MOSCOW, Idaho — For the first time this season, the Appalachian State Mountaineers are trying to figure out how to bounce back from a conference loss.
The Mountaineers (7-2, 4-1 SBC) were defeated at home last Thursday night by Arkansas State, 40-27.
This week, App State hits the road for the team’s longest Sun Belt trip of the season, 2,500 miles to Moscow, Idaho to face the Vandals.
Idaho (3-6, 2-4 SBC) has dropped two straight conference road games, first at New Mexico State on Halloween (55-48) and last week against South Alabama (52-45).
“We’ve got one of the best teams in the league coming in this week in Appalachian State. They are very well coached and play the game the way it is supposed to be played,” said Idaho head coach Paul Petrino.
The Vandals also recently dismissed the conference’s leading receiver, Dezmon Epps, from the program. Epps was suspended for all of last season and had missed the previous two weeks after being suspended yet again, all surrounding off-field issues from assault allegations last season to driving under the influence this year.
“He (Epps) had some very strict restrictions on what he could and could not do, and one of those things we talked about he could not do was go out and he was out that night so as of right now he will not be joining the team,” said Petrino.
Petrino added that as of right now, Epps would not have the opportunity to come back to the program at all this season.
For App State the team is looking to regroup, especially on defense after surrendering 41 and 40 points in back-to-back games.
“We gave up some big runs and some big passing plays and we didn’t get any turnovers so it was a disappointing thing this past week,” said Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield. “But overall for the whole season our defense has been solid and we obviously want to get back on track this week.”
Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan has completed 63.8-percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,225 yards. Linehan has 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions through the air.
On the ground, senior tailback Elijhaa Penny started off slow but has had three great rushing games in a row. Penny ran for 184 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, 192 yards and two scores against New Mexico State and 135 yards and two scores against South Alabama.
Overall, Penny is just 36 yards shy of 1,000 on the season and has added seven touchdowns.
With Epps (61 rec., 762 yards) now no longer part of the passing game, the Vandals will turn to Callen Hightower, Buck Cowan and Deon Watson.
Hightower has 38 catches for 390 yards on the season. Cowan has 28 grabs for 406 yards and three touchdowns and Watson has added 29 catches for 358 yards and a team-leading five touchdown receptions.
“Their (Idaho’s) offense is probably one of the better offenses in our league,” said Satterfield. “They are a hard offense to stop, they’ve scored a lot of points on just about everyone they’ve played. They’re a dangerous team, no question.”
The game will kickoff at 5 p.m. from the Kibbie Dome, one of just four domed stadiums in the country that are home to an FBS college football team (UT-San Antonio, Georgia State and Syracuse are the other three).
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-846-7164 or followed on Twitter @NathanHam87