By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
MOSCOW, ID. — Confidence is a quirky thing for a college football team, it can be there one moment and gone the next.
Appalachian State had won 13 of its previous 14 games before last week’s Sun Belt Conference, first-place showdown with Arkansas State.
But after that Thursday-night, 40-27 home loss to the Red Wolves and coming off a harrowing, 44-41 triple-overtime victory the week before against Troy, the Mountaineers appeared to lose some of their swagger.
Appalachian (7-2 overall, 5-1 in conference) will try to get some of that invincibility back on Saturday when its faces struggling Idaho (3-6, 2-4) at 5 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho. Being 2,560 miles away from home, it will mark the furthest west — or any other direction — the Mountaineers have ever traveled for a game.
ASU coach Scott Satterfield is hoping he has a refreshed football team with him on the trip.
“Having a couple of days off after Arkansas State really helped,” said Satterfield. “We played three games in 15 days. That’s a lot of football.”
He is also counting on his offensive line being more settled with a week of practice.
The Mountaineers lost right tackle Beau Nunn to a serious ankle injury in the Georgia Southern and then watched center and offensive team captain Jesse Chapman leave with a knee injury early in the Arkansas State contest.
Those two ailments, along with the requisite position shuffling they caused, have more than taken their toll on the App State offense’s consistency since.
“Both of those players have been so important to our success,” said Satterfield. “The offensive line works like a group out there and when one player is gone, it changes everything.”
The sophomore Nunn is unlikely to play again this season.
Chapman, a senior, has been telling teammates he expects to play on Saturday, despite missing practice this week and being listed as questionable on Saturday’s depth chart.
But even if Chapman is out of the lineup, Appalachian should be more stable up front.
“We have had a week of practice to get everybody ready,” said Satterfield.
The Mountaineers struggled with two areas last week and Satterfield said those factors will be the key to success against Idaho.
“We’ve got to get back to running the football like we can,” said Satterfield. “And we have to do a better job of protecting the football. In the two games we’ve lost, we had four turnovers against Clemson and three against Arkansas State.”
Idaho has struggled defensively, ranking 120th nationally in points allowed (41 per game) and has held teams under 38 points just twice in nine outings. ASU’s old Southern Conference, triple-option rivals Wofford and Georgia Southern put up 38 and 44 points in back-to-back weeks in September.
On offense, the Vandals have some weapons with 230-pound running back Elijhaa Penny and sophomore quarterback Matt Linehan — the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Idaho is averaging 409 yards per game.
“I think everybody see’s how much better we are,” Idaho coach Paul Petrino told reporters after last week’s 52-45 loss to South Alabama. “The program is on the right track. We’re getting ready to be a really good football team.”
Appalachian linebacker John Law said the Mountaineers are ready for the challenges that a balanced attack presents.
“We just need to get back to taking care of our individual responsibilities and staying within our system,” said Law. “The past couple of games we’ve had guys who have been trying to do too much.”
With its less-than-stellar performances against Troy and Arkansas State, Appalachian has soared to 18th in points allowed per game (18.3) and 12th in total yards allowed (298.6) nationally.
The Mountaineers also hold out home that some other team can knock off Arkansas State (6-3, 6-0) in the final three weeks and give Appalachian a share of the Sun Belt title. The Red Wolves close with games at Louisiana-Monroe and New Mexico State and at home against Texas State.
“Our coaches keep telling us it is a long season and anything can happen in the last three weeks,” Law said. “We just have to go out and take care of business.”