Mountaineer Matchups: App State Offense vs. UNC Defense

Last Updated on November 20, 2019 6:04 pm

BOONE, N.C. — During its record-breaking transition to the FBS level, Appalachian State has won three straight conference titles and four consecutive bowl games.

On Saturday, for the first time as an FBS member, the Mountaineers will play ACC program and in-state foe North Carolina.

Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Chapel Hill, and fans not attending the sold-out game can click HERE to learn more about how to watch the first App State/UNC football matchup since 1940.

With Eliah Drinkwitz in his first season as Appalachian's head coach and Mack Brown returning to North Carolina this year after coaching the Tar Heels from 1988-97, here's a look at how the Mountaineers' offense potentially matches up against UNC's defense:

App State Offense vs. North Carolina Defense

The Mountaineers, who have averaged 49.0 points and 451.0 yards per game during their 2-0 start, were off last weekend.

Individually, running back Darrynton Evans ranks No. 2 in the nation by averaging 166.5 rushing yards per game, and quarterback Zac Thomas has helped several of his receivers establish new career highs as juniors.

Thomas Hennigan set a career high for catches (seven) in a season-opening win, and Malik Williams added career highs for catches (six) and receiving yards (73) in the win against Charlotte. Jalen Virgil matched his previous single-game high of two touchdown catches in the Charlotte game, and Corey Sutton is set to make his 2019 debut Saturday after leading App State in catches (44), receiving yards (773) and receiving touchdowns (10) a season ago.

App State has maintained balance thanks to an offensive line that's helped the Mountaineers rush for at least 200 yards in eight straight games.

“We have to do a good job of staying on schedule,” Drinkwitz said. “I think that's where you can tell if the flow is going for us — for us to be in manageable third downs, but they do a really good job.”

The Mountaineers have been preparing for a UNC defense co-coordinated by Tommy Thigpen and Jay Bateman, who left Army after a strong 2018 season in which the Cadets dropped a 28-21 overtime thriller against high-scoring Oklahoma.

Among the defensive standouts for North Carolina are 6-foot-5, 285-pound tackle Jason Strowbridge, who missed last week's loss at Wake Forest with an injury but has 8.5 career sacks, and 290-pound nose tackle Aaron Crawford, who leads the Tar Heels with 25 career starts.

Free safety Myles Dorn is another NFL prospect as a leader in a secondary that competed at Wake Forest without 6-2 starting cornerback Patrice Rene, who is out for the rest of the season.

The Tar Heels have four interceptions as a defense, rank No. 26 nationally in third-down defense (28.9 percent conversions against them), are No. 38 in red zone defense and have 10 sacks. South Carolina, Miami and Wake Forest all kicked one field goal from inside the red zone against North Carolina, and App State has scored touchdowns on nine of its 10 red-zone visits this season.

“It's a havoc-creating defense,” Drinkwitz said. “They try to be unusual and get TFLs and try to create chaos — have you miss an assignment and get a tackle for loss and put you behind the chains.”

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