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Self-inflicted Agony in Athens

Photo by David Scearce

Michael Rubino, App State’s often-maligned sophomore kicker, squared up in the fourth quarter and drilled one through the uprights in Athens, Georgia.

He also nailed his only PAT kick. The foot man who started so slowly during his freshman campaign also drilled a number of kicks onto the red paint in the back of the Sanford Stadium end zone.

So he’s off to pretty much a perfect start. That’s something.

And after being drubbed and pounded into submission Saturday night – often by themselves – between those damn hedges, the Mountaineers need something (anything!) to feel good about after a 31-10 loss.

There were some things to feel hopeful about, to be sure. The App defense was absolutely swarming early. White unis came out vicious and were all over starting QB Jacob Eason and beastmode RB Nick Chubb. The Dawgs couldn’t move the ball as the teams traded punts in what felt for much of the first quarter like an opening week SEC-Sun Belt slugfest.

/Goosebumps/

Then, the Mountaineers came unglued. Just consider STUD App State DL Myquon Stout’s late hit out of bounds on Eason was a self-inflicted wound that sidelined him and brought in freshman QB Jake Fromm and the Dawgs’ revised up-tempo approach in the first place.

Sure, there were bad calls by the refs. But the officials didn’t hold onto the ball too long and fumble just when the Black & Gold offense was starting to move the ball. The zebras didn’t needlessly tackle Eason out of bounds, keeping a stalled Dawgs drive alive and sending him to the MRI machine and bringing the up-tempo master Fromm. And the officials didn’t make one bad or needlessly conservative third-down call on offense after another.

The Dawgs’ offense changed the moment Eason went down. Plodding ground-and-pound instantly became crash-and-dash. Eason struggled with App’s pressure and coverage. Fromm knew just when to step up in the pocket, and where to deliver strike after strike.

The App State defense – players and coaches – had no answer for the suddenly speedy Bulldogs. At several points, UGA ran third-down plays so quickly, this blogger couldn’t even fire off tweets with those hilarious third-down bell emjois fast enough. What’s more, the speedy approach and Fromm’s presence helped open the running game for Chubb.

(*SIREN* AppFan News Alert: Nick Chubb is healthy. Very healthy. The entire SEC is on notice. Pack a lunch. Kid is on a mission. Your blogger looks forward to drafting Chubb for his once-competitive fantasy team one day…)

The Mountaineers have some real issues, best we can tell at least after one drubbing by what could be a SEC title contender.

Without WRs Shaedon Meadors and Darrynton Evans, Lamb – once again – was facing a Power Five foe with no one who could get open. The OL was shaky.

Was it the young WRs or a shakier-than-in-recent-years-OL? Don’t know. Yet.

But Lamb often was under pressure and/or trying too hard to make something happen.

His first-quarter fumble was vintage “Bad Lamb,” it killed the only real offensive momentum ASU ever mustered. With No. 11, you get the good: the steady game-manager with (mostly) good instincts and underrated wheels; and the bad: the risky throws and desperate decisions, which kill drives and lead to turnovers.

It’s just who he is. It still irks your blogger, but we all made (enough) peace with this years ago. We’re damn glad to have the two-time bowl winning and Sun Belt champion QB. But here’s hoping the next App State QB1 is more willing to just chuck it out of bounds or just take a sack. (Or, for the love of #FunBelt titles, slide once in a while…)

Jalin Moore didn’t look like “The Franchise” against a Doggy D that was keying on him from the start. There were so many Dawgs in the box at one point, your blogger was hiding behind his coffee table, fearing they’d knock No. 25 in white right out of the teevee screen.

Moore is a known entity. He can get it done against Group of Five defenses. But…

…Pardon this blogger – and I know some of you loathe my eyes-wide-open realism cynicism – but there were moments when Moore burst into the line with his typical freight train-like fury, only to run into his own blockers or multiple waiting Bulldog defenders. Even this blogger, however, could see cutback lanes that Marcus Cox would have seen, too.

Moore is a bigger cat. He’s not the kind of agile cutback runner that Cox was for the Mountaineers. Have Coach Visor and Co. updated the schemes accordingly? Don’t know. Yet. They better.

Again, to be fair, Georgia is a deep, athletic, talented squad. So your blogger doesn’t want to be too harsh. Still, the App secondary – even all-everything a season ago Clifton Duck – was confused, often lost and out of position. All. Night. Long. It’s one thing to be in the right spot and just get beat by a four- or five-star WR. It’s another to be 5 or 10 yards away after missing an assignment.

Is this fixable? Don’t know yet.

These are the glaring question marks and issues to watch over the next two weeks. And the best news is, other than whatever kept Meadors and Evans out, the ‘Neers did not appear to leave Athens with any major, season-altering injuries. That means starters can get practice and game time reps to get better against FCS Savannah State and Texas State, which has struggled to compete in the Sun Belt.

The Mountaineers best clean things up before Sept. 23. That’s when Wake Forest will make the drive up Highway 421 for a HUGE clash at The Rock. The top of the #FunBelt, when playing dumb and sloppy, just can’t compete with even the middle or bottom of the ACC.

We’ve seen this before, the ‘Neers not looking that sharp in a check game against a Power Five foe. This AppFan expects the Black & Gold to look great next Saturday, and we’ll all feel much better about most of the above. And after a trip to the Lone Star State, there’s every reason to expect a 2-1 Mountaineer club will host the Deacs at 3,333 feet.

But there is one thing that worries those of us at AppFan.com World Headquarters: That whole up-tempo thing.

The Dawgs seemed to leave App’s remaining foes a blueprint on how to at the least confuse and frustrate – and wear down – the Mountaineer defense, which has been among the Group of Five’s best in recent years. It also has been one of the best, statistically, in all the land.

Savannah State, Texas State and others on the schedule almost certainly lack the talent to use the fast attack effectively against App. But Wake, Georgia Southern and a few other Sun Belt foes likely do. At least just enough to matter.

Things got out of hand fast in Athens. It now falls to DC Nate Woody to get his unit ready to punish the next team that tries the same speedy approach. He best act, well, fast.

–Appstradamus

Follow your favorite barely tolerated blogger DURING each game on Twitter @APPstradamus for analysis, snark and third-down bell emojis (!!).

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Self-inflicted Agony in Athens | AppStateNews

  2. Yogi1986

    September 4, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Why were Meadors and Evans out of the Georgia game? Are they injured?

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