Saturday, September 29, 2007

Mountaineers' QB Edwards out again

A nagging shoulder injury is keeping Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards out of today's Mountaineers-Elon game at the Phoenix's Rhodes Stadium.

There's pretty good reason to think that Edwards -- who hurt the shoulder against Michigan in the season opener and missed the next two games before playing again last week against Wofford -- might not play again until Appalachian's next Southern Conference game, Oct. 20 against Georgia Southern.

The Mountaineers play nonconference Gardner-Webb next week and then have a bye week. Appalachian should be able to handle Gardner-Webb without Edwards -- who reinjured the shoulder against Wofford -- and with capable backup Trey Elder. So that would give Edwards a full month to recuperate before the big conference game against Georgia Southern. -- DAVID SCOTT

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Five reasons to watch ACC football

It’s not easy to get excited about college football in North Carolina these days, when Wake Forest (2-2) is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team in the state that’s not 1-3.

New coaches Butch Davis at North Carolina and Tom O’Brien at N.C. State are off to rough starts, and Duke is still Duke even though it won at Northwestern.

But here are five reasons for Charlotte-area fans to keep paying attention to college football as September winds to a close:

1. Spurrier is coming. Even if North Carolina is 1-5 on Oct. 13, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s visit to Chapel Hill will be memorable. North Carolina fans still haven’t forgiven him for running up the score in 1989 when he was at Duke and then taking a team picture in front of the scoreboard.

2. Charlotteans are shining. Defensive end Jeremy Thompson is tied for fourth in the nation with five sacks for Wake Forest, and teammate Kenneth Moore is one of the most versatile players in the ACC. At North Carolina, Hakeem Nicks is one of the ACC’s best big-play receivers, and tailback Ryan Houston could be ready to break out at tailback as a freshman.

3. Quality QBs. Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner, North Carolina’s T.J. Yates and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis are worth watching. That’s more than you can say for many of the ACC’s quarterbacks.

4. East Carolina isn’t hopeless. The Pirates are 1-3, but they’ve lost to two ranked teams (Virginia Tech and West Virginia) plus the preseason favorite in their division in Conference USA (Southern Mississippi). Their schedule will get easier.

5. Jim Grobe. With Skinner back from his shoulder injury and an open date this week to heal some more, Wake Forest isn’t out of the ACC championship race yet because it has one of the best coaches in the nation.

Sure, it’s tempting to forget football and spend the beginning of October pining for basketball. But the start of basketball practice still is a few weeks away. Don’t give up on football yet. – Ken Tysiac

Friday, September 14, 2007

Random thoughts on ACC Week 3

Random thoughts heading into the third Saturday of ACC football:

  • A lot of people think Boston College at Georgia Tech on Saturday is a preview of the ACC championship game because of those teams’ strong starts. But it’s premature to count out preseason division favorites Florida State and Virginia Tech despite those teams’ early struggles. Florida State has looked horrible early, but that might be a result of adjusting to new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher’s system. This team could be vastly improved at midseason, though the schedule gets much stronger in November. Virginia Tech may have solved its biggest problem by replacing Sean Glennon with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback. If you trust Frank Beamer to get the Hokies’ offensive line problems corrected, they shouldn’t be discounted as a contender.

  • Defending ACC champ Wake Forest is another team that shouldn’t be forgotten just yet. The Deacons have just one ACC loss, and it was on the road. They didn’t have their starting quarterback when they nearly defeated Nebraska. They should roll over Army on Saturday even with Riley Skinner out with a separated shoulder that isn’t as severe as first thought. If Skinner returns Sept. 22 for Maryland as expected, the Deacons should be in good shape. They have an open date Sept. 29 followed by a game at Duke on Oct. 6, and should have Skinner back into rhythm before the schedule strengthens.

  • After it took North Carolina coach Butch Davis a long time to hire an offensive coordinator, the selection of John Shoop seemed questionable. Much of Shoop’s NFL experience came with the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, which hardly were juggernauts on offense when he was there. But after two college games, it’s already obvious Shoop is doing a good job accentuating the talent on the North Carolina roster. Speedy wide receiver Brandon Tate, a non-factor on offense last season with five receptions, already has three touchdown catches of 28 or more yards. Missed assignments supposedly held back Tate in the past, but he has done a nice job running deep routes under Shoop. Quarterback T.J. Yates throws the deep ball with excellent accuracy, and Shoop hasn’t hesitated to turn loose that arm. Shoop also did a good job punishing East Carolina’s defensive aggressiveness with bootleg passes last week. His next job? Getting North Carolina’s running game going with inexperienced backs. – Ken Tysiac

Monday, September 10, 2007

Yates could lead Heels to bowl

After two weeks of football, it appears North Carolina might have an opportunity to challenge for a bowl bid after going 3-9 last season.

The reason? Redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates, who worked on the scout team last year behind Joe Dailey and Cameron Sexton, is a lot better than expected.

He shows an uncanny ability to keep his eyes downfield and avoid the rush, partly because he spent his high school career dodging defenders behind a shaky offensive line. His most impressive skill is his ability to throw the deep ball.

In Saturday’s 34-31 loss to East Carolina, Yates threw three touchdown passes of 37 or more yards, all on deep balls.

“The deep ball throws he made today, you’re right there (defensively),” East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said after the game. “There’s a half-step, and he dropped it right in.”

Yates has six touchdown passes already, more than half the total (11) that North Carolina’s quarterbacks threw all of last season.

Meanwhile, quarterbacks throughout the ACC are struggling. Harrison Beck, N.C. State’s second starter in two weeks, threw five interceptions and lost a fumble at Boston College.

Virginia’s Jameel Sewell was supposed to be one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks, but is having trouble keeping freshman Peter Lalich from taking his job.

Miami isn’t getting production out of Kirby Freeman or Kyle Wright. Virginia Tech might have to replace ineffective Sean Glennon with freshman Tyrod Taylor.

North Carolina’s nonconference schedule appears to be an even more significant hurdle now that South Florida has upset Auburn and South Carolina defeated Georgia. And East Carolina’s James Pinkney showed that the North Carolina secondary is porous if a quarterback can avoid a strong pass rush.

But if the Tar Heels remain stable with Yates, they will have a significant advantage over their ACC competitors.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

ACC football points to ponder

Five points to ponder about ACC football now that the first weekend is complete:

1. Clemson fans shouldn’t get too excited about the prime time win over Florida State on Monday night. The Tigers’ defense was excellent, but Clemson won’t win the Atlantic Division unless quarterback Cullen Harper can loosen up defenses with downfield throws. The 2007 Tigers look a lot like the 2006 version, which was crippled against top defenses by quarterback Will Proctor. Clemson also looks a little like Wake Forest, using all manner of trickery with wide receivers and running backs to spread the field horizontally.

2. Redshirt freshman T.J. Yates is better than anybody North Carolina used at quarterback last season. His refusal to be satisfied even with his strong performances in the spring game and against James Madison indicates that he should continue to improve. But if the Tar Heels can’t develop a running game against the strong schedule they play, they might not improve much on last year’s 3-9 record.

3. Many of N.C. State’s players have “an over-inflated image” of their own talent, coach Tom O’Brien said Monday. “That’s something that’s permeated here, that we have this great talent,” O’Brien said. N.C. State’s failure to control the line of scrimmage in the first half of a 25-23 loss to Central Florida should dispel the myth that the Wolfpack can win on talent alone, according to O'Brien. After the loss, N.C. State senior wide receivers John Dunlap and Darrell Blackman passionately appealed to their teammates to get serious. The Wolfpack has lost eight in a row. “We’ve got some winners on this team,” said tight end Marcus Stone. “Granted, we’ve had a few losses in the past. We’re going to work it out and get on the right page.”

4. Though Riley Skinner’s shoulder separation is a blow to Wake Forest, don’t underestimate coach Jim Grobe’s ability to overcome injuries. The Deacons lost starting quarterback Benjamin Mauk and tailback Micah Andrews and survived a bunch of other key injuries last season to win the ACC title. And backup quarterback Brett Hodges’ 17-for-23, 130-yard performance provides hope that Wake Forest can win even if Skinner can’t play Saturday against Nebraska.

5. The struggles of Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon on Saturday weren’t a surprise. East Carolina’s domination of the Virginia Tech offensive line was unexpected, though. If the Hokies are going to win at LSU on Saturday and get into the national championship hunt, the veteran line led by Duane Brown and Sergio Render must do a much better job against All-America candidate Glenn Dorsey and the LSU defensive front.

- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Appalachian Nation relishes big victory

One day, there will be lots of Appalachian State fans who will say they were there when the Mountaineers stunned Michigan 34-32 in Michigan Stadium.

Actually, only about 3,000 of them were among the 109,218 in the Wolverines' "Big House" to watch their team perform the unthinkable.

But that's OK: Everyone associated with the school deserves to be part of what was a wonderful afternoon for Appalachian Nation.

Make no mistake, this was as unlikely an outcome as there has ever been in college football.

Sure, the Mountaineers are the Michigan of the NCAA's football championship subdivision (formerly I-AA), with two straight national titles. But the gap between the FCS and the BCS programs in the football bowl division (formerly I-A) -- in terms of scholarships and depth of lineups -- is incredibly wide.

That's why it's taken so long for a FCS team to beat a ranked team.

But it happened Saturday, and Appalachian State was the first to do it.

Appalachian State's offense has Michigan befuddled at halftime

Things would be pretty quiet at Michigan Stadium early Saturday afternoon if it weren't for the booing.

Appalachian State, using a mixture of flash and up-the-gut football, leads Michigan 28-17 at halftime. The Big Ten's Wolverines haven't been able to figure out the Mountaineers' offense, which has rolled up 244 yards in total offense.

Michigan appeared to be driving for a touchdown late in the half, but stalled at the Mountaineers 5. When the Wolverines' field goal unit ran on to the field, Michigan fans responded with a chorus of boos. They grew stronger when the Wolverines had the wrong players on the field, forcing a time out.

But Michigan's Jason Gingell made the kick, cutting Appalachian's lead to 11 points at halftime.

-David Scott

107,501 fans in Michigan Stadium an imposing site

Michigan Stadium, the largest in the country, has a seating capacity of 107,501.

But it’s a subtle 107,501 because, as you approach it, the Big House doesn’t look so big.

The stadium sits in a bowl below ground level and isn’t multi-tiered.

But the stadium has 90 rows of seats - 96 in the end zones - and when they’re filled as they were Saturday against Appalachian State, well, it is an impressive sight.