Adam Witten is in his second season as the radio voice of the Appalachian State Mountaineers. He also works closely with the Georgia network for IMG. Adam gives us thoughts on Saturday’s showdown!
What does Appalachian State need to do to win in Athens?
“I’ll try to limit it to three basic keys. The first is that App has to find success running the ball. It’s a shotgun, no huddle offense, but it’s certainly a run-first approach. The second is on defense and it revolves around big plays. They can’t allow them. In the one lopsided defeat from last year, Mark Richt and Miami tallied five plays of 50 yards or more. In an ideal defensive game, the Mountaineers will give up some yards, but you’ll have to deliver death by paper cuts. And finally, they need a couple of literal and figurative bounces to go their way. Against Tennessee last year, App opened the game with a three and out, but the Vols muffed the punt, App recovered and had an early 7-0 lead shortly thereafter. They never trailed until overtime when they lost 20-13.”
How confident are the Mountaineers for the game and the 2017 season?
“Confidence will never be an issue with this team regardless of the game or stakes. Based on what they’ve accomplished the last two years (21-5 with two bowl wins and a conference title), they know they’re good enough and the Tennessee game proved that they have the ability to compete in the most hostile environments. I also think it’s worth spending a couple sentences on motivation. Look up and down the roster and you’ll find a plethora of guys from the state of Georgia. It’s arguably the program’s most valuable recruiting state and several key players (QB Taylor Lamb, OL Colby Gossett, LB Devan Stringer, SS AJ Howard) are products of the peach state.”
Talk about what makes Taylor Lamb and Jalin Moore such an elite backfield?
“I think it really starts with Lamb and his decision-making in the read option. It’s the most underrated part of his game because he’s not going to blow you away with his arm strength or speed, but he rarely makes the incorrect read. And as he’s matured, they’ve added more options to the scheme — bringing in two backs in the same formation about midway through last season to go along with speed on the perimeter that can be effective in the run game. In Jalin Moore, they may have the most talented running back to ever play at App, which is something considering he was second on last year’s depth chart behind the school’s all-time leading rusher (Marcus Cox). But when Marcus got hurt in week three, Jalin started getting more reps and his numbers exploded, paving the way to the Sun Belt’s offensive player of the year award. Like Georgia, talented depth at running back has been consistent the last few years at App. Another name to remember this year is Duluth’s Terrence Upshaw. A highly recruited back who missed last season but made a significant impact in 2014 and 2015. He’ll likely be second on the depth chart at running back.”
What is your take on Georgia?
“The Dawgs are loaded with talent across the board and it’s going to be a huge challenge for the Mountaineers. Certainly, the names like Chubb, Michel, and Roquan Smith stand out, but the way Kirby Smart has been recruiting, you expect there to be some new faces that will make an impact. I have two immediate concerns. The first is the group of linebackers. I recall last year’s Miami game where the Canes started three freshmen at linebacker and we were so impressed with their ability. Georgia takes it to another level at that position with elite talent and experience. The second is Jacob Eason. The running backs are going to be tough to contain, no question, but Eason has a big play arm and I already mentioned the importance limiting those.”
For the Mountaineer faithful, are the three straight national titles or the win over Michigan in ’07 the greatest source of pride?
“Depends on the crowd and the experience. Outside of the fan base, the Michigan win is certainly the moment every college football fan wants to talk to us about. Not many people are breaking the ice with an App grad by asking them about the 2007 national title win over Joe Flacco and Delaware. For me, the 2005 national championship is still the sweetest because it was the first taste of that kind of success. Part of it could also be that my Michigan experience was working in a broadcast studio unable to watch the game because it wasn’t available on our cable package on the Big Ten Network. But to answer the question, I think most would say the Michigan win because it did more for the university as a whole than the three national titles combined.”
What would a win in Athens mean for Appalachian State?
“As important as the Michigan win was for Appalachian State, a win at Georgia probably means more if you view it simply from a “football stakes” perspective. The Mountaineers were still an FCS program in 2007 so even with the win over the Wolverines, the ceiling for that season was going to be an FCS title. The outcome of that game had no bearing on that, as proved by the fact that they ended up losing two games in the regular season and still winning the title. If App State beats Georgia, now you set yourself up for a shot at an undefeated regular season and a major bowl game as the Group of Five representatives. A win may not be as memorable, but its impact on the season would be greater.”
Recent Articles by Jeff Dantzler