By Tim Gardner
Individual statistics can become spread out because Appalachian State relies heavily on its defensive line depth.
The Mountaineers believe that’s a formula for having fresh defenders in the fourth quarter, and end Tee Sims led a spirited charge as his team rallied to claim a 23-20 victory at Idaho on Saturday.
With two ends and one tackle up front in their 3-4 scheme, the Mountaineers (4-2, 3-0 Sun Belt) received defensive contributions from 10 of position coach Mark Ivey‘s linemen and recorded a season-high six sacks. Sims had 1.5 of his career-high 2.5 sacks on the first three plays of a short-lived final possession for the Vandals (2-4, 1-2).
“I was just focusing on my get-off,” Sims said in reference to his speed at the time of the snap. “The (offensive) tackles, they kept getting back slower. I knew as long as I get back fast, they weren’t going to touch me or the other D-lineman because I know they’re getting off just like I am.”
Senior end Caleb Fuller shared one of the final-possession sacks with Sims, and linemen accounted for two other sacks, as tackle Myquon Stout made one and redshirt freshman end Chris Willis had the first of his career. Senior linebacker Eric Boggs also chipped in with a sack to go with his two fourth-quarter fumble recoveries, including one that followed the third forced fumble of the season from Rashaad Townes.
Idaho’s offense managed only 57 yards and one first down on its 23 second-half plays, including a 23-yard completion on a fourth-and-24 snap that was the Vandals’ last hope in the final minute. Still counting that 23-yard completion, Idaho’s six possessions after taking a 20-0 lead covered a combined 17 yards because of Appalachian State’s tackles for losses and offensive penalties.
“In the second half, we had a little bit more success on first and second down where we got them into some passing downs where we could pin our ears back and go get them,” Appalachian State defensive coordinator Nate Woody said. “Going into the game, I thought the defensive line was going to have a good day pressuring the quarterback. They did — it just took a little longer to get in situations where they could pin their ears back and just go.”
The first plays on each of Idaho’s last six drives were a 2-yard loss on a run, a 3-yard loss on a sack, a lost fumble on a run, an incomplete pass, a 10-yard holding penalty on a QB scramble and a 7-yard loss on a sack.
Willis had the first sack in that sequence, and Idaho began its final possession at its 46-yard line with 2:33 remaining. Sims and Fuller corralled quarterback Matt Linehan for a first-down loss back to the 39, and Sims struck again two plays later with a sack for a 10-yard loss in a third-and-14 situation.
Those takedowns pushed Sims’ sack total to 4.5 this season and 11.5 in his 17 games over the past two years.
“That whole series,” Sims said, “I was like, ‘I have to dig deep, no matter if I’m tired. I’ve got to be a dog and go make a play. I have to do my job and help my team get a win.’ “