By David Coulson
Appalachian State’s first foray into the Football Bowl Subdivision may have had its rough moments at times, but the Mountaineers completed its season Saturday with a 45-28 victory over Idaho that clinched a winning season before 19,721 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Freshman quarterback Taylor Lamb fired three touchdown passes as he went 13-of-20 for 223 yards passing and Marcus Cox rushed 25 times for 122 yards and two more scores as the Mountaineers closed the season with six consecutive wins after a 1-5 start.
Like the previous five games, Appalachian wore down a Sun Belt Conference opponent in the second half on the way to stamping out that 7-5 overall record and third place in the league at 6-2.
“I’m really proud of our team and the way they finished the season,” said second-year coach Scott Satterfield. “It turned out to be a great season, particularly where we started from.”
Following the first-half challenge of trying to slow down the Vandals (1-10, 1-7), the Mountaineers began to establish their ball-control identity again in the final 30 minutes.
Idaho built a 47-27 margin in plays run and a six-and-a-half advantage in time of possession in the first half to stay close, but the Vandals ran out of steam as the game wore on.
Appalachian finally put some distance between itself and the Vandals at the start of the third quarter with a 15-play, 68-yard march, accented by Lamb’s eight-yard slant pass to Beathard for another TD to make it 31-15.
App State “really controlled the third quarter,” said Idaho coach Paul Petrino. “They do a nice job running the football and I enjoy watching their offense.”
Another long drive of 78 yards that concluded four minutes into the fourth quarter all but put the contest out of reach, as Cox’s second touchdown on a 10-yard sprint opened up a 38-15 advantage.
Two Idaho TDs on a seven-yard Penny run and Linehan’s eight yard pass to Penny bookended Terrence Upshaw’s two-yard scoring plunge for the Mountaineers.
Idaho used a methodical 17-play, 75-yard drive to milk 7:25 off the first period clock and strike for an early 6-0 lead.
The Vandals converted a fourth and one play at the App State 41 and mixed runs and several third-down pass conversions to set up Kristoffer Olubode’s three-yard touchdown burst, but the PAT went wide left.
After a strong, 36-yard Bobo Beathard kick return, ASU quarterback Taylor Lamb needed just one play to get the Mountaineers even, hitting Shaedon Meadors on a post pattern for a 59-yard scoring strike that took just nine seconds.
Bentlee Critcher’s extra point went straight through the center of the goal posts to put Appalachian ahead 7-6.
Austin Rehkow of Idaho and Critcher then traded field goals of 43 and 49 yards respectively on the next two drives to move App State’s lead to 10-9. The 49-yard boot by Critcher was a career-long effort for the sophomore.
When ASU finally stopped the Vandal offense, Lamb broke Armanti Edwards’ record for freshman passing yardage as he found Tacoi Sumler for a 32-yard scoring aerial to make it 17-9 four minutes into the second period.
Lamb ended up with 2,381 yards in his first season on the field, bettering the Edwards mark of 2,251, set in the national championship season of 2006.
“On the sidelines, I got emotional because I grew up watching Armanti play and always knew he was the real deal,” Lamb said. “It is cool to beat the record, but there is always room for improvement and hopefully this off-season will prove a lot.”
Idaho’s biggest weapon during a one-win season has been the punting of Ray Guy Award finalist Rehkow. And Rehkow’s gorgeous, spiraling 58-yard punt at the end of next Vandal possession soared downward and off the hands of Beathard for a fumble that Idaho’s Buck Cowan recovered at the ASU five.
Elijaa Penny’s three-yard blast into the end zone cut the score to 17-15, but Appalachian stuffed the two-point attempt to hold the lead.
Beathard’s brilliant 76-yard kickoff was wiped out on a undisciplined holding penalty behind the play, but the Mountaineers responded from being backed up to their own nine by going 91 yards in nine plays.
Cox, who ended the season with 1,415 yards rushing and has 2,665 for his first two years, smashed in from the one to expand App State’s edge to 24-15 at the break.
“I think we controlled the game in the first half,” said Petrino. “We had the ball the whole time and had way more plays. We just didn’t have enough points.”
That proved to be fatal for the Vandals against the red-hot Mountaineers.
“Certainly among the mid-majors, we are the hottest team in the country,” Satterfield said. “We went through some tough times and then went 6-0. That’s what will be remembered.”