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App first defending champ in Paulson

    This has been a season of firsts for Georgia Southern, most of them involving  the passing game.
    Another will take place Saturday at noon in Paulson Stadium when the top-ranked, defending national champion Appalachian State Mountaineers visit the Eagles.
    It won’t be the first time a No. 1 ranked visitor has played at Paulson – that honor fell to Furman last year, a 27-24 Eagle win. It is, however, the first time a defending national champion has visited Paulson.
    The game will be televised live on SportSouth (formerly Turner South) which accounts for the early start. The Mountaineers (6-1, 3-0) haven’t lost since their opener at N.C. State. Barring a total collapse, App will get a chance to defend its title when the playoff field is announced next month.
    The Eagles (3-3, 2-1), on the other hand, are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive. Another loss and that opportunity is gone. Georgia Southern will be looking to put together back-to-back wins for the first time this season on homecoming weekend.
    Southern could have picked an easier opponent to build on the momentum generated by last week’s 28-21 win over Elon.
    The Mountaineers, behind freshman quarterback Armanti Edwards, running back Kevin Richardson and a veteran defense that seems to have either an all-conference or All-America candidate at each position, have been running roughshod over everyone since losing to the Wolfpack 23-10.
    Coach Jerry Moore’s team beat James Madison, 21-10, in its second game of the season and then ran off 41 or more points in four straight games before beating Wofford, 14 - 7, last week.
    It looked like it was going to be another big day when the Mountaineers jumped off to a 14-0 first period lead against the Terriers, but it developed into a dogfight from that point on.
    “We got a couple of quick scores and then we couldn’t score again,” said Moore. “From the middle of the third quarter on it became a real football contest.
    “It was a good win for us,” said Moore. “I thought we played pretty well, and Wofford is a team we have a great deal of respect for. They always play hard.”
    Moore believes it was beneficial for the Mountaineers to go all out in a close game, and thinks it will serve them well heading into today's contest.
    “We’ve had a cushy schedule,” said Moore. “We haven’t really been pushed in the fourth quarter. From a coaching standpoint it was good the way things worked out for us.
    “We executed in the last five minutes of the game which is what ultimately all of us are looking to do,” said Moore. “As to playing Georgia Southern in Statesboro, I don’t know that there’s any good place to play them.”
    Moore is in his 18th year at Appalachian. He is 6-8 versus the Eagles, and only one of those wins has come at Paulson, a 35-28 victory in 1996. Two years ago the Eagles posted their biggest win in the series, 54-7.
    Edwards, who has been the Southern Conference’s Freshman of the Week three times this season, replaced starter Trey Elder in the third game of the season and has thrown for 1,038 yards and eight touchdowns in completing 72 of 112 passes with four interceptions.
    Richardson has run for 583 yards on 116 carries and has caught 14 passes for 104 yards. Wide receiver William Mayfield leads App receivers with 33 catches for 613 yards and four scores. Backup Dexter Jackson, who averages 19 yards per punt return, has 16 catches for 270 yards.
    Edwards is similar to Richie Williams, who led the Mountaineers to the title last year. Not only is he an excellent passer, but a dangerous threat to run in App’s spread offense. He has 367 yards rushing.
    Defensive backs Jeremy Wiggins and Corey Lynch lead the Mountaineer secondary while middle linebacker Pierre Banks leads the team in tackles with 56. Defensive end Marques Murrell is considered by many to be the best defensive lineman in the league.
    Elder, who started the title game last December, was the starter at the beginning of the season, but Moore believes the Mountaineers may have rushed him as he recovered from summer shoulder surgery.
    “He’s fine now,” said Moore, “We put Trey back on the field a little bit quick. We had him throwing a lot in two-a-days and his shoulder flared up.
    “Armanti is doing a good job, especially for a true freshman,” said Moore. “Last week was the first time he’s played a full game. It was the first time he’s had that kind of pressure on him in the third and fourth quarter and he responded well.”        

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