category. The breakdown features TFL contributions by 10 defensive linemen (App State’s regular rotation has nine linemen), seven linebackers and six defensive backs. The team leaders in TFLs are outside linebackers Akeem Davis-Gaither and Noel Cook with 3.5 apiece.

With 14 tackles apiece at Arkansas State, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Jordan Fehr share the Sun Belt lead for the highest single-game tackle total this season. With its “Legion of Boone” secondary, App State is third nationally with 63 INTs since the 2015 season began. Still coached by new defensive coordinator Bryan Brown, the corners had an FBS-high 30 picks from 2015-17, and junior Clifton Duck is tied for first with 11 INTs since the start of 2016.

App State is second nationally at eight straight games (after UCF’s 19) with at least 30 points. Quarterback Zac Thomas has had at least one rushing TD and one passing TD in every game this season. He’s scored on runs of 54 and 62 yards in the last two games and ranks in the top 10 nationally in QBR, rushing TDs by a QB, point responsibility per game and yards per pass attempt.

Jalin Moore suffered a season-ending injury last week, but App State has four other backs with a 100-yard game in their careers: Darrynton Evans (115 last week at Arkansas State), Marcus Williams Jr. (125 and 130 last year), D’Andre Hicks (150 this year) and Daetrich Harrington (118 last year). App State ranks No. 3 nationally at 6.49 yards per rush, behind Memphis (7.28) and Clemson (6.96). The Mountaineers are No. 7 in rushing yards per game (264.8) and tied for 13th in sacks allowed (six) thanks to Shawn Clark’s line, which has made the Joe Moore Award Mid-Season Honor Roll.

App State has an FBS-best four special teams TDs this season. Directed by assistant Stu Holt, the special teams have scored on Darrynton Evans’ 100-yard kickoff return at Penn State, Thomas Hennigan’s 59-yard punt return at Charlotte, Steven Jones’ end-zone recovery of his own blocked punt against Gardner-Webb and Clifton Duck’s 62-yard punt return against Gardner-Webb.