Mountaineers, Jaguars clash for first time in Sun Belt battle

Nick Joyner

App State football looks to notch its first Sun Belt victory Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium after coming home from two losses in six days at Southern Miss and Georgia Southern.

The Mountaineers (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) host the South Alabama Jaguars (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt), a team that is second the Sun Belt Conference in points allowed per game at 21.5.

South Alabama brings a tough and savvy defense to Kidd Brewer Stadium. The Sun Belt home opener will represent the first NCAA Division I FBS opponent to visit Kidd Brewer Stadium since App State’s former league, the Southern Conference, dropped to the Division I-AA (now Division I FCS) ranks in 1982.

“They have got 32 seniors on the roster,” App State head coach Scott Satterfield said. “Their defense gives them a chance in every game they play.”

Satterfield said the focus against the stout Jaguars defense will be establishing the run.

“It’s going to be a big challenge for us, and that’s why I say we’ve got to be able to establish a little bit of that running game and not rely on this passing game,” Satterfield said. “If they play us man-to-man out here and shut us down throwing the football, then we won’t have anything, so we better be able to rely a little bit more on that running game.”

App State’s rushing attack, led by sophomore Marcus Cox and redshirt freshman Terrence Upshaw, stumbled a bit in the team’s opening Sun Belt game, at Georgia Southern. The team’s top two leading rushers combined to carry the ball 14 times for 45 yards against the Eagles.

“If we are going to throw it 40 times, we’re going to have a hard time winning,” Satterfield said. “We have got to be balanced. If Marcus and Terrence are not getting the kind of carries we need, it doesn’t give us a chance.”

South Alabama is led by senior quarterback Brandon Bridge, a signal-caller that has a strong arm and two quick feet, App State defensive coordinator Nate Woody said.

“[Bridge] has a live arm and he can throw the deep ball with some zip on it,” Woody said. “He can make some throws all the way across the field that make it a little bit difficult and can stretch your defense. He can pull it down and run with it, and he’s a big strong quarterback that if you come up timid at all, then you are not going to make that tackle on him.”

App State quarterback Taylor Lamb is more familiar with South Alabama than anyone would expect out of a redshirt freshman. Lamb had committed to the Jaguars coming out of high school, before ultimately deciding that Boone was the right place for him.

“I know a couple guys down there and I’m real close with the coaches down there,” Lamb said. “We’re still real close, and it is going to be fun playing against those guys.”

After making both of his first career starts on the road, Lamb will finally get to start at The Rock.

“It’s exciting, both of my starts have been on the road which has been tough,” Lamb said. “Its good to be home and have the crowd cheering you on.”

Red zone offense has been tough for the App State offense recently, as the team has failed to score points in five out of its last 10 trips inside the opposing team’s 20-yard line. Missed field goals, failed fourth-down conversions and a blocked extra point have all came back to bite the Mountaineers, and are some of the things the coaches have harped on all week in practice.

“We’ve moved the football this year, and then we stall out for some reason,” Satterfield said. “We’ve got to do a better job, and we’ve got to have the confidence to make a field goal. That’s part of scoring in the red zone, because you are not going to score a touchdown every time.”

South Alabama looks to record its second Sun Belt victory of the year, while App State is aiming for its first.

“Our guys are so hungry right now that they will play the ball game right now in the parking lot if they had the chance,” Woody said. “They want this game as much or more than any game they’ve lined up and played. We’ve got a great group of guys, and they are ready to go back out there and show what they are made of.“

Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m Saturday here at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.

Story: Nick Joyner, Senior Sports Reporter