By David Rogers. November 1, 2014. BOONE, NC — Marcus Cox took every advantage of the biggest and smallest of gaps fashioned by his offensive line at the line of scrimmage on Saturday. With significant yardage after contact, the sophomore running back pounded and raced his way to a career high 250 yards rushing on 29 carries, leading Appalachian State to a decisive, 44-0 win over Georgia State at the snow-enveloped Kidd-Brewer Stadium.
Blowing Rock News coverage of App State Sports is made possible by a sponsorship from Appalachian Orthopaedic & Sports Medicine Center
Photographic images by David Scearce and Skip Sickler for Blowing Rock News
COVER PHOTO: App State running back Marcus Cox races down the sideline for a big gain. Photographic image by Skip Sickler for Blowing Rock News.
CHECK OUT THE SLIDESHOWS AND COMPREHENSIVE STATISTICS BELOW
It was double trouble for the Georgia State in their visit to the High Country. Appalachian State was looking to build momentum coming off a big win two weeks ago at Troy, so the Panthers were facing a determined adversary. Perhaps worse, Georgia State is used to playing indoors, in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. Coming into the game at 1-7 overall (0-5 in Sun Belt play), the Panthers’ offensive success during 2014 has come largely through its passing game.
With an early winter storm sweeping through the Blue Ridge Mountains this weekend, conditions were hardly conducive to a passing attack, and Appalachian State’s defense proved formidable against the run. On 26 carries by Georgia State rushers, they gained a total of 53 yards — when they were successful. They lost a total of 45 yards rushing, making the Panthers’ net yards gained on the ground a grand total of eight, for an 0.3 yards per carry average.
Not committing turnovers is huge.
Georgia State had no better success through the air. Starting QB Nick Arbuckle completed a mere 8-of-17 pass attempts for a net of 47 yards. He tossed one interception and was sacked four times by the stingiest of Mountaineer defenses.
Sophomore linebacker John Law told reporters afterwards that he could not recall being part of such a defensive performance except once in high school, in his home state of Georgia, when his team limited the opposition to just 40-something yards of total offense.
“Coming out on a day like this,” Law noted, “we really tried to get lot of turnovers. That was a big thing for us.”
In addition to the four sacks of the Georgia State QB and a first quarter interception by Law, the Mountaineers forced five Panther fumbles, recovering two. Meanwhile, App State committed no turnovers, which is something for which head coach Scott Satterfield was especially proud of his players.
“(Not committing turnovers) is huge,” Satterfield acknowledged. “That is something we stressed all week: taking care of the football. Two hands on it while you are running. In the game against Troy and here, we’ve done great with the turnover margin. That is a key, especially in this league. A couple of our losses this year have been because of turnovers. We talked about this week that, especially in the red zone, if you take care of the football you have a great chance to win.”
While the playing conditions were not conducive to a lot of trickery by either side, the game was certainly not without entertaining moments. With Appalachian State already leading, 20-0, and after a 10-yard punt by Georgia State’s Matt Hubbard, App State found themselves with the ball at the GSU 38 yard line with 2:35 to go before halftime. Five consecutive carries by Cox got the ball down to the 14-yard line and two more keepers by QB Taylor Lamb seemed to be set the Mountaineers up for a half-ending field goal with just three seconds remaining. Placekicker/punter Bentlee Critcher stepped back into position for the boot, with WR Simms McElfresh the holder. Ostensibly to “ice” the kicker, Georgia State head coach Trent Miles called timeout — not once, not twice, but three consecutive times, much to the unappreciative groans of the fans.
We had it called the whole time.
Finally, with Georgia State out of timeouts, Critcher again stepped back into position to kick. But this time he went in motion toward the right sideline. The snap went to McElfresh, who darted through what he later told reporters was “…a hole big enough for eight of me” to score a touchdown up the middle.
Asked by Blowing Rock News afterwards about the call, Satterfield explained, “We had prepared for (the fake field goal) all week in the event we were in a spot where we wanted to go for it. (At that moment) we were at that right spot and our kids knew we were going to do it, so we already had it called. It just so happened that we got the three timeouts along the way, but we had it called the whole time. Our kids did a good job executing. Simms did a good job of getting it in and that really gave us a lot of momentum heading into halftime.
“Anything can happen,” observed the second year App State head coach. “It was 20-0, but if they block a field goal right there and score — and I have seen that happen before — it could have been a big momentum change.
“After the timeouts, nobody even looked at me. We were doing it,” Satterfield smiled. “As a matter of fact, I had taken my headset off and was walking to the other end of the field. They just kept calling those timeouts. You know we had Bentlee (Critcher) going in motion, so I was scared that he would start in motion before those timeouts (and give away that it was a fake field goal), but he stood there the whole time and let them call all three of them. Then we sent him in motion. Both of their contain guys ran out (to cover Critcher) and Simms took it right in there.”
Satterfield disclosed that in checking weather reports on Monday and Tuesday that adverse conditions were likely. “You have to have something like (that fake field goal) ready to go in case something like (the adverse weather happens). That was a good part of the game to do it.”
He rejected the notion advanced by one reporter that the fake field goal was in retaliation to Georgia State calling three timeouts with three seconds to go in the half, down 20-0. “Those timeouts just prolonged us scoring a touchdown. Had we not scored it may have been annoying but, hey, what Coach Miles was trying to do is teach his kids that we are trying to fight and win a football game. ‘We’re down 20-0, but I am going to keep calling timeouts and try to fight and win.’
“I would have done that, too, probably,” admitted Satterfield. “You’ve got three timeouts. You can’t take them with you. Let’s try and ice the kicker. You see that a lot of times throughout the nation. That’s what he was trying to do. In college football it is hard to get wins. You have to do anything you can to fight and get those wins. I know that is what he was doing and it is part of the game. We took it in stride. Our guys showed good poise — and executed.”
You’ve got three timeouts. You can’t take them with you.
Satterfield also noted that as the game progressed, the field conditions deteriorated. “After halftime,” he said, “the field started getting white, and it started raining. It started clumping on their feet, so the footing was (more treacherous). In the second half, if you tried to put the ball in the air it was going to be harder to catch it. Obviously, we tried to keep it out of the air and on the ground. Even a couple of times on third down and long, when we probably would have looked to throw it, we actually ran it and we did a good job of picking up first downs.”
In self-assessing his own running performance, Cox was quick to credit the offensive line. “I take my hat off to the offensive line. They did a great job tonight. It seemed like every time I touched the ball I had a hole, so it turned out to be a pretty big night. We had a game plan of running the ball this week even without the snow and we fulfilled that. We went over 400 yards for the second-straight game and that was big for our offense.”
McElfresh told reporters that App State’s talented corps of wide receivers takes pride in blocking downfield for the Mountaineer rushing attack, even as much as catching the ball. “So often our runners will break into the second level (of defense) and the long runs are often because a wide receiver made an important block downfield.”
On Georgia State’s side, Donavan Harden was added to the 2014 Biletnikoff Award Watch List last week by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation last week, as announced Tuesday. While Harden enjoyed a remarkable game against league leading Georgia Southern, with four TD receptions and 186 yards receiving — both school records — the Mountaineers (and the weather) limited the redshirt junior WR to just 12 yards on two catches.
GSU head coach Miles acknowledged that the weather affected his players mentally, more than anything. “Offensively, not being able to hold onto the ball affected our passing game, especially. We have to be better than that. It was just as cold and wet for them as it was for us. However, don’t make any mistakes about it: they outplayed us.
We weren’t very good on defense and we weren’t very good on offense.
“We were not very good on defense,” Miles admitted, “and we weren’t very good on offense. We weren’t very good at all. We had 62 yards of offense and averaged over 300 passing yards coming into the game. They just played extremely well and we played extremely poor. We shouldn’t have let weather affect us, but we did. Don’t take any credit away from Appalachian State, they played an excellent game and they deserved the win.”
On the strategy for taking three timeouts with three seconds remaining in the half, Miles disclosed, “We figured they were going to fake (the field goal). We even told our guys that they were probably going to fake it because we were icing him. Yet, we still couldn’t stop it.
“We have to coach every game and every play like it’s a championship game,” the GSU coach explained. “I had three timeouts and you don’t get to take them into the second half. We wanted to ice him and try to get him to miss (the kick), in order to keep it at a three score game. We told our players during the last timeout that there was a good chance they were going to fake it because they probably were not happy that we were trying to ice him. He (Critcher) was standing out there for a long time. They were still able to execute.”
Appalachian State will return to Kidd-Brewer Stadium next week when the Mountaineers host Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks lost to SEC powerhouse Texas A&M in a non-conference game on Saturday, but produced 347 yards of total offense while limiting the Aggies to just 243 (272 yards below their season average). In an otherwise even affair, the deciding factor for ULM vs. Texas A&M appeared to be in kickoff and punt returns, where the Aggies posted 62 and 61 yards, respectively. In addition, TAM recorded seven drive-killing sacks vs. the Warhawks. The Aggies allowed ULM just one touchdown, holding them to three field goals on two out of three trips into the red zone.
With a potent offense and tenacious defense, ULM should prove a formidable foe for App State. The Warhawks will bring a 3-5 overall record into Kidd-Brewer Stadium, 2-2 in the Sun Belt. ULM’s three wins have been vs. Wake Forest, Idaho, and Troy, with losses to LSU, Arkansas State, Kentucky and Texas State.
Scores around the Sun Belt Conference this weekend:
- Georgia Southern 42, Troy 10
- Louisiana-Lafayette 19, South Alabama 9
- Texas State 37, New Mexico State 29
- Arkansas State 44, Idaho 28
- Texas A&M 21, Louisiana-Monroe 16
Slideshow — David Scearce
Slideshow — Skip Sickler