The annual rivalry game between the Georgia Southern Eagles (0-9, 0-5 Sun Belt) and the Appalachian State Mountaineers (6-4, 5-1 Sun Belt) took place Thursday night. Both teams entered the FBS together four years ago, but the rivalry dates back to the FCS days. Usually, this game is huge for both teams, but this year the Eagles have struggled with no wins on the season. On a cold night, the Mountaineers started off slow, but picked up pace in the second half to beat the Eagles 27-6.
Losing 3-0 at the end of the first quarter, the first time Georgia Southern had the lead at the end of a first quarter all season, the second quarter is when the Mountaineers got going. Senior quarterback Taylor Lamb threw a touchdown to sophomore tight end Collin Reed. To end the half, redshirt freshman kicker Chandler Staton hit a career high 53-yard field goal to put App up 10-3.
In the second half, the Mountaineers faked a punt that later produced a field goal. App State continued to move the ball, scoring two more touchdowns and securing the victory over rival Georgia Southern.
The Mountaineers produced big numbers on the ground against a Georgia Southern defense that is ranked second in the Sun Belt in run defense. What makes this even better is that star junior running back Jalin Moore did not have a single carry due to injury. Freshman backup running back Marcus Williams Jr. led the way with 130 yards on 28 carries. Freshman Daetrich Harrington also recorded his first collegiate TD run. Lamb even had a good game running the ball, with 62 yards and a long of 41. App State outgained Georgia Southern on the ground, which is hard to do considering Georgia Southern leads the Sun Belt in rushing yards per game. It was nice to see App dominate the run game, especially without their star running back.
Another good sign for App State was their defense. They held Georgia Southern to 111 yards rushing, which is well below their average of 191 yards per game. Early on, the defense struggled, but as the game continued, they gained their confidence and stopped the Eagles from gaining any momentum in the run game. They also held Southern to only six points, including a red zone stand where the Eagles were threatening to score a touchdown. Overall, the defense looked dominant only allowing 191 total yards.
Staton also had himself a great night. After suffering from kicking woes early on in the season, it looks like the Mountaineers finally found their kicker. Staton made a 53-yard field goal and also a 28-yard field goal. This is a great sign because special teams has been an issue for the Mountaineers this year.
Williams Jr. set a new career high in rushing yards with 130 yards. His performance may not have been expected, as Georgia Southern has a great run defense. He had a long of 21 yards, but did not make it into the endzone. His performance tonight is nice to see, since the status of Moore is still unknown.
Finally, the Mountaineers are going bowling. With a win tonight, App brought their their record to six wins, guaranteeing them a spot in a bowl game for a third straight year. The team has been to the Camellia Bowl the previous two years, and may be returning, but the team will have to wait until the end of the season to officially know. But all that matters right now is the fact that the Mountaineers are going bowling.
A bad aspect of the game was the fans leaving at halftime. Granted, yes it was cold and it is a Thursday, but the score was 10-3 at halftime. It was not like App was up by 20 or more points, the game was still close. Seeing the stands half empty the whole second half was sad. Luckily, the Mountaineers still ran away with the game.
Moore missed yet another game with a leg injury. Luckily the Mountaineers did not need him much tonight, but it is still concerning. Moore is a huge part of the offense and with him out, the offense is less effective. Hopefully going into the bye week he can rest up and ready for the game against Georgia State.
The failed fourth down in the Mountaineers’ own territory. All the offense needed was a half a yard, and they could not get it. In a fourth and less than one situation, it seems to make more sense to do a QB sneak, but maybe the coaches saw something we did not. Luckily the failed attempt did not come back to bite the Mountaineers in the foot, as the defense kept the Eagles off the board.
- The running game played a huge role in the win. The Mountaineers rushed for 253 yards, more than double Georgia Southern’s rushing total. Williams Jr. rushed for a career high 130 yards and Harrington recorded his first touchdown rush of his career. Lamb even chipped in a little bit with 62 yards rushing, with a long of 44 yards. The fact they did this all without star Moore makes this game more impressive. When Moore comes back, the running game will be even better.
- The special teams had a huge game. Staton made a 28-yard field goal and a career high 53-yarder to end the first half. To add on, senior defensive end Caleb Fuller took a fake punt 23 yards to set the Mountaineers up for another field goal. This was a bright sign, as App has struggled on special teams this year, and it has even cost them a game. Hopefully this positive trend can continue for the rest of the season.
- Once again, the Mountaineers are going bowling. What makes it even more sweet was that the win came against their rival. After coming up short the past two weeks against UMass and Louisiana Monroe, the Mountaineers finally notched that sixth win. Since joining the FBS, the Mountaineers have made a bowl game every year they were eligible. The previous two years, App has gone to the Camellia Bowl, so hopefully there will be a change of scenery when bowl season comes around.
The Mountaineers moved to 6-4 overall and 5-1 in conference play. They head into a bye week before heading down south to take on Georgia State on Thanksgiving weekend, a game that may have big Sun Belt title implications.
Story By: Eric Jackson, Sports Reporter
Photos By: Emily Nance