By Tim Gardner
Photography by David C. Mayo
A win is a win no matter how ugly it may be accurately sums up Appalachian State’s 17-13 Sun Belt Conference triumph over Georgia State Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone.
In an unusual scenario, Appalachian State’s usually more explosive offense was held to its lowest yardage output of the season by the Panthers-310.
The Mountaineers had problems for much of the game moving the ball, totaling just 89 total yards at halftime against a Georgia State defense that had allowed 469.2 per game.
Appalachian State remains unbeaten in conference play at 4-0. The Mountaineers are 6-1 over-all.
Georgia State fell to 2-4 in the Sun Belt and 3-4 over-all with the loss.
Despite the victory, the game was a costly one for Appalachian State as its standout quarterback Zac Thomas left the game with an injury in the fourth period. Thomas was hit as he ran out of bounds. He was placed on a stretcher and taken off the field in an ambulance. His injury status was not known as this article went to press.
After Thomas’ injury, reserve quarterback Jacob Huisman piloted the Mountaineers, who trailed 13-10, to the game-winning touchdown drive.
Huesman connected with Cam Peoples for a 12-yard pass, then later in the drive connected with Thomas Hennigan for 14 yards on a third-and-8 throw to the Georgia State 22-yard line. Peoples then ran for 12 and 10 yards, the latter being a touchdown to give Appalachian State a 16-13 lead.
Chandler Staton kicked the extra point to provide the final tally.
Huesman was on the field for the final six plays of that march that covered 11 plays and took 77 yards.
After Peoples’ touchdown, Nick Hampton and Demetrius Taylor teamed up for a sack that helped produce a punt by Georgia State and the Mountaineers ran the final 3:32 of the game clock to avoid what would have been a big upset.
Georgia State converted four third-downs and took a 7-0 lead on the game’s opening drive thanks to Cornelious Brown’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Sam Pinckney and Noel Ruiz’s extra point kick.
Later in the first quarter (2:53), Caleb Spurlin forced a Georgia State fumble that was secured by D’Marco Jackson, marking the Mountaineers’ first fumble recovery of the season. They converted three third downs on a 12-play; 46-yard drive that ended with Staton’s 21-yard field goal to pull Appalachian State within 7-3.
Georgia State extended its lead to 10-3 on a 23-yard field goal by Ruiz with 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
A 55-yard pass from Thomas to Malik Williams sent the Mountaineers inside the Panthers’ 20. On the next play, Thomas rolled left and dumped a pass to tight end Henry Pearson, who dove down the left sideline and hit the pylon to complete a 9-yard touchdown with only 46 seconds left in the third quarter.
The latter play, followed by Staton’s conversion kick tied the score at 10-10 and capped a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive, the Mountaineers’ longest of the game.
Ruiz nailed a 32-yard field goal with 12:29 left to play to put the Panthers back ahead at 13-10.
Trey Cobb led Appalachian State’s defense with 11 tackles, while Jackson had nine stops, one sack, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery. Taylor finished with 1.5 sacks.
The Mountaineers will travel to undefeated and Sun Belt-leading Coastal Carolina (7-0 over-all; 5-0 conference) for a nationally televised game next Saturday, November 21. Kickoff is set for 12:00 noon in Conway, SC.