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Redbirds will have their hands full vs. Appalachian State

(MCT) — Appalachian State’s previous two quarterbacks, Armanti Edwards and De’Andre Presley, have played in the NFL at different positions.

The Mountaineers’ current signal-caller, the similarly athletic Jamal Jackson, could be headed for Sunday gridiron employment as well.

Jackson spearheads a lightning-quick and highly productive Appalachian State offense that stands between Illinois State and a Championship Subdivision quarterfinal playoff berth in Saturday’s 1 p.m. (CST) second-round game at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound junior has passed for 2,905 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 334 yards and five TDs for a Mountaineers’ attack that ranks 10th nationally in total offense (466.7 yards) and 22nd in scoring offense (32.5 points).

“We try to balance it out the best we can,” Jackson said. “I try to get the ball in my playmakers’ hands and let them do what they do. And they do a good job.”

Jackson has been wearing a knee brace since leaving the Oct. 27 game against Western Carolina with an injury. He returned the next week to pass for 383 yards in a win over then No. 2-ranked Georgia Southern.

“I don’t think he will be 100 percent until after some surgery to correct some things in his knee,” said 24th-year coach Jerry Moore. “He’s as good as we can get him right now. He’s not limited to not being able to run, but he can’t run the ball 15 to 18 times a game.”

Jackson, who placed 14th in voting for the Walter Payton Award as the top player in FCS, said earlier this week, “I feel good. I’ll feel great come Saturday.”

Appalachian State boasts an effective rushing game with Steven Miller (1,307 yards) and a pair of 68-catch receivers in Sean Price and Andrew Peacock.

“The biggest thing about Jamal is everyone knows he has a strong arm, and he’s good at picking a defense part,” said Miller. “He puts the pieces together and makes things work. When he runs the ball, he runs strong. He doesn’t like to go down much.”

The Mountaineers have two of the 20 finalists for the Buck Buchanan Award as top defensive player in FCS in linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough and cornerback Demetrius McCray.

Kimbrough has 128 tackles, 56 more than any teammate. McCray is credited with 51 tackles and four interceptions.

“Stopping the run is probably our strong point,” Kimbrough said.

Appalachian State also benefits from the biggest crowds in FCS the past six seasons with an average of 27,964 fans this season.

“It gives us a big homefield advantage,” said Kimbrough. “Our fans are loyal to us. Every game they come and make it real loud for opponents. It’s a good deal for us.”

The Mountaineers are making their 20th FCS playoff appearance, trailing only the 21 of Montana. Appalachian State has posted a 24-16 playoff record including three straight national championships from 2005-07.

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