Previewing App State's Defense vs. South Alabama's Offense (2018-09-28 12:49:18)

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State played its home opener last weekend. Saturday, it opens Sun Belt Conference play with a home game against South Alabama.

Led by first-year head coach Steve Campbell, the Jaguars are 1-0 in league play with a 41-31 win against Texas State on Sept. 15.

Kickoff for the homecoming game in Kidd Brewer Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., and the game will be available on ESPN+.

Today, we'll look at how the defense from App State (2-1) matches up against the offense from South Alabama (1-3).

App State Defense vs. South Alabama Offense

After a high-scoring overtime game at Penn State, lopsided wins against Charlotte (45-9) and Gardner-Webb (72-7) have helped the Mountaineers climb to first place in the Sun Belt and sixth place nationally in total defense with only 265.7 yards allowed per game. App State leads the Sun Belt in both rushing yards allowed per game (111.3) and passing yards allowed per game (154.3).

Redshirt freshman defensive end Jermaine McDaniel enjoyed a breakout performance against Gardner-Webb, as he recorded the first two sacks of his career. Those takedowns resulted in first-half losses of 9 and 10 yards.

"When you put in a lot of work as a defense, as individuals, as a team, to do something great, to see it coming to fruition is a good thing to see because it's just something you work hard for," McDaniel said. "You do it for results like that — that's what you play the game for — and I'm blessed to have it finally happen."

With Noel Cook and Caleb Spurlin also combining for a sack against Gardner-Webb, the Mountaineers have six sacks and 18 tackles for loss in the last two games. App State will be facing a South Alabama offense that averages 498.0 yards and 42.0 points per game.

Evan Orth, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound quarterback, has started the last three games and totaled six touchdown passes with just one interception. He had 360 passing yards and three touchdown passes in a 52-35 loss to Memphis last weekend, and top receiving target Jamarius Way caught 10 passes for 185 yards and one score.

The 6-4, 220-pound Way has 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' other outside receiver is 6-5 Jordan McCray, and slot receiver Kawaan Baker leads the team in both touchdown catches (three) and rushing yards (134 on 21 attempts).

"Evan Orth has come in and thrown the ball very well," App State head coach Scott Satterfield said. "They're moving the ball and scoring points."

App State's defense has improved at forcing turnovers over the course of the season, as safeties Desmond Franklin and Kaiden Smith intercepted passes against Gardner-Webb. Franklin has interceptions in two straight games and three of the last four going back to the Dollar General Bowl shutout of Toledo.

Hicks Adjusting Well to New Position

BOONE, N.C.— D'Andre Hicks redshirted as a true freshman cornerback at Appalachian State after playing quarterback as a high school senior.

Changing positions in the spring was no sweat for Hicks, whose second career game appearance at running back resulted in a game-high 150 yards on just 11 carries.

Hicks capped the scoring in a 72-7 home win against Gardner-Webb last weekend with a 73-yard touchdown in which he stumbled near midfield before regaining his balance and showing off his sprinter's speed.

"I was happy I kept my balance and scored," Hicks said. "It felt good — I hadn't felt that in a while. Everything went right. The blocks up front were great, and the receivers blocked good."

Of the App State players who have rushed for at least 150 yards in a game, the only instances that required fewer than Hicks' 11 carries involved Jimmy Watkins (nine rushes for 164 yards against VMI in 2000), Robert Welton (10 carries for 161 yards against Jacksonville in 2008) and Armanti Edwards (nine rushes for 152 yards against Chattanooga in 2008).

Like Watkins and Welton, Hicks came off the bench in his highly efficient 150-yard outing.

Jalin Moore gained 119 yards on eight first-quarter carries before giving way to some of his younger teammates. With sophomore Darrynton Evans, sophomore Marcus Williams Jr., true freshman Camerun Peoples and sophomore DeMarcus Harper also getting work, six running backs accounted for 414 of the team's 432 rushing yards.

It also marked the second straight home game in which App State had a pair of 100-yard rushers, as Jalin Moore and rehabbing sophomore Daetrich Harrington reached triple digits in the 2017 home finale against Louisiana.

"Everyone in that room has helped me," Hicks said. "It's different styles, with a lot of power in that room, a lot of speed. Getting advice from everyone and coach (Stu) Holt, it's been all good.

"Our game plan was good, and our boys up front got it done for us."

Hicks, whose father, Elgin, played receiver at Florida and South Florida before joining the Indianapolis Colts in 2004, excelled as a quarterback during his senior year at Charlotte High School in Punta Gorda, Fla. He threw for more than 1,200 yards and ran for more than 500.

Hicks had performed well as a defensive back in the years before he helped Charlotte post a 12-1 season with his switch to quarterback, and he was one of three true freshman cornerbacks who redshirted for App State in 2017. A preseason injury to Harrington and other preseason ailments led to Hicks being called upon to join a short-handed group.

"I did it in high school, playing different positions, and it's just helped me out in learning the game of football," Hicks said. "It's been fun."

Hicks made his App State debut on special teams at Penn State and had six offensive touches, including five carries, during his offensive debut at Charlotte. His first carry against Gardner-Webb occurred in the third quarter, and back-to-back gains of 28 and 16 yards set up a score late in that period.

With App State facing a third-and-10 situation in the closing minutes, Hicks took a handoff from quarterback Tanner Wilson and ran through a hole created by center Ivan Reyes and left guard Logan Wright. He also benefited from blocks by left tackle Weston Gillespie and receiver Braden Collins, who created space down the left sideline.

The stumble near midfield gave three defenders time to gain some ground on Hicks, but his sub-4.40 speed in the 40-yard dash was on display for the final 45 yards.

"With the ball in his hands, he's obviously very, very good and talented," App State head coach Scott Satterfield said. "He was a quarterback in high school and did some great things with the ball in his hands, so he's still learning the running back game where you have to protect and fit off of offensive linemen in the pass game, but in the running game he did great.

"I'm really pleased with him, and I'm really pleased with all our backs."