Mountaineers climb back into SoCon race with win over Eagles
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson passed for 352 yards in the first three quarters, and finished with a career-high 383 yards through the air. His favorite target, Sean Price, set an ASU freshman receiving yardage record with 231 on seven receptions – by the third quarter.
Georgia Southern also rolled up 552 total yards, and has two running backs reach the 100-yard mark.
Yet it was a huge defensive play, specifically an interception by Appalachian State safety Troy Sanders, that sealed the Mountaineers' victory.
Appalachian State (7-3, 5-2 SoCon), ranked 14th in the coaches poll, 15th by The Sports Network, kept its hopes of winning a share of the Southern Conference championship alive. Since Wofford lost to Samford on Saturday, the SoCon standings has four teams - Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, Wofford and Chattanooga - with two conference losses.
“I think it validates what we can be,” Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said. “I think it shows where we can be. We took a giant step.”
“This is one we really needed,” Price said. “This puts us in the race for the SoCon now. “We're not really looking forward to anybody helping us out, but this is great.”
Georgia Southern (7-2, 6-2), ranked No. 1 in the coaches' poll and No. 2 by The Sports Network, grabbed at least a share of the SoCon championship since it's league season is over. Appalachian State needs to beat Furman in Boone Saturday to grab a share of the conference title, which would be the Mountaineers' seventh in eight years.
“For us today, we needed this,” Moore said. “This was a huge win down here. Both of our teams are beat up. We're both pretty physical football teams.”
A key defensive play made it possible. Sanders stepped in front of a Jerick McKinnon pass after the Georgia Southern quarterback's arm was hit by ASU defensive end Ronald Blair while trying to throw.
The pass, thrown on a fourth-and-16, had no steam on it and Sanders had plenty of time to step in front of it to intercept it.
“It was a fourth-and-long obviously and we knew the game was on the line,” Sanders said. “I knew I couldn't let him get past me and I just stayed right there.”
The pass also happened after the Eagles originally converted a fourth-and-four on their previous play.
Jonathan Bryant ran for 10 yards to get the first down, but the Eagles were called for a 15-yard facemask penalty on the play.
Appalachian State went in front for good in the fourth quarter when Jackson found Tony Washington for a 23-yard touchdown catch. Washington made an adjustment on the ball,which was thrown a bit short, but reaching over the defender to bring it in for a catch.
Jackson was listed as questionable for even playing Saturday after injuring his left knee in the first quarter a week earlier at Western Carolina. He wore a knee brace against Georgia Southern.
But it didn't bother the junior from Atlanta as Jackson tossed three touchdown passes overall. His 56-yard catch-and-run TD pass to Price in the second quarter sliced a Georgia Southern lead to 21-17, even though the majority of the 22,155 Paulson Stadium crowed felt Price stepped out of bounds on his way to the end zone.
Price also caught a 67-yard pass from Jackson in the third quarter that converted a third-and-29 from the ASU 1-yard line. Jackson was sacked at the 1-yard line, though he was pushed into the end zone for an apparent safety.
The Mountaineers eventually missed on a field goal attempt later in the drive.
“Sean is here to make plays,” Jackson said. “I had to do all I can to give him a shot on the play.”
Jackson's 9-yard touchdown pass to Malachi Jones put the Mountaineers in front 24-21 by halftime.
Georgia Southern fullback William Banks led all rushers with 129 yards on the ground, including touchdown runs of 4, 20 and 36 yards, all in the first half. McKinnon finished with 121 yards rushing on 21 attempts, and completed 3-of-5 passes for 106 yards. Backup quarterback Ezayi Youyoute scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to cap a 12-play, 65-yard drive in the third quarter that put the Eagles in front 28-24.
But Appalachian State, which struggled against the triple option in losses to The Citadel and Wofford, forced three straight three-and-outs, two towards the end the third quarter and one at the start of the fourth that kept the Eagles off the field. ASU's defense limited Georgia Southern to 84 yards in the fourth quarter after allowing 468 in the first three.
“We tackled better, and we didn't get cut (blocked),” Moore said. “(In practice) you can't risk getting kids cut. Consequently, we got cut quite a bit in the first half and a little in the third quarter. But even at that, we missed tackles in the open field. When we went ahead of them, we could just feel that we were playing for something.”
After what happened in the rest of the SoCon, the Mountaineers are playing for at least a share of the conference championship Saturday against Furman.
Appalachian State 31, Georgia Southern 28
Appalachian State 3 21 0 7 – 31
Georgia Southern 14 7 7 0 – 28
ASU-Martin FG 28
GSU-Banks 4 run (Hanks kick)
GSU-Banks 20 run (Hanks kick)
ASU-Miller 1 run (Martin kick)
GSU-Banks 36 run (Hanks kick)
ASU-Price 56 pass from Jackson (Martin kick)
ASU-Jones 9 pass from Jackson (Martin kick)
GSU-Youyoute 12 run (Hanks kick)
ASU-Washington 23 pass from Jackson (Martin kick)
First downs 17 22
Rushes-yards 22-70 63-386
Passing yards 383 166
Passes 21-34-0 5-10-1
Total plays-yards 56-453 73-552
Punts-avg 3-43.0 3-35.3
Penalties-yards 4-65 8-90
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-1
Third down conv. 5-of-11 7-of-14
Fourth down conv. 0-for-1 0-for-1
Time of possession 21:28 38:32
Rushing: Miller 9-60, Chisholm 3-8, Jackson 9-7, Team 1-(-5).
Passing: 21-34-0 383.
Returning: Price 7-231, Peacock 6-72, Jones 4-22, Washington 2-35.
Georgia Southern individuals
Rushing: Banks 19-129, McKinnon 21-121, Bryant 7-69, Robinson 9-45.
Passing: McKinon 3-5-1 106, Youyoute 2-4-0 60
Receiving: Walker 2-72, Bryant 2-67, Robinson 1-27
STATESBORO, Ga. - Appalachian State receiver Sean Price is learning fast what it means to play in big games for the Mountaineers.
Price, a redshirt freshman, is starting to understand the rivalry with the Georgia Southern – sort of. He saw first hand how some Georgia Southern fans about Appalachian State, and about him.
Did it bother Price? Not really, according to Price.
“Everybody hates Georgia Southern,” Price said. “I don't know (why). I don't understand it either. I just got here. And they hate us too. On twitter, some App State (stinks) started following me and I was like 'Oh cool.' They started tweeting and stuff. It's like 'You (stink). O.K., cool. I don't even know you but all right, cool. That's fine.”
Price , who leads the Mountaineers with 58 receptions for 914 yards and eight touchdowns, also prefers playing in road games than at home. It's not that he doesn't appreciate the support that ASU fans gives himself and his teammates.
He just likes sending large numbers of opposing fans home disappointed. He accomplished that Saturday by catching seven passes for a freshman school record 231 yards and a 56-yard TD.
“I love away games, because I like making opposing fans mad more than I like to make our home fans happy,” Price said. “If they're sad, then we're happy. I'm accomplishing everything I want to do. I love away games and I love big atmospheres and I hope we can get after it like this more often.”
TIME IS ON GSU'S SIDE
It should come as no surprise that a triple option team such as Georgia Southern is going to dominate time of possession.
That was the case Saturday. The Eagles held the ball for 38:22 against the Mountaineers. However, the Eagles hurt themselves by missing all three of their field goal attempts, including one that followed a drive that started at the ASU 25-yard line and ended at the Mountaineers' 8-yard line six plays later in the second quarter.
Appalachian State won for the first time when trailing after three quarters since Sept. 4, 2010 at Chattanooga. The Mountaineers were behind the Mocs 28-14 at the end of the third, and then fell behind 35-14 early in the fourth before rallying to take a 42-41 victory.
Appalachian State trailed Georgia Southern 28-24 going into the fourth quarter Saturday.
Appalachian State improved to 4-5 against teams ranked No. 1 in a major FCS or Division I-AA poll. Georgia Southern was ranked No. 1 by the AFCA coaches poll this week.
Three of those victories have been against Georgia Southern. ASU beat the Eagles 24-17 last year at Kidd Brewer Stadium, and 17-16 in Boone in 1999.
Georgia Southern, while ranked No. 1, has beaten Appalachian State two times. The Eagles took a 34-28 victory in 2000, and a 24-17 win in 2009.
Appalachian State got its first win over a No. 1 team with a 24-14 victory over Marshall in 1994. ASU has also lost twice to Montana when the Grizzlies were unbeaten. Both of those losses were in the Division I-AA/FCS playoffs.
ASU is 17-9 against Top 10 competition in its last 26 games, and is 3-2 this season against ranked opponents.
The Mountaineers beat Montana, Samford and Georgia Southern, while losing to The Citadel and Wofford. ASU playing five ranked teams ties a school record set in 1993 and 2004. ASU also lost to Conference USA member East Carolina the first week of the season.
Overall, ASU is 77-52-1 against ranked FCS opponents, and 67-42 under head coach Jerry Moore.
Appalachian State's victory over Georgia Southern was the Mountaineers' sixth in the last eight games the teams have played each other. ...Georgia Southern clinched a share of the SoCon championship, even with the loss to ASU. The Eagles finish 6-2 in the league and can do no worse than tie. It gives the Eagles 10 SoCon titles since joining the league in 1993. ...Georgia Southern's 14-game winning streak at Paulson Stadium ended with ASU's victory. ...Temperature at kickoff was 74 degrees under sunny skies.