By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State third-year defensive coordinator Nate Woody said during the week that he expected the Mountaineers’ football game with visiting Troy to come down to the final play.
What Woody didn’t expect that it would take a record-setting, triple-overtime effort for App State to pull out a wild 44-41 Sun Belt Conference victory over the Trojans before 26,130 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Zach Matics drilled his 24-yard field goal attempt through the center of the uprights to finally end the longest home game in ASU history — a win that matched Oct. 19, 1991’s 26-23 triple-overtime marathon triumph at arch-rival Furman.
“I’ve been waiting for this ever since I got off the plane after Southern Mississippi,” said Matics, who had an extra point blocked at the end of regulation that culminated in a 21-20 loss last season. “I knew it was going to be up to me and I was waiting for it.”
It was the senior kicker’s first game winning kick and kept Appalachian (7-1 overall, 4-0 in conference) at the head of the pack in the Sun Belt championship chase. ASU earned its 13th victory in 14 games over the past two years and was ASU’s first overtime home win ever four games.
The Mountaineers had dropped four consecutive overtime games and are now 6-6 in extra-session contests in history.
“(Matics) has had a great year,” ASU coach Scott Satterfield said of Matoics. “I didn’t expect anything different out of him. He worked his tail off in the off-season and all summer and got his confidence back.”
But that three-pointer was just the final chapter in this incredible game.
The Mountaineers put themselves in position for Matics’ heroics when nose tackle Stephen Burns, cornerback Doug Middleton and linebacker Keenan Gilchrist sniffed out a fake field goal and stopped receiver Clark Quisenberry after place holder John Johnson fed Quisenberry with a shovel pass on fourth and two from the ASU five.
“They were out there calling regular, which let me know that something was up,” said Gilchrist, who had five tackles. “They made it obvious that something was about to happen and we were in the right position to make that play.”
This contest features five ties and two lead changes as the Trojans (2-6, 1-3) battled to stay afloat.
After trailing 17-10 at halftime in this gritty matchup, Troy stole some momentum when Jalen Harris recovered Jed Solomon’s pouched onside kick at the ASU 46.
On the next play, Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers (27-of-41 passing for 265 yards and one touchdown) set up a double pass to K.D. Edenfield, who hit Jarvis Bentley for 45 yards on a post pattern.
That set up Silvers’ one-yard TD burst on third and goal to tie the game.
“I want to practice what I preach,” TU coach Neal Brown said. “I told the team that we were going to attack. We came out and attacked in the second half and it worked.”
Troy scorched the previously impenetrable Appalachian defense — ranked fourth in points allowed, eighth in passing yards allowed and seventh in total defense — for 450 yards overall and 310 yards through the air.
But the Mountaineers responded with enough offense of their own against the well-prepared Trojans to stay in the game.
Marcus Cox rushed 30 times for 140 yards as App State piled up 248 yards on the ground and Taylor Lamb completed 16-of-26 passes for 184 yards and two TDs with one interception. The Mountaineers finished with 432 yards of offense.
Despite its second-half struggles on defense, Appalachian came through with a number of big plays.
Defensive end Ronald Blair opening scoring on the third play from scrimmage when he anticipated a screen pass, leaped high in the air to grab Silvers’ throw and raced 20 yards for the opening touchdown.
Cornerback Tae Hayes snagged his first career interception off Silvers in the third quarter and returned it 18 yards to key Appalachian’s six-play drive as the Mountaineers regained the lead at 24-17 on Lamb’s two-yard, play-action scoring aerial to tight end Barrett Burns.
Inside linebacker Eric Boggs led the Mountaineers with 14 tackles.
Throughout the second half, the tide of the game ping-ponged back and forth.
After Lamb’s one-yard option dash gave Appalachian its 31-24 advantage to complete a 13-play, 75-yard march that burned nearly six minutes off the clock in the third quarter, Troy answered with its 11-play, 70-yard drive to tie the game.
Silvers found Teddy Ruben for an 11-yard scoring strike to make it 31-all, but neither team could score again in regulation.
Touchdown sprints by Andre Flakes of Troy and Lamb made it 38-38 after one overtime and field goals of 38 yards by Matics and 34 yards from Solomon ended the second extra session at 41-41.
But the Trojans were finally held scoreless in the third overtime, giving Matics his chance to win it.
“We haven’t been in a game where it has been tight,” Satterfield noted. “This game was good for our football team and we will certainly build off it.”
Appalachian hosts its second Thursday night game on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m. against Arkansas State.