Mountaineers face rival Wofford on Saturday
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Since 2002, Wofford and Appalachian State have had a share in eight of the past 10 Southern Conference championships. Appalachian State holds a 6-5 edge in the series since 2002, with Wofford winning the last two.
When App State visits Wofford's Gibbs Stadium Saturday, the Mountaineers will be trying to salvage what is left of a season that was supposed to be a transition into the FBS, but has made a disasterous turn.
Appalachian State (2-8, 2-4 SoCon) needs to beat Wofford (5-4, 4-2) on Saturday and Western Carolina on Nov. 23 to avoid its first two-win season since 1977.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 45-6 loss at Georgia where they trailed 14-6 at halftime, but gave up 17 points in the third quarter to fall behind 31-6.
But that was a game few expected the Mountaineers to win. Appalachian State has won just one home game -- a 38-14 victory over fellow, future Sun Belt rival Georgia Southern.
Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield has had to adjust his goals. Instead of winning a league title, the goal is to see improvement in the final two weeks of the season, and go into the offseason on a positive note.
"In the last three weeks, we've gotten better," Satterfield said. "We've just ended up on the short end of the stick. The thing we've tried to do is finish strong and get better."
They travel to Wofford, whom they have not beaten since 2010. Wofford (5-4, 4-2) had a chance to take control of the SoCon last week, but lost to Chattanooga 20-10. The Mocs clinched at least a tie with their win.
"It was a tough day," Wofford coach Mike Ayers said. "Chattanooga played better. We didn't do a good job of taking care of the football. Even if we didn't turn it over the whole game, I don't know if we would have beat them."
Wofford still has an outside chance of winning at least a share of the SoCon if it can beat Appalachian State Saturday and Furman, which is playing better football lately, on Nov. 16. Chattanooga would also have to lose at Samford on Saturday for Wofford to have a chance at a tie.
Satterfield sees Saturday as a chance for the Mountaineers to beat a solid football team and gain some momentum into the offseason.
"Wofford's beaten us the last two years, so it's a huge gme for us to go and get the win and then finished with Western Carolina," Satterfield said. "There's a lot of different things going on with that. We have a chance to finish 4-4 in the conference and carry the momentum into the offseason and into our offseason program if we can finish on a high note."
Wofford has had to make a season-long transition away from having Eric Breitenstein in its backfield. The two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year graduated last season, leaving a big hole in the Terriers' offense.
Donovan Johnson was moved to Breitenstein's fullback position and has gained 821 yards and scored three touchdowns. Ayers was happy with Johnson's production and understands that replacing Breitenstein is a tall order.
"It's different, but the fullback position has been productive," Ayers said. "We're in a situation where we've been throwing more than we did last year, so we've lost some carries there. No doubt No. 7 was the best guy we've ever had toting that rock. We've had to go another step and Donovan Johnson has done a great job."
Appalachian State has also replaced a standout runner this fall. Steven Miller, a 1,000-yard rusher, graduated, leaving a similar hole that's been filled by freshman Marcus Cox.
Cox, a four-time Freshman of the Week this season, has a chance to be a 1,000-yard rusher. He has gained 916 yards and scored nine touchdowns on 194 carries.
Satterfield added that the Mountaineers should be at full strength going into the game.
"Mostly we are healthy," he said. "We should be at full strength going into Wofford and into these final two weeks."