Penn State Latest High-Profile Opener for App State (2018-09-01 14:36:41)

BOONE, N.C. — Another season opener. Another highly ranked opponent.

Appalachian State begins the 2018 regular season Saturday with a 3:30 p.m. game at No. 9 Penn State in 106,572-seat Beaver Stadium. The Mountaineers'­­ appearance in Happy Valley will be shown on the Big Ten Network.

Scott Satterfield is entering his sixth year as the head coach at his alma mater, and App State will be opening with a road game against a top-15 foe for the third consecutive year. It lost in overtime at No. 9 Tennessee in 2016 and was handed a loss at eventual national runner-up Georgia in 2017. Another eventual runner-up, Clemson, beat the Mountaineers in their first road game of 2015.

Whether or not Penn State has similar long-term potential is unknown, but head coach James Franklin and standout quarterback Trace McSorley are both back to lead a Big Ten team that went 11-2 in 2017.

"It's been a long camp for everybody, and I think everybody is ready to hit someone else," Satterfield said. "Obviously, we're playing a great team in Penn State, a top-10 team. We have great respect for their coaches and their players — how they play and how they approach the game. We're going to have to go in and play our very best if we're going to have a chance to win."

App State's only other games against Big Ten competition were both against Michigan, as the Mountaineers pulled their historic 2007 upset in front of a Big Ten Network audience and lost to the Wolverines in Appalachian's 2014 debut as an FBS program.

Returning captains Jalin Moore and MyQuon Stout are among the seven fifth-year seniors who were redshirting freshmen during the last trip to a Big Ten venue. Stout is entering his third year as a starter at defensive tackle, and Moore ranks second among active FBS rushers with 3,170 career yards.

Taking handoffs from new quarterback Zac Thomas instead of Taylor Lamb and running behind a line with two new right-side starters joining center Noah Hannon, left guard Ryan Neuzil and left tackle Victor Johnson, Moore is excited about the opportunity that awaits the Mountaineers' revamped offense.

A deep group of pass-catching threats in Thomas Hennigan, Corey Sutton, Malik Williams, Jalen Virgil, Dominique Heath, versatile athlete Darrynton Evans and tight end Collin Reed gives Thomas options as App State faces a Penn State defense with only two returning starters from last year.

"It's just all about getting that feel," Moore said. "We just need that feel again. It's football, and you lose people. Everybody loses some and gets some new guys. You just have to get that feeling of a unit. Once you get that, it's going back to App State Football and playing how we know how to play."

App State is known for its productive, run-first approach. Penn State sent running back Saquon Barkley to the NFL as the No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft, but the Nittany Lions were even more prolific in the passing game with McSorley throwing for 274.6 yards per game as a junior. He had 28 touchdown passes and 11 touchdown runs.

Nine of the 11 projected starters on App State's defense, including the entire secondary of Clifton Duck, Tae Hayes, Josh Thomas and Desmond Franklin, started at least one game last season. In addition to Hayes and Stout, defensive end Okon Godwin and inside linebacker Anthony Flory are senior starters on the defensive side.

"We don't have many seniors on this team, just 12, with a bunch of young guys, but everybody's looking to the leadership of those seniors, and I've been impressed with that and how they've come to work every single day," Satterfield said. "That's the main thing. If we continue to do that, we'll improve every single day."



Previewing App State's Offense vs. Penn State's Defense

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State opens the 2018 season with a road game at No. 9 Penn State on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The battle inside 106,572-seat Beaver Stadium will be televised by the Big Ten Network.

The Mountaineers and Nittany Lions, who are coached by James Franklin, were a combined 20-6 last season. Today, we'll look at how the App State offense matches up against Penn State's defense:

App State Offense vs. Penn State Defense

Penn State lost a record-setting running back but returns its standout quarterback. At App State, record-setting quarterback Taylor Lamb is gone, but standout runner Jalin Moore is back to lead a talented offense.

A two-time Sun Belt Conference rushing champion and the No. 2 active FBS back in terms of career rushing yards, Moore helped the Mountaineers gain 223.6 yards per game on the ground last season. Appalachian will attempt the run the ball effectively against a Penn State defense that returns only two starters but has several experienced players back from a group that allowed 118.0 yards per game on the ground in 2017.

"They don't have many returners, but the guys they do have returning, they're great moving side to side," Moore said. "That'll be a key factor with the outside zone (running) and what we do up front. It'll be a good competition."

Penn State's two returning defensive starters from 2017 are outside linebacker Koa Farmer (No. 1 returning tackler, No. 6 on last year's team with 48 stops) and 6-foot-5, 260-pound defensive end Shareef Miller (11 tackles for loss and five sacks among his 37 stops). John Reid started at cornerback in 2016 before missing last season with an injury, and cornerback Amani Oruwariye is an All-Big Ten candidate after intercepting four passes in a reserve role last season.

With Miller as a force coming off the edge, App State will turn to its offensive line, as well as its tight ends and backs, to protect new quarterback Zac Thomas and create openings in the running game. In addition to Moore, Darrynton Evans had several explosive runs during fall camp.

Left tackle Victor Johnson, left guard Ryan Neuzil and center Noah Hannon are returning starters along the line, with senior Chandler Greer projected to start at right tackle following a 2017 season in which he made four starts on the line. Cole Garrison and Baer Hunter have been working at right guard.

Thomas is a dual-threat quarterback thanks to his running ability and strong arm. He has a talented set of pass-catching options, with junior tight end Collin Reed as one option along with four sophomore receivers: Thomas Hennigan, Corey Sutton, Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil. Dominique Heath has arrived from Kansas State as a speedy graduate transfer with a track record of FBS success.

Personnel-wise, Penn State has a new defensive look after giving up a touchdown or less in five games last season, while App State is mixing in some young talent with experienced returners representing each class.

"Their D-line really gets after the pass rush," App State head coach Scott Satterfield said. "They bring pressures from a lot of different areas. They'll bring corners, bring strong-side linebackers, bring 'Mike' linebackers, even bring safeties when they need to on third-down situations.

"They're aggressive, but they're very sound. They don't give up very many big plays. A very solid defense, and one we'll have to play exceptionally well against to be able to move the ball."



Mountaineers Name Four Team Captains

BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State's two returning captains from 2017 are in similar roles as seniors, and they'll be joined at midfield Saturday by a pair of juniors.

App State head coach Scott Satterfield announced four captains to the team this week, recognizing senior running back Jalin Moore, senior defensive tackle MyQuon Stout, junior safety Josh Thomas and junior offensive tackle Victor Johnson in advance of the Mountaineers' road opener against No. 9 Penn State.

Moore and Stout were junior captains along with four outgoing seniors last season. The two junior captains this year are both fourth-year players, as Johnson has made 26 straight starts at left tackle since redshirting as a true freshman and Thomas received a medical hardship after an injury-shortened 2017 season in which he started the first three games at free safety.

Thomas is the projected starter at strong safety this year, and his long interception returns were among the defensive highlights of App State's fall camp. Of the Sun Belt Conference's returning interior linemen on the defensive side of the ball, Stout's 41 tackles from 2017 rank first in the league.

Johnson is the most experienced returning starter from an offensive line that ranked No. 2 nationally with eight sacks allowed in 2017, and he helped the Mountaineers average 223.6 rushing yards per game. Moore rushed for 1,037 yards and 12 touchdowns during an injury-plagued junior season.

App State has 12 seniors on its 2018 roster, and all four captains were spring selections for a 10-man leadership council that included one representative from 10 separate position groups. That group is the basis for the program's #10Strong mantra.