By Luke Weir. September 9, 2017. BOONE, NC — In a whisk of a Blue Ridge Mountains breeze, Appalachian State football coasted past Savannah State, 54-7, in Saturday’s 2017 home opener at Kidd-Brewer Stadium.
COVER IMAGE: App State redshirt freshman WR Jalen Virgil electrified the crowd with his first half catch-and-run for a TD. All photos by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
While still peeling scabs off turf burns following a grueling loss last week in Athens against the University of Georgia, the Mountaineers (1-1) devoured the NCAA Division I (FCS-level) Savannah State Tigers (0-1) on both sides of the ball, scoring seven offensive touchdowns before the final gun sounded — and even shutting out Savannah State through the first three quarters.
Senior quarterback Taylor Lamb got the job done in the first half, throwing for 327 yards on 12-15 passing, including a career-high five touchdown passes that tied a school record.
“On offense in the first half we corrected those mistakes we had last week,” Lamb explained to reporters after the game. “We were really in a rhythm with the run and the pass, so it was a good feeling to get out there at home and get that win.”
On this Saturday, Mountaineer tight ends were key factors in Lamb’s passing attack. Senior Levi Duffield snagged a 57-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, while sophomore Collin Reed caught two touchdowns in the second half, including a 68-yard score.
“I knew it was there, I was asking ‘please pass me the ball, Taylor!’” Reed said of his long touchdown reception. “I looked up and saw the safeties and I knew it could be a big play.”
Prior to Saturday, Taylor Lamb had a career high 4 touchdown passes against both Texas State in 2016 as well as Old Dominion in 2015. Within 20 minutes of play against Savannah State, Lamb had already matched his personal TD record when redshirt freshman WR Jalen Virgil electrified the crowd with a 56-yard catch-and-run, bobbing and weaving across and down the field for a TD.
An official timeout to review Virgil’s first career touchdown (to see if he had stepped out of bounds along the left sideline after the catch) gave the Greeks (fraternity students) in the end zone an opportunity to start a call-and-response chant (APP—STATE) with the fans on the visitors’ side of the bleachers before the stadium began leaking spectators.
Lamb’s second end zone connection to tight end Collin Reed as he dove across the goal line wrapped up an Appalachian State two-minute drill and set the senior quarterback’s career passing touchdown record at 5 in the process. Lamb simultaneously tied the school record for touchdowns in a game and put the Mountaineers up 45-0 at halftime.
Clad in gold and prone to gang tackles, the Appalachian State defense held Savannah State to only 114 yards total offense and six first downs, forcing nine punts.
Saving many of his frontline regulars for next week’s Sun Belt season opener at Texas State, App State head coach Scott Satterfield used the second half and the big lead to get a look at younger and even older reserve players on his roster. For the most part, the Mountaineers didn’t miss a beat. Appalachian’s defense forced Savannah State into a third quarter safety while maintaining the starters’ choke hold on the Tigers, who avoided the shutout when Appalachian freshman running back De’Vonta Smith fumbled after a 4-yard gain and the ball was scooped up by SSU’s Stephen Dorsey and returned 45 yards for a TD.
“In the second half we started playing a lot of young guys and getting them good reps,” Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield recalled for reporters in his post-game press conference.
Even before the second half, Appalachian’s coaches were able to give some starters a rest and give some valuable “snaps” to key reserves. Saturday’s home opener marked the first career start for Mountaineer defensive lineman Okon Godwin, as well as left guard Chandler Greer.
“Any time you play a lot of guys who don’t get to play very much it’s special to our team because the starters are cheering them on (from the sideline),” Satterfield said. “That (will continue) to motivate them when they come back next week to get ready for Texas State.”
Appalachian State plays at Texas State in San Marcos next Saturday before returning to Kidd-Brewer Stadium for their Black Saturday match-up against Wake Forest on September 23.