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Appalachian St. seeks to keep new Top 25 spot

Appalachian State became only the second Sun Belt Conference team to earn a Top 25 ranking Sunday when it debuted in the Associated Press poll at No. 25.

Georgia Southern would like nothing more than to knock off its old Southern Conference rival and stay unbeaten in Sun Belt action when the teams meet Thursday night in Statesboro, Ga.

At 6-1 overall and 3-0 in the Sun Belt, Georgia Southern has won four straight, relying on an option offense run out of the pistol formation. The rare fusion of philosophy and scheme has helped the Eagles average 275.6 rushing yards per game, good for fifth in FBS.

There isn’t one dominant rusher, but the Eagles have three players averaging at least 49 yards per game, led by quarterback Shai Werts and his 542 yards. Wesley Fields has chipped in 472 yards, while Monteo Garrett has gained 344 yards.

Fields didn’t play Saturday in the Eagles’ 48-31 win at New Mexico State, but Logan Wright filled in more than capably. Wright produced 136 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries after getting just nine attempts in the first six games.

“Offensively, you see a lot of speed,” Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said of Georgia Southern. “Shai Werts is really dynamic. If he gets on the edge, he’s going to take it to the house. He’s a very fast player who’s done a great job with decision-making within their running game, and they have some running backs who are fast as well.”

Thomas drives Mountaineers’ explosive offense

Appalachian State (5-1, 3-0) also can give defenses problems with speed and big-play capability. The Mountaineers, who could have started the year with an enormous upset at Penn State had they come up with a fourth-down stop on the Nittany Lions’ last possession of regulation, have outscored five outmatched opponents 231-49 since then.

Quarterback Zac Thomas, who accounted for 313 all-purpose yards and three scores at Penn State, boasts a 60.6 percent completion rate with an 11-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He also has rushed for 276 yards and six scores.

Appalachian State owns FBS’ No. 8 defense in terms of yards allowed per game at 294.8 and has the 11th-ranked defense in points per game at 15.7.

“We’ve got a very good football team coming into Paulson (Stadium) this week,” Eagles coach Chad Lunsford said. “This one is not just a game, it’s something special. We’ve played this team 34 times, and you don’t see that on our schedule with other opponents.

“But we have to make sure to go into this game with the same intensity as other games, not get too high or too low.”

–Field Level Media

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