For once, App State and Citadel in same boat

Appalachian State and The Citadel were both ranked when Ben Dupree and the Bulldogs won by 52-28 last year. The teams are a combined 2-7 this season. (AP Photo/The Winston-Salem Journal, Lauren Carroll)

It’s not often that the football teams at Appalachian State and The Citadel find themselves in similar circumstances.

After all, the Mountaineers have won or shared nine Southern Conference titles and three national championships since 1992. The Citadel’s total since then: One and none.

But heading into Saturday’s game at Johnson Hagood Stadium, the 1-3 Mountaineers and 1-4 Bulldogs are brothers in misery, with a combined two wins in nine games.

Citadel coach Kevin Higgins and App State’s Scott Satterfield have dueted on the “One or Two Plays Blues” this week:

“Games that we lost, you can go back and say if we’d made one, two or three plays more, you are sitting there with wins,” Higgins said.

“With a few plays here or there, we could be sitting at 3-1,” said Satterfield, who replaced App State legend Jerry Moore in the off-season.

The Satterfield Era has gotten off to a shaky start — the Mountaineers are 1-3 for the first time since 2003 — with home losses to North Carolina A&T and Charleston Southern, a 27-24 winner last week in Boone.

Quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson, the SoCon preseason player of the year, has found himself sharing time with sophomore Kam Bryant, and the Mountaineers are averaging just 20.5 points per game, seventh in the SoCon.

Even more surprising, App State is dead-last in the SoCon in rushing offense, with 126.8 yards per game.

Still, the Mountaineers’ plans for a triumphant farewell tour through the SoCon are not yet spoiled. Headed to the FBS Sun Belt Conference next year, App State is 1-0 in the SoCon with a 31-21 win over Elon.

What’s troubling for The Citadel (1-2 in the SoCon) is that App State’s strengths match pretty well with the Bulldogs’ weaknesses. Furman was averaging just 122 yards passing before torching the Bulldogs’ secondary for 228 yards on 16 completions last week, including gains of 43, 41 and 36 yards. The Citadel is last in the league in pass efficiency defense, allowing foes to hit 69.2 percent of their passes with eight touchdowns against two interceptions.

App State, meanwhile, leads the SoCon in passing offense (305 yards per game) and has three of the top seven receivers in the league in Tony Washington (25 catches), Andrew Peacock (22) and running back Marcus Cox (15). And that doesn’t even include 6-5 sophomore Sean Price, who was suspended for the first two games and has 13 catches for 197 yards in just two games.

“How do we do a better job defending the long pass?” Higgins said. “We’ve got a couple of guys who’ve been beaten on long passes. We’ve got to go back and drill on safeties and cornerbacks overlapping, getting to the upfield shoulder, timing balls up in the air.”

The Citadel’s best hope is to keep the ball away from the App State offense, much as Charleston Southern did in holding the ball for an astounding 42 minutes in last week’s victory.

Believe it or not, both The Citadel and App State were ranked just a year ago when the Bulldogs’ triple-option offense trampled the Mountaineers in a 52-28 victory in Boone. With a Parents’ Day crowd in the stands today, the Bulldogs could sure use some of that magic again.

“We’re tired of losing,” said linebacker Rah Muhammad. “We have too much talent on this team to be losing the way we are. It’s time for us to step and actually start executing like we can.”

Said slotback Jake Stenson, “We need our leaders to step up. And we need new leaders to step up, too.”