Appalachian State’s football team returns to Sun Belt Conference play when it faces New Mexico State on Saturday in the first league game at Kidd Brewer Stadium in 2017.
Kickoff for the homecoming matchup is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on ESPN3.
Here’s a closer look at the Aggies:
App State won 37-7 in Las Cruces, N.M., last season, when Taylor Lamb accounted for 291 total yards and Jalin Moore rushed for 111, but standout quarterback Tyler Rogers and several key offensive linemen didn’t play for New Mexico State because of injuries.
With Rogers ranking among the national passing leaders this year, the Aggies (2-3, 0-1) will bring a much-improved team to Boone to take on the Mountaineers (2-2, 1-0).
New Mexico State already has claimed rivalry wins against New Mexico (30-28) and UTEP (41-14). It performed well in losses to Arizona State (37-31), Troy (27-24) and Arkansas (42-24).
“New Mexico State is playing really, really well right now,” App State coach Scott Satterfield said. “They have lost some close games, but they’re a very talented football team, and I have a lot of respect for what they’ve been able to do.”
The encouraging start has triggered a contract extension for fifth-year head coach Doug Martin, who worked with East Carolina quarterbacks David Garrard and Marcus Crandell during a run as an ECU assistant for Steve Logan from 1992-2002. Those pass-oriented Pirates teams posted a 69-58 record.
A starter since he arrived at New Mexico State from Arizona Western in 2014, the 6-foot-3 Rogers ranks fourth nationally in touchdown passes (14) and fifth nationally in passing yards per game (351.4) this season. He has also helped the Aggies rank ninth nationally by converting 50.6 percent of their third-down plays.
Rogers threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns against Arkansas, meaning he’ll present a challenge to an App State secondary led by Clifton Duck, Tae Hayes, A.J. Howard and Desmond Franklin.
“Our quarterback played exceptional,” Martin said. “Any time you do that against an SEC team, I think that’s a pretty good day.”
Rogers’ top receiver has been 6-6, 215-pound Jaleel Scott of Rock Hill, S.C.
After catching 23 passes for 283 yards last year as a junior college transfer in his first year with the Aggies, Scott ranks among the FBS leaders with 543 receiving yards and five touchdowns through five games in 2017. He had eight catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona State and nine receptions for 174 yards and one touchdown against Arkansas.
“He’s a tough matchup for anybody,” Satterfield said.
The success of the passing game doesn’t detract from the accomplishments of senior Larry Rose III, who ranks third among active FBS players with 4,015 career rushing yards and leads active FBS backs with a career average of 111.5 rushing yards per game. He has rushed 71 times for 397 yards (second place in the Sun Belt) and caught 22 passes for 172 yards this season.
“You certainly want to make them one-dimensional because, if Rose gets hot in the running game, they’re almost impossible to stop because of how well they’re throwing the football,” Satterfield said.
Defensively, the Aggies are led by senior weakside linebacker Dalton Herrington (53 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks) and 200-pound cornerback Shamad Lomax (three interceptions with one return TD in the win against UTEP). They are applying more pressure and playing more man-to-man defense in the second year under coordinator Frank Spaziani, a former Boston College head coach.
As a team, New Mexico State has intercepted eight passes.
“Their defense is playing at a much better level this year compared to last year,” Satterfield said. “It looks like a totally different team.”