Sun Belt unbeatens set to clash on national TV - The Herald: Sports

Sun Belt unbeatens set to clash on national TV

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  • A-State Runningback Johnston White

    A-State Runningback and Redshirt Sophomore Johnston White goes for a 26-yard touchdown in the 2nd quarter. This was one of two touchdowns he had.

Posted: Wednesday, November 4, 2015 2:01 pm

Red Wolves football looks to stay unblemished in SBC play

After escaping from the jaws of defeat vs. Georgia State on Halloween night, the Red Wolves will shift their attention to a Thursday night contest at Appalachian State, in what will be a match-up of Sun Belt unbeatens. The Red Wolves, who were led by senior quarterback Fredi Knighten (21-29, 224 passing yards and three touchdowns) in Saturday’s victory, have a chance to control their own destiny in the Sun Belt race with a win.

A-State football ended the month of October without a loss, and will carry a four game winning streak into November. A-State netted over 1,821 total yards of offense in October and gave up 1,616 total yards. The scarlet and black averaged 455 yards-per-game and allowed 404 yards-per-game. The Red Wolves scored 45 points-per-game on average, and only gave up 31.7 points-per-game, which is good for a 14 point average margin of victory.

Although the Red Wolves put up impressive numbers in October, they did it while playing three times inside Centennial Bank Stadium and only once on the road. In November, the Red Wolves will become the “Road Wolves,” as the match-up at Appalachian State will be their first of three straight road games. However, A-State will enter the Appalachian State game winners of 13 of their last 16 road games, and will also enter one win away from becoming bowl eligible for the fifth year in a row.

Appalachian State comes into Thursday’s contest having won six straight games, and ten straight Sun-Belt conference games dating back to last year. The Mountaineers last played on Saturday, when they defeated the Troy Trojans 44-41 in three overtimes.

The Mountaineers, who are only in their second year as a Division 1 football team, are led by sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb and running backs Marcus Cox, junior, and Terrance Upshaw, sophomore. Lamb is 98164 on the year with 1,517 passing yards, 19 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Cox leads the rushing attack with 167 carries for 917 yards (5.5 average) and six touchdowns. Cox is followed by Upshaw who has 63 carries for 363 yards (5.8 average) and two touchdowns.

“They’re really balanced on offense,” A-State Head Coach Blake Anderson said. “The quarterback Lamb does a really good job of getting the ball to playmakers and not turning it over. They also run the ball well, it’s a real similar philosophy to ours. They know they have to establish the run and create explosive plays in play-action, and not turn the ball over. They’ve also made a significant improvement in special teams from a year ago. I thought that was a spot that was a problem for them and they brought in a staff member that has made a huge difference for them. It will be a factor on Thursday night without a doubt.”

Thursday night’s game will be one of the biggest games the Red Wolves have played in in quite some time. After the win vs Georgia State, Knighten even stated this would be the biggest game of his career. “They can’t help but think that way,” Anderson said. “They still have to focus on what we can control. I want them to welcome the environment, because this is what you play the game for. I’d much rather be going into this game with two undefeated teams and something to play for, than just the fact that we’re on TV. Turnovers and explosive plays are still gonna dictate the outcome of the game. and you don’t want to be so hyped that you lose sight of the little details.”

The Red Wolves and Mountaineers are both coming off of Saturday games, in which they won, and will ceratinly have a unique week ahead. Both teams will have a short time to prepare for Thursday’s contest, only having four days in between games, when they usually have six.

“We’ve both got the same amount of time in between games, so I think it comes down to being healthy,” Anderson said. “Our guys feel like we’ve been in better shape than our opponent has in the fourth quarter in the last four games, and that’s something we really pride ourself on. The game doesn’t change for either one of us, and the travel is not significant enough to bother us. Going on the road and getting a win is the marquee of a great football team.”

The winner of Thursday night’s contest will be in the drivers seat in the Sun Belt Although the Red Wolves will have three league games left to play after Thursday, a win would certainly bolster their chances to win the Sun Belt conference for the fourth time in five years.

“I think we’re both seeing each other when we’re playing our best football,” Anderson said. “Fredi had his best game last Saturday, we’ve run the ball well four weeks in a row, and defensively we’ve improved night and day from last year. They’re also playing good football and are confident coming in.”

The two unbeaten teams will collide on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. inside Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, NC, a place where Appalachian State has won seven straight games. The game will be televised nationally by ESPNU, and will be broadcasted locally on KFIN 107.9 FM in Jonesboro.

Perhaps Coach Blake Anderson said it best: “If being 5-0 in the Sun Belt and controlling your own destiny is not enough motivation, then I don’t know what is.”

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