App State Homecoming Doubles as Sun Belt Opener (2018-09-28 16:09:11)

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State opens its Sun Belt Conference schedule against a league opponent that many of the Mountaineers' young players have never faced.

In 2016 and 2017, App State's conference schedule didn't include games against South Alabama or Arkansas State. The Jaguars will appear in Boone on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. homecoming game at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Senior running back Jalin Moore scored the tiebreaking touchdown with 1:16 left in a 34-27 road victory for Appalachian State in 2015, and there are seven other current Mountaineers who appeared in that game: Austin ExfordTae HayesJosh ThomasAnthony FloryChandler GreerElias McMurry and Tobias Edge-Campbell.
The roster for Appalachian (2-1) is 75.2 percent underclassmen, giving head coach Scott Satterfield the third-youngest FBS team in the country, and the Sun Belt opener will provide a different kind of challenge following in-state wins against Charlotte (45-9) and FCS Gardner-Webb (72-7).
"We're excited about starting conference play," Satterfield said. "The tune-up season is over with the nonconference games, and you have to be really focused when you start conference play."
South Alabama (1-3 overall) enters the weekend as one of three teams with a 1-0 record in the league, and App State's pursuit of a third straight Sun Belt title begins Saturday.
Thanks to two dominant performances that have followed an overtime loss at Penn State, the Mountaineers now are Sun Belt statistical leaders in scoring (51.7 points per game), total offense (525.7 yards per game), total defense (265.7 yards per game), pass offense (282.3 yards per game), pass defense (154.7 yards per game), rush defense (111.0 yards per game), pass defense efficiency (95.2), kickoff returns (39.5 yards per attempt), sacks against (1.67 per game) and opponent first downs (16.7 per game).
App State's high-powered offense includes Moore (No. 2 nationally in career rushing yards among active players), quarterback Zac Thomas (top seven nationally in three passing categories), a deep receiving corps with two players (Dominique HeathCorey Sutton) in the top 20 nationally in yards per catch and an offensive line that helped the Mountaineers rush for 432 yards last week.
Defensively, with 18 players who have recorded a tackle behind the line of scrimmage and 11 players who have recorded a quarterback hurry, App State ranks sixth nationally in yards allowed per game. Flory and fellow linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither lead the team in tackles, while safety Desmond Franklin has intercepted a pass in each of the last two games.
The Mountaineers' special teams have done more than their fair share, leading the nation with four touchdowns courtesy of a Darrynton Evans kickoff return, Thomas Hennigan punt return, Steven Jones blocked punt/recovery and Clifton Duckpunt return.
With Steve Campbell in his first year as its head coach, South Alabama brings a productive, quick-release passing attack and aggressive, turnover-minded defense to Boone. Senior quarterback Evan Orth threw for 360 yards with three touchdowns last weekend in a 52-35 loss to Memphis, and 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver Jamarius Way is the team's go-to threat with 28 receptions (16 more than South Alabama's second-best total) and 437 yards (340 more than the team's second-best total). 
The Jaguars' defense is led by cornerback Jalen Thompson, whose three interceptions include a 55-yard interception return for a touchdown when Texas State was leading 31-15 in South Alabama's league opener. That score and another interception return from Thompson to set up a late touchdown to lift the Jaguars to a 41-31 victory.
"The first thing that stands out with them is their speed," Satterfield said. "Defensively, in the secondary in particular, those guys can run and are creating a lot of turnovers. Their defensive line really gets after the passer.
"Offensively, the first thing you notice is the big receiver on the outside. He's had great couple of games here lately. They're throwing the ball, and you have to be fundamentally sound with their option attack."