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App State defense happy with earlier performances, looks to create more turnovers

App State defense happy with earlier performances, looks to create more turnovers

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BOONE — Tae Hayes prefers a busy schedule.

The senior cornerback at Appalachian State (1-1) likes the pace and planning required of a game week.

So when App State and Southern Miss decided not to play Saturday’s game due to concerns regarding Hurricane Florence, it led the Mountaineers into an impromptu off week.

Hayes, along with the rest of his teammates, weren’t enthused.

“I don’t know, it went from not really doing anything to just hanging out to getting back in it,” Hayes said. “I mean, I like (football). I missed it. I like doing what I do.”

The extra time allowed Appalachian’s defense to reflect back on its performance in the first two games. The clear consensus being that the Mountaineers want more turnovers.

In games against Penn State (a 45-38 overtime loss) and Charlotte (a 45-9 victory), App State has just one interception and has not forced a fumble.

Mountaineers safety Desmond Franklin intercepted a pass against Charlotte on Sept. 8, almost taking it in for a touchdown before a goal-line fumble turned into a touchback for the 49ers.

And even though Austin Exford got a touchdown on a fumble recovery for App State’s final score in that game, it came from a bobbled handoff without defensive pressure.

Senior nose tackle MyQuon Stout said through film review, plays that could have yielded App State possessions become more noticeable.

“We’re still trying to work on little things,” Stout said. “Trying to get more takeaways. You know, Charlotte had nine points. We’re trying to (hold opponents), every game, zero points.

“Every game, we’re trying to be the best defense in the country. That’s what we’re working toward.”

That’s about the only major complaint to be made about the App State defense so far. Through two games, the Mountaineers are allowing an average of 4.2 yards per play, which is the tied for 11th-best in the nation according to TeamRankings.com.

That figure includes the near-upset victory against Penn State that turned into a shootout. A week later in Charlotte, the Mountaineers defense faced 68 offensive plays and allowed only 203 total yards.

Bryan Brown, App State’s first-year defensive coordinator, said that evaluation is always important, especially when extra time presents itself.

“We’re still chasing the ball like our hair’s on fire, and that’s always a great thing with the first two games,” Brown said. “And from Week 1 to Week 2, it was some consistency in our run fits and consistency in the passing game.

“So our goal this week is to be better than we were Week 2. So we need to see a significant change from the Charlotte game to now, and that’s all consistency.”

The App State-Southern Miss cancellation took away a unique opportunity for Brown. When he was playing defensive back at Ole Miss (from 2003-06), Jay Hopson served as the Rebels defensive backs coach in 2004. Hopson is now the head coach of Southern Miss.

For that reason, and for the simple fact the he grew up in Mississippi, Brown was looking forward to that game. That said, he’s glad the weird week is over, and the team can focus on Gardner-Webb.

“It takes maybe a day or so to get Southern Miss out of your head,” Brown said. “But it was great, having a little time off, then coming back in on Sunday and kind of recharge.

“That’s what you do on Sundays anyways. ... You’ve got to shift gears and try to start on the team that you’re getting ready to play.”

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