BOONE, N.C. (AP) — While Appalachian State fell short in its upset bid of then-No. 9 Tennessee two weeks ago, the Mountaineers did come away with something just as valuable: reassured confidence.
Rather than dwell on the overtime defeat to the Volunteers — and what could have been — the Mountaineers have used it as a rallying call for a program still looking to establish its footing at the FBS level since making the jump in 2014.
“Our mindset is we’re one of the best teams in the country,” said Mountaineers linebacker Eric Boggs. “We believe we can beat anybody in the country.”
Boggs said that includes No. 25 Miami, which makes the trek up the Appalachian Mountains to face the Mountaineers on Saturday.
It’s an unprecedented event for Appalachian State to host not only a Power Five conference school, but a ranked one at that. The school has added extra temporary seating for the game, which players say has been the talk of the town ever since the game was announced earlier this year.
“All this offseason all you would hear from people is, `Are you ready for Miami? Are you ready for Miami?’ That is all people were talking about,” Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb said. “It has been great for our university.”
Miami might have had some reservations about agreeing to travel to Boone, North Carolina after watching the Mountaineers nearly upset Tennessee on the road.
Hurricanes coach Mark Richt expects the game to be a “bloody war.”
“They’re a great team,” Richt said. “And they’re a winning team. Teams that win are hard to beat.”
And they’re confident, too.
“That’s our mindset — to be best in the country,” Lamb said. “If you are doing something and you love it then you have to want to be the best. We are at the FBS level now and our goal is to be the best. I do believe that and I think everyone in that locker room believes that, too.”
Some other things to watch on Saturday:
FAMILY TIES: Richt is familiar with Appalachian State. His sister Mikki played volleyball for the Mountaineers in the mid-1980s. He hired Stacy Searels — who was a coach on five Appalachian State teams that reached the FCS playoffs — to coach his offensive lines at both Georgia and Miami. And while at Georgia Richt beat App State 45-6 in 2013.
GRIND IT OUT: Lamb wasn’t making it a secret on how the Mountaineers hope to beat Miami. “Run the football,” the quarterback said. “We have a great stable of running backs. We are going to run the football and that’s our goal. And that is how we win football games. We are aggressive up front. Our offensive linemen love to go downhill.”
ON THE RUN: App State has allowed 100-yard rushers in each of its first two games. That might be a good sign for Miami. Mark Walton and Joe Yearby have both rushed for 100-plus in each of the first two games of the Hurricanes’ season, the first time since at least 1980 that the same two Miami running backs have done that in consecutive games. Walton and Yearby have combined to average 8.4 yards per carry so far, with eight TDs between them.
ALTITUDE ISSUE? Miami’s campus is basically at sea level, just like almost everywhere else in South Florida. The air that awaits the Hurricanes on Saturday will be a little thinner. While it’s not exactly in the high-peak category, Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone has an altitude of 3,333 feet — meaning the Hurricanes may have a bit of acclimating to do on game day.
KICKING CONCERN: Miami’s Michael Badgley is 1-for-3 on field goals this season, and the two he’s missed — one was blocked — were both from relative chip-shot distance. If this is a close game, that’s something to watch. Of the 75 kickers who tried three or more field goals in the season’s first two weeks, only one had a worse success rate than Badgley’s 33.3 percent clip.
LUNCH FOR ALL: Carolina Panthers Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, a Miami graduate, is so sure the Hurricanes will win he has agreed to buy lunch for Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks and the team’s defensive backs if Appalachian State wins. Wilks played and later coached at Appalachian State.
AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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