App State (1-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) is set to take on the Liberty Flames (3-3, 0-0 Big South) at Kidd Brewer Stadium Saturday.
Liberty, a division I- FCS school, averages 33 points and 417.3 yards per game, so the App State defense will be tested.
“On offense, they are real solid,” senior defensive end Ronald Blair said. “I watched some film on them against North Carolina, and they looked real good. The offensive line was very solid and I could just tell they were very well coached. That’s a very good offense.”
Earlier in the year, Liberty traveled to take on UNC-Chapel Hill and came away feeling good about themselves. With about six minutes left in the third quarter, Liberty led the Tar Heels 22-21, before Carolina put together a few touchdown drives and won 56-29.
Despite the 582-yard outburst from the South Alabama offense last week, Blair said the team is going out against Liberty with something to prove.
“Losses hurt, but at the same time we carry a chip on our shoulder because we want to prove that we are not showing our best product out there,” Blair said. “We’re playing our butts off and we’re not showing the best we can play. We have something the prove every week because we haven’t been playing our best.”
Last week, long drives from the Jaguars and short drives from the App State offense led to a long outing from the App State defense.
“Last week it was different because of the weather, it was a little colder than we were used to,” sophomore linebacker John Law said. “Sometimes it comes into play late in games when the offense has a long drive, but that could even happen during the first drive of the game.”
Offensively, improvement will be needed to make a late push in the Sun Belt conference race.
Coming off an impressive freshman year that landed him on the Doak Walker award watch list, sophomore running back Marcus Cox has tallied 55 yards on 18 carries over his last two games.
At the quarterback position, App State made a switch before the Southern Mississppi game that vaulted redshirt freshman Taylor Lamb into the starting position. The Mountaineers failed to move the ball consistently last week against South Alabama, and missed a few long passes that may have just changed the game entirely.
“That is something that was an emphasis (in practice), hitting our deep shots down the field,” quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Frank Ponce said. “Once you do that, then the defense opens up, they have to. I think our biggest emphasis with the quarterbacks is that we have to capitalize on those opportunities, which we didn’t do last game. That kind of changed the momentum of the game for us.”
After three-straight losses versus Southern Mississippi, Georgia Southern and South Alabama, it’s clear this week’s matchup is crucial for the Mountaineers to turn things around.
App State and Liberty will kickoff at 3:30 in Boone on homecoming weekend.
Story: Nick Joyner, Senior Sports Reporter