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App State Wins East Division, Will Host Sun Belt Title Game (2018-11-25 04:27:34)

BOONE, N.C. — Before players hoisted Appalachian State assistant coach Mark Ivey into the air to lead the traditional postgame victory song, head coach Scott Satterfield already was making a rare appearance atop the shoulders of several Mountaineers.

The two App State alums and program staples high-fived each other, then directed the most highly anticipated portion of the locker room celebration.

A win in a first-place showdown with Troy has put Appalachian State one step closer to a conference championship.

For the second straight week, a title will be decided at The Rock.

App State clinched the Sun Belt's East Division with a 21-10 home victory against the Trojans, and the Mountaineers (9-2, 7-1) will play host to Louisiana (7-5, 5-3) next weekend in the inaugural Sun Belt Championship Game. The winner of that ESPN game at noon in Kidd Brewer Stadium will receive a bid to the R+L New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 15.

"To be able to host the first Sun Belt Championship game, what an honor," said Satterfield, who improved to 50-24 as the Mountaineers' head coach. "We've done a lot of firsts here at Appalachian State in our program, and now we're adding to it."

The Mountaineers jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Troy (9-3, 7-1) in the opening 20 minutes thanks to Zac Thomas' two touchdown passes to Corey Sutton and Thomas' score on a quarterback keeper.

In order, those scores were set up by Darrynton Evans' 58-yard run from the App State 2, Caleb Spurlin's recovery of his own forced fumble on a fake-punt completion for a first down at midfield and Anthony Flory's recovery of a fumble forced by Austin Exford.

Trailing by 11 points in the closing minutes, Troy's last chance at a comeback was erased by back-to-back sacks from Jordan Fehr and Chris Willis. Okon Godwin's fourth-down pressure forced a fourth-down incompletion with 2:33 remaining, allowing Appalachian to run out the clock and begin its on-field celebration.

It was the 21st straight Senior Day win at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the Mountaineers, who recognized 13 players before kickoff: Flory, Exford, Godwin, MyQuon Stout, Chandler Greer, Brad Absher, Tobias Edge-Campbell, Elias McMurry, Tae Hayes, Dominique Heath, Zeb Speir, Brody Barrett and, last, but not least, injured running back Jalin Moore.

Those seniors, along with juniors like Clifton Duck (who accounted for one of four forced turnovers with his 12th career interception) and Akeem Davis-Gaither (who had a game-high 14 tackles), have put App State in position to possibly win a third straight Sun Belt title. In their fourth postseason-eligible FBS season, the Mountaineers already have a 3-0 bowl record.

"It's definitely mind-blowing, for guys like me specifically with one offer," Duck said. "App being the great place it is took a chance on me, but if people were here to see the team, it's not a surprise. We put guys on the wall that pave the way, and we have guys like this man right here in Davis-Gaither) who had 14 tackles.

"You look at them playing with passion and love for the game, and that's just how this team is. We go so hard for the man beside us and not just yourself."

In earning a Boone rematch with Louisiana, which lost 27-17 at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Oct. 20, App State finished with a 201-62 advantage in rushing yards against the Trojans. They averaged 2.3 yards on their 27 attempts and didn't have an offensive play longer than 21 yards.

Evans totaled 108 rushing yards to surpass 100 for the fifth time in Sun Belt play, Sutton finished with 72 yards on his five receptions and Thomas had a hand in at least three touchdowns for the seventh time in his nine complete outings.

Defensively, Elijah Diarrassouba and Demetrius Taylor also had sacks for a group that allowed only 101 defensive points in its eight conference games, with Stout serving as the anchor up the middle at nose tackle. Wide receiver Thomas Hennigan joined in the fun by recording his first career interception on a Hail Mary pass to end the first half, and Davis-Gaither had two of App State's eight tackles for loss.

"Our defensive line played outstanding because I don't think there was one time where an offensive lineman climbed up to block me or an inside linebacker," Davis-Gaither said. "We had no mental errors to where a linebacker was out of their gaps besides one time, so everyone was reading their keys and playing hard. That was the key to stopping their run."

After Taylor's sack triggered a three-and-out on Troy's second possession, the Trojans downed a 70-yard punt at the 2, but Sutton capped a 98-yard touchdown drive by streaking across the middle on a throw from Thomas and sneaking into the left side of the end zone for a 16-yard score. The series began with Evans running up a clogged-up middle from the 2, bravely bouncing out to the right and sprinting down the sideline to the Troy 40.

"I stopped and was like, 'I can't hit it here, I can't hit it here, I can't hit it here,' " Evans said. "I was like, might as well."

Facing a fourth-and-3 from its 39 on the next series, Troy punter Tyler Sumpter completed a 10-yard pass to Blace Brown, but Spurlin ripped the ball away near the sideline before Brown went to the ground.

A video review overturned the on-field call of no fumble.

"I had the shield (man), and I saw immediately it was a fake to a pass," Spurlin said. "I knew I didn't have anybody in coverage, so I was trying to chase the ball. I saw the ball there, so see ball, get ball. I knew I had it while I was still standing up."

Thomas had a hand in a trio of third-down conversions, running for one and completing a pair to tight end Henry Pearson and Sutton, before he found Sutton in the back of the end zone on a 15-yard touchdown pass.

Another video review overturned the on-field call, this time confirming that Sutton managed to get one foot down in the end zone before going out the back of it.

"In the first half, there was really good play-calling," Sutton said. "Between me and Zac, we're always going to do what we have to do to get open and make plays."

Troy completed a pass for 10 yards on the first play of its next drive, but Exford ripped from ball free from behind as the pile moved forward, and Flory picked up the fumble at the Troy 36. A whistle blew the play dead, and a video review reversed that on-field call of no fumble. After Sutton drew a penalty for pass interference in the end zone, Thomas raced into the end zone from the 10 to help establish a 21-0 lead with 11:09 remaining in the second quarter.

"We got off to a hot start offensively and defensively," Exford said. "That forced fumble just kept the ball rolling."

Troy got on the board with a 26-yard field goal midway through the second quarter and cut its deficit to 21-10 on Sawyer Smith's 21-yard touchdown pass to Deondre Douglas with 9:21 remaining in the third quarter. Duck's interception ended a Troy drive at the App State 41 later in the third quarter, and the Mountaineers chewed up more than eight minutes with a drive that started the fourth quarter.

The sacks from Fehr and Willis, followed by Godwin's hurry, assured that there'd be one more game played at Kidd Brewer Stadium this season.

POSTGAME NOTES

App State won on Senior Day at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the 21st straight year. After a 25-19 home loss to Liberty in the 1997 finale, App State won its last 16 Senior Day games as an FCS program, with six of them coming vs. Western Carolina. The Mountaineers have won FBS home finales against Idaho (2014), Louisiana (2015, 2017), ULM (2016) and Troy (2018).

Scott Satterfield won his 50th game as App State's head coach. He ranks third in program history in overall wins behind E.C. Duggins (57) and Jerry Moore (215).

App State senior Elias McMurry was the starting long snapper for the 50th time in his App State career. He has been the first-team snapper since his first game as an App State true freshman in 2015.

App State ended a 13-game conference winning streak for Troy, which had won 11 of its last 12 conference road games.

App State held Troy to season lows in points (10, compared to the previous low of 12 against Texas State) and rushing yards (62, compared to the previous low of 110 vs. Louisiana).

App State's 201 rushing yards were a new season high against Troy's defense, topping the previous high of 200 by ULM. Darrynton Evans had 108 yards, and Marcus Williams Jr. added 58.

App State allowed 108 points (101 by its defense) in eight conference games. The only teams nationally with a lower total in league play are UAB (88 in eight games), Clemson (93 in eight games) and Fresno State (74 through seven games, with no first-half points allowed Saturday in a game that's in progress).

Junior cornerback Clifton Duck moved into the top 10 on App State's career interceptions list when he picked off a pass for the 12th time of his career. Heading into Saturday, three active FBS players had 12 career interceptions, and the active leader was Florida Atlantic's Jalen Young with 13. Duck is now tied with Mark Mayo (1988-91), Struggy Smith (1982-85) and David Neeld (1967-70) for eighth place in App State history, and Corey Hall (1997-2000) is seventh with 13 interceptions.

Akeem Davis-Gaither had 14 tackles, marking his third game this season with at least 14. He also had 14 at Arkansas State and 15 against Louisiana.

Sophomore defensive end Elijah Diarrassouba recorded his first career sack on the first official play of the game.

Sophomore defensive end Demetrius Taylor recorded a sack, giving him 5.5 in 23 career games.

App State had a season-long 98-yard touchdown drive, its fifth scoring drive of at least 90 yards this season and its ninth of at least 85 yards.

With a 58-yard carry in the first quarter, sophomore running back Darrynton Evans made it three straight games with a 50-yard rush. He scored on runs of 79 yards at Texas State and 56 yards against Georgia State the previous two games and has five runs of at least 50 yards this season.

Corey Sutton had touchdown catches of 16 and 15 yards to give him eight TD receptions this season. Last year, Ike Lewis had a team-high eight TD receptions for the Mountaineers.

Aside from playing three snaps at Georgia Southern and missing the Coastal Carolina game, quarterback Zac Thomas has accounted for at least three touchdowns (passing & running) in seven of his nine appearances.

Before Troy missed a 46-yard field goal in the second quarter, opponents had made all 12 of their non-blocked field goal tries against App State this season. Steven Jones and Tae Hayes were responsible for the blocks, and the first 12 makes included conversions of 46, 47, 48, 52 and 54 yards.

Postgame Quotes From App State's Win vs. Troy

Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield

Opening Statement:
"First of all, give a lot of credit to Troy and how Neal (Brown) has run that program. They've done a great job over the years, so we have the ultimate respect for those guys and their program. Our kids came out and had a great week of preparation, and they've done it the past few weeks. They had a business-minded approach and came out and played really good in the first half. Our first half was really good, offensively and defensively. In the second half, we were sloppy on offense with penalties and dropped balls, which hurt us. The defense continued to play, and they've been solid all season long with the way they've stopped guys and kept them out of the end zone, so I'm really proud of them. To be able to host the first Sun Belt Championship game, what an honor. We've done a lot of firsts here at Appalachian State in our program, and now we're adding to it. We're very excited about that, and I understand that we play Louisiana. We have to come back and host Louisiana and have another great week of preparation."

On stopping the run in today's game:
"Our defense is one of best run defenses out there. We do a great job stopping the run, and that is our No. 1 goal. We knew if we could make them one-dimensional today that we would have a chance. If you've looked at what they've done the last three weeks, they've tried to run the football and take some short throws here and there. We wanted to cut that run out, and our guys did a great job with that. Just fitting the gaps, that's really what it comes down to. We have a very aggressive D-line, and our four linebackers were fitting those gaps correctly to shut that run down and make them one-dimensional. It's hard to throw the football when you're one-dimensional like that. Our goal offensively was to try to get over 200 yards, and I see that we finished at 201 against a really good run-stopping defense. They may have been No. 1 in run defense, so for us to come in here and outrush them 201-62, that's a big difference in that football game. That's one of the reasons we were able to win the game."

On the senior class and their impact on the program:
"This group is extremely special because they've been here four and five years and have been through a lot. They ushered us into the transition. For them, what they've been able to do and been able to accomplish an opportunity to go win three straight Sun Belt Championships, go to four straight bowls and be one of the winningest classes we've had here, is tremendous. We have a saying here, 'Only the strong survive' because when you're a freshman and come in here you may have 25 or 30 and by the end you have 12 or 13. It happens every year. I remember we had over 50 my freshman year in 1991, and there were only seven of us left in 1995. It's a hard sport. It's what I was talking to Neal about pregame. This is a hard sport, and every day you're getting hit on, then you have to go to class and then you come back and get hit on more. So, it wears on guys over a period of time, but the guys who stick it out and make it through those sticking points, I love those guys. We have some guys in the locker room right now – Kennan Gilchrist and John Law – these guys are coming back. Last week, we had Ronald Blair. They're welcome to come back any time and they love it because they know what these guys have been through. That's what makes this a special spot and it's why I love it.

On playing in big games/moments:
"We love and embrace these moments for an opportunity to do something special. That team there had won 13 straight Sun Belt games, so for them to come in here and for us to beat them like that, that was special. Next week, Louisiana will be coming back here. They're a team we beat not too long ago, so I'm sure they're going to be eager and hungry to come back in here. For us, in our locker room, I did not know who had won (the other game) yet, and they said it didn't matter. They're just ready to play because we know what we're playing for. We always focus on ourselves and each other. If we worry about how much better we can get and our assignment and our guys doing our job, then it really doesn't matter who we play. We know what's riding on this, the last game here at Kidd Brewer this year is for a Sun Belt Championship, and we're excited for it."

Troy head coach Neal Brown

Opening statement:
"Tough defeat. To come here and play as hard as we did and come out on the short end, it's disappointing. I'm proud of the guys we've got in the locker room. I don't need a trophy to tell me that we're champions. We're 7-1 and finishing the regular season at 9-3. With all the adversity we've been through, with as many games that we've won over the last few of years, I'm proud of the guys and I'm proud of our staff. We competed hard. We just didn't get it done. I thought we did not come out, for whatever reason, of the locker room fast. They were able to jump out and get two touchdowns on really short fields. Short fields, and they capitalized on that. I thought that our defense was lights out really for two and half quarters. That's a good football team, and offensively we just really struggled to get anything going. You know, they're in the top 10 in the country on defense for a reason. I don't know if we had an explosive play the whole day. We tried and just didn't. You know, we had a couple of people that were wide open and couldn't protect them, and when we were protected we couldn't get open. It's tough sledding running the ball. They got numbers in the box the whole day. And at the end of the day, you can't turn the ball over, and we did at least once. So, I thought special teams held in there by making big plays. I thought we did some decent things, but disappointing outcome and proud of how are guys competed."

On App State's early offense
"You know, two of those touchdowns were short fields. They came out and were aggressive throwing the football. They've been a primarily running football team, and they threw the football. We blew and had some missed assignments, and they got us. Their kids made plays, and No. 2 is a player. Their quarterback is a good player, and they did a good job protecting him early. They jumped out, but I thought we rebounded. I thought our coaches made some good adjustments. Our guys came back and we played with our hair on fire really for the last two and half quarters defensively."

Appalachian State defensive lineman/special teams player Caleb Spurlin

On his forced fumble/fumble recovery on a fake punt
"I had the shield (man), and I saw immediately it was a fake to a pass. I knew I didn't have anybody in coverage, so I was trying to chase the ball. I saw the ball there, so see ball, get ball. I knew I had it while I was still standing up."

Appalachian State safety Austin Exford

On his forced fumble
"He was carrying the ball a little loose, and there were a lot of defenders around him, so I was able to just rip it out. It definitely kept the momentum rolling. We got off to a hot start offensively and defensively. That forced fumble just kept the ball rolling."

Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans

On big plays
"As long as the offensive line does their job up front and Zac (Thomas) and the running backs do our job, we feel like we can bust out any play for any yardage if we need to."

On playing in the first Sun Belt Championship Game
"It's the inaugural game, so it's like a 'make a statement' game for both sides, the East and the West going on into history."

Appalachian State outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither

On his game-high 14 tackles and the defensive performance
"Our defensive line played outstanding because I don't think there was one time where an offensive lineman climbed up to block me or an inside linebacker, so that was key. We had no mental errors to where a linebacker was out of their gaps besides one time, so everyone was reading their keys and playing hard. That was the key to stopping their run."

Appalachian State receiver Corey Sutton

On his two-touchdown first half
"In the first half, there was really good play-calling. Between me and Zac, we're always going to do what we have to do to get open and make plays."

Appalachian State cornerback Clifton Duck

On App State's success in making the FCS-to-FBS transition
"It's definitely mind-blowing, for guys like me specifically with one offer. App being the great place it is took a chance on me, but if people were here to see the team, it's not a surprise. We put guys on the wall that pave the way, and we have guys like this man right here (Akeem Davis-Gaither) who had 14 tackles. You look at them playing with passion and love for the game, and that's just how this team is. We go so hard for the man beside us and not just yourself, so it's mind-blowing, but not a surprise."

 

APPALACHIAN STATE 21, TROY 10

                                 1st 2nd 3rd 4th   F
Troy                            0    3    7   0   10
Appalachian State         7  14   0    0   21

1ST QUARTER
APP 05:50 - APP - Sutton, Corey 16 yd pass from Thomas, Zac (Staton, C. kick) 6 plays, 98 yards, TOP 3:23 0 7

2ND QUARTER
APP 13:42 - APP - Sutton, Corey 15 yd pass from Thomas, Zac (Staton, C. kick) 11 plays, 50 yards, TOP 4:08 0 14
APP 11:09 - APP - Thomas, Zac 10 yd run (Staton, C. kick), 5 plays, 36 yards, TOP 2:09 0 21
TROY 07:51 - TROY - Sumpter, Tyler 26 yd field goal 7 plays, 52 yards, TOP 3:09 3 21

3RD QUARTER
TROY 09:21 - TROY - Douglas, D. 21 yd pass from Smith, Sawyer (Sumpter, Tyler kick) 6 plays, 49 yards, TOP 1:31 10 21

 

Team Statistics
Game Stats              TROY APP
Total Yards              232 314
Pass Yards              170 113
Rushing Yards         62 201
Penalty Yards        8-59 13-104
1st Downs               13 15
3rd Downs           3-15 7-18
4th Downs            0-3 1-2
TOP                 24:30 35:30

Individual Statistics

TROY
Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg
Smith, B.J. 15 54 1 53 0 18 3.5
Billingsley, DK 4 13 1 12 0 5 3.0
Smith, Sawyer 7 16 15 1 0 9 0.1
Daughtry-Frye 1 0 4 -4 0 0 -4.0
Totals 27 83 21 62 0 18 2.3

APP STATE
Rushing No. Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg
Evans, D. 20 116 8 108 0 58 5.4
Williams, Marc. 11 61 3 58 0 23 5.3
Thomas, Zac 11 44 11 33 1 10 3.0
Jackson, D. 1 5 0 5 0 5 5.0
TEAM 2 0 3 -3 0 0 -1.5
Totals 45 226 25 201 1 58 4.5

TROY
Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack
Smith, Sawyer 17-34-2 160 1 21 3
Sumpter, Tyler 1-1-0 10 0 9 0
Totals 18-35-2 170 1 21 3

APP STATE
Passing C-A-I Yds TD Long Sack
Thomas, Zac 12-24-0 113 2 16 1
Totals 12-24-0 113 2 16 1

TROY
Receiving No. Yards TD Long
Douglas, D. 6 69 1 21
Davis, Sidney 4 20 0 10
Daughtry-Frye 3 20 0 11
Whittemore, L. 2 34 0 18
Brown, Blace 1 10 0 9
Smith, B.J. 1 10 0 10
Hallman, R. 1 7 0 7
Totals 18 170 1 21

APP STATE
Receiving No. Yards TD Long
Sutton, Corey 5 72 2 16
Hennigan, T. 2 16 0 9
Evans, D. 2 3 0 3
Williams, Marc. 1 8 0 8
Heath, D. 1 8 0 8
Pearson, Henry 1 6 0 6
Totals 12 113 2 16

Photo Courtesy: Zac Thomas, App State Sports



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