Does anyone else feel emotionally sore reading this sentence? Because we feel emotionally sore writing it. Another great effort and performance from App State against a much larger program. Maybe the average college football fan won’t remember this game in a few months. But App State fans will NEVER forget what happened September 1st 2018.
We had several questions about this App State football team before yesterday’s game. Many of those questions were answered—with a vengeance! Here they are:
1: Is Zac Thomas Capable of High Level QB Play?
This question was answered with a resounding “YES” yesterday. Taylor Lamb’s strength was being smart with virtually every snap. Zac Thomas played with great overall intelligence for a first-time starter, despite a few minor hiccups. But Zac Thomas’ physical ability is what stood out Saturday. He made throws that (with all due respect to our beloved Tweetsie Taylor) haven’t been made by an App State QB in many years, arguably since Armanti Edwards. The standard P5 procedure against App State offenses has been to stack the box against the run and play man coverage on App State receivers. Zac Thomas made Penn State pay for that strategy several times. Not only did Thomas play a smart, tough, and impressive game, he demonstrated some of the arm talent and athleticism that will allow the coaches to open up the playbook more this year than they have in years past.
2: Will App State Skill Positions Live Up To The Hype?
Last year we saw what Malik Williams and Thomas Hennigan can do. Our favorite beat writer, Ethan Joyce, wrote about Malik’s effort to fight back to a starting role at WR during fall camp. Expectations got even higher after Darrynton Evans was scheduled to come back after missing a full season in addition to adding two highly-touted transfer WRs in Dominique Heath and Corey Sutton. Our rule is to always wait and see transfers play before we judge. Can you blame us? We’ve been fooled before (looking at you, Tacoi Sumler). Fortunately, there is no doubting their ability after both Sutton and Heath contributed in HUGE ways vs Penn State. Sutton is a big, fast, and physical receiver capable of producing big numbers against anyone on the schedule. Heath is fast and slick and will provide big play ability.
Let’s not forget Jalin Moore running like a grown man on his touchdown run late in the game. Penn State immediately signaled that if App State was going to win it wouldn’t be because of Jalin Moore. But even they couldn’t contain Jalin for the entire game with him averaging close to 5 yards per carry. Get ready, Sun Belt.
3: Will A Nate Woody-less Defense Still Be Effective?
To be fair, we believed in the Bryan Brown and Dale Jones promotion. While the jury is still out on this one a little bit, the first game was encouraging to say the least. Coach Brown has benefited from coaching under Nate Woody for five full seasons and yesterday it showed. “But wait! App State gave up 45 points!” Yes, we gave up 45 points. Some of those passes from McSorley were UNdefendable and at the end of the day Penn State has a great offense. Despite the outcome and the point total, count us optimistic about the trajectory of this group. Talk to us when we’re playing peer competition. You’ll see.
4: Are The Ghosts of September 1st Still Alive?
This question has the most obvious answer. YES! Many programs live on great accomplishments of the past. App State football has great accomplishments of the past but with sustained excellence leading up to the present day as well. This fact allows us to live in the NOW while cherishing our history.
BUT – the Michigan game. We say “we’re tired of talking about it” but that’s not true. We’ll never be tired of talking about it. Many of us have long grown tired of people trying to define our program with “Michigan.” The Michigan game is the single most important moment in App State football history and the list of important moments is LONG.
That being said, September 1st is a sacred date in App State culture. We heard “remember Michigan?” scattered among the masses before the Penn State game but it was relatively subdued. “September 1st” kept popping up all over social media as we got deeper into the Penn State game. Tennessee experienced the Ghosts of September 1st in 2016. Saturday was Penn State’s turn. Remember, remember the first of September and avoid App State lest you be dismembered.
5: Can App State Move The Ball Against A P5 Defense?
This is a little bit of a loaded question. Why? Because we tend to play very good P5 schools. Could the 2014-2017 App State offense move the ball against Kansas? Vanderbilt? Virginia? Almost certainly. But an App State offense hasn’t moved the ball effectively against a VERY good P5 defense since *gasp* September 1st 2007! LSU in ’08? Nope. UF in ’10? Nope. Had we played VT in ’11? (We didn’t play VT in ’11) Nope. UGA in ’13? Michigan in ’14? Clemson in ’15? UT in ’16? UGA in ’17? Nope. Even when we took Tennessee to the wire, it was due to the help of a timely fumble recovery in their red zone and PHENOMENAL App State defense.
This is a new era. App State had more total yards (451) than a team with a Heisman frontrunner at QB (434). And guess what? Exactly ZERO of those yards came in “Garbage Time.”
This App State offense has more capabilities vs. a good P5 defense than arguably any App State offense ever. But “capabilities” is the key word there. Being CAPABLE of something does not ensure its execution. Regardless, this App State offense has dangerous weapons. It CAN move the ball against a good P5 defense and the rest of our G5 opponents should be petrified.