Dropping in on Kidd Brewer Stadium

A paratrooper carrying the American flag landed on the 50-yard line at Kidd Brewer Stadium in September 2016 before the Appalachian State Mountaineers hosted the Miami Hurricanes. This Saturday, Nov. 14, is Heroes Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

BOONE — Fresh off of a convincing, 38-17 road football win over Texas State last weekend, Appalachian State returns home on Saturday to the friendly confines of Kidd-Brewer Stadium. Celebrating “Heroes Day,” the Mountaineers will face the Panthers of Georgia State with a scheduled 2:30 p.m. kickoff.

Georgia State (3-3 overall, 2-3 in the Sun Belt) arrives in Boone following a rollicking 52-34 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 7. The Panthers scored 21 points in each of the first two quarters against the Warhawks, then cruised to victory by adding 10 more in the second half. For the game, Georgia State rolled up 504 yards of balanced total offense (263 rushing, 241 passing), averaging 6.2 yards per offensive play. They held more than a three-minute advantage in time of possession and converted on 10 of 17 third-down opportunities. In the “red zone,” GSU was a perfect 8-8, seven of the scores coming as touchdowns.

On defense, the Panthers sacked the ULM quarterback six times, posted nine tackles for loss, had one pass interception, broke up four passes and recorded two fumble recoveries.

In his Monday morning press conference, Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark answered a question about what he sees as the biggest challenge in facing Georgia State by saying, “Their offense. They are very talented.”

Against ULM, the Panthers had a 102-yard rusher in junior running back Destin Coates (two rushing TDs), while redshirt freshman quarterback Cornelious Brown IV (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) completed 20 of 32 passes for 241 yards and three TDs. On the afternoon, Brown spread the ball around to 10 different receivers, led by junior wide receiver Cornelius McCoy’s seven catches for 118 yards and two TDs.

What Georgia State must hope for on Saturday against the Mountaineers is to find some consistency on both offense and defense. A week earlier than the ULM game, on Oct. 31, GSU dropped a lopsided contest (51-0) to what is currently the Sun Belt’s highest ranked team, No. 15 Coastal Carolina. Appalachian State will meet the Chanticleers on Nov. 21 in a Sun Belt East Division showdown, a battle of unbeatens if the Mountaineers get by Georgia State and Coastal Carolina survives a road trip to Troy this Saturday.

The Panthers arrive in Boone to face an App State team that is 5-1 overall and undefeated in the Sun Belt (3-0), receiving votes but ranked just outside the top 25 FBS teams in both the coaches and the media polls.

Saturday’s tilt will not only be a battle of Shawns (GSU head coach Shawn Elliott vs. APP head coach Shawn Clark), but also a meeting of Appalachian State lineman alums and former teammates under former head coach Jerry Moore in 1994 and 1995. Clark was an underclassman offensive lineman as Elliott — and former App State head coach Scott Satterfield (now the head coach at Louisville) — was a senior captain and defensive lineman.

The Mountaineers feature an accomplished rushing attack, but have also demonstrated skills through the air on offense. The Mountaineers are the only FBS team in the nation with 100-plus yard rushing performances from five different players this season, including four running backs (Daetrich Harrington, Marcus Williams Jr., Camerun Peoples and Nate Noel), as well as senior quarterback Zac Thomas.

For his part, Thomas is closing in on some of App State’s most prolific quarterbacks in the school record books. His 60 career TD passes rank third, behind Taylor Lamb’s 90 (2014-17) and Armanti Edwards’ 74 (2006-09). His 5,929 career passing yards rank sixth in school history, just 42 yards short of fifth-place Jamal Londry-Jackson 5,971 (2010-13).

If all are healthy, the Mountaineers have one of the deepest wide receiver units in the nation, led by seniors Thomas Hennigan, Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil. The Mountaineers have also gotten exceptional play from freshman Christan Horn and redshirt freshman Christian Wells.

Georgia State’s high octane offense will have a lot to prove on Saturday in facing the Mountaineer “D.” App State has an FBS-best 97 interceptions since the start of 2015 and two APP DBs are tied for second nationally this year, Ryan Huff and Brendan Harrington, with three INTs apiece. The Mountaineer pass defense ranks in the top 10 nationally in several categories, including completion percentage, pass efficiency defense and interceptions.

The Appalachian State vs. Georgia State game will be televised live on ESPN+.

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