Sometimes, it can be hard for a football team to find motivation in the final game of the season with its postseason destination all but decided.
This isn’t one of those times.
Appalachian State figures to be plenty motivated when it takes the field at South Alabama tonight in the regular-season finale, with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff in Mobile, Ala.
ESPN reports surfaced this week that the Mountaineers accepted a bid to the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., on Dec. 19.
Along with the opportunity to become just the second Sun Belt team to win 10 games in the regular season, the Mountaineers (9-2, 6-1) have been reminded all week about the Jaguars’ 47-20 destruction last season in Boone, as they piled up 582 yards and led 47-7 going into the fourth quarter.
“They came up here and waxed us pretty good last year, so that’s definitely in our minds; it’s all over our building,” quarterback Taylor Lamb said. “It wasn’t really a contest at all. We didn’t move the ball at all so that’s definitely on our minds going down there this Saturday.”
The Jaguars (5-6, 3-4) rushed 46 times for 243 yards, taking advantage of a defense that hadn’t found its footing.
“Any time somebody beats you like they did, you want to get them back,” defensive end Ronald Blair said.
The shoe might be on the other foot this time around, as App State enters as the more-experienced team with USA returning just five starters this season.
The Jaguars have struggled in all phases, allowing an average of 37.5 points (116th nationally) and scoring just 24.8 (95th).
Despite that, USA finds itself on the verge of bowl eligibility – something that coach Scott Satterfield said will add another level of intrigue tonight at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
“They had a ton of seniors last year, and they really kicked our tails last year, all over the field,” Satterfield said. “For them, it’s kind of a rebuilding year, but they’re right in there. They’re right on the verge of getting bowl-eligible, so we know we’ll get the best shot from them, senior day for them, a chance to go bowling.”
Despite allowing an average of 411 yards, the Jaguars have excelled against the pass, ranking 31st in the nation at 198 yards per game. On the flip side, opponents have rushed for 214 yards – something that bodes well for an App State rushing attack that has found another level over the past two weeks.
With freshman Jalin Moore in the backfield rotation with Marcus Cox, App State has rushed 102 times for 531 yards – an average of 5.2 yards per carry.
Cox, the first player in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons, returned to the lineup last week with 78 yards on 22 carries in a victory over Lousiana-Lafayette. Moore has carried 40 times for 348 yards in the past two games.
Sometimes, the Mountaineers’ rushing attack has led opponents to stack the box. That could be the case tonight as App State looks to replace second-leading receiver Shaedon Meadors, who was lost for the season with a lower leg injury last week.
Quarterback Taylor Lamb is prepared to stick with the gameplan, despite the loss of his favorite deep-threat.
“We’ll take what they give us obviously, we’re going to rely on the run here, but if they start coming up, we’ll take our shots, take advantage of that,” he said. “I think we can win against anybody on the outside. We’ll see.”
If the Mountaineers can take advantage, they’ll become just the fourth team in the program’s 86-year history to win 10 or more games in the regular season.
Satterfield, who quarterbacked the 1995 team to an 11-0 regular season, said the number is a significant one for a program in its second season at the FBS level.
“Nine wins is huge. Ten wins is almost unheard of in this conference and really for this football program in a regular season,” Satterfield said. “There haven’t been many to do that. For us to be right there speaks volumes to our program, for coaches and players and everybody involved.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu.