By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State routed Troy, 47-10, in Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone.
Appalachian State scored on all six of its first half drives–four touchdowns and two field goals–enroute to a 24-point halftime cushion (24-10). The Mountaineers (7-2 over-all; 5-1 Sun Belt) then coasted in the second half.
But they will not win a fifth (two shares and back-to-back title game wins) consecutive Sun Belt Conference Championship this season. Number 16 Coastal Carolina (9-0, 7-0) locked up the East Division title by romping past Texas State, 49-14, to clinch a spot in the league championship game. As a result, for the first time since the conference introduced a championship game before the 2018 season, it will not be played in Boone.
However, Appalachian State is bowl eligible and can extend its bowl winning streak. The Mountaineers have won all five bowl games they have appeared in — 2015 and 2016 Camellia Bowl, the 2017 Dollar General Bowl and the 2018 and 2019 New Orleans Bowl.
Against Troy, Appalachian State rolled up 554 total yards, including 275 on the ground.
Troy (4-5 over-all; 2-3 Sun Belt) compiled 177 first-half yards, but didn’t make a first down against Appalachian State’s defense until the second quarter.
“It was a great team win, and I’m very proud of our players,” Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark said. “We talked all week about being resilient, and that’s what our kids were today. They do everything we asked them to do, and they came in and really performed well today. When people counted us out (after last week’s 34-23 loss at Costal Carolina), we came right back for the fight.”
The Mountaineers made a pair of 75-yard drives in the third quarter. One went for 10 plays, the other lasted seven.
Henry Pearson caught a 6-yard touchdown for that first touchdown, and defensive end Caleb Spurlin caught a 2-yarder as a goal-line specialist fullback on the latter.
Spurlin is the only Football Bowl Subdivision player with multiple sacks and receiving touchdowns this season. He has made two touchdown catches in 2020.
On its first four series, the Mountaineers’ defense forced three three-and-outs by the Trojans and made a pick-six touchdown return. Defensive back Steven Jones grabbed his first career interception on the play and darted 34 yards for the score.
The Appalachian State offense tallied two touchdowns in the first quarter, and scored a third touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. The first drive featured a 63-yard touchdown run by Cam Peoples. Slot receiver Malik Williams then caught a touchdown pass of 15 yards from quarterback Zac Thomas and Thomas Hennigan caught one from 22 yards from Thomas.
The Mountaineers possessed sizable advantages in total yards (225-25) and first downs (11-0) by the time they had built a 28-0 lead that one play into the second period.
Three plays into Troy’s next series, Jones stepped in front of a short pass and returned his first career interception for another touchdown — the second of his career after a recovery of his own blocked punt against Gardner-Webb in 2018.
Defensive back Shemar Jean-Charles’ sure-handed tackle on third down forced a punt that came to rest at Appalachian State’s 3 to end Troy’s next possession
The East Division rivals scored twice apiece over the final 8:36 of the first half, with Chandler Staton converting a 42-yard field goal for a 31-3 lead and a 30-yard field goal right before halftime.
Thomas completed 22-of-29 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns. That touchdown total is a career high, a mark he’s reached four times. He also passed Steve Brown to move to fourth all-time on the school’s career passing yards (6,565) list.
Williams had seven receptions for a career-high 113 yards and a touchdown against Troy and Hennigan moved to Number 5 in school history in career receiving yards (2,148 yards).
Staton also made 5-of-6 extra point kicks.
Defensively, inside linebacker D’Marco Jackson made a team-high seven tackles as Appalachian State held Troy to only three conversions on 14 third-down attempts.
Troy’s points came on a 27-yard field goal by Evan Legassay, a 33-yard touchdown reception by Kaylon Gelger from Gunnar Watson and Legassay’s ensuing point-after kick on the latter.
Appalachian State will next host Louisiana on Friday, December 4 at 7:00 p.m. The Mountaineers have beaten the Ragin’ Cajuns four times in the last two seasons, including twice in Sun Belt championship games.
See game recap here.