By David Coulson
Executive Editor/Managing Partner
College Sporting News
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning when he awoke to see it snowing on Saturday morning.
"I don't remember ever coaching in a snow game here before," said Moore, "at least not snow like this."
You can excuse the 21-year ASU coaching veteran for forgetting a 1995 game against Western Carolina, where a rain contest turned into a snow game as temperatures plummeted from 50 degrees to 30 during the first half.
And of course, Moore would just as soon forget the light snow showers that accompanied the Mountaineers' 33-13 loss in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals in 2008 — a loss that ended ASU's three-year reign as NCAA Division I national champions.
He can also forget about last year's 24-17 loss to Montana in a blizzard at Washington-Grizzly Stadium that cost the Mountaineers a trip to the national championship game.
Moore and the 13,322 fans that showed up will have much more pleasant thoughts about Saturday's 42-14 victory over Western Illinois in the winter wonderland that was Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The victory sets up a classic quarterfinal showdown between Appalachian State and defending national champion Villanova, which came from 21-7 behind to crush Stephen F. Austin 54-24 on the road.
The game will be played either Friday at 8 p.m., or on Saturday afternoon, with the schedule to be decided on Sunday.
After an early turnover led to a 7-0 Leatherneck lead in the first quarter, the Mountaineers regrouped to blow out the Missouri Valley Football Conference runner-up, rolling up 417 yards on the ground in the heavy snow of this mountain community.
"I think that I would have been worried if they had driven the ball 80 yards on us," said Moore. "We gave them great field position."
It was a day made to order for a coach like Moore, who cut his teeth on the power running game.
"I don't think we were hurt by the weather," said Moore. "We were better off running at them."
And no one ran the ball better than ASU quarterback DeAndre Presley, who rushed 16 times for 264 yards with touchdowns of one and 89 yards in the second quarter. The 89-yard scamper was the longest in Mountaineer postseason history and gave the Mountaineers a 21-7 lead.
It was a good thing that Presley found so much success with his feet on the ground, because he completed as many passes to Western Illinois as he did to his own receivers.
Presley was 2-of-7 passing for 47 yards, one touchdown of 35 yards to Brian Quick and two interceptions.
"We knew coming in, seeing him on film, (Presley) was a great player," said WIU All-American linebacker Kyle Glazier, who had one of those interceptions. "With the sleat and the snow we thought we would be able to shut him down."
But the snow and slippery conditions didn't seem to bother Presley. At least not too much.
"It did slow us down in some ways," Presley admitted. "We couldn't cut back the way we wanted to, but it worked for us in the end."
Like his coach, Presley couldn't wait to get on the field to play in the snow.
"Today was fun," said Presley. "I've always wanted to play in the snow."
The coach and the quarterback couldn't have been more on the same page.
"I want (ASU's players) to go out there and have fun," said Moore.
Things didn't turn out as fun for Western Illinois coach Mark Hendrickson, or his Leatherneck players.
"They were certainly the better team today and they played very well," Hendrickson said of Appalachian State. "I can certainly see why they are the No. 1 seed."
ASU's defense, directed to precision by coordinator Dale Jones during a marvelous day making calls, stifled the WIU running game and then turned its attention to quarterback Matt Barr.
The Mountaineers punished the Leathernecks to minus-26 rushing yards in the first half as ASU built a 28-7 lead and limited Western Illinois to 231 yards of total offense in the game.
"Basically, its assignment football," said ASU defensive end Jabari Fletcher, who had 2 1/2 tackles for loss, including one sack. "It's about film study, knowing what is going to happen before the snap."
Barr, whom like Presley was named as one of the three finalists for the Walter Payton Award during the week, found it difficult to hone in his passes. The WIU senior was 13-of-35 for just 98 yards and three interceptions as he was forced to run for his life against a strong Appalachian State pass rush.
"Early on, Appalachian did a great job stopping the run," said Barr. "That makes a team one dimensional and they can attack the passer."
While he completed that 12-yard TD pass to Lito Senatus in the first quarter, one play following a 23-yard interception return from Kyle Glazier, Barr frequently over threw his receivers and when he did get the ball on target, he was often betrayed by his targets on drops.
"The snowfall itself was not too big of a deal," Barr explained. "The footing had a little bit to do with receivers getting in and out of their breaks. The Appalachian pass rush had a lot to do with it."
ASU got a big lift from cornerback Demetrius McCray, who started in place of All-Southern Conference performer Ed Gainey, who was suspended for his role in an on-field fight at Florida.
McCray joined safeties Dominique McDuffie and Ingram Bell with interceptions.
"We really didn't have to stay in coverage five or six seconds because (of the pass rush)," McCray said. "The conditions helped us. (The WIU receivers) really weren't able to cut the way they wanted to."
But the snow didn't seem to bother ASU very much, particularly on the ground.
"The weather did have a lot to do with (the run emphasis)," center Brett Irvin said. "We started taking it up the middle after the first two or three drives."
And unlike the last snow game the Mountaineers played in, this time ASU let its opponent make the key mistakes.
"Going into this game, we knew we didn't want to beat ourselves," said Irvin. "That's what we did at Montana."