Thomas Shows Heart, Toughness In First Start (2018-09-05 11:45:09)

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Thomas Shows Heart, Toughness In First Start

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Taking over for a record-setting quarterback, sophomore Zac Thomas immediately made a run at history.

Thomas, who had his long-awaited debut as Appalachian State's starting quarterback Saturday, accounted for 313 yards of offense and three touchdowns in a 45-38 overtime loss at No. 9 Penn State. All three scores — there were two touchdown passes to Malik Williams and a 1-yard keeper — came during a six-minute stretch of the fourth quarter in which the Mountaineers turned a 31-17 deficit into a 38-31 lead.
Thomas finished a single yard short of tying the school record for total offense by a quarterback in his starting debut, as DeAndre Presley had 314 yards (158 passing, 156 rushing) against Western Carolina in 2008. With 270 passing yards, Thomas had the highest total for a first-time App State starter since Joe Burchette threw for 290 yards against Furman in 2000.
A strong debut against a top-10 FBS team in front of 105,232 fans doesn't guarantee future success, but App State has had many standouts among just the 22 starting quarterbacks who have held down the spot over the last 40 years, including multi-year starters such as Steve Brown, Randy Joyce, Todd Payton, D.J. Campbell, Scott Satterfield, Bake Baker, Richie Williams, Armanti Edwards, Jamal Londry-Jackson and Taylor Lamb.
Before Saturday, the last non-Lamb start occurred on Sept. 6, 2014.
"He's a competitor," said Satterfield, who played at App State from 1991-95 and is now in his sixth season as the head coach at his alma mater. "That's the one thing I love about Zac. He competes his tail off, just like the rest of our guys, and our guys feed off that."
Thomas, who appeared in four games and attempted 10 passes last season as Lamb's primary backup, completed all five of his throws to set up a field goal on the first offensive series at Penn State. He went 9-for-15 for 153 yards in the fourth quarter alone and finished with 43 rushing yards thanks to second-half scrambles of 22 and 15 yards.
Thomas obviously didn't do it alone, as the offensive line provided him with good protection and nine App State players caught at least one pass. Senior running back Jalin Moore rushed for 88 yards and helped the Mountaineers gain 91 yards on the ground during the fourth quarter. His tiebreaking 16-yard touchdown run with 1:47 left came on a carry behind the new-look right side of the offensive line.
Thomas credited senior quarterback Zeb Speir, who helps signal in App State's plays, with communicating well and keeping him calm as the game progressed.
"I had never started a game, and my feeling was I had something to prove," Thomas said. "Not a lot of people were believing in our team because we lost so many seniors from last year, and the seniors we lost were pretty dang good. To go out and show what we had, not only to our fans, but to the whole nation, was pretty awesome."
Thomas showed some of his toughness following his 15-yard run to the Penn State 24 early in the fourth quarter. Hit hard by two defenders, Thomas left the game, and redshirt freshman Peyton Derrick gained 22 yards on a fourth-and-2 throw to Dominique Heathnear the end zone. Thomas returned after missing only that one play and, after a penalty moved the Mountaineers back to their 17-yard line, fired a touchdown pass to Williams.
"I knew I had to get back in there because I wanted to lead the team," Thomas said. "Peyton Derrick came in, and what he did was outstanding to keep the drive going. The pass he threw was just phenomenal. I came in and we scored with Malik, and that was awesome to see."
Said Satterfield, "You go out because you got hit that hard, you have to come out and you don't even know if he's coming back, to come back next play and go score, it's incredible heart. That's what our team's made of, guys just like that. I thought he played great."