Saturday, October 28, 2023

Mountaineers Stage Epic Comeback for Homecoming Victory

BOONE – In a season marked by nail-biting finishes, the Appalachian State football team added yet another thrilling chapter to their story. With just eight seconds left on the clock, they clinched an incredible victory, momentarily allowing the coaches and players to exhale.

For most of the game, App State found themselves trailing Southern Miss. It wasn't until there were 6 minutes and 37 seconds left that they seized their first lead, ultimately pulling off a remarkable 48-38 win in front of 32,601 enthusiastic fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium on a Saturday night that will be remembered for years to come.

The game's decisive touchdown came as the Mountaineers faced a crucial decision on a fourth-and-8 play from the Southern Miss 21-yard line with a mere 14 seconds left on the clock.

This electrifying win marked the fifth consecutive game and six of the last seven for App State that has been decided in the closing moments, leaving the fans on the edge of their seats.

Head coach Shawn Clark expressed his pride in the team's resilience, stating, "I'm very proud of our team. They really continued to fight. All the credit goes to our players to find a way to win. Our mantra all week was to keep digging — that we were close to getting through — and our kids did that. Our players made a way today."

Quarterback Joey Aguilar made a remarkable comeback after committing two turnovers late in the first half. He finished the game with four touchdown passes and a season-high of 391 passing yards on 23 completions. Meanwhile, Christan Horn delivered a career-best performance with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, amassing eight catches for 165 yards. Kanye Roberts rushed for 109 yards, with 86 of those gained on back-to-back carries in the fourth quarter.

On the defensive front, Caden Sullivan's second-half sack and forced fumble, which was recovered by Michael Fletcher at the Southern Miss 1, set up a crucial touchdown. Andrew Parker Jr. recorded 13 tackles, and E.J. Jackson added 11, leading a defense that made two pivotal fourth-quarter stops.

Trailing 38-28 early in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers began their epic comeback with Aguilar's 49-yard touchdown pass to Horn, setting the tone for a thrilling final quarter. Jackson's tackle on a third-and-10 throw by Southern Miss forced a punt, and Roberts' 61-yard touchdown run put App State ahead 42-38.

Southern Miss made a valiant effort, driving to the App State 30, but Jordan Favors' powerful hit broke up a fourth-and-2 pass, giving the Mountaineers' offense a chance with 2 minutes and 44 seconds remaining. Roberts' 25-yard run and a personal foul penalty produced a critical first down at the Golden Eagles' 23. With a third-and-6 scenario from the 19, Aguilar found tight end Eli Wilson, but a fumble at the 13-yard line turned it into a fourth-and-8 situation with just 14 seconds left.

Instead of opting for a field goal that could have extended their lead by seven points, App State decided to go for a touchdown, possibly forcing a pass interference call. Aguilar delivered a perfect strike to Horn, who managed to catch the ball and get one foot down in the right corner of the end zone.

As the clock ticked down, App State secured an impressive comeback win, having trailed for the majority of the game.

In a game that saw several stunning plays, one of the most significant takeaways was when Sullivan's sack and forced fumble led to a recovery by Fletcher at the Southern Miss 1-yard line, setting up a short touchdown run by Ahmani Marshall.

App State's resilience was on full display, as they battled through a tough first half and turnovers to claim an unforgettable homecoming victory.

The Mountaineers' never-say-die attitude and their ability to pull off thrilling comebacks truly exemplify what makes Appalachian State football special. This win was not just for the team but for all the fans and alumni who came home to support their beloved Mountaineers on this unforgettable Saturday.