By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When Appalachian State won three straight Football Championship Subdivision titles from 2005-07, it ended each run with a victory in Chattanooga, Tenn.
This season, the FCS championship game will be played in Frisco, Texas, for the first time. App State veteran coach Jerry Moore hopes his team's trip to Chattanooga was the start of another title run.
His Mountaineers solidified as a team on Sept. 4, when they played their first game in the post-Armanti Edwards era. Junior DeAndre Presley replaced the starting quarterback of the 2006 and '07 championship seasons and the Walter Payton Award winner of '08 and '09 and led a 21-point comeback in a thrilling, 42-41 victory at Chattanooga.
The Mountaineers haven't looked back. They spent five weeks at No. 1, went 9-2 in the regular season, captured a share of their sixth straight Southern Conference title and earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs, which would give them home-field advantage all the way up to the championship game.
On Saturday, App State will begin what it hopes is a four-game run to the national title by hosting Western Illinois in the second round of the playoffs. Ironically, Moore says the SoCon team that Western Illinois reminds him of is Chattanooga.
In Five-a-Side - In the Huddle's monthly feature of "five questions, five answers" with an influential person in the FCS - Moore discusses his team as it heads into playoff action. . Let's kick off:
TSN: How does your team compare at this point of the season with some of your recent squads going into the playoffs?
JM: I think it's a little bit early to start comparing these guys. There's a lot of them who have not been in playoff games.
We're a relatively young football team. We've got about seven or eight, nine seniors or older guys between offense, defense and special teams. But the bulk of our football team is young, so the passion for it, being in the playoffs ... To get through our league, it's a rough schedule. And I hope that we've got a passion for it. It would be hard to compare 'em to other teams right now.
TSN: If that's the case, what do you hope the upperclassmen can impart on the younger players about the playoffs?
JM: This being the first ball game, certainly winning is the No. 1 thing. I think winning is the paramount thing. Then those older guys got something to talk to these young guys about. Not necessarily talk, but show by example. They're doing that to a degree right now. You wonder how much of those young guys look into what they're seeing or hearing.
TSN: Considering DeAndre Presley has followed (two-time Walter Payton Award winner) Armanti Edwards as your quarterback, how has he been able to overcome that added pressure?
JM: I don't think any pressure was on him because we knew, and DeAndre knew, that we weren't going to compare him, just like Jamal Jackson, the alternate quarterback. We weren't going to compare those guys to Armanti.
Just like Richie Williams. Richie had a great career here. And when he left, we didn't know know about Armanti. Armanti was just a freshman kid in here. And the same thing. Now DeAndre wasn't a freshman, he had played for us last year. But we moved him from quarterback to a receiver after about three ball games - he and (Travaris) Cadet both when Armanti got well. So there was no comparing him ...
TSN: Mark Legree seems recovered from his hamstring injury. Can you talk about your team's overall health going into this game?
JM: I think we're pretty healthy. I think that's probably one of the advantages of having that bye weekend. Even though you practice, you still have a chance to rest a few guys, which we did. I'd say we rested eight or 10 guys those three days that we practiced. Even (Monday) we had a few guys still sitting out that we think are going to play.
TSN: What do you enjoy the most about this year's team?
JM: Oh, I think we didn't know what kind of team that we would have. It's kind of like coaching a walk-on kid. You'd like to see that guy get better and better and better, and the thing that always disappoints you is you see a player that's got a lot of talent (but) doesn't work very hard, doesn't measure up to what your expectations are. I think that's what's been the most fun for me because we were such an unknown. We graduated a good many players last year. Just to see these guys really rally. You almost have had to see the second half of our Chattanooga game (a 42-41, season-opening win) to really appreciate where these guys have come from."