BOONE — Appalachian State gets another chance at playing a Power Five conference team. The Mountaineers also get another chance at knocking off a Southeastern Conference team.
The Mountaineers travel to face South Carolina at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, S.C. Should Appalachian State prevail, South Carolina would be the second Power Five conference team the Mountaineers would beat this season. The Mountaineers took down North Carolina 34-31 in Chapel Hill on Sept. 21.
App State also gets a chance at beating an SEC opponent for the first time since the Mountaineers narrowly lost to Tennessee in 2017. The Volunteers needed overtime to trip App State 20-17.
App State (7-1) was ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll and the Amway Coaches poll for three weeks before falling 24-21 to visiting Georgia Southern Oct. 31. The Mountaineers trailed 24-7 and scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but could not overcome the Eagles’ lead.
App State coach Eliah Drinkwitz does not feel that the fact that North Carolina beat South Carolina the first week of the season, and that App State beat UNC has any bearing on the outcome of the game Nov. 9.
“Every team is so much different than the first game they played of the year,” Drinkwitz said. “For South Carolina, they lost their quarterback. Their quarterback got hurt the final play of the game and now they’re playing a freshman.”
South Carolina (4-5) pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the 2019 season by knocking off then-No. 3 Georgia 20-17 in double overtime on Oct. 12. South Carolina then stumbled two weeks later, falling 41-21 to Tennessee on Oct. 26.
South Carolina coach Will Muschamp is not taking Appalachian State lightly. The Mountaineers have nearly pulled off upsets against Tennessee and at Penn State in 2018 before falling 45-38 in overtime.
Muschamp said App State is not a typical Group of Five team that can be taken lightly. He said he wants his team to play the best schedule the athletic department can put together, even if it’s a chance for a team such as App State to knock off an SEC opponent.
“We’re attracted to playing the best teams we can play, and they certainly have a good football team,” Muschamp said. “I’m a fan of the opportunity. I agree that Appalachian State is the total exception, but you should have the opportunity to play anybody you want to play in that situation and that’s how we’re set up right now. I don’t have a model of that at this point.”
Offensively, freshman Ryan Hillinski was a highly-touted quarterback from Orange, Calif., who entered South Carolina in January so he could participate in spring practices. He was ranked the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in the country and the No. 64 prospect overall by 247Sports.
Hillinski has thrown for 1,762 yards and 10 touchdowns against three interceptions. His favorite target is receiver Bryan Edwards, who has 62 receptions for 726 yards and five touchdowns.
Edwards caught 14 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown in South Carolina’s 24-7 win over Vanderbilt on Nov. 2.
“He’s an NFL player, that’s for sure,” Drinkwitz said of Edwards. “He’ll be a first or second or third-round pick.”
Drinkwitz pointed to the South Carolina defensive line, which has two seniors and a junior in the starting lineup, as a big challenge for the App State offensive line. He said the Gamecocks will use their 3-4 defensive alignment to try to smother App State’s running game, which is led by Darrynton Evans, who has gained 798 yards this year.
“I believe that Javon Kinlaw is one of the best defensive linemen in the SEC, which makes him one of the best defensive linemen in the country,” Drinkwitz said. “He was a wrecking ball in the Georgia game and has been a very significant factor in their defensive scheme. He’s a guy who you have to contend with.”