|How to follow Michigan? LSU awaits Appalachian St|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 21 August 2008 09:57|
It's hard to go anywhere in this pretty mountain town without seeing some banner, sign or picture commemorating what might just be college football's biggest upset ever. There are plenty of tributes in restaurants and bars, too, celebrating the Mountaineers' three straight national championships in the Football Championship Subdivision.
But you won't find any of the players still celebrating that title. When the cart drives past, no one stops to glance at the score that changed their lives.
The Mountaineers are too busy getting ready to top last year's stunner.
Appalachian State opens the season Aug. 30 at No. 7 LSU in a nationally televised matchup of the defending national champions from college football's top two divisions. Appalachian State has a quarterback Armanti Edwards the school is plugging as a Heisman Trophy contender, and enough speed at the skill positions to scare any team - even the mighty Tigers in Baton Rouge.
``They always bring up Michigan. It kind of gets annoying,'' said the electric Edwards, who accounted for 38 touchdowns last season. ``We didn't win a ring off of Michigan. After that we went through a whole season. Luckily, we had our heads on straight.''
Appalachian State has been the Michael Phelps of the former I-AA since coach Jerry Moore's switch to the spread offense gained traction midway through the 2005 season. The Mountaineers have won 36 of their last 40 games, averaged 42.7 points last season and are the overwhelming favorites to win a fourth straight national title.
Yet it's Edwards running wild on the Wolverines and Corey Lynch's blocked field goal on the final play at the Big House that continue to dominate conversations.
That means many forget Edwards missed four games with a lingering shoulder injury suffered in Ann Arbor, but still threw for 1,948 yards and ran for 1,588. Then there was his remarkable performance in the national semifinal win over Richmond: 495 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns.
To make matters worse for LSU's Les Miles and Southern Conference coaches, Moore believes the junior is figuring things out faster.
``Armanti right now is seeing so many more things down the field than he did a year ago,'' Moore said.
Practicing amid the sound of backhoes and jackhammers and in the shadows of three giant cranes working on a $50 million stadium renovation project, the Mountaineers do have some holes to fill from last year's 13-2 squad.
Gone are career rushing leader Kevin Richardson, receivers Dexter Jackson and Hans Batichon, tight end Nic Cardwell, three starting offensive linemen, the entire starting secondary, including Lynch, and defensive end Gary Tharrington, who was ruled academically ineligible.
But there are reinforcements. Devon Moore, who saw significant time last year, is set to become the No. 1 running back. A group of talented freshmen defensive backs have quickly learned the system, and Appalachian returns all three linebackers, including preseason Southern Conference player of the year Pierre Banks.
``These guys out here, they've got the system down pretty well,'' Banks said. ``They're running around, flying to the ball and in the right place.''
The recent success has brought in scores of top recruits, including true freshman DeAndre Presley, set to be Edwards' backup this season.
``He's a lot like Armanti,'' Moore said. ``We've really been impressed with him, throwing and running.''
But the season will revolve around the dynamic Edwards, whose athleticism and speed give the Mountaineers a chance in any game - even against LSU - and certainly against any school in their way come playoff time.
``Probably a lot of the big schools are tired of hearing about Michigan and Appalachian State,'' Moore said. ``In my mind, I think probably LSU is one of those schools. They're tired of hearing about these guys, a I-AA school. I think we'll have to play as close to our peak as we can for an opening ballgame.''