Appalachian State Preview
Matchup: Penn State vs. Appalachian State
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA.
When: Saturday September 1st, 2018 at 3:30pm
TV: Big Ten Network
Penn State Offense vs. Appalachian State Defense
By: Brandon Musso
Much of this conversation centers on how well the Penn State offense can adjust to life without some of their biggest playmakers in Saqaun Barkley, Mike Gesicki, and DaeSean Hamilton. All three of which have made the jump to the NFL and have left of massive void for the 2018 Penn State offense to fill. Despite their departure, Penn State returns Trace McSorley who figures to be the heart and soul of the team as well as an early Heisman candidate. He will look to start gaining a rapport with some of the new starters. Jonathon Holland will be the new starter at tight end and Juwan Johnson, DeAndre Thompkins, and KJ Hamler make up the starting wide receiver core. Finally, Miles Sanders will take over the backfield for Barkley as he is listed as the team’s No. 1 running back.
The team trying to shutdown McSorley and Co. is Appalachian State, who boast a few playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. Cornerback Clifton Duck and linebacker Anthony Flory are two names for the Penn State offense to watch. In his Tuesday press conference, James Franklin mentioned Duck and rest of the corners saying, “Their corners, I think have led the country in interceptions, especially their one corner (Duck) has 11 interceptions over the last two years.” Their ability to intercept balls at a high clip could force some tight throwing lanes for McSorley.
On Flory, Franklin had high compliments saying, “Anthony Flory really reminds us in a lot of ways of Brandon Bell. Seems to have a lot of savvy to him. He’s got a really good feel for the game, and is very, very productive. He was the MVP of the Dollar General Bowl last year.” Flory nabbed 87 total tackles last season, second on the team to only linebacker Eric Boggs who has since graduated. Look for him to be a big part of the Appalachian State defense on Saturday.
As a whole unit, the Appalachian State defense ranked 29th in the nation last year allowing just 342.5 yards per game. The defense plays fast and is well balanced in defending both attacks. The team ranked in the top 40 in the country in both passing yard defense and rushing yard defense. In the end, their biggest strength lies in their ability to force interceptions so look for that to be one of Penn State’s biggest challenges.
Penn State Defense vs. App State Offense
By: Kraigen Rasalla
The Penn State defense accrued a number of losses to starters in the middle of their defense following the 2017 Fiesta Bowl. Marcus Allen and Jason Cabinda among other left holes that Coach James Franklin and Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry must fill. With a collection of young talent looking to fill those voids, including highly touted freshman Micah Parsons, the Penn State defense will look to show that they will be stout yet again in 2018.
Their first test will be facing an Appalachian State offense that is breaking in a new QB. In 2017, Taylor Lamb led the App State offense by throwing for 27 TD and only 6 interceptions. However, in 2018, Zac Thomas will fill in after throwing for just 10 attempts last season.
The Mountaineers return a ton of experience at running back. Jalin Moore led the team in rushing in 2017 with over 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns. Meanwhile, backup Marcus Williams Jr. reached the 500 yard mark and maintained a 5.2 yards per carry average. Despite losing Lamb, a key rusher for the team in 2017, look for Thomas to run the ball at QB, as well. Thomas ran for 45 yards over eight carries serving as the backup QB in 2017.
On the outside, the Mountaineers lost leading receiver Ike Lewis to graduation, but return some key pieces to their receiving group in 2018. Thomas Hennigan, Jalen Virgil, and Malik Williams logged 45, 20, and 19 catches respectively, and all are just entering their sophomore seasons. It just goes to show that this group of receivers is young, talented, and yet still experienced. Meanwhile, Collin Reed returns at TE, where he had five of his nine catches go for touchdowns in 2017. Look for him to be a red zone target if the Mountaineers get there.
As is the case for most teams, the first game is an opportunity to shake off the rust of the offseason. As a result, I wouldn’t expect the game to run without some mistakes or miscues as the teams play in their first non-scrimmage football game in close to nine months.
The famous Appalachian State upset of Michigan is coming up on its eleventh anniversary this year. While history says that they could again pull off another upset of that magnitude, I don’t believe it to be too realistic. Despite the likely early season rust, No. 10 Penn State is the superior team and I think they won’t have too much trouble putting away the Mountaineers.
Penn State 35 Appalachian State 10
Kraigen Rasalla (0-0):