5 takeaways from App State’s homecoming victory over Robert Morris

Sophomore+running+back+Nate+Noel+makes+a+run+towards+the+end+zone+during+App+State%E2%80%99s+victory+over+Robert+Morris%2C+Oct.+29%2C+2022.+

Taylor Ward

Sophomore running back Nate Noel makes a run towards the end zone during App State’s victory over Robert Morris, Oct. 29, 2022.

Kolby Shea

1. The offense still struggles to get started

App State received the opening kickoff and punted the ball away one minute later. The drive went three plays for a total of five yards. Redshirt junior running back Camerun Peoples rushed once for zero yards while redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice had one completion for those five yards. An incompletion on third down stopped the drive and forced a punt. 

Two plays later, the Mountaineer defense forced a turnover, placing the ball on the Robert Morris 34-yard line. With great field position, the offense still fell flat. App State failed to gain a first down after three rushes for two yards. The offense stayed on the field for fourth down, but a false start pushed them back and forced a punt. 

For the season, only three of eight opening Mountaineer drives have resulted in points. Last week against Georgia State, the first five drives of the game ended in punts. The struggles to get started could prove to be troublesome as App State heads into the toughest part of its schedule with games against Coastal Carolina, Marshall, Old Dominion and rival Georgia Southern.

2. A plethora of running backs can make an impact

Going into the season, Peoples and sophomore back Nate Noel were the names defenses focused on in their gameplan. As the season has progressed, we’ve seen several other names that have gotten impactful touches. The statistics are widespread as four backs have gotten 35 or more carries, five have 150 yards or more, and six have scored at least one touchdown. 

Against Robert Morris, Noel led the pack with five rushes for 88 yards. Additionally, familiar names, Peoples and redshirt senior running back Daetrich Harrington, had 10 combined carries for 40 total yards. 

The running game started to take shape late in the second half when the backups came in. Sophomore running back Anderson Castle rushed nine times for 67 yards and a touchdown, while freshman Kanye Roberts added 11 carries for 57 yards and his own score.

3. App State football has a bright future 

App State football has been on the rise for some time now and the exposure it received from the beginning of this season can only help. Right now though, there is obvious talent deep on the roster. As the Mountaineers pulled ahead of the Colonials, some of the younger players got valuable minutes for the first time. 

As previously mentioned, Roberts had a great showing in the second half. Along with Roberts, freshman quarterback Ryan Burger had good production in his time. He went 4/6 for 40 yards passing and added 23 yards on the ground as he evaded the defensive pressure. The receiving group in general is fairly young with the top four leaders in yards all being sophomores or younger. 

Defensively, the young players were just as stingy as the first-team defense. The Robert Morris offense didn’t score after halftime and were held to only 47 yards in the second half.

4. The defense is on the right track

After giving up 63 points to the North Carolina offense in its first game, the legitimacy of the App State defense was questioned. Though they’ve had an up and down season, the Mountaineers are on a direct path toward success. 

It really started last week versus Georgia State when they shut down the Panthers in the second half, pushing App State towards victory. It continued Saturday against Robert Morris. In the past six quarters of football, the defense has allowed six total points, 138 total yards, forced five turnovers and 10 three-and-outs. 

It is no secret that the defense will get tested in the next couple of weeks. Next week’s opponent, Coastal Carolina, averages nearly 32 points per game, good for fourth best  in the Sun Belt. For its regular season finally, App State travels to play rival Georgia Southern where the defense will get another test versus a high-powered offense. The Eagles average close to 37 points per game, which is tied with the Mountaineers for the second most in the Sun Belt. Those games, and thus the season, might be decided by how well the defense plays.

5. There is not a number one option in the passing game 

If there was ever a time for a receiver to stick out amongst the rest, Saturday would have been that time. However, once again we saw a variety of players get targeted and make catches. Redshirt senior receiver Tyler Page led the team in receptions, redshirt sophomore Dashaun Davis led the team in receiving yards, and four different players caught one touchdown each. 

The trend of this game was a continuation of the rest of the season. Five Mountaineers have 200 yards or more receiving, none of which are on track to reach over 1,000 yards for the regular season. Those five guys have receptions ranging from as low as 13 to as high as 31. The scoring has also been very spread out with no receiver having more than four touchdowns on the season.