By David Rogers. September 23, 2017. BOONE, NC – Like two prizefighters in their prime, the two adversaries circled each other, then traded jabs for the first half of Saturday’s football game at sold-out Kidd-Brewer Stadium. In the second half, visiting Wake Forest and host Appalachian State exchanged body blows before the Demon Deacons won by decision, 20-19.
COVER IMAGE: There was plenty of sizzle to the pre-game festivities to get the crowd going, including a 4-man parachute team culminating with this landing of the American flag as the marching band concluded with playing the National Anthem. Photographic image by Brad Batchelor for Blowing Rock News
Winning the game stats is not the same as winning the ball game and the Mountaineers came face-to-face with that reality before a record crowd of 35,126. For a game in which App State dominated in most statistical categories and still lost, it was somewhat odd that neither side committed a turnover.
Appalachian State, however, left points on the table.
Appalachian State did, however, leave points on the table, starting in the first quarter.
Wake Forest received the opening kickoff and promptly marched down the field to score first with a 27-yard field goal. The two sides traded exercises in futility before Appalachian’s senior quarterback Taylor Lamb found a diving tight end Levi Duffield in the back of the end zone for a TD. The PAT attempt by sophomore placekicker Michael Rubino was blocked, leaving the score, 6-0, advantage APP.
“It was just a low kick,” App State head coach Scott Satterfield said later. “It wasn’t really blocked. It struck somebody in the back.”
The Mountaineer sophomore from Apex, North Carolina redeemed himself with 1:58 remaining in the first half when he slotted a 38-yard field goal, but then missed a 35-yard FG as time was expiring for intermission.
Appalachian took a tenuous, 9-3 lead into halftime, but on their first possession of the second half the Demon Deacons went 97 yards in 9 plays to score a touchdown and take a 10-9 lead.
The Mountaineers didn’t waste any time in response, requiring just two plays to find paydirt when wide receiver T.J. Watkins collected a shovel pass from Lamb, found a seam in the Wake Forest defense, and raced down the left sideline for an 84-yard TD (PAT kick by Rubino) and a 16-10 lead with 7:02 left in the third quarter.
It was a low kick, not a block.
It was an advantage that wouldn’t last long as the Demon Deacons responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive to retake the lead, 17-16.
After both sides traded three-and-outs, Lamb engineered a 5-play, 36-yard drive – highlighted by a 35-yard Lamb pass to emerging freshman sensation wide receiver, Thomas Hennigan – that ended with a 39-yard field goal by Rubino. That returned the advantage to the Mountaineers’ favor, 19-17, with the 4th quarter not even five minutes old, but the Deacs simply refused to fold up their tents. Partly on the strength of WFU quarterback John Wolford running ability, the visitors from Winson-Salem pulled together a 10-play, 72-yard scoring drive. The Appalachian defense allowed Wolford & Co. to get to the APP 7-yard line before shutting them down, but Weaver’s final 25-yard field goal of the day put Wake Forest ahead, 20-19.
On their ensuing possession, the Lamb-led App State offense took 10 plays to go just 25 yards, then Satterfield elected to punt on 4th and 16, out of field goal range at midfield, with 2:26 remaining in the game. His confidence in the Mountaineer defense was rewarded with a three-and-out by Wake Forest, so after using all three of their timeouts on consecutive plays, Lamb and his offense took the field with reasonable field position at their own 46 yard line.
If the Mountaineers had a secret weapon on the day, it was Australian freshman punter, Xavier Subotsch.
Things looked bleak for App Nation on 4th and 15 from the APP 41, but a Wake Forest pass interference penalty gave the High Country’s favorite sons a breath of new life with 1:08 remaining and a 1st down and 10 to go at the Wake Forest 44. Just a few more yards, manage the clock, and let Rubino hit the game winning field goal, if not score a touchdown.
If only it were that easy. On 4th and 5 with Rubino setting up to attempt a 44-yard FG to win the game, Wake Forest jumped offsides. That moved the ball five yards closer, but 6-5 redshirt sophomore wide receiver from Washington, DC, Scotty Washington proved to all that size matters when he got his hand up to block Rubino’s 39-yard attempt as time was expiring. Game over, Wake Forest 20, App State 19.
If the Mountaineers had a secret weapon on the day it was freshman punter Xavier Subotsch (Melbourne, Australia), who kept the Demon Deacons frequently pinned inside their own 20-yard line with poor field position to start offensive possessions. Of his seven opportunities in this back-and-forth battle, Subotsch had punts downed on the Wake Forest 3-yard line, 8-yard line, 11-yard line, and 10-yard line.
Lamb moved past former App State quarterback star Richie Williams two career statistical categories, passing yards and total yards. The Mountaineers rolled up 494 yards of total offense on the day, compared to 344 by the Demon Deacons. Lamb was 26-of-52 for 372 yards passing and two TDs, with no interceptions. On three carries, he added 14 yards on the ground.
While former App State highlight reel personified Armanti Edwards’ career records for passing yards and total yards appear out of Lamb’s reach, at least one of Edwards’ records, the number of career touchdowns, should be surpassed within the next couple of games. Edwards threw for 74 career TDs between 2006 and 2009. On Saturday vs. Wake Forest, Lamb threw his 70th and 71st TD passes on the tosses to Duffield and Watkins.
After four early season encounters that included two teams from the so-called Power 5 conferences, Georgia (SEC) and Wake Forest (ACC), as well as a grueling win over Texas State last week, the Mountaineers (2-2 overall, 1-0 in Sun Belt) have next week off with a bye, returning to Kidd-Brewer on Saturday, October 7th, for a Homecoming encounter with New Mexico State. Except for an October 28th visit to UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts, all of the Mountaineers’ remaining regular season opponents are Sun Belt Conference rivals.
With the win, Wake Forest remains undefeated for the 2017 season (4-0 overall, 1-0 in ACC). They return home next week to host the Florida State Seminoles, who fell to North Carolina State, 27-21 on Saturday. The Seminoles are 0-2 overall and 0-1 in the ACC after losses to Alabama (SEC) and NCSU (ACC).
Other Sun Belt Conference scores:
- Idaho 29, @ South Alabama 23
- Indiana 52, vs. Georgia Southern 17
- Louisiana Monroe 56, @ Louisiana Lafayette 50
- Georgia State 28, @ Charlotte 0
- Troy 22, vs. Akron 17
- Western Illinois 52, @ Coastal Carolina 10
- Southern Methodist 44, vs. Arkansas State 21
- Texas-San Antonio 44, @ Texas State 14
- New Mexico State 41, vs. Texas-El Paso 14