"Sticks" defense proves to be effective for ASU
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- It's a defense that is not completely Appalachian State's but it is far from common.
The formation is called "Sticks," because it puts eight players away from the line of scrimmage as if they were in "the sticks" according to head coach Scott Satterfield. It's a long-yardage defense that the Mountaineers have been using since their game at Furman on Oct. 19.
Since then, they have been successful in stopping big plays on third down when they were in the set.
"It's like being out in the sticks," Satterfield said. "It's been effective all year. It's a good defense. Basically it's designed to get our guys into their pass drops without having to do it during the play."
Appalachian State used it successfully when Wofford faced a third-and-13 in the second half. They were not in the formation when Wofford converted a fourth-and-32 with a 50-yard completion, which led to the Terriers' final touchdown of the game.
Appalachian State defensive coordinator Nate Woody said the Mountaineers started working on the formation during the practice week before the Samford game, but didn't try it on the field until Furman.
"We've done it here and there since in each game," Woody said. "I wish we had done it on that fourth down and long. I think we would have had a better chance at knocking it down."
There are three down linemen and eight players who lineup behind them. They are spread along the width of the field similar to a picket fence generally near the first-down marker.
The idea is to keep the football in front of them.
If a player goes deep, the appropriate defenders go with him.
The key is to stop anybody who gets the ball in front of them from getting the first down.
Woody said he came up with the idea while coaching at Wofford more as a teaching method instead of a defense.
"We were trying to teach the guys to get into their drops for coverage, because we kept making mistakes on getting back to the designated area," Woody said. "So I just started putting them in their areas, and it just worked backwards to the line of scrimmage."
Woody said the Terriers didn't make nearly the amount of mistakes being in the Sticks lineup than they did trying to get to their drops from their normal 3-4 set, so the formation became part of the defense.
"We decided that we would try it in the game," Woody said. "We did, because we'd make a lot of mistakes getting to our drops. So it helped us eliminate mistakes by just lining them up back there and playing from back there."
Woody was making his first appearance at Gibbs Stadium, and coaching in his first game since leaving Wofford for Appalachian State during the offseason. Woody coached at Wofford since 1988 with just a four-year hiatus during that stretch until 2012. He was the defensive coordinator from 2000-12.
Woody also was a four-year starter, two years at defensive back and two years at linebacker, from 1980-83. He was awarded the game ball following the game Saturday.
Woody was happy the Mountaineers won the game, but admitted he was not looking forward to the game.
"I wasn't something I was looking forward to," Woody said. "I made a lot of friends here and coming back, and going against those friends, it was really difficult."