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Preview: App State vs Miami

#BeatMiami

Imagine it: A moment to be a part of something larger than yourself, an opportunity to fight in or, for most of us, to support a seminal battle in a decades-long struggle.

Imagine three hours to challenge yourself and be challenged to become, even if temporary, a new version of yourself: faster, stronger, more focused than ever — and, for the spectators adult beverage-enhanced Mountaineer FANatics, louder and more disruptive than ever before.

For all of App State Nation, Saturday at high noon, before the ESPN cameras, presents such an opportunity. An opportunity to not only measure where this still-new FB$ program is, but to take it to a new level. An opportunity to turn national surprise — and doubt — into national recognition — and the best kind of respect: the kind that’s earned on the field.

An opportunity to announce that a program with so much history, tradition and hardware has officially arrived — and can no longer be ignored.

/rings the third down bells over and over. dislocates shoulder, ignores pain — so jacked up on #BeatTheU adrenaline/

Think ahead to the scene at Kidd Brewer Stadium come midday Saturday, and think back to where this program was just a five years ago, when the Maine Black Bears entered The Rock and delivered the kind of FCS Playoff beatdown the Mountaineers had become accustomed to handing out.

Fast forward to Saturday.

/Begin Brent Musberger voice/ You are looking live at a jam-packed Kidd Brewer Stadium in beautiful Boone, N.C., where a record crowd is ready to watch their beloved Appalachian State Mountaineers host the Miami Hurricanes.

Sure, Uncle Brent won’t be there. But 34,658 Mountaineer maniacs are expected to pack The Rock, over 3,000 more fans than the facility has ever held before.

Based on the Winston-Salem newspaper’s account, there are going to by AppFans stuffed into every nook and cranny KBS has to offer.

Let this be a challenge, folks: The Rock can get loud and raucous. At times the last few seasons, it has sounded to your blogger — both live and from afar — like a high school stadium: only the cheerleaders can be heard. Don’t let this happen Saturday. Be loud. Be disruptive.

/glances toward Miami QB Brad Kaaya. you have no idea, No. 15, what you’re in for/

Your blogger is so overcome with jealousy for those lucky enough to have a ticket that he can hardly make sense of all these statistics and observations from Weeks 1 and 2.

/asks self ‘what would Armanti (#GOAT) do?’ Remembers to focus, wishes he had an ounce of No. 14’s talent/

Do you like the running game? We hope so. And we know that you do, as any App Fan should. You’re likely to see a lot of ground-and-pound football from both the Mountaineers and Hurricanes.

App has kept it on the ground 91 times this season (Cox got it 42 of those times), and the ‘Canes have pounded it 75 times. That’s against 45 passes for the home team and 52 for the visitors. Who wants the bad news?

/glances around, sees no hands/

The Mountaineer defense has been solid, but… It’s only 71st in the country against the ground-and-pound, surrendering 142 yards per game. And, let’s see, the Hurricanes rushing offense is…I know those stats are around here somewhere…

/shuffles through a stack of papers. gulp…/

Oh, yes. The ‘Canes rushing attack is, well, as the kids say, on fleek, piling up 652 yards in just…two…games. That’s 326 yards per game, folks.

/rubs eyes. looks again./

Holy [bleep]. That’s a lot of yards. I mean…A LOT.

/pours bourbon into Yosef mug. doesn’t even drink bourbon/

Wait, let’s all breathe. As the wise AppFan Editor pointed out to a concerned hyperventilating App-stradamus: “They’ve played Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic.”

That’d be two of the worst rush defenses in all the FB$ land. Whew.

What’s more, App boasts Marcus Cox (#BeastMode), who should be a bona fide Heisman Trophy candidate, enters Saturday’s game as the 10th-best running back in the country. In fact, his 248 yards is close behind the 271 so far for the Hurricanes leading runner, Mark Walton.

For App, there’s no secret here: The ‘Neers must run the ball early and often. Cox and that OL (#BandOfBrothers) are the collective engine that make the offense run, and so often, bulldoze opponents.

But to do that, QB Taylor Lamb and his slooooooowly developing WR corps must do more than they have in that near-miss fluke against Tennessee and last week’s home-opening W over FCS C-USA Old Dominion. Reports out of ‘Canes land suggest Mark Richt’s defense is playing as aggressively as ever, especially against the run.

That means Lamb & Co. have to make the throwing game just enough of a threat to open things up for Cox and his tag-team partner, Jalin Moore.

/glances toward TE Barrett Burns and WR Jaquil Capel, nods knowingly/

(And here’s a vote for getting speedster WR Deltron Hopkins involved in the running game, which will only help Cox and Moore between and off the tackles.)

Defensively, the Mountaineers have to get to Kaaya early. Knock him down. Make him alter his throws. Florida Atlantic was able to get to him, and the Owls forced him to throw the ball to them. His 17-for-31, 191-yard, 0 TD, 2 INT performance should provide much hope to AppFans.

Just like with the Vols, the App D has to contain Walton and Yearby, and make Kaaya beat them.

Something else to keep in mind if this thing stays close, as your blogger expects: Hurricanes kicker Michael Badgley is perfect on 15 extra-point tries this season.

/slow clap/

He’s tried three three-pointers, and made … just one. Hmm… What’s that Vegas line again (for those who monitor such things)? 3 ½ points (as this was written), you say? So if this one comes down to Badgley, a junior, kicking in a venue that’s smaller and configured much differently than those to which he’s become accustomed as a member of the /begin Foghorn Leghorn voice/ Atlantic Coast Conference…

/reaches for paper bag, breathes deeply/

Yeah, yeah, App freshman kicker Michael Rubino had his problems at Tennessee, but he’s been kicking at The Rock for months.

Bottom Line: A consistent pass rush, a steady running game, a swarming run defense, limited self-inflicted wounds. And a loud-for-three-hours-crowd. That’s the recipe for not another Alltime Upset, but a true statement win over the Miami Hurricanes, the sometimes-fatigues-wearing bad boys from South Beach.

Can you imagine it? Your blogger can.

Because we’ve seen it before. This wouldn’t be an upset to those who have followed the evolution of the App State program since QB Richie Williams (#legend) took that first spread offense shotgun snap waaaaay back in 2005.

Saturday’s high-noon Hurricane watch with a national-television audience looking in is an opportunity to show the entire FBS that the win at Michigan wasn’t a fluke and the OT loss at Tennessee was. It’s an opportunity to show prove that Appalachian State has built one of the top FB$ football programs in all the land, that this #FunBelt era is merely a stop on the way to bigger things.

It’s an opportunity to open a new chapter in this program’s storied, but largely unknown history. It’s an opportunity to put Boone in the same league as Ann Arbor, Tallahassee, Columbus, Clemson, South Bend, Norman, and yes, Fargo. The elite towns that are nationally synonymous with top-shelf college football. It’s an opportunity to show prove The Rock belongs on those lists of great stadiums, right there with The Horseshoe, The Big House (#NeverForget), Death Valley, The Swamp, and yes, The Fargo Dome.

It’s 60 minutes away. And it’s within reach.

Imagine that. Go Apps! Give ‘Em Hell!

(Prediction: App-stradamus’ head says ‘Canes minus the 3 ½ is the safe, smart play. But his heart knows better, and your blogger senses some Mountain Magic in the air. Give me the MOUNTAINEERS STRAIGHT UP! Lock and load Appalachian State!)

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