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Mountaineers’ Season Ends in Heart-Breaking Fashion

Sean Price became the all-time leader among NCAA Division I FCS freshmen in receptions and receiving yards during Saturday’s heart-breaking 38-37 loss to Illinois State at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Photo by Keith Cline and courtesy of Appalachian Sports Information

Dec. 1, 2012. Illinois State’s Shelby Harris blocked Appalachian State University’s would-be game-tying extra point at the end of overtime to deal the Mountaineers a heart-wrenching 38-37 defeat in the second round of the NCAA Division I Football Championship on Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

No. 7/6 Appalachian State (8-4) rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime but Harris’ blocked PAT lifted No. 16/15 Illinois State (9-3) to next weekend’s national quarterfinals, where it will face the winner of Saturday night’s round-of-16 matchup between No. 2-seeded Eastern Washington and Wagner.

Down 28-17 going into the final period, Appalachian put together back-to-back touchdown drives of 46 and 81 yards, sandwiched around an Illinois State field goal, to knot the score at 31-31. The Mountaineers drove to near midfield on their final possession of regulation but were forced to punt on fourth-and-one, sending the game to overtime.

Appalachian State won the coin toss and elected to play defense first in overtime but the Redbirds scored on their first play of the extra period to take a 38-31 lead. The Mountaineers needed only three plays to answer ISU’s touchdown with a four-yard scoring toss from Jamal Jackson (Atlanta, Ga./North Atlanta) to Andrew Peacock (Durham, N.C./Northern Durham). Needing only the extra point to send the contest to a second overtime, Harris broke free up the middle and easily blocked Sam Martin’s (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr’s Mill) game-tying attempt.

Although Appalachian never led, the game was a nip-and-tuck affair throughout. Both teams made spectacular plays in the passing game (combining for 705 yards and eight touchdowns through the air), struggled to establish a presence on the ground (96 rushing yards for ISU, 51 for Appalachian) and excelled on third down (Illinois State converted 7-of-15 and Appalachian converted 8-of-17, including 7-of-9 in the second half).

There were also terrific individual battles throughout the evenly matched contest. Despite continuing to battle a knee injury that was sustained on Oct. 27 at Western Carolina and will require offseason surgery, Jackson completed 33-of-45 passes for 373 yards and two touchdowns. ISU’s Matt Brown countered by completing 20-of-32 passes for 322 yards and five touchdowns, which were the most touchdown passes ever allowed by Appalachian in the postseason.

Appalachian’s Sean Price (Reston, Va./South Lakes) caught a game-high 13 passes for 167 yards. In the process, he became the all-time NCAA Division I FCS freshman leader in receptions (81) and receiving yards (1,196), shattering the previous records of 71 receptions (set by Cal State Northridge’s Drew Amerson in 1999) and 1,073 yards (set by Marshall’s Randy Moss in 1996).

However, Redbird wideout Tyrone Walker was just as impressive with 10 catches for 176 yards (also the most ever compiled against the Mountaineers in the postseason) and touchdowns of 41 and 32 yards. Both Walker and tight end James O’Shaughnessy, who hauled in touchdown catches from nine and 25 yards out, matched the record for touchdown receptions against Appalachian State in a postseason game.

Defensively, Appalachian State linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough (Decatur, Ga./Cedar Grove) led all players with 15 tackles in his final collegiate game. Ben Ericken paced the Redbirds with 12 stops and was joined in double-figures by Matt Goldsmith, who also broke up two passes.

Game notes

Appalachian State has lost three-consecutive NCAA Division I Football Championship games for the first time since it lost four-straight playoff games from 1987-92 … each of the Mountaineers’ last three playoff defeats have come at Kidd Brewer Stadium, marking the first time it has ever lost three-straight postseason games at home … Appalachian fell to 1-2 all-time in postseason overtime games (W, 17-10, at New Hampshire in 1994; L, 19-16, at Montana in 2000) … the blocked PAT notwithstanding, Martin had a spectacular day, averaging 48.9 yards over seven punts with a long of 62 and five downed inside the 20, which allowed him to set a new single-season school record with 25 punts downed inside the 20 yard line this season (previous record of 24 was set by Appalachian State Hall of Famer Harold Alexander in 1991) … Martin also booted each of his five kickoffs out of the back of the end zone for touchbacks … in addition to recording a career-high 11 catches for the second-straight game and finishing with 79 receiving yards, Peacock also threw the game-tying 10-yard touchdown pass out of the wildcat formation to tight end Drew Bailey (Spartanburg, S.C./Dorman) with 3:31 to go in regulation … the touchdown pass marked the second game in a row that Peacock has thrown a touchdown pass to Bailey, which have also been the only two pass attempts of Peacock’s career … the attendance of 16,719 was the largest for a postseason opener in Appalachian State history, surpassing the 16,233 that attended the a 45-28 win over Coastal Carolina in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Division I Football Championship.