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Appalachian State an unknown quantity?

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

New York, NY (Sports Network) - If there is one FCS team that people have come to get a great read on, it's Appalachian State.

It's usually win, win, win.

Since the mighty Mountaineers captured the first of three straight national titles in 2005, they have reached double figures in wins and earned at least a share of the Southern Conference title for six straight seasons.

So it's unusual for ASU to be three games into the season, ranked third nationally and still not be giving anyone a sense of what they have up on the mountain in Boone, N.C.

"The first three games haven't told us much about the team, but we will know a lot about us next week," veteran head coach Jerry Moore said after Saturday's 41-6 win over Savannah State - a second straight over a MEAC member. "With a conference game coming up, we were very focused this week and you will know a lot about us after next week."

It remains to be seen how this year's ASU team will react in a tight game.
It's easy to say ASU wasn't going to gain much from beating North Carolina A&T, 58-6, and then Savannah State. But a 66-13 loss at Virginia Tech rattled a few nerves - considering the Mountaineers surrendered the second-most points in a game in school history - so the question persists, how will this year's team react in a tight game?

ASU hosts red-hot Chattanooga next Saturday and then plays at Wofford, which shared the 2010 conference title with the Mountaineers, on Oct. 1. No. 1-ranked Georgia Southern is too far off (Oct. 29) to even think of that showdown.

"These three games were kind of like preseason games to help get ready for the conference games," said All-SoCon senior quarterback DeAndre Presley, who seems to have the offense rounding into form with contributions coming from wide receiver Brian Quick and several key running backs.

The bigger question is on defense, which has been fairly average in recent seasons despite having a plethora of decorated standouts. The switch from a 4-3 base alignment to 3-4 is vulnerable against the run. That was made evident by Virginia Tech and N.C. A&T.

The key to the rush defense is 305-pound senior nose tackle Dan Wylie clogging the middle and drawing double teams. He can let the junior-laden linebackers unit be active. Defensive ends Ronald Blair and James Robinson are emerging, but freshmen nonetheless.

Sometimes a senior group can depart and an unheralded unit will increase a team's production. It's something ASU is counting on as it moves into its conference schedule.

WILLIAM & MARY OFFENSE STILL IN NEUTRAL

Granted William & Mary played on a rainy evening Saturday, but to hold off Division II New Haven by a 13-10 score underscored the lack of offense for the FCS' third-ranked team.

The Tribe didn't score a touchdown against Virginia, had only three against what should have been an overmatched VMI squad and then had only one against New Haven.

Starting quarterback Michael Paulus hasn't come back particularly strong from offseason shoulder surgery - completing 18-of-48 attempts, or 37.5 percent, to begin the season - which opens the door for the old quarterback controversy, as Michael Graham and then Brent Caprio wait in the wings.

The Tribe want to get many touches from All-America running back Jonathan Grimes, but they are relying on him too much at this point.

"Different ways to win games," head coach Jimmye Laycock said after the escape against New Haven, "and we found a way to win it. It easily could have been one that slipped away."

Next Saturday, William & Mary opens its CAA Football schedule against James Madison.

ONCE UPON A TIME ...

Move over Larry Bird, Indiana State football wants some national attention, too.

Remember when the Sycamores had won only two of their previous 62 games entering the 2010 season? Well, they have won eight of their 14 games since then.

The emerging Missouri Valley Conference program didn't just beat a Bowl Subdivision team on Saturday, it wrecked Western Kentucky, 44-16. Shakir Bell rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries, and Justin Hilton caught two of quarterback Ronnie Fouch's three touchdown passes.

That win ended an 11-game losing streak against WKU and gave Indiana State its first victory over an FBS program since it beat Eastern Michigan in 2001.

NOW ABOUT THAT PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD ...

It's tough to throw for 512 yards and be part of the supporting cast. It basically happened to the Morehead State quarterbacks because Kyle Harbridge was a one-man record crew for St. Francis (Pa.) when the junior running back totaled 346 rushing yards and scored five touchdowns in a 50-49 come-from- behind win.

His big day included a school-record 94-yard TD burst and the winning margin, a 10-yard TD with 1:28 left. The two teams combined for an amazing 1,309 total offensive yards.

"All that yardage I racked up ... the line did a fabulous job, receivers downfield did a great job, They get just as much credit as I do," said Harbridge, who averaged 11.5 yards on 30 carries.

Harbridge will have stiff competition for national offensive player of the week honors. Murray State senior quarterback Casey Brockman threw for 600 yards and seven touchdowns, while also catching one, in a 58-27 rout of Tennessee State.

Brockman completed 45-of-67 passes and established Murray State single-game records for attempts, completions and yards, while tying the record for touchdowns. He threw for an unreal 422 yards and five touchdowns in the first half.

GRIZ ON SATURDAY, GRIZ ON SUNDAY

It's not like Montana had to announce its return to the FCS elite with a 17-14 win over defending FCS champion Eastern Washington on Saturday. Let's face it, the Grizzlies never left, they just failed to make the playoffs last year after 17 straight appearances.

The dominance of the Montana program doesn't just reflect on Saturdays. Sundays are important to the Grizzlies as well.

Their program has an FCS-high nine former players on NFL rosters:

Colt Anderson, DB, Philadelphia Eagles

Kroy Biermann, DE, Atlanta Falcons

Dan Carpenter, K, Miami Dolphins

Lex Hilliard, RB, Miami Dolphins

*Levi Horn, OL, Chicago Bears

Marc Mariani, WR/Return, Tennessee Titans

*Chase Reynolds, RB, St. Louis Rams

Shann Schillinger, DB, Atlanta Falcons

Jimmy Wilson, DB, Miami Dolphins

*-on practice squad

AROUND THE NATION

Who woulda thunk the last two FCS champions - Villanova in 2009 and Eastern Washington last season - would each be 0-3? ... With Penn getting throttled by Lafayette, Old Dominion now has the FCS' longest winning streak at eight, which it will take to Delaware next Saturday for its first-ever CAA Football game. Valparaiso of the Pioneer Football League is still trying to end a losing streak that stretched to 23 with a 49-14 loss at Duquesne. It's the longest in the FCS by nine games (Mississippi Valley State is at 14) ... The Harvard-Holy Cross matchup has been quite entertaining in recent seasons. On Saturday, Holy Cross posted a 30-22 win as quarterback Ryan Taggart threw for a career-high 320 yards and Andrew Zitnik returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown ... In just over two seasons of action, Chattanooga defensive end Josh Williams has set a school record with 15.5 career sacks. The junior took over the top spot with a pair of sacks in Saturday's 23-14 road win against Eastern Kentucky ... Alabama State wide receiver Nick Andrews continued his big start to the season with two touchdown receptions in a 31-17 win over Grambling State. With Jackson State ineligible for the SWAC Championship Game, it appears the Hornets (2-1, 2-0) will be headed back to Birmingham, Ala., in December ... Prairie View A&M senior defensive end Adrian Hamilton had four sacks (three solos) in Saturday's 36-29 SWAC loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff ... Elon All-America wide receiver Aaron Mellette is doing just fine without all-time Southern Conference passing leader Scott Riddle. Mellette caught 16 passes for 237 yards and a touchdown in Saturday's 23-22 escape at North Carolina Central, giving him an FCS-best 36 receptions through three games. New Elon QB Thomas Wilson has thrown for 850 yards and seven touchdowns this season ... Maybe it's time to take Idaho State's fast-break offense seriously. Transfer Kevin Yost, coming off a 508-yard performance in which he completed a Big Sky record-tying 47 passes against Northern Colorado, has thrown for 1,383 yards and nine touchdowns with only two interceptions. The Bengals are 2-1 under new head coach Mike Kramer ... Monmouth's 20-9 upset at Villanova was big despite the Wildcats having an awful season. It was only the Hawks' third win in 17 all-time games against CAA Football competition ... Gardner-Webb wide receiver James Perry III caught eight passes against Wake Forest to move within seven of the Big South Conference's all-time record. He has 196 career receptions ... The Great West Conference followed up last weekend's impressive showing against Big Sky competition by going 4-1 this weekend, and the lone loss occurred after North Dakota held a fourth-quarter lead on FBS member Fresno State ... Is Yale just getting started? Quarterback Patrick Witt, wide receiver/return specialist Chris Smith and running back Mordecai Cargill all put up impressive numbers in a 37-27, season-opening win over Georgetown. "Our goal is 40 (points) a game and that's baseline," Witt said. "We're not content with 37 points." ... Howard's Everette Goldberg and Appalachian State's Sam Martin have kicked field goals of at least 50 yards in back-to-back weekends ... Southland Conference members Nicholls State, Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Stephen F. Austin took it on the chin in losing by a combined 178-34 to FBS competition.

A LOOK AHEAD

Conference schedules begin to ratchet up this coming week.

The action kicks off Thursday night when Hampton visits Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC and Murray State goes to UT Martin in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Friday night, Brown visits Harvard in a pivotal Ivy League game.

On Saturday, the big games include: CAA Football - Old Dominion in its first conference game at Delaware, New Hampshire at Richmond and James Madison at William & Mary; Big Sky - Montana State at Eastern Washington and Montana at Sacramento State; Southern Conference - Chattanooga at Appalachian State; OVC - Eastern Illinois at Jacksonville State; SWAC - Alcorn State at Texas Southern and Alabama State at Jackson State; Missouri Valley - Youngstown State at Indiana State; Northeast Conference - Monmouth at Central Connecticut State; and Southland Conference - Southeastern Louisiana at McNeese State.

In non-conference action, Big South kingpin Liberty visits defending Patriot League champion Lehigh.

Two of the seven FCS teams that beat FBS opponents last year will try again Saturday. South Dakota goes to Wisconsin and North Dakota State visits Minnesota. Last year, South Dakota beat Minnesota and North Dakota State toppled Kansas.

Also, Massachusetts plays an FBS opponent for the final time as an FCS school, visiting Boston College. The Minutemen, of course, will join the FBS next year as a member of the Mid-American Conference.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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