No. 24 App State looks to keep longer hold on Top 25 ranking
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Appalachian State is back ranked in the Top 25.
Now the Mountaineers would like to stay there.
No. 24 Appalachian State (5-0, 2-0 Sun Belt) will face conference foe Louisiana-Monroe (3-3, 2-0) on Saturday in its homecoming game, marking the first in school history they will host a football game as a Top 25 team.
Appalachian State rose to No. 25 in the poll last year but was promptly blown out on the road by Georgia Southern 34-14 less than a week later.
First-year coach Eli Drinkwitz downplayed the team’s ranking, saying he doesn’t want it to become a distraction and calling it “outside noise.” He said his team’s goal is to win the Sun Belt Conference and its fifth straight bowl game.
“I think myself and the coaching staff and the leaders have reminded them that it really doesn’t matter because last year when we were ranked, we were ranked for five days,” Drinkwitz said. “… Within this room, within our locker room (we know) they don’t give us 24 extra points (for being ranked), so we’re not really worried about it.”
He did acknowledge the ranking does help with recruiting though.
This is the highest a Sun Belt Conference team has ever been ranked, and the Mountaineers are only one of 12 remaining unbeaten teams at the FBS level.
“But we don’t come in here and high-five each other because some outside influence said that they think that we’re in the top 24,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s Week 5 of the season. It doesn’t matter until you get to the end of the season.”
Some other things to know about Saturday’s matchup:
TWO DIVISION LEADERS
The Mountaineers appear to be the class of the Sun Belt this year but the Warhawks could provide their stiffest challenge. Just two games into the conference schedule, Louisiana-Monroe is the only other team with an unbeaten record. Both teams are 2-0 in their respective divisions.
Drinkwitz stopped well short of saying his defense has arrived after holding Louisiana-Lafayette to seven points last week, more than 34 points below its season average. He’s focusing on a stiff challenge is ahead against ULM’s 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior quarterback Caleb Evans, who racked up of 403 yards and five touchdowns in a 52-45 in over the Mountaineers in 2017. “This guy had 52 points two years (ago) on us, I believe it was his first start,” Drinkwitz said. “So, let’s hold the we’ve-turned-the-corner talk (on defense) until we prove it this week.”
Most probably remember Appalachian State for its 34-32 win over Michigan in 2007, largely considered the biggest upset in the history of college football. But the Mountaineers have a long history of success on the football field. They competed in the Football Championship Subdivision up until 2014 and won three straight national championships from 2005-07. Since joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2016, the Mountaineers are 33-9 overall and 23-3 in conference. Earlier this season Appalachian State beat the North Carolina Tar Heels of the Atlantic Coast Conference on the road.
ON THE RUN
Louisiana-Monroe’s Junior Josh Johnson ranks seventh in the nation in yards rushing (712) and his 6.7 yards per carry are 14th best in the country. The 5-foot-9, 215-pound Johnson has a knack for breaking big runs with eight plays of longer than 20 yards and five runs of longer than 30 yards.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Mountaineers are among the nation’s leaders in several categories this season, including being tied for the lead in fewest turnovers (2). They are also first in blocked kicks (4), 10th in scoring offense (41.0), tied for fifth in defensive touchdowns (2), eighth in kickoff returns (28.8), ninth in third-down conversions (50.0), 11th in pass completion percentage (70.4), 12th in punt returns (15.5) and 12th in red zone offense (95.5).