The Sports Network
By Brett Kahn, FCS Assistant Editor
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 28th, 12 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kidd Brewer Stadium (21,650) -- Boone, North Carolina. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN U. Announcers: Mike Morgan, Jon Ritchie. Home Record: SC State 5-0; Appalachian State 5-1. Away Record: SC State 4-1; Appalachian State 4-1. Neutral Record: SC State 1-0; Appalachian State 0-0. Series Record: Appalachian State (2-0). Last meeting: November 29, 2008 (Appalachian State, 37-21 - FCS Playoffs). Series Streak: Appalachian State has won both meetings. Conference: SC State - Mid-Eastern Athletic; Appalachian State - Southern. Sports Network Ranking: SC State (7); Appalachian State (4). Nicknames: SC State Bulldogs; Appalachian State Mountaineers. Playoff Record: SC State (2-3); Appalachian State (21-13). Coaches: SC State - Oliver "Buddy" Pough (67-25); Appalachian State - Jerry Moore (214-123-2, overall; 187-75 at Appalachian State).
GAME NOTES: Appalachian State and South Carolina State faced each other in the first round last season and will officially kickoff the 2009 FCS playoffs on ESPN U's nationally televised broadcast.
The Mountaineers prevailed in last season's meeting, earning a 37-21 win, as Payton Award winning quarterback Armanti Edwards (3,079 yards of total offense, 26 TDs, three interceptions) passed for a career-high 433 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another score.
However, after an early exit in last year's playoffs due primarily to the knee and hip injuries suffered by Edwards, Appalachian State is healthy this season and riding a nine-game winning streak (third longest streak currently in FCS) and has lost just once in FCS competition. ASU earned its fifth straight Southern Conference title and playoff appearance this season.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 19-14 win over Western Carolina, once again preserving their possession of the Old Mountain Jug. Edwards sat out as a precaution due to a slight ACL strain he suffered during a 27-10 SoCon clinching win over Elon.
The 2008 Payton Award winner, who ranks second in FCS in scoring, will start Saturday for an ASU offense that ranks second in total offense and fourth in scoring.
Possession receiver Matt Cline (66 catches, 11.4 average) leads the Mountaineers in receptions and yards, and is joined on the receiving corps by standout Brian Quick (43 catches, 22.7 average, three TDs). Slot receiver/returnman CoCo Hillary (4,100 total yards for his career) is out for the remainder of the season after undergoing .
Running back Devon Moore (1,054 yards rushing, 15 TDs, 28 catches, 8.9 average) paces an ASU rushing attack that ranks seventh in FCS. The junior scampered for a career-high 191 yards and two scores against Western Carolina.
The Mountaineers' improving defense ranks 39th in FCS and held the Catamounts to just 236 yards.
Standouts on the unit include Buchanan Award finalist Mark LeGree (six pass breakups, six interceptions) at safety and All-Americans D.J. Smith (107 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups) and Jacque Roman (87 tackles) at linebacker and Cortez Gilbert (75 tackles, three pass breakups) joining LeGree in the secondary at cornerback.
South Carolina State followed its 2008 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship - it's first title since 1983 and playoff appearance in 1982 - with a 2009 league title and second straight playoff appearance.
The Bulldogs held tough against the Mountaineers in last year's playoff meeting, trailing 24-21 after three quarters before losing by 16. Payton Award candidate Will Ford (1,010 yards rushing, eight TDs) led the offensive effort in the loss, rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Ford has helped the SCSU offense rank 28th nationally this season in total offense and 16th in scoring. In a 28-10 win over North Carolina A&T, Ford broke the all-time MEAC rushing record (4,650 yards) with a season-high 156 yards on the ground.
Bulldogs' quarterback Malcolm Long (2,424 yards of total offense, 25 TDs) and wide receiver Tre Young (58 catches, 15.6 average, nine TDs) have been solid for SCSU's improving offense. Young has caught 12 balls for 289 yards and four scores in his last two games, while Long has thrown for at least two touchdown passes in five straight games.
South Carolina State's defense has been the true force behind the team's success. The unit ranks fifth nationally in total defense, seventh in pass defense and ninth in scoring defense.
The unit features leading tackler David Erby (77 tackles, five tackles for loss) at linebacker, defensive tackle La'Taris Douglas (35 tackles, six sacks) and secondary standouts in safeties Markee Hamlin (47 tackles, three interceptions) and Phillip Adams (11 pass breakups, three interceptions, two touchdowns).
Both teams are more prepared for one another after facing each other last season, but South Carolina State should keep this game closer. However, the Mountaineers thrive under playoff pressure and are more healthy as a team then they were one year ago.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Appalachian State 34, South Carolina St 27.
11/27 12:48:47 ET