Defenses facing Appalachian State have to prepare for the school’s career rushing leader and the Sun Belt Conference’s top rusher in 2016.
Before Saturday, opponents didn’t have to worry about stopping them at the same time.
Appalachian State, which beat La.-Monroe 42-17, unveiled a two-back package with senior Marcus Cox and sophomore Jalin Moore split behind shotgun quarterback Taylor Lamb.
With a backfield-aligned tight end directly behind an offensive tackle and single receivers out wide to each side, Lamb has the option of handing the ball to a back for a zone-blocked run, executing an option play with the other back or throwing a pass.
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Instead of alternating between Cox and Moore in single-back sets, the Mountaineers (8-3, 6-1) used the new formation on 18 of the first-team offense’s 61 plays and averaged 10.5 yards per snap. Not surprisingly, that change came up quickly in coach Scott Satterfield’s postgame news conference.
“The first question out of you guys is that one right there — I knew it would be,” a smiling Satterfield said. “It’s something we’ve been talking about, really, for a few years now, and we really haven’t experienced much of it. We just felt this would be a great week to pull it out. Man, it was a great formation for us.”
Appalachian State began the season with questions about how it would distribute carries among its two proven backs. Cox increased his four-year rushing total to a school-record 4,820 yards thanks to a 153-yard, three-touchdown performance Saturday, and Moore’s 135 yards gave him a league-leading 1,256 with only a game at New Mexico State (3-7, 2-4) remaining in the regular season.
Cox started the first three games this season, but a leg injury that sidelined him for nearly five full games pushed Moore into a starting role, and he’s gained at least 89 yards in nine consecutive games. Both backs have surpassed 100 yards apiece in three of the four games since Cox returned against Georgia Southern on Oct. 27.
Coming off a loss at Troy, Appalachian State’s coaches decided to pair Cox and Moore, starting with the second offensive play against La.-Monroe.
"I've been waiting on that time with both of us in the back at the same time," Moore, who played at Crest High, said with a laugh. "I knew one of us was going to have a good game. Come to find out, we both had a good game."
The Mountaineers rushed for a season-high 429 yards on 47 attempts, and 15 runs from the two-back set gained 163 yards. Moore accounted for 97 of those yards on eight attempts, with six handoffs netting 59 yards and two option runs producing 38 yards.
Used more as a decoy, Cox gained 19 yards on five carries and caught one pass for 10 yards out of that set. Two option keepers from Lamb totaled 46 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown, and he also completed two of his three pass attempts for 26 yards.
“They have tremendous talent in the backfield, and the quarterback is such a great decision maker, too,” New Mexico State coach Doug Martin said. “He really, to me, is the guy that makes them go because he doesn’t make mistakes. He will not make a mistake, and he puts them in the right play.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/