North Carolina A&T surprises Mountaineers 24-21
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Two short years ago, Appalachian State blasted North Carolina A&T 58-6 in a game that didn't seem to be all that close.
That's all ancient history now.
That game might as well be 20 years ago instead of two. Gone is an A&T defense that gave up nearly 500 yards in that 2011 game.
Instead, a new and improved A&T defense smothered an Appalachian State offense that sputtered for most of the Mountaineers' 24-21 loss Saturday in front of a Kidd Brewer Stadium crowd of 25,723 that showered the field with boos after the Mountaineers fell behind by two touchdowns at halftime, and left the joint in stunned silence after a remarkable App State comeback ended when a field goal attempt to tie the game went wide left.
"Oh, Lord, it's never easy," North Carolina A&T coach Rod Broadway said. "It shouldn't have been that hard. We should have ended the game. All we needed was one play, one tackle, one sack, one interception, but they wore us down a bit."
Appalachian State (0-2), which fell behind 24-6 by the fourth quarter, made things interesting late in the game with a comeback that nearly tied the game. The Mountaineers drove 88 yards in eight plays before scoring on a Kameron Bryant-to-Marcus Cox 10-yard touchdown completion to bring the Mountaineers to within 24-21 with 24 seconds left in the game.
That led to an onside kick, which Appalachian State recovered at the 50-yard line. Bryant completed and 11-yard pass to Andrew Peacock, and Cox ran for nine yards to get the Mountaineers to the 30-yard line with seven seconds left.
Appalachian State would get no closer. Drew Stewart's 46-yard field goal attempt went wide to the left of the goal posts. One kneel down play from the Aggies sealed their first victory over Appalachian State since 1993, and their first win ever in Boone.
"I hit it well," Stewart said. "We practice all types of situations throughout the week. I felt like I was confident. I was calm. I hit it well. It just tailed to the left."
It didn't seem to matter which quarterback guided the Mountaineers' offense between the beginning of the first quarter and the end of the fourth. Starter Jamal Londry-Jackson lasted just one half after guiding the Mountaineers to their lone touchdown, a 35-yard completion to Cox on the team's first drive with 11:11 left in the first quarter.
Appalachian State went for two, but didn't convert when holder Logan Hallock's pass was intercepted.
Londry-Jackson completed 11-of-20 passes for 120 yards, but also tossed two interceptions. One, picked off by All-American punt returner and starting cornerback D'Vonte Grant, was especially costly. Grant picked off the underthrown pass and raced 57 yards for a touchdown with just four seconds left in the first half.
It gave the Aggies a 21-6 halftime lead.
It was not the first return the Aggies would take back for a touchdown. Following Cox's game-opening touchdown, Tony McRae hit the Mountaineers with a thunderbolt by returning the ensuing kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown, which put the Aggies in front 7-6.
"Something that really stands out is the kickoff return they had for a touchdown and the pick six," Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said. "Those are things you obviously can't give up no matter who you play. You just can't give up those points if you want to win the game."
The Aggies struck again on the final play of the first quarter with a 2-yard TD plunge by Desmond Lawrence, which put them in front 14-6.
Bryant, after a slow start, led a 75-yard drive that ended in a touchdown pass to Barrett Burns. This time, the 2-point conversion was a completion from Bryant to Simms McElfresh, which left the Mountaineers behind 24-14.
Appalachian State's offense, despite its struggles, outgained the Aggies 378 to 244 in total offensive yards. Bryant completed 21-of-31 passes for 191 yards and no interceptions.
North Carolina A&T's defense and kicking game, particularly punter Dominc Fescura, took it from there. The Aggies' defense did not allow Appalachian State the chance to mount any serious scoring drives for most of the second half largely because Fescura' accuracy with his coffin-corner punts.
Fescura placed five of his punts inside the Mountaineers' 20-yard line, which kept Appalachian State's offense bottled up for most of the second half
His final punt seemed to be the final blow to the Mountaineers' chances when he put one out at the 1-yard line. The Mountaineers could not convert on a fourth-down, and the Aggies took over at the 14, but did not score any points and turned the ball over on downs.
It allowed the Mountaineers to drive the length of the field and to pull to within 24-21.
Appalachian State's defense allowed just 10 points and 100 yards passing from backup quarterback Kawshaun Quick, who completed 12-of-21 with one interception. He was sacked twice.
North Carolina A&T also outrushed the Mountaineers 144-67.