The Hills Have Corncob Pipes! Red Wolves vs Mountaineers Preview

Have we ever seen a weirder performance from the Red Wolves than last week when Arkansas State visited South Alabama in Mobile? In the first half, the Jaguars tagged the Red Wolves for four passing touchdowns with Jake Bentley tattooing the defense with Jalen Tolbert again and again. In the second half, the Red Wolves allowed a field goal in the fourth quarter. That’s it.

If that the only oddity in this morose tale. The Red Wolves may have only allowed 3 points in the second half, but they only collected three points, too. The usually reliable Layne Hatcher was abysmal in both halves but especially awful in the second, tossing three picks and completing only 19-37 passes for a sad 186 yards. The run game reverted back to its Jekyll-ish self, putting up 38 yards against the Jaguars 173. The only Red Wolves TD was another Sun Belt special teams player of the week submission from Alan Lamar.

Still, the defensive effort, which included a pick from Kenneth Harris, was a brow raiser. After the game, Butch Jones hinted to some halftime adjustments and said that it appeared that the Jags were just running the same offensive plays over and over again. Nobody does that to us!

While we can take a quantum of solace from the defensive performance, it doesn’t ease the pain of witnessing the total destruction of what was once a mighty and majestic offense. How frustrating it must have been for members of the defense to see their hard work squandered agains and again by interceptions?

What Has Happened to Layne Hatcher and the Offense?

The Red Wolves haven’t scored 30+ points since the crushing Week 5 loss to Georgia Southern. Since that defeat, Arkansas State has averaged a paltry 20 points. What the heck is going on?

It hasn’t helped that Hatcher has to scramble for the sake of his bones on nearly every play. The offensive line just doesn’t provide much protection. But what might explain those three interceptions on Saturday is that Hatcher has always been a quarterback who places a lot of faith in the physicality of his receivers. When he had Omar Bayless and Jay Adams in the huddle, Hatcher could afford to toss a 50-percent ball and expect to make the completion. While Te’Vailence Hunt and Corey Rucker are significant talents, neither are the kind of receiver who’s going to out-wrestle a cornerback for possession. Balls that were once completed for big plays are now falling into the wrong hands.

Appalachian State Isn’t Bad

The Mountaineers are usually good for one turd-laying per season. Unfortunately, they’ve already laid that brick in Lafayette agains the Cajuns. Since then, Appalachian State has beaten Coastal Carolina, crushed ULM and are knocking on some AP Top 25 recognition.

The Mountaineers brings balanced talent on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Chase Brice has been north of solid behind center, feeding his star wide receivers Corey X. Sutton and Thomas Hennigan as Cam Peoples and Nate Noel pry open the run game.

Defensively, linebacker D. Marco Jackson has the run game locked down, but you can throw on the Mountaineers a little bit. The secondary has only allowed 7 passing touchdowns, but the defense ranks 79th in passing yards allowed.

The Board of Dark Emotions Emotes Darkly

When Last These Titans Met

Last year, Appalachian State legend Zac Thomas sizzled the Red Wolves for four passing TDs while the Hatcher/Logan Bonner combo were held to under 300 yards and no touchdowns. Just to destroy my blood pressure, the not very fast (at all) Thomas also recorded a 60 yard running touchdown. Lincoln Pare slid into the Pizza Inn buffet end zone though! Final score, 45-17 Mountaineers in Boone.

Going Deep on the Two-Deep

QBLayne HatcherWyatt BegealJames Blackman (Inj)
RBAlan LamarLincoln Pare
TEReed TylerEmmanuel Stevenson
WRJeff ForemanAdam Jones
WRCorey RuckerReagan Ealy
WRTe’Vailance HuntDahu Green
LTAndre HarrisNoah Smith
LGEthan MinerErnesto Ramirez
CJacob StillMakilan Thomas
RGIvory ScottChristian Hoz
RTWyatt LuebkeAvery Demmons
DEJoe OzougwuThurman Geathers
DEKivon BennetTW Ayers
DTSosaia TuitavakeQuay Mays
DTVidal ScottJohn Mincey
LBAnthony SwitzerCam Jefferyor Melique Straker
LBCaleb BonnerDerrick Bean
LBJaden HarrisJeffmario Brownor Dane Motley
SElery AldexanderAntonio Fletcher
STaylon DossTrevian Thomas
CBJarius ReimonenqDenzel Blackwell
CBLeon JonesSamy Johnson
Special Teams12
KBlake GrupeAidan Ellison
PRyan Hanson
KRMarcel MurrayLincoln Pare
PRJohnnie LangLincoln Pare
Looks familiar

No changes whatsoever on the 2-deep this week. During his weekly presser, Butch Jones did say that he expected cornerback Samy Johnson to return against the Mountaineers. He also mentioned something interesting about the quarterback position.

The Red Wolves Win This Game If…

If the offense we saw against Memphis joins forces with the defense we saw in the second half against South Alabama, then the Red Wolves have a shot at upsetting the Mountaineers on homecoming. Otherwise, Arkansas State is screwed

Who Needs Stopping?

Appalachian State is most vulnerable when Chase Brice is rattled. Between the 20s, the Red Wolves defense will have to take some risks and run some aggressive blitz packages to force Brice to make mistakes. That may put even more pressure on an embattled secondary, but the gamble is worth it.

Who Needs Starting?

Layne Hatcher has to rediscover that magic he had early in the season with Corey Rucker and the rest of the receiving squad. It’s not just on Hatcher, though. The offensive line needs to tap into some Homecoming energy and give Hatcher another second to work. Oh yeah, and stop dropping the ball, receivers.

You’re Stalling, Dork

The scoreboard is no longer a measurement of success for the 2021 Red Wolves. Now we must look to incremental improvements that can carryover to next season. Does that sound dismal? Yes! But if you want to enjoy Homecoming this Saturday, seek deeply the positives on the gridiron. Otherwise, brace yourself for a long afternoon.