By David Rogers. September 16, 2017. SAN MARCOS, TX – Pendulums swing and Appalachian State’s early season pendulum almost found dead center on Saturday, but the Mountaineers hung on in their first Sun Belt Conference game of the 2017 season to survive Texas State, 20-13.
After a big loss to SEC power Georgia on September 2nd and an even more lopsided win over FCS competitor Savannah State last Saturday, Appalachian was wondering where in the middle of the pendulum they might really be as a football team in opening conference play and defending their 2016 Sun Belt championship less than an hour north of The Alamo. By many accounts, the answer might be “right in the middle.”
App State was a three touchdown favorite until just before kickoff at Bobcat Stadium, but Texas State didn’t believe it. The Bobcats won just about every statistical category except the final score. Led by graduate senior quarterback transfer from Mississippi State Damian Williams, the Bobcats outpaced the Mountaineers in total yards of offense, 385-283. The highly touted TSU defense lived up to its pre-game hype, too, limiting Appalachian’s offense to just a 4-of-11 in third down conversions.
When Mountaineer sophomore cornerback Clifton Duck intercepted a Williams pass and returned it 41 yards to the Bobcats’ 14 yard line and the visitors nursing a 20-13 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the game, it appeared that App State had put the slugfest on ice. With the High Country visitors driving, senior quarterback Taylor Lamb kept the ball on 1st-and-goal from the TSU 3-yard line, punching toward paydirt over the left side. Reaching for the goal line, Lamb lost possession at the 1-yard line and Texas State’s Frankie Griffin fell on it. The Bobcats had life, with 2:26 to go 99 yards for a TD and PAT that would tie the game and send it into overtime.
For the Texans, it was as if one yard represented a set of bookends because that distance proved decisive on both ends of the fields. Williams engineered a 98-yard drive that ended with one yard to go as time expired on the Bobcats’ season opener. Mountaineer defensive back A J Howard saved the day for App State when his tackle of Texas State WR Elijah King on a 6-yard slant left the Bobcats just short, at the APP 1-yard line, as the clock ran out.
“They matched our intensity tonight, and I thought it was a very physical contest,” App State coach Scott Satterfield said. “I told our guys that this is what Sun Belt football is going to be. It’s going to be physical, and you’re going to have to play this way in order to win.
“For us on the 1-yard line,” the 5th year App State mentor added, “we fumbled it and gave it to them. We told them they weren’t going to go 99 yards. They went 98. It was very, very close, but you have to take these wins any way you can get them.”
Another difference maker for the Mountaineers may have been the four sacks of Williams in the game, setting the Bobcats back a total of 28 yards.
Other bright spots for the Mountaineers were the performances of true freshmen wide receivers Malik Williams (4 catches for 68 yards) and Thomas Hennigan (6 receptions for 57 yards and 1 TD).
Next up Appalachian State is a home date with ACC contender Wake Forest, a pairing that could well develop into a “U.S. 421 regional rivalry” between the Mountaineers and the Demon Deacons. Kickoff at Kidd-Brewer Stadium is slated for 3:30 pm on Saturday, September 23rd.