for this game

Playoff preview: Western Illinois at Appalachian State

Dec 3, 2010 - 9:00 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -


Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 4, noon ET

Facts & Figures: Site: Kidd Brewer Stadium (21,650) -- Boone, North Carolina. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN Game Plan/ Announcers: Michael Reghi, Charles Arbuckle. Home Record: Western Illinois 6-0; Appalachian State 6-0. Away Record: Western Illinois 2-4; Appalachian State 3-2. Series Record: First Meeting. Conference: Western Illinois - Missouri Valley; Appalachian State - Southern. Nicknames: Western Illinois Leathernecks; Appalachian State Mountaineers. Sports Network/ Ranking: Western Illinois (21); Appalachian State (2). Head Coaches: Western Illinois - Mark Hendrickson (13-14 at Western Illinois and Overall); Appalachian State - Jerry Moore (198-78 at Appalachian State, 225-125-2 Overall). All-Time Record: Western Illinois (495-405-38); Appalachian State (547-304-28). Playoff Records: Western Illinois (6-8); Appalachian State (23-14). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: Western Illinois 8 (1988, 91, 96-98, 2000, 2002-03); Appalachian State 17 (1986-87, 89, 91-92, 94-95, 98-99, 2000-02, 05-09).

What to know: Western Illinois earned a trip to the second round by defeating Coastal Carolina, 17-10, last Saturday. The defense was largely responsible for the win, as four Leathernecks recorded interceptions and Tyler West added a fumble recovery. Kieron James intercepted a pass at the Leathernecks' goal line in the waning minutes to seal the victory. Somewhat disconcerting was the play of the offense, which managed just 17 points. Matt Barr, a Walter Payton Award (sponsored by finalist, threw for 233 yards and rushed for 45 yards and two scores, but he also threw two interceptions.

It must be noted that Barr is a fundamental reason the Leathernecks are even in the playoffs. They were just 1-10 a season ago under first-year head coach Mark Hendrickson, but recorded the biggest turnaround in Western Illinois history with a seven-win improvement this season. Behind Barr, the offense ranks No. 9 in the FCS in points per game (34.08), No. 2 in total offense (476.08 ypg) and No. 8 in passing offense (280.5 ypg). Lito Senatus, Barr's primary target, is one of the best receivers in the country, averaging 93.3 receiving ypg. Backs Caulton Ray (82.3 rushing ypg) and Bryce Flowers (63.6 ypg) ensure that the Leathernecks aren't one dimensional.

The defense is no slouch, either. Led by linebacker Kyle Glazier (154 TT, 12.5 TFL), the unit allows a respectable 21.0 ppg (No. 31 FCS). Its Achilles heel, however, is stopping the run. The Leathernecks allow 176.8 rushing ypg (No. 93 FCS). This fact should be slightly discouraging as they travel to Boone, N.C., Saturday to take on the Mountaineers.

Appalachian State received a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed by virtue of winning its record-tying sixth consecutive SoCon title. DeAndre Presley, who replaced two-time Walter Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards this season, has been stellar. His dual-threat style has been a nightmare for defensive coordinators, as he leads the Mountaineers in both rushing (68.5 ypg) and passing (202.1 ypg). The comparisons to Edwards are inevitable, but Presley actually seems to have better presence in the pocket than the former App. State great. Presley has a stable of reliable targets in Brian Quick (67.4 receiving ypg) Matt Cline (36.0 ypg) and Ben Jorden (25.4 ypg). Presley and Travaris Cadet (49.8 rushing ypg) lead the nation's No. 14 rushing attack (209.9 ypg).

The defense is highlighted by a number of nationally recognized talents. Linebacker D.J. Smith (122 TT), defensive back Marc LeGree (5 INT) and defensive end Jabari Fletcher (12 TFL, 7 sacks) spearhead the talented unit.

Western Illinois has enjoyed a remarkable run this year, but, unfortunately, the Leathernecks are running into a playoff juggernaut. While the Leathernecks are a strong squad, their inability to consistently stop the run should prove costly against the Mountaineers' dynamic rushing attack.

Prediction: Appalachian State, 32-25