Mountaineers eye showdown with Mocs
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
The Mountaineers won three Division I-AA/FCS championship games there. They’ve also beaten the Mocs three straight times in Chattanooga, including an exciting 42-41 victory in 2010 when former quarterback DeAndre Presley led a comeback after ASU fell behind 35-14.
But Appalachian State returns to Chattanooga (Tenn.) in the unusual position of not being in the driver’s seat for a Southern Conference championship. The Mountaineers face Chattanooga in a SoCon showdown at Finley Saturday looking to pick up their first league victory.
Appalachian State is coming off a 52-28 pasting handed to them by The Citadel last Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. It was the worst defeat at home since 1992, and ASU’s worst defeat since a 54-7 loss at Georgia Southern in 2004.
Later in 2004, Chattanooga outlasted Appalachian State 59-56 in a shootout that saw the Mountaineers blow a 28-7 lead.
“The conference is better this year than any year I’ve been here,” senior safety Troy Sanders said. “It seems that every team is a contender because nobody had The Citadel at the top of the poll in the preseason. Now, they’re at the top, and Chattanooga is always a team that plays us tough.”
Since 2004, Appalachian State has won seven straight over the Mocs. The Mountaineers have dominated the series by winning 24 of their last 27 over Chattanooga.
Not all of them have been easy. In 2011, the Mountaineers scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take a 14-12 win at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
“They’re probably the most improved team and program in our league,” Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said. “I certainly haven’t changed my mind about that. They’ve probably lost more close games than any team in our league.”
The Citadel looked plenty improved last week. The Bulldogs took a 31-0 lead and rolled up over 600 yards in total offense one week after the Mountaineers knocked off Montana.
Moore said practice went well, despite the lopsided loss.
“The mood is fine,” Moore said. “We’re disappointed. I say the mood’s fine, but it’s like we’re happy-go-lucky for the last 48 hours. It’s going to happen to you in sports. Your ability to bounce back determines what type of team you are.”
The Mocs go into the game with a 1-2 record. The Mocs lost their first two games to South Florida 34-13 and Jacksonville State 27-24 before clubbing Division II Glenville State 35-0.
Freshman quarterback Jacob Huesman, who has thrown for 478 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception, leads Chattanooga’s offense. Huesman also leads the team in rushing with 213 yards and a touchdown.
He was a redshirt last season after being given the 2010 Division II-AA Mr. Football award.
Huesman replaces B.J. Coleman, who led the Mocs’ offense for three years after transferring from Tennessee.
Coleman was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the seventh round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Huesman’s father, Russ Huesman, is the coach of the Mocs. Moore said the Mountaineers are familiar with Russ Huesman, having faced him when he was the defensive coordinator at Richmond when the Spiders played the Mountaineers two times.
“Our association goes back to Richmond, so we have great respect for them,” Moore said. “It should be the same kind of game like the rest of them — a good tight ballgame.”
Appalachian State’s defense is giving up 38 points per game following its loss to the Citadel. The Mountaineers also lost 35-13 to East Carolina in their season opener, but beat Montana 35-27 a week later.
Appalachian State also gives up 497 yards per game. The Citadel rolled up 618 yards Saturday with its wingbone option offense.
“We gave up a lot of big plays,” Moore said. “I thought we had a ton of missed tackles, but they also had plays when they went untouched. We had missed tackles, but it was more of an assignment thing.”
“You can’t just hang your head,” Sanders said. “You have to come back to practice ready to plan for the next opponent and play the best game you can. That’s what we’re going to do.”
Appalachian State had few bright spots Saturday. Steven Miller led the Mountaineers in rushing with 167 yards and three touchdowns, but did not get to the end zone until The Citadel built a 31-0 lead.
Quarterback Jamal Jackson leads the Mountaineers’ offense by completing 70-of-106 passes for 724 yards and two touchdowns. He also has two interceptions.
Receivers Andrew Peacock and freshman Malachi Jones each have 15 receptions. Peacock has 177 yards and a touchdown, while Jones has 144 yards and has yet to reach the end zone.
Jackson does not expect an easy time at Chattanooga.
“As always, they’re a good team,” he said. “They’ve always had a good defense, so we’ve got to come out ready to play.”