By David Rogers. November 16, 2019. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Good football teams make adjustments on the fly when adversity strikes. After falling behind 21-7 midway through the first quarter, Appalachian State rallied to score 49 unanswered points to defeat Georgia State, 56-21.
COVER IMAGE: It wasn’t as large of a road presence as last week at South Carolina, but there appeared to be just as many AppNation fans as Georgia State fans, and maybe more. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
It was another large road contingent of App State fans that saw their favorite sons fall behind early, then put on defensive and offensive shows for the ages.
Georgia State’s uptempo offense and rushing scheme seemed to befuddle Appalachian in the early going as sophomore Panther running back Dustin Coates and senior running back Tra Barnett broke off some long runs. In their first scoring drive, their second offensive possession, senior QB Dan Ellington shook off what was reportedly a knee injury and at times looked sharp in his passing, but Coates and Barnett traded “chunk plays” on the ground. Barnett set things up with “chunks” of gridiron real estate on runs of 7-, 12-, 8-, and 44-yards. Then Ellington handed off to Coates for dashes of 11 and 14 yards. The Panthers seemed unstoppable in the early going, before Ellington found wide receiver Devin Gentry in the end zone for the early lead.
After Mountaineer quarterback Zac Thomas responded by finding wide receiver Corey Sutton for a 12-yard TD pass to even the game at 7-7, there were hints that this game would evolve as one of those “last man standing” shootouts.
Georgia State scored the next volley as Coates somehow squirted through the middle of the line of scrimmage, broke past the APP linebackers and outsprinted the Appalachian secondary to earn the 67-yard score and put the Panthers up 14-7.
Then things went from bad to worse in the for App State in the first quarter when Thomas was intercepted by the Panthers’ Chris Bacon and returned 34 yards for a TD. Georgia State 21, App State 7.
Given the upset by Georgia Southern a couple of weeks ago, the App State faithful were beginning to wonder whether or not any team hailing from the Peach State had the Mountaineers’ number.
Not To Worry
The same defense that allowed Georgia State’s playmakers to rip up and down the field in the first quarter, suddenly became impenetrable and opportunistic. That effort was highlighted by two Shaun Jolly interceptions on consecutive Panther possessions in the second quarter, the first a 30-yard “Pick Six” for a TD.
“We weren’t lining up right,” said Appalachian’s first year head coach. “Their (up) tempo was confusing us…We got settled down and got our calls in quicker and let our guys play.”
And play they did. Over the final three quarters of play, the Mountaineer defense allowed just 33 rushing yards on 18 carries, and just 140 total yards of offense during those three stanzas. Of nine Panther possessions, App State’s gritty defensive crew forced a whopping seven three-and-outs — and one of those other two possessions was Jolly’s 30-yard INT touchdown.
Meanwhile, Appalachian’s offense got rolling, too.
Running back Darrynton Evans racked up 131 yards rushing, making 2019 the second straight season he has rushed for over 1,000 yards. From a team perspective, it marks the 8th straight season that the App State program has produced a 1,000+ yard rusher. That rushing productivity is tied for second behind the 10-straight of Boise State.
But against Georgia State, there was more — a lot more — emphasis on the Mountaineers’ pass-and-catch weapons.
While Evans’ rushing stats are noteworthy, the real offensive accolades for this night go to the “hookup” put together by quarterback Zac Thomas and wide receiver Corey Sutton.
Thomas completed 19-of-31 passes for 256 yards that included a career high four touchdowns (for a single game) against just one interception. The performance game him a 166.8 passer rating.
Sutton was on the other end of those Thomas passes 10 times, hauling in eight of them for 173 yards and and 3 TDs. Both receiving yards and TDs were career marks for a single game for Sutton.
With the win over Georgia State, Appalachian State is firmly in control of its Sun Belt Conference destiny, with two more regular season games to play. The first is a home game next weekend vs. current cellar-dweller, but still dangerous Texas State for Appalachian’s “Senior Day.” The final outing is a road contest against archrival Troy, down in Alabama. If the Mountaineers can win out, they improve their chances of again hosting the Sun Belt Conference Championship game on December 7th.
SUN BELT SCORES, NOVEMBER 16TH
- Appalachian State 56, @Georgia State 21
- Louisiana 37, @South Alabama 27
- @Arkansas State 28, Coastal Carolina 27
- @Georgia Southern 51, Louisiana-Monroe 29
- Troy 63, @Texas State 27