The Appalachian State Mountaineers football team (3-2, 2-0 Sun Belt) faced off against the New Mexico State Aggies (2-4, 0-2 Sun Belt) and put on a show for the homecoming crowd. After a bye week and a much-needed rest for the team, the Mountaineers looked to use their fresh legs as they dive back into Sun Belt Conference play.
The Aggies put up a bigger fight on defense than the Mountaineers were ready for and set the stage for an exciting second half. Senior quarterback Taylor Lamb struggled early on and was unable to find his groove throughout the game. The Mountaineers’ secondary, however, had a record setting night with six interceptions controlling the game through the air.
The Mountaineers’ secondary took the place of everyone else on the field. Junior defensive back Tae Hayes started the game off with an interception and a 52-yard return to hold off the Aggies. Sophomore cornerback Clifton Duck, who is known for not being the quarterback’s best friend, had an interception of his own to start off the second quarter.
Then those two had a night of their own. Hayes and Duck each ended the night with three interceptions which tied the school record for most in a single game. Before today, Hayes only had one career interception. Duck picked up his first career sack on the night as well.
Coming off an injury, junior running back Jalin Moore had a season high with 241 yards rushing yards and ended the night with two touchdowns. Moore’s longest run was for 56 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Senior wide receiver Ike Lewis may not have made his mark out wide tonight but certainly makes an impact returning kickoffs. Lewis had 168 yards returning kicks with a 49 yard run as his longest return.
A lot went wrong for the Mountaineers starting immediately with the offense in the first half. Coming into the game, the Aggies defense was ranked 85th in the nation but certainly did not reflect that.
Offensively, the Mountaineers could not convert on third downs. In the first half, App failed to convert a single third down on seven attempts. On the night, the offense managed only 2 of 10 third down conversions.
Lamb only managed 48 yards passing on the night as a whole. In the first half, Lamb threw for only nine yards and had an interception. Up until tonight, Lamb had yet to throw an interception and threw two tonight.
Aside from the six interceptions, Aggie quarterback Tyler Rogers picked apart the middle of the field and threw for 356 yards. It did not help that senior safety A.J. Howard was ejected for targeting in the first half.
The Mountaineer defense also gave up 176 yards rushing spread among three Aggies with 48-yard long by running back Jason Huntley.
Sophomore Michael Rubino continued his uneasy reputation with Mountaineer fans as he missed another field goal tonight. This one came from 46 yards in the first quarter.
The Mountaineers continue the season with a 3-2 overall and 2-0 record in the Sun Belt Conference. They head to Moscow, Idaho next week to face the Idaho Vandals. Last year, the Mountaineers controlled the game and beat the Vandals 37-19. Expect an even fresher Jalin Moore to continue his dominance in the run game next week.
Story By: Noah Gerringer, Sports Reporter
Photos By: Lindsay Vaughn and Hayley Canal