By Paul T. Choate
Nov. 10, 2012. The App Nation fans got their chance to rush the field on Black Saturday when Appalachian State (8-3, 6-2 SoCon) defeated Furman (3-7, 2-5 SoCon) 33-28 to clinch their 12th Southern Conference Championship and their seventh in eight seasons.
The win ties Furman for 12 SoCon Championships. Furman’s 12 championships have come in 74 years in the conference, while ASU has only been a member for 41 years. The win also virtually assures them an eighth straight berth into the NCAA Division I Football Championship.
“What a celebration on that field at the end of the game,” said head coach Jerry Moore. “We tried to give it away at the end of the first half throwing fourteen points on the board for them. The poor coverage on the kick-off return and then turn around and fumble it in the end zone but it was a great night. I’m proud of our team and the way they played.”
Whether or not ASU will get another home game is still unknown. The playoff participants and brackets will be unveiled on Sunday, Nov. 18.
ASU struck first early in the first quarter on a 27-yard field goal by kicker Sam Martin to make the score 3-0 at the 11:02 mark.
Following some back and forth action, the Mountaineers struck again at the 3:46 mark in the first quarter on an eight-yard touchdown run by their star running back Steven Miller to make the score 10-0 after Martin’s point after touchdown kick (PAT).
Even in the first quarter, it was obvious that App Nation fans were beginning sense the SoCon title in their grasp. However, on the very next play following Miller’s touchdown, Furman’s running back Jerodis Williams shocked the 28,986 in attendance when he pulled off a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to make the score 10-7 after a PAT by kicker Ray Early.
Not to be outdone in the surprising plays department, early in the second quarter ASU’s offense coordinator Scott Satterfield pulled a wild play out of his bag of tricks. At the 11:43 mark in the second, wide receiver Andrew Peacock got the ball on a reverse option play in the backfield. Peacock then looked to the end zone and threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to tight end Drew Bailey. It was Peacock’s first pass of his career. The trick play made the score 17-7 following a Martin PAT.
Furman’s defense left their mark on the game at the 8:26 mark in the second when linebacker Mitch McGrath sacked Jackson for a loss of 13 yards and when Jackson went down he fumbled the ball, which bounced into the end zone. Linebacker Gary Wilkins jumped on the ball for a Furman touchdown and the score was 17-14 following an Early PAT.
The Mountaineers would strike two more times prior to the half. At the 5:38 mark, Martin drilled a season-long 47-yard field goal and then with only 24 seconds in the half Jackson completed an 18-yard pass to Peacock for a touchdown. Following Martin’s PAT the Mountaineers took a 27-14 lead into the half.
Furman Head Coach Bruce Fowler obviously said something to spark his players at the half, because Furman dominated the third quarter. At the 9:28 mark, Furman quarterback Reese Hannon completed a 10-yard pass to wide receiver Jordan Snellings to make the score 27-21 after an Early PAT. Then, on the very next play when kicking off to ASU, Furman cornerback Austin Williams forced wide receiver Tony Washington to fumble as he was returning the ball. Furman linebacker Carl Rider returned the ball 27 yards for a touchdown and, following an Early PAT, the Paladins had scored 14 points in 18 seconds and had the lead 28-27.
ASU finally found some points at the 5:37 mark of the third quarter and retook the lead 30-27 on a 19-yard field goal by Martin.
The only score in the fourth quarter came in the form of a 33-yard field goal by Martin to give the Mountaineers a 33-28 lead – which would ultimately be the final score.
Though the Paladins never scored again following their impressive showing in the third quarter, they did put a scare in App Nation at the very end of the game. Hannon orchestrated an impressive drive down the field, getting Furman all the way to the ASU 37-yard line. During the drive, Hannon put up multiple bombs toward the end zone and ASU fans held their breath. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, however, his attempts fell incomplete. The Mountaineers SoCon Championship was sealed when Hannon lofted a Hail Mary to the end zone and ASU defensive back Troy Sanders intercepted it at the ASU five-yard line as time expired in the contest.
Unable to contain their excitement, hundreds of ASU fans stormed the field as the clock hit triple-zero to celebrate with their team.
Peacock set career highs with 11 receptions for 130 yards including an 18-yard touchdown catch and his first-ever pass that happened to be for a touchdown.
Wide receiver Sean Price had 115 yards on 10 receptions, giving ASU two 100-yard receivers in a game for only the fourth time in school history.
Jackson passed for 332 yards (32 of 46, one touchdown, no interceptions). He is only the fourth quarterback in school history to pass for 300 yards in consecutive games.
The Mountaineers will share the 2012 SoCon Championship with Georgia Southern (8-2, 6-2 SoCon) and Wofford (8-2, 6-2 SoCon).
For the full box score, visit goasu.com.