BOONE — High rankings are nice, but No. 21 Appalachian State head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz is not using the Mountaineers’ ranking as motivation for the team when it faces South Alabama on Oct. 26.
App State has other things to worry about when they face the Jaguars in a game that has a noon kickoff and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The Mountaineers (6-0, 3-0 Sun Belt) are not just the only team in the Sun Belt Conference with an unbeaten league record, but are also the only team in the league that is unbeaten in all of its games.
Drinkwitz feels that’s plenty of incentive to beat South Alabama (1-6, 0-3) and anybody else remaining on their schedule.
“I have always been the type of person and have always been around the kind of teams that constantly find their edge,” Drinkwitz said. “They always find an edge to them and we’re always trying to find our competitive edge.”
Appalachian State found that edge in a dominant 52-7 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Oct. 19. The Mountaineers, after building a 31-7 halftime lead, outgained the Warhawks 572-213 in total yards and churned out 302 rushing yards.
Drinkwitz, who doubles as the Mountaineers’ offensive coordinator, was pleased with the overall yardage and points production. As the team’s head coach, he wasn’t happy with the three turnovers — two interceptions and a fumble — the Mountaineers gave up.
Drinkwitz also said some protection issues have to be corrected before the game against South Alabama. App State quarterback Zac Thomas was able to scramble out of them, but Drinkwitz would rather not have to lean on those plays.
“Offensively, we played at times, well, but was extremely disappointed in the turnovers,” he said. “We didn’t give up any sacks, but that’s because Zac made some unbelievable plays in the pocket. We had three times when we had three rushers on the quarterback on third downs, that is inexcusable.”
Drinkwitz feels the Mountaineers are playing at a confidence level that gives them an edge. He said being ready to play during practice sessions helps provide a confidence level that brings an expectation of winning and not just hoping for the best.
“Your confidence comes from your preparation,” Drinkwitz said. “Whenever you prepare well throughout the week, you’re confident in your performance. We talk about hope vs. expectation. You set the expectation and what our expectations of our performance are and you go meet that expectation. That’s really how you build that confidence instead of cockiness or arrogance.”
Appalachian State takes on a South Alabama team that has struggled this season, but has played well at times. Despite its record, South Alabama has had some close calls, including a 20-17 overtime loss to Georgia Southern on Oct. 3, and a 30-17 loss at Louisiana-Monroe Sept. 28.
Tra Minter leads South Alabama’s running game with 563 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Quarterback Cephus Johnson has rushed for 188 yards and scored four touchdowns, and has passed for 891 yards and tossed five touchdown passes.
“We’ve got our hands full this week,” Drinkwitz said. “We’re going to need a good week of practice this week. Any time you go on the road in this league and have to play an early (kickoff), you’re going to have to do a good job of being focused.”