College Football: App. State goes to ECU today
GREENVILLE ó It seemed set up perfectly. Armanti Edwards would lead Appalachian State for a season-opening road trip to East Carolina for a matchup between instate programs with a knack for proving themselves against “bigger” opponents.
Yet the quarterback named the best player in the Championship Subdivision last season ó and who led the famous upset of Michigan two years ago ó likely won’t play due to injury. His potential absence casts a long shadow over Saturday’s game, both for an offense that will have to play without its leader and a defense that had been preparing to slow the shifty 6-footer.
Edwards was hurt last month when his right foot got caught in a lawnmower at his off-campus residence. Coach Jerry Moore had said he expected Edwards would recover in time for the opener, but Edwards didn’t return to practice until Monday and apparently was just too far behind to catch up.
By midweek, Moore had named sophomore DeAndre Presley the starter, saying he’d be “worried” about Edwards trying to play.
“It’s not completely healed,” Moore said. “There’s 35 stitches in that thing. It darn near cut his small toe off. You can imagine the tenderness of it. … It was a pretty serious accident.
“Everybody in Boone volunteers to mow his yard now. He’ll never have to mow another yard. It’s just one of those things that happened and we’re making the most of it.”
But East Carolina coach Skip Holtz and his players have been quick to point out that the Mountaineers have more than just Edwards. After all, this is the same program that won three straight FCS titles from 2005-07 and enters this year as the nation’s top-ranked team.
Presley, for his part, sounded eager for the challenge of replacing Edwards.
“To me, to be honest, I feel there’s no pressure at all,” Presley said. “Every day in practice, my whole mentality is I’m the starter. … I’ve got to come in here and work as if I’m the starter and be productive and do well.”
Edwards said Presley already had the offense down from his experience of playing in nine games last year. That included a start against Western Carolina while Edwards was injured, a game that saw Presley throw for 158 yards and a touchdown while running for 156 yards and three more scores on 25 carries.
“It’s not going to be a game where it’s East Carolina against Armanti Edwards,” Pirates defensive end Scotty Robinson told The Daily Reflector of Greenville this week. “They’ve got weapons across the board, so if he’s not ready to go … we know they’ve got some guys.”
At least the Pirates’ defense has the kind of experience to handle whatever Appalachian State does. East Carolina has eight projected senior starters on a unit that ranked among the best in Conference USA despite facing plenty of prolific offenses.
With that steady defense, Holtz will look for more from an offense that played conservatively last year. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is back for an NCAA-granted sixth year, and he’ll have a stable of running backs to hand the football.
Regardless of who plays or doesn’t play, this is a dangerous game for the Pirates. Win, and it goes down to some as a victory against a lower-tier program. Lose, and it’s an upset that reverberates even louder because it comes against an instate team that the other top-division programs don’t want to play.
Holtz expects his players will be ready.
“They have enough accolades behind their name that we’re not going to have to sell them very hard (to our players),” Holtz said.