By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State rolled to a 72-7 home victory against Gardner-Webb on Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The Mountaineers’ home opener was originally scheduled for last week. That game, a September 15 matchup with Southern Miss, was canceled because of concerns regarding Hurricane Florence.
Appalachian State (2-1) scored twice on special teams during a 52-point first half scoring spree and posted the third-highest point total in program history, ranking behind only a 115-0 win against Piedmont in 1936 and a 79-35 win against Western Carolina in 2007.
Appalachian State ripped off 401 yards by halftime and finished the game with 692 (260 passing, 432 rushing).
The Mountaineers scored their first 49 points in less than nine minutes.
Quarterback Zac Thomas connected with a wide-open Dominique Heath down the middle for a 64 yard touchdown pass just three plays and one minute into the game. Chandler Staton added the conversion kick to put the Mountaineers up 7-0.
Gardner-Webb’s opening drive started deep in its own territory and resulted in a blocked punt for a score.
Steven Jones, a redshirt freshman for Appalachian State, made the block, then chased down the loose ball and pounced on it near the right edge of the end zone for the Mountaineers’ first touchdown via a punt block/return since Scott Cornatzer recovered a blocked punt in the end zone against Chattanooga in 2001.
Staton added the PAT for a 14-0 lead at the 11:53 mark of the quarter.
Gardner-Webb scored with 7:55 left in the first quarter when Jonathan Blackmon caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Smith. Tre’ Jackson booted the point-after to cut the deficit to 14-7.
But from there it was an Appalachian State cake walk.
Appalachian State added a pair of touchdowns and extra points the last 2:32 of the period to take a 28-7 lead. Jalin Moore supplied both touchdowns–the first on a 1-yard run and the second on an 81-yard dash. Staton provided both conversion kicks.
The second touchdown was the 30th rushing touchdown of Moore’s career. He’s the seventh player to hit that mark in Appalachian State history.
Moore rushed for 119 yards on eight carries—all in the first half– as he did not play afterward.
The Mountaineers would score three more touchdowns before the first half ended.
To top it off, Appalachian State’s special teams glowed. Jones had two blocked punts in the game. The second came early in the second quarter and set up a Darrynton Evans’ score. When Jones blocked the ladder punt, he tied Dino Hackett (two blocks against Western Carolina in 1985) and Chuck Hill (two blocks against both Liberty and Western Carolina in 1987) for the school record.
The Mountaineers built their cushion to 35-7 less than a minute (14:06) into the second quarter when Evans made a 9-yard touchdown run. Staton again booted the point-after.
After forcing the Runnin’ Bulldogs (1-3) to punt on their next possession, Clifton Duck fielded the punt and then darted 62 yards for a touchdown. Staton’s PAT was good as the Mountaineers led 42-7 with 12:42 left in the second quarter.
Appalachian State has scored at least one special-teams touchdowns in its first three 2018 games. Evans ran a kickoff return back for 100 yards in the season opener against Penn State. And Thomas Hennigan, a sophomore wide receiver, ran a 59-yard punt return in for a touchdown against Charlotte two weeks ago.
Thomas added a 12-yard touchdown run with 9:50 remaining in the half and Staton followed with the conversion kick to put the Mountaineers ahead 49-7.
One of six quarterbacks to see action for Appalachian State, Thomas completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 185 yards before sitting out the entire second half,
Staton kicked a 33-yard field goal the last play of the half for the runaway 52-7 halftime margin.
The onslaught continued in the third quarter as the Mountaineers widened their lead to 59-7 at the 7:18 mark when Heath caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Derrick and Michael Rubino made the PAT.
That was Derrick’s first touchdown pass of his career. He finished a perfect 7-of-7 through the air for 68 yards.
Derrick also ran for a touchdown—from 3 yards–with 42 seconds to go in the third period and Rubino kicked the point-after as the lead increased to 66-7.
Appalachian State concluded the massacre when D’Andre Hicks galloped 73 yards for a touchdown with 3:13 left to play. Rubino missed the conversion kick, leaving the final tally 72-7.
Hicks led the Mountaineers in rushing with 150 yards.
Appalachian State’s defense got a pair of sacks from redshirt freshman Jermaine McDaniel Jr. as well as interceptions from Desmond Franklin and Kaiden Smith.
Appalachian State hosts South Alabama in its Sun Belt Conference opener and homecoming game next Saturday, September 29. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.