Welcome to the Lone Star State, Mountaineers.
It’s rather hard to comprehend, but the Appalachian State (1-1) football program has never fielded a team in the state of Texas in its 89-year existence. On Saturday that changes as the Texas State Bobcats (1-1) host the Mountaineers in what is the Sun Belt Conference opener for both squads.
Appalachian State enters the contest after falling 31-10 at 15-ranked Georgia last week. Last year the Mountaineers were Sun Belt Conference co-champions with a 7-1 league record. They also hold a 2-0 record over Texas State including a 35-10 win last season.
With it being the first time the Mountaineers have played in San Marcos, Texas State head coach and former defensive back at App State (1981-1984), Everett Withers thought it would be interesting to see how they handle the Texas heat.
“This summer when I went to Sun Belt Media Day I got a chance to talk to Taylor Lamb, their quarterback,” he said on the Coach Withers radio show earlier this week. “The first thing he asked me was, ‘coach is it going to be hot?’. So at least they were thinking about (the heat) this summer…I hope it’s 105.”
The Bobcats enter the Appalachian State game following a 37-3 loss at Colorado. The final score not indicative of how the Bobcats performed, however. Texas State’s defense is seemingly the catalyst of this team in 2017.
This season the Bobcat D has given up just six third-down conversions on 29 tries. After recording nine sacks in two games, this key cog for Withers already matched its total from all of 2016.
“That unit has a year head start on our offensive unit,” Withers said. “Some of those guys are now comfortable in the scheme and what we’re doing. I really think Coach (Issac) Mooring’s done a really good job with the defensive line and helping them with pass-rush capabilities.
“I thought (the team) competed very well (against Colorado). We’d like to have some plays back in that ball game. But as far as competition and competing and not giving up, playing as hard as you can play I thought they did a really nice job.”
Texas State will be tested again on defense.
A 22.5-point favorite on Saturday, the Mountaineers were picked to win the conference title again this season and tout some serious talent on offense.
In the backfield is Senior QB Lamb, who threw for 2,281 yards last season and 2,387 in 2015, and is the son of Bobby Lamb, head coach at FCS Mercer. Then there’s the Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the year, RB Jalin Moore, who ran for conference high 1,402 yards last year.
It starts with the big boys up front, however, according to Withers.
“That offensive line is what makes Appalachian State,” Withers said. “I think that’s what makes their offense. Obviously they are talented at quarterback, player of the year at running back, skill players on the outside, but I really believe it all starts up front with that offensive line.”
The game plan is pretty simple for the Bobcats, who outrushed Colorado last week (156-91), but coughed up the rock twice: Run the football and don’t turn it over, while maintaining a strong defensive presence.
“Offensively we have to run the ball and take care of the football,” Withers said. “We got to make the plays that are there for us. Defensively we have to stop the run and not give up big plays in the passing game.”
Kickoff is set for 6:05 p.m. on ESPN 3 and can be heard on AM 1300 The Zone in Austin, 89.9 FM in San Marcos 930 AM The Answer in San Antonio.