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Underdog Eagles hope to stun mighty App
Mountaineers have 30-game winning streak at The Rock
Eagles have tough task playing Appalachian State Saturday in Boone, N.C.

            An overflow crowd, a huge rivalry, a regional television audience and a chance to knock off the two-time defending national champions.

            “You play college football because of big games like this,” Georgia Southern senior Dusty Reddick said this week. “We are really excited. It’s a new season. We are 0-0 right now, and we’ve got to win this one.”

            Without question today’s game is huge for Georgia Southern (4-2, 1-2), which is hoping to shock fifth-ranked Appalachian State in a 3:30 p.m. matchup. The scene in Boone, N.C., today is likely to chaotic as the Mountaineers are expecting a crowd of 30,000 for the sold-out Southern Conference battle.

            The Eagles have won just twice at Kidd Brewer Stadium and are 3-8-1 all time at Appalachian (5-1, 1-1) with their most recent victory coming in 2001.

            “Boone, N.C., is a very hostile environment,” GSU senior T.J. Watkins said. “We are the underdogs going into the game, and I think that’s an advantage for us. We are looking forward to it. It’s going to be a showdown.”

            The Mountaineers are riding high after consecutive national crowns and a season-opening win at Michigan, widely considered one of the biggest upsets in the history of college football. ASU hasn’t lost at home since 2002, and its 30-game home winning streak stands as Division I’s longest. But don’t expect the Eagles to be intimidated.

            “A 30-game win streak really doesn’t mean too much to us,” GSU quarterback Jayson Foster said. “That’s impressive, but we hope to go up there and snap it.”

            Appalachian coach Jerry Moore said his team doesn’t dwell on its impressive run at The Rock.

“I couldn’t even tell you what it is,” he said. “I bet I couldn’t even come within five to eight numbers. That’s something that’s never ever mentioned. It’s not like it’s taboo or anything. I don’t think anybody ever even thinks about it.”

The Eagles are looking to bounce back from last week’s disappointing double-overtime loss to Elon and are fighting for their playoff lives. With two losses in SoCon play, GSU can’t afford another.

“If we lose one more game, it’s probably over for us,” said Watkins. “So we are coming out this week more focused. We are going to try to work harder. App is always going to get our best game. This week we are starting over. Our backs are against the wall.”

            GSU needs a better showing from its offense, which struggled to find consistency last week despite churning out more than 400 total yards. Georgia Southern’s banged up running backs - Lamar Lewis, Mike Hamilton and Chris Teal – should play although they are still nursing a host of injuries. Wide receiver Mike McIntosh is out for today’s game.

            “We’ve got to go out there and match their offense step for step,” Foster said. “We can’t get ourselves too far behind. We had a little bit of trouble throwing the ball last game, but we’ve got to go out there this week and complete those passes if we’re expecting to win out there.

            “That’s what it’s going to take – a good running attack and a good air attack – to go out there and put points on the board.”

            Georgia Southern’s offense had a red-hot start to the season and still leads the league with 474.5 yards and 41.5 points a game. Containing the elusive Foster will be a top priority for the Mountaineers, but Moore said GSU’s offense isn’t his team’s only concern.

“(Georgia Southern) is a test for our whole football team,” Moore said. “Their defense gets them the ball. They’ve got a good kicking game. I think (GSU coach) Chris (Hatcher) is pretty smart for moving Jayson back to quarterback. You’ve just got to defend the field against them. They’ve got good receivers, backs. You’ve got to be real sharp and tackle well against them. They are well-coached kids.”

Defensively, the Eagles know they’ll have to stop the run in order to topple ASU, which is scoring 40.2 points a game. Star quarterback Armanti Edwards will likely start today after missing nearly a month with a shoulder injury. If Edwards isn’t full-go, the Mountaineers will turn to senior Trey Elder, who is 4-0 as a starter. ASU should be well-rested after having last Saturday off.

The Eagles don’t feel like there’s a huge talent gap between them and the Mountaineers, particularly after last season when Appalachian needed double overtime to sneak out of Statesboro with a 27-20 win. To pull off the upset, Georgia Southern must play a near-perfect game and improve on the missed assignments and busts that plagued it at Elon.

            “We are going to have to play tough football, cut down on the mental errors and just play hard for 60 minutes,” Reddick said. “It’s going to be a great game. It’s a great rivalry, and it’s going to be a lot of hard hitting and a lot of big plays.”

            Said GSU defensive end Larry Beard: “We’ve really got to put it to them.”


            Georgia Southern

at Appalachian State

            ‰ Site — Boone, N.C.

            ‰ Kickoff — 3:30 p.m.

            ‰ TV — Ch. 34, Savannah

            ‰ Radio – 102.9 FM