By Paul T. Choate
Oct. 6, 2012. No. 15 Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1 SoCon) was able to pull away late and defeat Elon University (2-4, 0-3 SoCon) for the 17th straight time on Saturday, but the 35-23 final score fails to represent just how close the game felt until the final minutes.
“It was a good day for us,” said Mountaineers Head Coach Jerry Moore. “Elon is a good football team. They’re one of the best football teams we’ve played this year.”
Elon’s quarterback Thomas Wilson and wide receiver Aaron Mellette, in particular, put up some very impressive offensive numbers. Wilson passed for 419 yards, a career record and only the second 400-plus passing yard game of his career. His primary target, Mellette, racked up 237 receiving yards on 13 catches with three touchdowns. It was Mellette’s third game of his career going over 200 receiving yards.
But despite the aerial assault from the Phoenix, the Mountaineers pulled off the victory thanks in large part to the play of quarterback Jamal Jackson, running back Steven Miller and two key interceptions by linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough and defensive back Demetrius McCray.
Jackson and Miller were both double threats in this matchup. Jackson passed for 304 yards and netted another 94 yards rushing. Miller, typically the team’s leading rusher, actually had 97 receiving yards to add to his 75 yards rushing.
Asked about his uncharacteristic play as a receiver in the game, and if that was new to the offense, Miller replied, “We’ve had that since the beginning of the season but we have a lot of great wide receivers and when I’m out there I’m pretty much a decoy. … But I realized towards the second half, maybe, that their corners — they were trying to play press — and he wasn’t really that fast, so I told Jamal, ‘On the outside just make sure you look for me, because I’m leaving them on the outside.'”
He added that the Phoenix defense was focusing on the run and that he had worked on some receiving plays during the week in practices.
ASU had to fight from behind not once but two times in this game in order to pull off the win. Elon struck first at the 11:41 mark in the first quarter to go up on an 11-yard pass from Wilson to Mellette and kicker Adam Shreiner drilling the point after touchdown kick (PAT) to go up 7-0.
It looked as if the Phoenix would take a 10-0 lead early when Shreiner lined up for a 25-yard field goal at the 8:30 mark in the first quarter, but he was unable to put it through the uprights. It was his first field goal miss in his last nine attempts.
The Mountaineers tied the game almost as soon as the second quarter started on a five-yard pass from Jackson to Miller and kicker Drew Stewart making the PAT.
Not long after, Elon answered with a 29-yard field goal from Shreiner at the 10:59 mark to make the score 10-7.
Elon looked to be in a bit of trouble late in the second, facing third down and four on the ASU 35, but Wilson rushed 11 yards to get the first down. The Phoenix worked their way into ASU’s red zone, but on a touchdown pass attempt by Wilson at the 1:26 mark, Kimbrough intercepted and returned the ball 36 yards as the ASU fans erupted in cheers for the linebacker.
Then, on the resulting drive, with 1:01 left in the half Jackson aired one out to wide receiver Tony Washington for a 54-yard touchdown pass to give the Mountaineers their first lead. After a Stewart PAT the score was 14-10 going into the half.
Whatever Elon Head Coach Jason Swepson said to his players at the half it inspired them. At the 10:18 mark in the third quarter, Wilson completed a huge 59-yard pass to Mellette and a Shreiner PAT made the score 17-14.
Following an ASU three-and-out after the Elon score, the home fans started letting the Mountaineers have it, with “boo” echoing through Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The criticism from the home fans clearly sparked something in the ASU team. The defense held Elon scoreless on their next drive and when the ASU offense got the ball back, Jackson put on a show in dramatic fashion.
With about four minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Mountaineers were facing third and four on their own 27-yard line when Jackson unleashed a 48-yard bomb to Miller and the roars of excitement from ASU faithful echoed through Kidd Brewer. Wanting to capitalize on their momentum, ASU rushed down field to the line of scrimmage and quickly snapped another play. Jackson completed a 25-yard pass to wide receiver Andrew Peacock for a touchdown. Following the Stewart PAT, the score was 21-17 and the chants of “App” and “State” boomed from each side of the stadium.
Elon would not lead again in the game.
The Phoenix fought their way back down the field, but on a pass from Wilson near the ASU red zone McCray intercepted at the 12-yard line and returned the ball 22 yards before being brought down.
The Mountaineers struck again early in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard pass from Jackson to Miller and a Stewart PAT to make the game 28-17.
Elon, ever the gritty opponent, quickly responded with 11:26 left in the game on a 35-yard pass from Wilson to Mellette for his third touchdown of the game. Needing a two-point conversion in order to later tie with a field goal, the Phoenix tried but failed and the score was 28-23.
ASU sealed Elon’s fate with 7:52 left in the hard-fought matchup on a one-yard rush for a touchdown by Jackson to make the score 35-23 after the Stewart PAT.
The game was the 50th contest between ASU and Elon dating back to 1937, and the Mountaineers have won the last 17 straight dating back to 1965. The programs are 38-11-2 with an ASU edge overall.
This win also marked the Mountaineers’ third straight win out of four total victories this season. They will hope to continue racking up wins next Saturday, Oct. 13, when they face Samford at Seibert Stadium in Birmingham, Ala.
For the full box score of ASU’s big win, visit goasu.com.
Photos by James Faye
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