College Football: LSU 41, Appalachian State 13
By Bret Strelow
BATON ROUGE, La. ó Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore approached an entrance to Tiger Stadium early Saturday and engaged security personnel in conversation.
Throughout a 41-13 loss to seventh-ranked LSU, the Mountaineers didn’t live up to the reputation that preceded them.
“When we got here at the crack of dawn, they’re talking to us and said, ‘(LSU’s) guys are talking about you because of Michigan,’ ” Moore said. “I told them, ‘If they play like Michigan, we’ll beat them.’
“Maybe I made them mad, but they didn’t play like Michigan. They played like LSU. I don’t mean that in a bad way.”
Appalachian again opened its season against a highly ranked FBS squad, but the Mountaineers never threatened to pull of an upset similar to the one they enjoyed at Michigan a year earlier.
Running back Charles Scott broke loose for a 56-yard gain on LSU’s first snap from scrimmage, and he scored on the next play. The Tigers led 31-0 at halftime and limited Appalachian quarterback Armanti Edwards to 178 yards of total offense.
His 44-yard touchdown pass to backup running back Robert Welton in the third quarter ended LSU’s run of unanswered points.
“Being down 31 to zip, that’s going to hurt anybody,” said ASU receiver CoCo Hillary, who had nine catches for 80 yards. “I don’t care if you’re playing a video game, if you’re down 31-0 at halftime, that’s going to hurt you.”
The game began at 10 a.m. local time due to the impending threat of Hurricane Gustav, and the Mountaineers looked wide awake in the early going.
Hillary returned the opening kickoff and caught a 22-yard pass from Edwards on first down. Appalachian reached LSU’s 35-yard line before a fourth-down throw fell incomplete.
Scott burst through a wide opening on the next play, and cornerback Dominique McDuffie made a touchdown-saving tackle. The defense offered little resistance as Scott eased into the end zone from the 8.
When ASU visited Death Valley in 2005, the Tigers scored a TD in the first four minutes.
“I looked to see if there was room for three digits,” Moore joked.
Appalachian trailed 14-0 in the fourth quarter of that 24-0 loss, but LSU scored 24 points in the first 241/2 minutes Saturday.
A powerful Michigan team struggled with the quickness of the Mountaineers. They had no solution for the Tigers’ size or speed.
“They were just so much faster than the Michigan defense,” said Edwards, who was 13 of 31 for 155 yards through the air. “It was just a problem of us executing when they blitzed. We knew there was going to be tight coverage.
“You want to anticipate faster than you’ve ever seen and hope for the worst. They were very fast.”
LSU, led by Scott’s 160 rushing yards, gained 266 as a team and held Appalachian to 52. Edwards gained 23 yards on 12 carries, and starting running back Devon Moore picked up the same amount of yardage on eight rushes.
The Tigers recorded three sacks and knocked Edwards’ helmet off just as many times.
“A person is a person ó you can stop them or they can get around you,” ASU left tackle Brad Coley said. “A pebble can hold a boulder in place if it’s in the right spot.
“I don’t think weight played that much of a factor to us as an offensive line. Our problem was a lot more mental than physical.”
The Mountaineers managed to kick two fourth-quarter field goals, including a 44-yarder by Jason Vitaris, and they outscored LSU by three points in the second half.
Jacque Roman returned an interception to the LSU 11 in the final minute of the third quarter, but a pair of incompletions brought up fourth down. Vitaris converted a 24-yard kick.
“That really wasn’t us,” Jerry Moore said. “That wasn’t what we really like to do right there. We struggled a little bit.
“I’ve used the phrase once in a while of, ‘We were trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat.’ It wasn’t in there.”
Even though Appalachian beat the Wolverines, it started Southern Conference play 1-2 before reeling off eight consecutive victories. The final one delivered a third straight FCS title.
The Mountaineers play host to Jacksonville on Saturday in the first of three remaining non-league contests, and they open the conference slate against The Citadel on Oct. 4.
“We’re going to get as much out of this loss as we did the Michigan win,” Coley said.
After a moment or two of silence, teammate Leonard Love declared, “It might even teach us a little bit more.”