By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State posted a 45-17 victory against Sun Belt Conference foe Georgia State Saturday in Boone’s Kidd Brewer Stadium to set up a winner-take-all regular season finale with East Division leader Troy next weekend, and again at home.
If the Mountaineers (8-2 over-all, 6-1 conference) beat Troy to win the division via the head-to-head tiebreaker, they would host the inaugural Sun Belt Championship Game on Dec. 1.
“We just had a business-like approach, and it’s a great win,” Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield said. “It puts us in position for next week against Troy, whoever wins is playing for the conference championship at their home field. You couldn’t have asked for anything better at this point in the season.”
The Appalachian State-Troy game will start at 2:30 p.m. Troy (9-2; 7-0 conference), a prohibitive favorite versus Texas State Saturday, won by only a 12-7 margin.
Against Georgia State before 22,315 fans in attendance, Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas accounted for four touchdowns, including three through the air as he completed a sterling 20-of-24 passes for 282 yards. Running back Darrynton Evans rushed for a touchdown and finished with 127 yards on 15 carries. Wide Receiver Corey Sutton also had a 100-yard day, catching four passes for 101 yards and one touchdown, as the Mountaineers rolled up 524 yards. It was a balanced output, with 296 passing and 228 rushing.
Defensive back Desmond Franklin’s two interceptions included a 26-yard return for a third-quarter touchdown that followed pressure from linebacker Anthony Flory, who had seven tackles to help lead an Appalachian State defense that limited the Panthers (2-9 over-all, 1-6 conference) to 132 passing yards.
Georgia State opened the scoring when quarterback Dan Ellington passed to wide receiver Tamir Jones down the middle for a 7-yard touchdown with 10:17 remaining in the first quarter. Brandon Wright made the point-after kick for a 7-0 lead.
The drive covered 75 yards in ten plays.
The Mountaineers responded quickly, tying the score at 7 less than two minutes later (8:54) when Sutton hauled in a 39-yard touchdown pass from Thomas, followed by Chandler Staton’s conversion kick.
Then with 3:16 left in the opening period, tight end Henry Pearson hurdled a Georgia State defender close to the end zone on a 10-yard touchdown reception from Thomas. Staton made the PAT to give Appalachian State a 14-7 lead.
The Mountaineers boosted their lead to 17-7 as Staton kicked a 23-yard field goal with eleven seconds left in the first half.
Appalachian State scored two touchdowns and a pair of extra points in both the third and fourth periods, including the first set less than a minute apart to roll to a 31-7 cushion.
Thomas scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:16 remaining in the third period to cap an 11-play; 75-yard drive. Then at the 8:27 mark, Franklin scooped up a low, desperate throw by Ellington toward Georgia State’s bench before racing untouched down the left sideline for his score.
Staton added the conversion kicks after each touchdown.
Wright kicked a 52-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the third quarter to cut Appalachian State’s lead to 31-10.
But the Mountaineers scored their last two touchdowns almost as quickly as they did their first two of the last half, with both coming within 2:14 of each other. Thomas threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Dominique Heath for the first at the 14:18 mark. Then Evans raced 56 yards up the middle for the final touchdown with 12:04 to play.
Franklin’s 38-yard interception return from the Appalachian State 6 to the 44 preceded Evans’ score.
Again, Staton added both conversion kicks for a 45-10 lead.
Georgia State added its last points with 8:20 remaining when Demarcus Kirk rushed up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown. Wright added the point-after kick.
The penalty-free game by Appalachian State also featured the return of sophomore running back Daetrich Harrington, who suffered a knee injury in February and rushed for 16 yards on four carries in his first game playing this season.
Complete statistics for the Appalachian State-Georgia State game can be obtained online at: https://appstatesports.com/documents/2018/11/17//APP10.pdf