FACTS & STATS: Site: Paulson Stadium (25,000) — Statesboro, Georgia.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: ASU 1-0, GSU 1-0. Away Record: ASU 0-2, GSU
1-2. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, GSU 0-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-0, GSU 1-0.
Series Record: Appalachian State leads, 16-12-1.
GAME NOTES: The Appalachian State Mountaineers will play their first-ever Sun
Belt Conference contest on Thursday night, as they head to Paulson Stadium to
take on the Georgia Southern Eagles.
Both ASU and Georgia Southern made the leap into FBS play in 2014 after
competing together in the Southern Conference in the FCS ranks from 1993-2013.
The Mountaineers have a 16-12-1 advantage in the all-time series and have won
three straight meetings.
ASU (1-2) has not fared well on the road this season, losing both matchups
away from home to Michigan (52-14) and Southern Miss (21-20). In last week’s
heartbreaking loss to USM, it scored a touchdown with just six seconds left
when Taylor Lamb hooked up with Simms McElfresh for a two-yard score, but the
ensuing PAT that would have tied the game and forced overtime was blocked.
Georgia Southern’s assimilation into the FBS has gone much better than
anticipated, opening up 2-2. It dropped a couple of hard-fought matchups
against solid ACC teams on the road to NC State (24-23) and Georgia Tech
(42-38) in addition to dismantling Savannah State (83-9) and winning its Sun
Belt opener last week at South Alabama (28-6).
Offensively, ASU’s yearly stats (33.3 ppg, 424.3 ypg) have been severely
skewed by its 66-point effort against Campbell a few weeks ago, as it scored
20 points or fewer in its two losses to FBS competition.
Lamb has earned the majority of the snaps under center and has completed 65.6
percent of his passes for 427 yards with three touchdowns and two
interceptions. Kameron Bryant (18-of-36, 207 yards, three TDs, INT) has also
Marcus Cox has been a workhorse for the run-heavy squad, turning 53 carries
into 280 yards and four touchdowns. Terrence Upshaw also sees plenty of action
with 183 yards and a score on 39 totes.
McElfresh is unquestionably the top receiving option with 17 catches, 174
yards and four touchdowns. No one else has double-digit receptions or more
than 100 yards.
The Mountaineers have played very well on the defensive side of things,
allowing 24.3 ppg and 328.0 ypg while picking off six passes.
Three of those interceptions have come from Joel Ross. Doug Middleton is the
unit’s top tackler with 21 stops in addition to picking off a pass of his own.
John Law (18 tackles, 2.5 TFL, sack) is off to a great start as well.
Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense has been running at a high level. The
unit puts up 43.0 ppg and 520.3 ypg, which includes the nation’s second-ranked
rushing offense (365.8 ypg).
Kevin Ellison leads the attack from under center, rushing for 353 yards and
two touchdowns. He’s also been strong in very limited pass attempts,
completing 24-of-39 throws for 476 yards, three touchdowns and a pick.
Six Eagles have at least 100 rushing yards, with Matt Breida emerging as the
most effective runner. Breida, who was named the SBC Offensive Player of the
Week following a career-high 187 yards against South Alabama, averages 9.1
yards per carry on 50 attempts, resulting in 454 yards and seven scores.
Kentrellis Showers has been a big play waiting to happen out wide with 225
yards and three touchdowns on just eight catches. BJ Johnson (eight
receptions, 156 yards, TD) and Zach Walker (11 receptions, 132 yards) have
also been solid.
The Eagles employ a bend-but-don’t-break style of defense, as they allow
nearly 400 yards per game yet hold opponents to a mere 20.3 ppg.
Antwione Williams is the unit’s top playmaker with 25 tackles, 3.0 TFL and 2.0
sacks. Edwin Jackson has 23 tackles and an interception. Jonathan Battle (3.0
TFL, 2.0 sacks) and Ryan George (2.5 sacks) have generated a solid pass-rush,
although Battle is questionable for this contest with an ankle injury.
These two programs have become very familiar with one another over the years
and should be in for a hard-fought battle, but Georgia Southern has been the
far more impressive team so far and should be able to defend its home field in
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Southern 38, Appalachian State 24