Regardless of the team’s record, this weekend’s game will have huge implications for Appalachian State (1-6, 1-3 SoCon).
“[The team] know[s] we’re playing Georgia Southern this week,” co-offensive coordinator Dwayne Ledford said. “It’s a rivalry between the two of us, and it’s a rivalry that’s going to continue in the Sun Belt conference. That’s a fun game to be a part of and the kids are going to be up for it.”
The rivalry has remained strong due to the success of both football programs.
“[I]f you remember last year, [Georgia Southern] came after us and they came after us hard,” Ledford said. “That was a great game to be a part of. Very strong, physical football team and a hardworking team. All the coaches down there do a great job.”
After last week’s 27-10 loss to Furman, App State has guaranteed itself a losing record for the season, something the team has avoided since 1993, according to appstatesports.com
The offense outgained Furman 473 to 336 yards and had 30 first downs compared to only 14 from Furman. But turnovers were the thorn in the side of the App State offense last week, which committed five over the course of the game.
“You take away the turnovers this game and we could have had a really good day out there,” Ledford said. “But if you look at the stats, you’re like, ‘how did you lose that game?’ Then you look at the most important stat of them all, which is turnovers. We have to take care of the football, bottom line.”
Despite the five giveaways by the offense, including a 98-yard interception returned for a touchdown, the Mountaineer defense allowed just 20 points to the Furman offense.Although young, the defense continues to make strides despite six losses on the season.
“I feel like we’re starting to click on all cylinders,” junior defensive end Deuce Robinson said. “Now we’re starting to maximize our opportunities when it comes to playing assignment football, and that’s what we have to do this weekend.”
Another option-run offense will be in front of the App State defense, something the team has struggled against in losses to North Carolina A&T, Charleston Southern and The Citadel.The Eagle’s (4-2, 2-2) run offense is an entirely different beast, however.
“Year in and year out, Georgia Southern is going to have the fastest players on the field,” defensive coordinator Nate Woody said. “Whether that be at the skill position or the offensive line position. They’re going to play fast and the faster they are moving, the quicker you got to make decisions.”
Georgia Southern leads the conference in scoring with 40.2 points/game, total offense with 491.7 yards/game, rushing offense with 369.8 yards/game and rushing touchdowns with a whopping 27, according to soconsports.com
In its past two losses to Charleston Southern and Furman, the Mountaineer offense has mustered a mere 20 points. If the Mountaineers continue to struggle offensively, they’ll likely be in for yet another rough defeat Saturday.
“For one reason or another, we’re not getting into the endzone like we need to be getting in the endzone,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “The bottom line is you got to score points. You watch Saturday evening highlights, you see a lot of guys making guys miss, getting into the endzone, and our guys are capable of doing that. We just got to do more of that.”
App State has won its previous two matchups with GSU, a huge feat considering both times the Eagles were ranked No. 1 in the FCS polls.
The past few App State teams may have had better records leading into that game, but the motivation for another win against a hated rival this Saturday remains.
Story: Nick Joyner, Sports Reporter