By David Rogers. October 7, 2017. BOONE, NC — When an opposing football team rolls up 532 yards of total offense vs. your “measly” 425 and is able to execute 50% more offensive plays (92) than your more modest 60, there is a good chance that they beat you. If they don’t, then it is a good bet that turnovers played a key role — and that is exactly what happened Saturday evening at Kidd-Brewer Stadium where Appalachian State survived a strong offensive performance by New Mexico State to win, 45-31.
COVER IMAGE: Jalin Moore dives across the goal line for a first half TD. Photographic image by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News.
Junior cornerback Tae Hayes and sophomore CB counterpart Clifton Duck accounted for a stunning six interceptions of Aggie aerials, both tying the school record for same-game INTs with three apiece, a mark previously set by Mark LeGree in 2008 against Wofford and Larry McKenzie in 1973 vs. Davidson. The total number of six team interceptions established a new school record, the previous being five vs. Elon in 1967 and again vs. Mississippi College in 1991. The six INTs also tied a record for most interceptions by a defense in a game involving two Sun Belt teams. In 2003, Utah State was a member of the Sun Belt when its defense collected six INTs vs. Arkansas State.
The 2016 Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year and 2017 Pre-Season Offensive Player of the Year, Appalachian State junior Jalin Moore, had not been a factor thus far in 2017, but had a breakout performance against New Mexico State. Prior to Saturday’s contest, Moore’s best offensive performance this season was against Savannah State when he carried the ball nine times for 57 yards and caught one pass for a 20 yard gain in the Mountaineers’ 54-7 shellacking of the FCS-level Tigers. Against NMS, Moore exploded for 241 rushing yards on 19 attempts, including two touchdowns, one a 56 yard ramble around the left side that finally put the game on ice for App State.
Keys To The Game
- TURNOVERS. App State quarterback Taylor Lamb tossed to interceptions and Ike Lewis fumbled on the first offensive play of the game, but the Mountaineers won the turnover battle with six interceptions, three each by cornerbacks Clifton Duck and Tae Hayes.
- RE-EMERGENCE OF JALIN MOORE AND THE RUNNING GAME. Moore rushed for 241 yards on 19 carries.
- SPECIAL TEAMS & DEFENSE GIVE OFFENSE GOOD FIELD POSITION. Spearheaded by Ike Lewis’ 168 yards in five kickoff returns, the Mountaineer offense was given good field position, including five offensive possessions starting beyond their own 35-yard line and five more that began in New Mexico State’s half of the field.
- RAZZLE-DAZZLE. App State opened up the offensive playbook a bit, importantly calling the double pass from Lamb to Williams to Hennigan.
Explaining the run game’s offensive explosion in his post-game press conference, App State head coach Scott Satterfield attributed his coaching braintrust’s “persistence” and commitment to the run for a good measure of Saturday’s success. He shared that last year when Moore and former star running back Marcus Cox were plowing their way through opposing defenses, there were more running plays called.
“We got our running game back today,” Satterfield smiled. “Jalin Moore had a breakout (performance), something that we have been waiting on to happen…We came into the game thinking that we had to run the football because we wanted to keep their offense off the field. What we were so bad at was (converting) on third down. We didn’t get any first downs on third down.
“I was a little more persistent in calling runs tonight,” added the longtime Mountaineer both as player and coach. “Even though we weren’t doing great at times, we stayed with it. There have been times when I have abandoned the run throughout the season and not stuck with it. We went back and studied the first four games of this year and the first four of last year, and there were 40 (fewer) call this year. Sometimes those (running) plays take some time to marinate just a bit. You have to let the running back get a feel for it and how they are blocking it. So that’s what we did and it paid off in the 4th quarter.”
We got our running game back today.
Through the first three quarters and then some, this football game was far from decided. At the end of Q3 and the score knotted at 17-all, many in Kidd-Brewer Stadium felt that the Mountaineers at risk of losing their first Sun Belt game of the 2017 season, but that is when things just started to get interesting as the two grid adversaries doubled their scores and then some in the remaining stanza. NMSU jumped to a 24-17 lead on a 10-play, 66-yard drive that carried over from the third period, culminating with a 1-yard punch into the end zone by senior running back Larry Rose III.
A 49-yard kickoff return by senior wide receiver Ike Lewis gave the Mountaineers good field position, but the Taylor Lamb-led offense could only produce a three-and-out, the Xavier Subotsch punt downed at the Aggie 20-yard line — and fan concerns mounted in turning the ball over to NMSU’s potent offense.
Quickly,the Mountaineer hopes soured even more. Things looked grim for App State as New Mexico State quarterback Tyler Rogers and Rose picked up big chunks of real estate of 14 and 12 yards, successively– but the electric atmosphere that can be Kidd-Brewer Stadium returned when Hayes stepped in front of yet another Rogers pass for his third INT of the day. And just two plays later, the Stadium fervor reached fever pitch when Lamb took advantage of what Satterfield would describe later as a zone coverage, keeping the ball around the left side for a 38 yard TD ramble. NMSU 24, App State 24.
The Aggies wasted little time in response to dampen the spirits of the crowd, whose alternating chants of APP-STATE-APP-STATE quickly softened when NMSU’s Rogers found running back Jason Huntley on a screen to the left side, then watched as the wisp (5-9, 175 lb.) sophomore speedster from Arlington, Texas weaved in, out and around a host of App State defenders for a 61-yard TD catch-and-run. New Mexico State was back on top, 31-24. If there was a silver lining, it was that the 3-play, 80-yard scoring drive consumed just 59 seconds off the clock, with 9:22 remaining.
For Appalachian, if there was a time for someone to step and maybe even a little razzle-dazzle, this was it — and the Mountaineers didn’t disappoint. After Moore broke free for a 41-yard run from scrimmage to open the drive, Lamb engineered a 6-play attack that culminated with senior running back Terrence Upshaw’s hurdle into the end zone to tie the game at 31-31.
App State reached into its bag of tricks at this point and caught everyone by surprise when senior wide receiver Ike Lewis — whose name kept popping up throughout the day — recovered an 11-yard onside kick attempt to give Appalachian the ball back with good field position at their own 46-yard line. But the officials ruled that an Aggie had signaled for a fair catch of the high, looping kick off the foot of placekicker Michael Rubino, and that Lewis interfered with the New Mexico State player’s right to catch the ball.
Appalachian reached into its bag of tricks.
So instead of App State ball with good field position, after imposing the accompanying penalty the Aggies were instead looking at a short field to cover to paydirt, at the APP 31-yard line.
A little under seven minutes showed on the clock when, on NMSU’s second play of the drive Duck wrestled a Rogers pass to the flat on the far side, from the arms of the intended Aggie receiver for his second interception of the day and returned it 39 yards before being forced out of bounds by Johnathan Boone at the NMS 29.
The Mountaineer roar that had returned to Kidd-Brewer erupted into an ecstatic frenzy when, on App State’s first play, Lamb looked downfield, then turned right to find true freshman receiver Malik Williams behind the line of scrimmage. Williams, an accomplished high school quarterback from Chester, South Carolina wears jersey number 14, a heavy burden when the last Mountaineers to bear that number were named Armanti Edwards and Marcus, but he lived for the moment on this day and calmly collected Lamb’s pass, then hurled a perfect spiral to another true freshman, Thomas Hennigan, catching the ball in stride as he sprinted into the end zone. With Rubino’s PAT, App State once again had the lead, 38-31.
New Mexico State Rogers, Rose, Huntley & Co. still had life. Rogers found Huntley for a 45-yard pass on the very first play and suddenly the Aggies were in scoring position with a first down at the App State 30. The Mountaineer defense stiffened, however, and the Aggies were forced to go for it on 4th and 6. Rogers’ pass to Huntley on the right side was initially ruled a first down with a generous spot by the attending official, but on video review it was determined that Huntley was tackled by senior linebacker Eric Boggs six inches short of the first down marker. App State ball on their own 21, still protecting that 38-31 lead with 5:45 remaining.
The ensuing Mountaineer drive was all Jalin Moore. Runs of 19 and 5 yards were mere foreshadows of what was to come. On the fifth play of the drive and after two NMSU timeouts, Moore found daylight and brought the crowd to its feet with a 56-yard burst upfield for yet another APP touchdown to put the ballgame seemingly out of reach, 45-31.
To their credit, the Aggies did not fold up their tents and quit, even though facing an uphill battle with a two-TD deficit and just 2:12 remaining on the clock. But when Duck stepped in front of yet another Rogers pass for HIS third and the team’s sixth interception of the day, strains of “turn out the lights” by the proverbial “fat lady” were ringing in the Mountaineer faithful’s respective ears.
With his big day on the ground, Moore jumped up to sixth place among Sun Belt rushers, his 377 yards on the season exactly 100 yards behind fifth place Rose III of NMSU. Other notable stat leaders among the Mountaineers: With 168 yards returning kickoffs on Saturday, Ike Lewis moved into second place in the Sun Belt among KRs. Hennigan’s 66 yards on 6 catches jumped to 16th among receivers. Rubino is second among Sun Belt kickers in scoring.
Now 2-0 in Sun Belt play with nerve-rattling wins over Texas State and New Mexico State, the Mountaineers travel to Moscow, Idaho next weekend to take on the upstart Vandals of the University of Idaho. On Saturday, the Vandals trailed by as much as 11 in the second half vs. the visiting Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana. They had a chance to take the lead late after holding Louisiana scoreless in the 4th quarter, but fell short at the end, 21-16. The Vandals are now 1-1 in the Sun Belt, 2-3 overall. Their conference win was a tense, 29-23 double overtime decision over South Alabama.
Idaho is middle of the Sun Belt pack when it comes to scoring defense vs. both rushing and passing, but ranks at the top in passing defense generally, allowing just under 164 yards per game through five 2017 contests. On offense, the Vandals have two players in the top 11 among Sun Belt rushers, senior RB Aaron Duckworth and junior RB Isaiah Sanders. In the balanced Idaho attack, senior quarterback Matt Linehan is advertised as an NFL prospect while currently ranking 4th in the Sun Belt passing, through five games completing 88 of 145 pass attempts, including 7 touchdowns vs. 4 interceptions for a 133.4 efficiency rating.
Appalachian State returns to the friendly confines of Kidd Brewer Stadium on October 21, 3:30 pm, for Family Weekend. Coastal Carolina is the opponent.
CURRENT SUN BELT STANDINGS
- 1 —
- Troy (1-0 Sun Belt, 4-1 overall)
- Appalachian State (2-0, 3-2)
- Louisiana Monroe (3-0, 3-2)
- Arkansas State (1-0, 2-2)
- Georgia State (1-0, 2-2)
- 6 —
- Idaho (1-1, 2-3)
- Louisiana (1-1, 2-3)
- 8 —
- South Alabama (0-1, 1-4)
- Georgia Southern (0-1, 0-4)
- 10 —
- New Mexico State (0-2, 2-4)
- Coastal Carolina (0-2, 1-4)
- Texas State (0-2, 1-5)