BOONE — Appalachian State’s drive to another Sun Belt Conference championship continues at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 23 against visiting Texas State at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
It would seem that the Mountaineers’ task is simple enough. Beat visiting Texas State and then win at Troy on Nov. 29 and another East Division championship returns to Boone.
Beating Georgia State 56-27 may have looked easy on paper, but the Mountaineers fell behind early before scoring 49 straight points to carve out a win. Everybody provided his share of sacrifice, including head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who needed 12 stiches to repair a gash behind an ear that he sustained when he was in the way of center Noah Hannon on a play that ended out of bounds.
“I know some people were worried,” Drinkwitz said, somewhat tongue-and-cheek during his injury report on Nov. 18. “I got run over by Noah (Hannon) and I got a laceration on the back of my ear. I’m fine now and all is well, but I know there were some inquiring minds. For the record, I did finish the end of the game and did not do a concussion test and I was proud of the toughness I displayed.”
Appalachian State (9-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) takes on a Texas State team (3-7, 2-4) that has been blown out in three of its last four games. The Bobcats lost 63-27 to Troy, 31-3 to Louisiana and 38-14 to Arkansas State. The lone victory was a 30-28 win over South Alabama on Nov. 9.
Drinkwitz said five App State seniors — linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, defensive back Desmond Franklin, offensive tackle Victor Johnson, defensive back Josh Thomas and linebacker Noel Cook — will all take the field as starters one last time at Kidd Brewer Stadium — unless the Mountaineers host the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
Drinkwitz pointed out that the App State teams they’ve played on are 50-12 overall, 34-5 in the Sun Belt Conference, 25-4 home record, four bowl wins and three straight conference championships.
They are also a part of a team that has beaten two Power Five conference teams — North Carolina and South Carolina — in one season. Before those wins, App State had not beaten a Power Five team since the Mountaineers beat Michigan 34-32 in 2007.
“That’s a tribute to those guys,” Drinkwitz said. “Our football team and our coaching staff is very excited to send them out the right way. That’s where our focus is this week.”
Another senior, running back Darrynton Evans, reached the 1,000-yard plateau against Georgia State. Evans has rushed for 1,014 yards this season after picking up 131 yards against the Panthers.
It is the eighth straight season that the Mountaineers have had a running back reach 1,000 yards. It’s also the sixth runner that Drinkwitz has coached as an offensive coordinator.
“There are a lot of factors involved,” Drinkwitz said. “One, you’ve to recruit great players. Two you have to have a commitment to developing an offensive line. It’s kind of what you believe in.”
Offensively, the Bobcats are last in the conference with 83.0 yards gained per game, which is last in the conference. Texas State is seventh in the Sun Belt in rush defense with 211.1 yards per game.
The Bobcats play a unique 3-3 stack alignment that Drinkwitz said is similar to what Iowa State uses, which the Mountaineers have not seen this season.
Drinkwitz said the defense is more common in the Big 12 Conference because of the number of teams that run the spread offense.
“We have to do a good job adjusting and figuring out a way to attack it,” Drinkwitz said. It’s a gap-sound defense that allows an extra fitter to be a middle-field safety and allows for various forms of pressure.”