By Tim Gardner
The Appalachian State Mountaineers won their 10th game of the 2021 season by beating long-time rival Georgia Southern 27-3 Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone.
It marked the third time in the last six seasons that the Mountaineers (10-2 over-all, 6-1 Sun Belt Conference) have recorded 10 wins in the regular season. They did so in 2019 (finishing 13-1) and 2015 (11-2), and potentially missed out on the sterling accomplishment in 2018 because of a cancellation with Southern Mississippi because of Hurricane Florence.
Appalachian State’s quick-strike offense capability turned a close game with Georgia Southern (3-9 overall, 2-5 Sun Belt) into the blowout victory.
Though they dominated time of possession (34:48 to 25:12) and led in plays (70 to 55), the Eagles didn’t produce much offense. They averaged only 2.8 yards per play and didn’t score until true freshman Britton Williams kicked a 38-yard field goal with 53 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Those turned out to be their only points of the game and cut Appalachian State’s lead then to just 10-3.
But Jalen Virgil returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and Chandler Staton tacked on the extra point to put the Mountaineers up 17-3.
Still leading 17-3 with 40 seconds left in the third quarter, Appalachian State struck for another touchdown. On first and 10 from his own 32-yard line, quarterback Chase Brice hit wide receiver Thomas Hennigan for a 68-yard scoring pass. Staton again made the extra point kick to push the cushion to 24-3.
Staton, who also had made a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter, added a 36-yard field goal with 6:27 left to play for the 27-3 tally.
Appalachian State capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive with a 36-yard touchdown pass from Brice to wide receiver Malik Williams on its first possession of the game. Staton made the point-after kick for a 7-0 lead.
The Mountaineers compiled 329 total yards to 194 for Georgia Southern. They had 235 passing yards to 107 by the Eagles. Appalachian State also led in rushing yards (94 to 87) and its defense had 12 tackles for loss compared to 6 by Georgia Southern.
Appalachian State’s offense averaged a sterling 6 yards per play.
Brice completed 12-of-24 passes for 235 yards for two touchdowns. He didn’t suffer an interception\.
Complete game statistics and related data can be accessed by logging onto: https://appstatesports.com/documents/2021/11/27/APP12.PDF
Appalachian State (East Division Champion) next returns to Lafayette, LA for a rematch against Louisiana-Lafayette (West Division Champion) in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on December 4 (3:30 p.m., ESPN). The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns routed the visiting Mountaineers 41-13 on October 12.
Quick Recap/Stats as App State Shuts Down Eagles
From App State Sports
Cruising into the end zone for his final touchdown at Kidd Brewer Stadium, Thomas Hennigan took a bow and blew a kiss before his teammates joined him for a high-flying celebration.
For App State’s large class of seniors, a rivalry win at The Rock was a perfect way to head into the postseason.
A dominant defensive effort kept the Georgia Southern offense in check, and super seniors accounted for all of the Mountaineers’ scores in a 27-3 victory against the Eagles on Saturday. Winner of the Sun Belt’s East Division, App State will play at Louisiana next Saturday in the conference championship game on ESPN.
Hennigan, Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil scored touchdowns, and Chandler Staton became App State’s career scoring leader on a day in which he made two field goals.
The Mountaineers recorded four sacks and held Georgia Southern to 194 yards in posting the stingiest defensive showing against the Eagles since a 19-0 playoff shutout in 1987. In the final four games of the regular season, the Mountaineers allowed a combined 31 points.
The victory gave App State its fifth 10-win season in the last seven seasons, and the Mountaineers’ average home attendance of 30,441 this season set Sun Belt and program records.
App State led just 10-3 after Georgia Southern made a 38-yard field goal in the final minute of the third quarter, but Virgil returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for the score, giving him a special teams touchdown against the Eagles for the second straight year and allowing him to tie Darrynton Evans’ school record of three career kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Just a few minutes later, after another App State defensive stop, the Mountaineers needed only one play for Brice to hit Hennigan for a 68-yard score.
Brice threw for 235 yards with two scores, and Hennigan finished with three catches for 111 yards.
Seniors were App State’s top five tacklers, led by super senior Kaiden Smith’s nine stops, including one tackle for loss. Nick Hampton had two sacks, followed by one apiece from Demetrius Taylor and Brendan Harrington, while D’Marco Jackson and Caleb Spurlin had seven tackles apiece.
App State limited Georgia Southern’s time-consuming offense scoreless in the first half, but the Mountaineers had only four offensive drives before the break while being doubled up in possession time.
The Eagles’ essentially had the ball for nearly 10 minutes to begin the game, as Taylor recovered the ball after he forced a fumble on a sack, but he lost the ball on his return attempt. That 16-play sequence ended with a Georgia Southern punt from the App State 44, and the Mountaineers responded with an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown march.
Completions of 18 and 25 yards to Hennigan pushed App State into Georgia Southern territory, and Brice completed a fourth-and-9 pass to Williams for a 36-yard touchdown.
App State threatened to score right before the half, reaching the Georgia Southern 31, but a fourth-down loss gave the ball back to the Eagles, and they used a 26-yard pass to move to the edge of field-goal range. A 51-yard attempt to end the half was no good.