Sun Belt Showdown: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Appalachian State Mountaineers
This is the 23rd meeting between Wake Forest and Appalachian State, an underrated in-state rivalry separated by only 89 miles and several million dollars of athletic funds.
Deacs (3-0) and ‘Neers (2-1), Saturday, September 23rd, 2:30PM on ESPN3
This is supposed to be Appalachian State’s year. And it still is. The Mountaineers are 2-1, as we more-or-less expected. And yet, one feels somewhat troubled by Appalachian State’s performance heading into Week 4. Against Georgia, the offense was invisible. App piled up 54 on Savannah, but Texas State’s defensive line bullied what was supposed to be a great Mountaineers ground game.
Will the real Appalachian State Mountaineers please stand up?
What better time to return to form than with Wake Forest coming to Boone for a sizzling, in-state match-up? The Demon Deacons are 3-0 and outscoring their opponents by 34 points a game. But their defeated FBS foes, Utah State and Boston College, are a combined 2-4 on the year. The Mountaineers will be the Deac’s toughest opponent yet this season. Somebody just has to wake up Scott Satterfield and his team.
When last these titans met.
From 1975 until 2001, Wake Forest vs Appalachian State was a regular thing, with the Deacons winning 14, the Mountaineers 7, and one game ending in a tie. Then, zip. Nada. Wake Forest won the game 20-10 in ’01, ending a two game losing streak to App. I suspect that two-game losing streak had something do do with the series’ demise. But now it’s back, baby!
”Fans want to see these in-state games,” admitted WF head coach Dave Clawson.
(He also said “I don’t think people just view App State as a Sun Belt team, they view them as a really good football team.” Sun Belt Heat doesn’t just view Wake Forest as an AAC team, but also as another opponent for Clemson and Florida State to destroy.)
The Mountaineers win this game if the preseason Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year shows up.
After three games, the leading rusher for Appalachian State isn’t Jalin Moore. It’s senior RB Terrence Upshaw (5-10 210) with 163 yards and a pair of scores. Even QB Taylor Lamb has out rushed Moore 117 yards to 109. What’s going on with Moore?
The Mountaineers simply need more from Moore. Wake Forest has only allowed three rushing TD’s all year, and only gives ups about 130 ground yards a game. If Moore can get it going, the Mountaineers can better control time of possession while giving the deadly accurate Taylor Lamb more wiggle room to do his work.
The Mountaineers also win this game if the defense finds an answer for John Wolford
Wolford (Sr., 6-1 200) is a dual menace quarterback with three rushing TDs (and 192 yards) to go with his six passing TDs. So far, he has yet to make a mistake; Wolford has clean pick record and has only absorbed three sacks.
Fortunately, the Mountaineers front line likes them some sacks, collecting eight after three games – second best in the Sun Belt. Senior DL Caleb Fuller (6-0 241) is coming of a solid game against Texas State. He and preseason Sun Belt First Team defensive lineman Antonius Sims (6-3 260) need to be in Wolford’s grill all day long, forcing mistakes and giving the Appalachian State offensive more opportunities.
The Sun Belt really needs the Mountaineers to win this game
It has not been a pleasant 3 weeks for the Sun Belt, who have yet to notch a victory of real note in 2017. An in-state, P5 rivalry hosted in a Sun Belt venue is one of those games the Sun Belt desperately needs to win, or the highlight reel is going to be awfully heavy on FCS opponents.
The Final Word
At first glance, the Demon Deacons seem like a very tough matchup for the Mountaineers. But a fattening diet of Utah State, Presbyterian and Boston College may have fattened the Wake Forest mystic. Yes, Appalachian State hasn’t really performed as projected, but they may be the best team Dave Clawson’s program has face all year. Expect plenty of hatred-and-heat on Saturday afternoon.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.