By Tim Gardner
Appalachian State used a strong second half to rally from a half-time deficit and subdue Coastal Carolina, 37-29 before 30,179 at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone last Saturday.
With the victory, the Mountaineers (5-2 over-all) remain unbeaten in the Sun Belt Conference (4-0) and atop its standings. They have made second-half comebacks in all of their league wins. Appalachian State has won 24 of its last 26 conference games and is 12-1 at home during that stretch.
The Mountaineers scored three unanswered touchdowns, two in the fourth quarter, to turn a 22-17 deficit into a 37-22 lead with 6:16 remaining in the game.
A record-breaking day from senior quarterback Taylor Lamb helped propel Appalachian State. He threw for a career-high 427 yards and became the school’s leader in career touchdown passes. Lamb had 280 yards passing in the first half. His game total was only six yards short of Armanti Edwards’ single game school record for most yards passing of 433, set in 2008 in a playoff game versus South Carolina State.
“It’s hard to win football games I can tell you that,” said Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield. “We always tell our players it’s a fine line between winning and losing and it could go either way. You just have to find a way to win and just really proud of them again. It’s four conference games now and we’re 4-0 and we’re sitting right where we want to be. We’ll go to the drawing board and try to correct any mistakes and get ready for UMass (away next Saturday).”
The Mountaineers took a 7-0 lead with 12:42 left in the opening period on junior running back Jalin Moore’s 9-yard touchdown run and sophomore Michael Rubino’s conversion kick. The touchdown drive covered 86 yards in six plays.
Just over two minutes later (10:01), Appalachian State increased its cushion when Lamb threw an 83-yard touchdown-scoring bomb pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jalen Virgil. Rubino tacked on the extra point for a 14-0 tally.
The touchdown drive covered 93 yards in only two plays.
Lamb recorded his 75th touchdown pass on that play, to break a first-place tie with Edwards, who had 74 touchdown passes from 2006-’09.
“It was in the back of my mind coming in,” Lamb said of the school record. “You just want to throw one and do it in front of your home crowd. We had a lot of players make plays outside. (Freshman wide receiver Thomas) Hennigan (four catches for 61 yards), Virgil and Ike (Lewis) had great games. Protection was good and it’s easier for the wideouts and me when you’re getting in a rhythm. Knowing we were calling passes, those players are confident in themselves to go out there and make a play and I am confident in them.”
The Mountaineers had nine players with receptions in the game.
The Chanticleers got on the scoreboard with 6:54 left in the first period when junior Evan Rabon kicked a 26-yard field goal to cut Appalachian State’s lead to 14-3.
Rubino increased the Mountaineers lead to 17-3 when he booted a 38-yard field goal with 13:21 remaining in the first half.
Then, Coastal Carolina (1-6 over-all, 0-4 Sun Belt) shook off the fast Appalachian State start to take a 19-17 halftime lead by scoring three straight times.
The first came on a 73-yard catch-and-run touchdown pass from senior quarterback Tyler Keane to sophomore wide receiver Ky’Jon Tyler with 12:16 to go in the first half to cap an 80 yard drive that took three plays. Rabon missed the conversion kick, making the score 17-9.
The Chanticleers sliced the margin to one point (17-16) with 3:17 left in the half on senior running back Osharmar Abercrombie’s 5-yard touchdown run and Rabon’s PAT. The touchdown drive covered 80 yards in nine plays.
Rabon then gave the Chanticleers a 19-17 lead when he nailed a 49-yard field goal with 29 seconds remaining in the half.
Rabon added a 24-yard field goal with 11:41 left in the third quarter to push Coastal Carolina’s advantage to 22-17.
But Appalachian State answered to reclaim the lead. Lamb hit Virgil on another scoring bomb—this one a 53-yard touchdown at the 7:06 mark of the third period. Virgil caught the ball along the left sideline and weaved all the way across the field before scoring near the right-front pylon. A two-point conversion run failed, leaving the score 23-22.
This touchdown drive covered 91 yards in nine plays.
Virgil had five receptions for a career-high 186 yards, the highest mark for an Appalachian State receiver since Sean Price had 231 against Georgia Southern in 2012. Lewis, a senior wide receiver, posted six catches for 106 yards; marking the first game Appalachian State has had two 100-yard receivers since 2013, when Tony Washington (129 yards) and Andrew Peacock (127) both hit triple digits against Georgia Southern.
It was the second straight 100-yards receiving game for Lewis, who had six catches for 101 yards at Idaho.
Lamb’s second touchdown pass moved him into a tie for third place on the Sun Belt list for career passing touchdowns. Lamb and Florida Atlantic’s Rusty Smith (2005-09) are third with 76 each. There’s a first-place tie at 81 between Troy’s Corey Robinson (2010-‘13) and the University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Kolton Browning (2010-‘13).
Appalachian State increased its lead to 30-22 when redshirt freshman running back Marcus Williams, Jr. scored on a 1-yard touchdown run and Rubino added the conversion kick with 12:55 remaining. The Mountaineers covered 74 yards in eleven plays on the touchdown drive.
They came back to score on another 1-yard touchdown run by Williams, Jr. with 6:16 left. Redshirt freshman Chandler Staton booted the point-after to provide a 37-22 lead.
The touchdown was set up by junior lineman Okon Godwin’s fumble recovery inside the Coastal Carolina 20 with 8:37 remaining
Keane threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Malcolm Williams and Rabon made the conversion kick to provide the final margin with 2:38 remaining. The Chanticleers went 75 yards in eight plays for the touchdown.
Sophomore defensive back Clifton Duck led the Mountaineers in tackles with eight (six solos; two assists).
Appalachian State sophomore Akeem Davis-Gaither made his first career start at linebacker and made two tackles. Junior cornerback Tae Hayes, who had half of a sack at Texas State, recorded the first solo sack of his career when he forced a second-quarter fumble for the Mountaineers.
Additionally, Appalachian State sophomore defensive tackle Caleb Spurlin made his first career fumble recovery, and with one sack, senior Mountaineer outside linebacker Rashaad Townes has four sacks in the last five games.