App State Football bounced off Georgia State 45-16 at the Mountaineers’ Sun Belt Conference opener in Atlanta on October 2.
“We had to use our potential. We can’t use the other team’s potential, ”said head coach Shawn Clark. “That’s not disrespect to Georgia State, but we have a standard here in Appalachian State and we have to make sure we meet that standard.”
Georgia State received the opening kick but quickly gave up possession when senior defensive back Shaun Jolly picked up Panther quarterback Darren Grainger. The Mountaineers wasted no time converting sales into points and took eight games to advance 59 yards into the end zone. Sophomore running back Nate Noel hit the opening score on a 23-yard touchdown rush.
“I knew I was going to play them in fall camp and spring, I knew they were going to be special,” said Anderson Castle in his sophomore year. “It definitely brings a lot of momentum when they get such big games.”
The Panthers responded with a 12-play, 54-yard drive deep into App State territory in the second quarter. After senior linebacker D’Marco Jackson hit a pass into the end zone with 3rd and goal, Georgia State opted for a 23-yard field goal.
The Mountaineers scored again in the second quarter with a 4:27 drive, during which they implemented three-thirds downs on the way to the end zone. The ride culminated in a 33-yard touchdown bond between quarterback Chase Brice and super senior receiver Malik Williams.
“We had other guys performing and doing pieces like C-dub and then we hit me, Malik, Henni,” said super-senior Corey Sutton. “We have so many guys, so many weapons. If you distribute it like that across the board, you can’t double anyone. “
Georgia State was the last to score at halftime, hitting 1:55 before the game with a 32-yard field goal. App State ran out of time and entered the halftime locker room 14-6 ahead.
“We didn’t play well in the first half,” said Clark. “We had to come in and have a little heart-to-heart chat, just coaches and players. Our children answered. “
Georgia State opened the second half with an 11-game, 84-yard drive that was stopped by the strong Mountaineer defense. Despite numerous trips to the Redzone, the Panther offensive only scored one touchdown. The home team decided on another field goal, bringing it to 14-9.
App State wasted no time on replies and walked 79 yards to the house on the first game of its eighth drive. Brice unleashed a 79-yard touchdown pass to Sutton, driving the lead to 12.
“Chase had a great ball,” said Sutton. “I knew I had to make long films. I haven’t had one this year so I thought, ‘I have to score. You’ll think I’m slow. ‘”
The Mountaineers scored on all four of their next trips. Super senior quarterback Jacob Huesman threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to junior tight end Miller Gibbs after a 48-yard field goal from super senior kicker Chandler Staton. Huesman came into play after a Georgia State defender took Brice in with a massive hit and benched the starter for the remainder of the drive. The defender was ejected to aim.
“I know he’s always ready, ”Brice said of Huesman. “He prepares like the starter. Overall, a great person and a great player. “
Brice checked the game in for the next drive and immediately found second receiver Christian Wells, who took a short pass 80 yards to the house. Castle next scored for the Mountaineers, rebounding from numerous defenders on his way to a 22-yard touchdown.
“I am proud of him. He’s a real mountaineer, ”said Clark of Castle. “He comes to work every day, doesn’t complain. He doesn’t get any playing time. He is in all four special teams units and today he was our number one in running back in the second quarter. “
Georgia State scored a goal with a 66-yard touchdown pass before App State ran out of time and finished the game at 45:16.
Brice threw 326 yards and three touchdowns while completing 20 of his 28 passes. Sutton received 106 of those passing yards and added a touchdown, hitting the 100-yard mark for the third straight week. In addition, Noel ran for 74 yards and a touchdown while Castle ran for 56 yards and a touchdown in the absence of Junior Running Back Cam Peoples.
“This is my last year so I wanted to come out and risk everything,” said Sutton. “We get together really well as a group. Every week we get better and better. “
Jackson amassed nine tackles, including a sack, two loss tackles, an interception, and a pass breakup. The Mountaineers also returned as Super Senior Defensive Back Kaiden Smith, who missed the start of the season due to injury. Smith made four solo tackles in his season debut. The app state defense came with three interceptions that day.
“He’s like another coach out there,” Jolly said of Smith. “We all love him out there. He can check faster than a coach from the sidelines. He just brings everyone together. “
App State will take on the Louisiana Ragin ‘Cajuns in Lafayette on October 12th at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2.