By David Coulson
Oct. 5, 2014. It could have been worse.
Another slow start put Appalachian State into a quick hole and South Alabama completed the rout with a 20-point, third-period explosion on the way to 47-21 victory Saturday night ASU’s Sun Belt Conference home opener at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
A crowd of 24,215 fans showed up as legendary coach Jerry Moore was honored for his induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, but the Jaguars crashed the party atmosphere by sending the Mountaineers (1-4 overall, 0-2 in conference)fourth loss in five games.
Despite wasting numerous first-half opportunities, South Alabama (3-2, 2-1) built a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter on quarterback Brandon Bridge’s eight-yard touchdown burst, along with two Grant McLaurin field goals and never looked back.
Things turned sour just three plays into the game when Marcus Cox fumbled at his own 26. But the App State defense held and Deuce Robinson blocked McLaurin’s 28-yard field goal attempt.
Instead of using that spark to its advantage, Appalachian had a second straight three-and-out on offense and Bridge led the Jaguars to their first score. A 21-yard strike to Shavarez Smith and Xavier Johnson’s 13-yard rushing smash put USA into position for its first score.
On third and seven from the eight, Bridge dashed into the line on a quarterback draw, seemed to get bottled up on the inside and escaped to the perimeter before turning the corner for a touchdown.
The Jaguar defense held ASU without a first down for the third consecutive drive and then embarked on an 11-play, 69-yard possession.
Two 18-yard plays, a Bridge pass connection to Danny Woodson and Jay Jones’ blast through the right side of the line set up McLaurin’s 36-yard field goal to make it 10-0 in the first stanza.
McLaurin missed a 24-yard kick later in the period, but hit another attempt from 39 yards to expand the lead to 13-0 early in the second quarter.
The teams traded touchdowns the rest of the half when Bridge found Smith for a 67-yard scoring pass and Taylor Lamb (13 carries, 8 yards rushing, 16-of-30, 152 yards and two TDs passing) got the Mountainers on the scoreboard with his 20-yard TD aerial to Malachi Jones.
Despite being outgained 346-169 in the first half, the Mountaineers went to the locker room feeling the Jaguars were still in striking distance. But that mood changed quickly.
“We played bad and it was still was only 20-7,” Satterfield noted.
Bridge (19-of-28 passing for 339 yards and three TDs) burned App State’s defense with scoring strikes of 43 yards to Woodson and 14 yards to Smith (six catches, 133 yards, two TDs) on a broken play to break the game open.
“Coming into the third quarter, we thought we had an opportunity,” Satterfield said. “It got away from us. We didn’t slow them down enough to make any plays.”
Terrence Timmons then added to the carnage with his 30-yard scoring scamper to make it 40-7.
Lamb’s two-yard pass to Drew Bailey and Kameron Bryant’s seven-yard throw to Isaiah Lewis gave the Mountaineers a pair of fourth-quarter scoring highlights, but they bookended Berron Tyson’s five-yard TD burst as USA finished with a 26-point victory.
Appalachian State will be back home next Saturday at 3:30 p.m. against one of its old Football Championship Subdivision foes, Liberty, badly needing a win.
“Everyday, we just have to go out to practice and get better,” said Lamb.