By David Rogers. September 17, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — At 2-0, Appalachian State is the only member of the Sun Belt Conference that remains undefeated for the 2019 season, but that record will be put to a stiff test on Saturday when the Mountaineers travel to Chapel Hill to face Power 5 contender North Carolina. The Tar Heels compete in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
COVER IMAGE: Zac Thomas throws downfield against Charlotte, September 7th, at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Photographic image by Craig Weston for Blowing Rock News
After a Week 1 surprise upset of Tennessee and winning a Week 2 shootout over Furman, Georgia State had a 57-10 reality check at Western Michigan of the Mid-American (MAC) Conference in Week 3.
Troy destroyed the Big South’s Campbell in Week 1, 43-14, had a bye in Week 2, then lost 47-42 to Southern Miss in Week 3.
Louisiana-Monroe got by Grambling, 31-9, in Week 1, but then lost a thriller on the road at Florida State, 45-44, before taking a bye in Week 3. It doesn’t get any easier for the Warhawks in Week 4 as they travel to Iowa State, narrow victors over Northern Iowa (29-26) in overtime, a bye in Week 2, and an 18-17 loss to #19-ranked Iowa in Week 3.
All other Sun Belt teams lost in Week 1, although that is not to take anything away from Coastal Carolina’s upset of Power 5 (Big 12 Conference) opponent Kansas, 12-7, Arkansas State’s dismantling of UNLV (43-17), or Louisiana-Lafayette’s handling of Liberty, 35-14, in Week 2. And Power 5 (Big 10) school Minnesota barely got by Georgia Southern in Week 3, 35-32.
There are story lines aplenty when App State takes on North Carolina:
- Both schools have new head coaches, Eliah Drinkwitz for App State and Mack Brown (returning after a long hiatus at Texas and the broadcast booth)
- Mack Brown’s first head coaching gig was at Appalachian State, in 1983, before going to Oklahoma as offensive coordinator, Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97), Texas 1998-2013), and now North Carolina again for 2019-
- A senior advisor to Mack Brown at UNC is Sparky Woods, who was head coach at Appalachian State for five seasons (1984-88), guiding the Mountaineers to a 38-19-2 mark as a Division I-AA power. He was head coach at South Carolina (1989-93), with other stints as head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach, running backs coach or offensive assistant at schools like Alabama, Memphis, Richmond, Virginia, Mississippi State, and the New York Jets in the NFL
- At 6-1, 225 lbs., Sam Howell is a talented freshman quarterback for the Tar Heels, leaving high school as a consensus 4-star prospect ranked the #2 player in the state of NC and the No. 3 pro-style QB in the country.
- Howell will test the Mountaineers’ pass defense, which was vulnerable in the team’s Sept. 7th win over Charlotte, 56-41. At one point, Charlotte QB Chris Reynolds completed 14 straight passes to multiple receivers, as well as running backs, for more than 200 yards (296 through the air for the game). Will the Mountaineers have their coverage issues remedied in time for Howell & Co.?
- After completing 10-of-18 passes for just 62 yards through three quarters in UNC’s 24-18 loss to Wake Forest, Howell lit up the scoreboard in the final stanza by going 7-of-10 for 120 more yards and two TDs
- Chapel Hill has another big QB in 6-3, 225 lb. redshirt freshman Jace Ruder, waiting in the wings should something happen to Howell
- Reported as UNC’s best defensive player, Jason Stowbridge (Sr., Defensive Lineman) is listed as probable for Saturday’s game vs. App State after sitting out the Wake Forest game with what was described as a lower body injury
- Previously suspended for a violation of team rules, App State’s go-to wide receiver of 2018, junior Corey Sutton, is scheduled to return on Saturday vs. UNC, adding to what has been one of the Mountaineers strongest units, the wide receivers, alongside a strong quartet of juniors Thomas Hennigan, Jalen Virgil, Malik Williams, and graduate transfer Keishawn Watson. The receiving corps is bolstered by a pair of high performance tight ends, senior Collin Reed and sophomore Henry Pearson
- Arguably, App State’s strongest unit is at running back. Junior playmaker Darrynton Evans is the lead back, but sophomore Daetrich Harrington and junior Marcus Williams, Jr. frequently rotate in, in relief.
- The X FACTOR: According to unconfirmed reports, a large percentage of the sold out stadium crowd in Chapel Hill will be wearing black & gold. Apparently, when the game was announced and tickets went on sale, App State’s school allotment went fast — and because at the time UNC was not expected to do well, a large number of App State fans were able to go online and get tickets for this game
- The “T” (for Trick) Factor: With a bye this past weekend, App State has had two weeks to prepare for UNC. Look for the Drinkwitz-conceived offense to be very creative.
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STAT COMPARISONS
- Evans is currently ranked #2 in the USA for rushing yardage per game, at 166.5 (led the nation for the first two weeks of the season). Evans leads the nation in all purpose yards per game (rushing, receiving, returns) through Week 3, averaging 209 over the first two wins over East Tennessee and Charlotte
- Evans ranks #1 in FBS for Rushing Yards Per Carry, at 10.09.
- App State QB Zac Thomas is tied for 30th in the FBS for Completion Percentage (.682), out of 115 QBs ranked in the NCAA statistical rankings. UNC’s Sam Howell is tied for 63rd (.632). With a Passing Efficiency rating of 169.1, Thomas is ranked 28th, while Howell is ranked just behind, at 31st (166.7)
- In just two games, Thomas is tied for 46th in FBS rankings for Passing TDs, with five. Howell, in three games, is ranked in a tie for 30th, with six
- Over three games, Howell of UNC ranks 15th in the FBS for Passing Yards Per Completion (14.6). Thomas, at 87th, has 11.07 yards per completion in two games
- App State punter Xavier Subotsch ranks 37th in the FBS with a 43.5 yards per punt average in two games (just 8 punts). North Carolina has a pair of productive running backs in sophomore Javonte Williams (52nd, 5.54 yards per carry) and junior Michael Carter (5.08 yards per carry)
- App State freshman linebacker Nick Hampton ranks in a tie for 20th at the FBS level for QB sacks, averaging one sack per game.
SELECTED TEAM STAT COMPARISONS
- As a team, App State is tied for 13th (52.2%) in Third Down Conversions. North Carolina (21.4%) is ranked 126th out of 130 FBS schools
- App State is tied for 1st in FBS for 4th Down Conversions, at 100%. UNC is tied for 24th, at 83.3%
- In Pass Completion Percentage, App State is 29th (68.9%), while UNC is 57th (63.3%)
- For Kickoff Returns, Appalachian State ranks 3rd (36. yards per return), while North Carolina ranks 122nd out of 130 FBS schools, 13.67 yards per return)
- North Carolina has the 68th ranked Passing Offense (242.0 yards per game, with 6 passing TDs. App State, through two games, is ranked 108th (174.5 ypg), also with 6 passing TDs
- App State has the 14th ranked Rushing Offense (276.5 ypg, 6 rushing TDs), while North Carolina comes in at 79th (159.7 ypg, 1 rushing TD)
- Neither team has been exceptional at Rushing Defense so far this year. UNC is 92nd (allowing 176.3 ypg and 4 opponents’ rushing TDs), and App State is 96th in two games (180.5 ypg and 2 opponents’ rushing TDs)
- Appalachian State is ranked 86th in Total Defense (giving up 409 ypg and 7 TDs) in two games, while UNC is 82nd (398 ypg, 8 TDs) in three games
- App State ranks 48th in Total Offense (451 ypg, 12 TDs) in two games. UNC is 75th (401.7 ypg and 7 TDs) in three games
- Although App State emphasizes a ball control ground game, it ranks only 117th out of 130 FBS schools, averaging 26 minutes Time of Possession. North Carolina averages 29 minutes, good for 77th
- App State ranks 13th in Turnover Margin (1.50), with North Carolina tied for 44th (0.33)
Kickoff at Kenan Stadium is slated for 3:30 pm. At UNC’s website, tickets are reported as SOLD OUT for the game. Resale tickets from fans are available at StubHub (CLICK HERE), ranging from $112 to $690 (“Pope Box”). There are resale tickets available on VividSeats.com (CLICK HERE), ticket prices are ranging between $116 each to almost $400. On Ticketmaster.com (CLICK HERE), resale tickets range from $127 each to $429.
PAST APP STATE FOOTBALL STORIES by BLOWING ROCK NEWS
- vs. CHARLOTTE: https://blowingrocknews.com/app-state-survives-charlotte-resurgence-in-56-41-shootout/
- vs. EAST TENNESSEE STATE: https://blowingrocknews.com/mountaineers-pillage-buccaneers-in-season-opener-42-7/