Saturday, November 9, 2019

App State Overcomes Sluggish Offensive Performance, Holds On for Second Win Over Power Five Opponent

COLUMBIA, SC – The Appalachian State Mountaineers had had two extra days to think about their first loss of the season to Sun Belt rival Georgia Southern. Two days to think about the “what-ifs” and how they could bounce back. A road to trip to face an SEC team wouldn’t seem to be the best way to recover for most teams, but Appalachian State isn’t most teams. Guided by a defense that only gave up 21 yards rushing for the night, the Mountaineers won their second game over a Power 5 team with a 20-9 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night at Williams-Brice Stadium.

The two teams mirrored each other on the first two drives of the game, getting deep into plus territory, converting fourth downs, and eventually settling for field goals. On South Carolina’s second drive, they moved the ball just as they had done on the first drive but were forced again to settle for a Parker White field goal. The Mountaineers offense was unable to match the Gamecock offense and was forced to punt. The defense stepped up when the offense could not, forcing a three-and-out on the next drive. The mirror effect came back into being as Appalachian State tied the game on a 47-yard Chandler Staton field goal.

The first half seemed destined to be a low-scoring affair, filled with a series of third down stops, punts, and field goals. That was until true freshman defensive back Nicholas Ross came down with a tipped pass and raced around the left side to the end zone, giving the Mountaineers a 13-6 lead going into the half. It was Ross’s first interception and touchdown in his short career and the visitors had a lead they would not give up for the rest of the evening.

Coming out of halftime, South Carolina tried desperately to turn the momentum their way and an Ernest Jones interception looked like it would give them that chance. But the Mountaineer defense held, and the Gamecocks were forced to settle for their third field goal of the game. On the ensuing kickoff, junior Jalen Virgil found a line of blockers and scampered fifty-seven yards to the South Carolina 39-yard line. Seven plays later, quarterback Zac Thomas hit pay dirt from one yard out and the visitors had opened up an eleven-point lead, a margin that carried into the final quarter.

South Carolina refused to quit, however, and finally got into the end zone with three minutes left in the game after Ryan Hilinski found Bryan Edwards on a quick pass. Edwards broke out of a Mountaineers defender’s arms and raced twenty-three yards to the end zone to cut the deficit to five, 20-15, after the failed two-point try. A snafu on the subsequent kickoff led to the Mountaineers starting their drive on their own four-yard line. Four plays later, Appalachian State was forced to punt and South Carolina had one last chance to find victory on the night. The Gamecocks made it all the way down to the nine-yard line, but a last-second pass to the corner of the end zone was incomplete and the Mountaineers celebrated with all of the Appalachian State faithful who made the three-hour trek south and turned Williams-Brice Stadium into Kidd Brewer South.

Notable North Carolinians
Jordan Fehr (Providence) – the senior linebacker amassed nine tackles and a sack on the night
Akeem Davis-Gaither (Thomasville) – the senior had four solo tackles and a sack on the evening

Noteworthy Notes
The Mountaineers were outgained 346-202 in total yardage on the night, but special teams were the key as the only offensive touchdown of the night was set up by a long kickoff return into South Carolina territory.

Next Week
Appalachian State (8-1) travels to Atlanta to take on Sun Belt rival Georgia State while South Carolina (4-6) takes on SEC West opponent Texas A&M in College Station.