Appalachian St -15 over UL Lafayette:
Before we get into details regarding our final play of the regular season, it’s been a great mid-season ride after a slow start finishing another campaign north of 60% regardless of today’s outcome between Sun Belt rivals Appalachian St (7-4 6-1) and UL Lafayette (5-6 4-3) from Kidd Brewer Stadium. We enjoyed some major success covering for the most part the mid-major conference teams rather than focusing on the nationally televised powerhouses. Of course there’s additional business and meaning to attend to, as the Mountaineers hope to capture a Sun Belt Championship. The maestro only hopes he can carry the same momentum he has rode from the regular season to once bowl season kicks off in a couple of weeks. It’s amazing on how a promising season that arrived so quickly could end just as lightning fast from about 4 months ago.
The Mounties are coming off a 31-10 win at Georgia St last week which helped their causes of staying around for a title hunt on the strength of Jalin Moore (32-239 7.5 1 TD) who ran roughshod over an undersized and over matched Panthers front line. Good thing too considering that Taylor Lamb (15/23 107 2 TD 2 INT) was far from his best most of the afternoon. Moore got App St on the board early with a 3 yard scoring run but it wasn’t until the second quarter where Lamb found Collin Reed on a 6 yard scoring pass that gave the Mountaineers the lead for good. Lamb also put the finishing touches on the blowout with a 14 yard scamper to paydirt, and Lamb also later connected with Ike Lewis (5-43 1 TD) on a 4 yard scoring toss. Despite at times sloppy especially in the passing game, App St’s defense did the job limiting Georgia St to just 292 total yards including only 91 on the ground. Conner Manning (22/35 201 1 INT) registered the only TD for the Panthers on a 2 yard run, and the only other points G St could muster was a Brandon Wright 50 yard field goal. UL Lafayette could still be in line for a bowl bid if they can win this one, as they dropped a 34-24 decision to Georgia Southern last week. Wesley Fields (23-186 8.1 1 TD) set a career high for rushing yards scoring on an 8 yard run early that led to 17 unanswered points out of the gate throughout the first 20 minutes. Shai Werts (6/11 75 1 TD) found Ellis Richardson (3-68 1 TD) on a 53 yard bomb into the end zone while LA Ramsby (20-87 4.3 1 TD) scored from a yard out. GSU dominated time of possession by a 2-1 margin, recorded 23 first downs and their defense forced 4 turnovers. Jordan Davis (15/26 225 2 TD 2 INT) was mediocre at best playing from behind all day long despite finding Rhyheem Malone (5-106 1 TD) and Jarrod Jackson (4-65 1 TD) on scoring passes.
For a team that focuses about 2/3 of the time running the ball, Lamb (181/299 2364 23 TD 6 INT) has taken quite the leap of faith in this is senior season at Appalachian St. While it’s nowhere near the numbers he put up as a sophomore, the 6’2″ 200 pounder looks to wrap up a splendid career under center known as a high percentage passer with a better than efficient arm. The tandem of Lewis (43-604 8 TD) and Thomas Hennigan (39-457 3 TD) in the receiving core gave Lamb the balance and discipline necessary avoiding making mistakes as a smart QB accessing his options with respect to not forcing his throws. While quite nimble on his feet (65-452 7.0 4 TD) calling his own number, it also helps when you have a distinguished back in the backfield such as Moore (144-802 5.6 7 TD) who recorded 4 100 yard plus games this season including nearly equaling against Georgia St his season high 241 rushing yards in a win over New Mexico St. Appalachian St is very balanced in both the rushing and passing game averaging about 425 yards and 32 points per contest, though they’re not you’re typical no huddle ground and pound offense by any means. UL Lafayette is relatively small and meager especially in attempting to stop the run where they are in the bottom 12 in the nation surrendering 226 yards on the ground. Their overall pass secondary is not much better either allowing 257 yards through the air on average while giving up 38 points per contest.
The Rajun Cajuns are certainly no slouches when it comes to putting up points as they average about 30 points and 400 yards per game, but as of late it has especially been feast or famine against the conference’s lower echelon of teams. Davis (111/197 1265 9 TD 6 INT) is efficient with not much of a big arm and at times settles underneath for the modest gain rather than taking chances downfield. Malone (42-616 4 TD), his top target has just 2 100 yard + performances and Keenan Barnes (36-507 2 TD) while sporting equal talent, has not been nearly as much of a factor downfield. Trey Ragas (136-799 5.9 9 TD) is the workhorse in the backfield but wasn’t much of a factor in the loss to Georgia St. Davis (60-269 4.5 5 TD) is built fairly well like Lamb but can use another solid receiver or back considering Ragas carries the bulk of the workload. Appalachian State’s pass defense ranks second in the Sun Belt and in the top 50 allowing about 210 yards per contest. They have some depth up front as well as team speed down the field led by corners Tae Hayes and Cifton Duck who are tops on the team in INT’s. The Mountaineers are especially intimidating defending the secondary as they allow about 22 points per contest though at times vulnerable to the big play. Still, the confidence for App St has to be brewing with a great possibility of no worse than a shared title that could spoil the party for UL Lafayette dashing their postseason hopes.
You have to believe the combination of confidence as well as the crowd at Kidd Brewer Stadium will only add to the motivation of the Mounties as UL Lafayette is prone to making miscues leading to points from their opponents. UL-Lafayette has not been good enough defensively to handle Appalachian St. They will need to find a way to stop the run to have a chance. Unfortunately, the Ragin’ Cajuns have been soft against the run all season. While both teams have a lot to play for in their finale, look for App State to set the tone early with success in the running game only to build following Lamb who needs to shake off last weeks’ struggles with a solid finish.
Taylor Lamb passes for 4 TD and earns a 5th on a rush as we conclude a successful 2017 regular season campaign by picking the largest margin of victory on the board as Appalachian St better than triples the spread! Thanks and congrats to all that followed!