After a heartbreaking loss at Penn State last week, the App State football team had two choices. They could either let the early loss define their season or use it as motivation for the rest of their schedule and Saturday they showed just how resilient they were in their 45-9 win against UNC-Charlotte.
“After the game last week we wanted to play right then,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “I told them it was all about the preparation and when you prepare all week long like that you can’t help but play good on Saturdays.”
The Mountaineers (1-1) felt right at home in front of a record crowd at Jerry Richardson Stadium. Despite being listed as the away team they were still surrounded by thousands of Mountaineer fans, nearly matching the number of Charlotte fans.
Many players from the Charlotte area were also given the chance to play in front of their families for the first time since their high school days.
“We treat these guys like our own kids,” Satterfield said. “If my kid was coming back home I’d want him to play, so we’re trying to get them on the field to play and they had fun tonight.”
The stadium attendance wasn’t the only record broken as redshirt sophomore quarterback Zach Thomas went a perfect 14-14 for 295 yards and three touchdowns, the first time in school and Sun Belt history that a quarterback finished a game with at least 10 completions and no incompletions, according to appstatesports.com.
Thomas also combined with redshirt sophomore wide receiver Corey Sutton on a 90-yard touchdown pass, which set a record for the second longest touchdown in school history. Sutton had a strong night with three receptions for a total of 155 yards.
“It’s good to come out here and play App State football,” Sutton said. “It’s really a family program. A lot of schools preach family but it’s really family out here. Everybody appreciates everybody. Everybody gets along, and it’s really just a great atmosphere.”
This record-breaking play was the highlight of Thomas’ perfect passing night where he completed all 14 of his passes for a total of 295 yards and 3 touchdowns.
“I think we made a statement to the state of North Carolina and it was awesome seeing our offense click tonight,” Thomas said. “It’s awesome to get up there knowing you’re a quarterback and you have protection so you can stand back there with confidence and deliver the ball.”
App State also got the job done on the defensive end by holding the 49ers to only 208 yards of total offense. They were able to keep them out of the end zone with all of Charlotte’s points coming from field goals. Redshirt senior defensive back Austin Exford had a big night with six tackles and a fumble recovery in the endzone for a touchdown.
“The biggest thing is controlling what I can control,” Exford said. “I was injured a lot and didn’t get to play a lot but that’s the only thing I can do. Control what I can control and when it’s my time it’s my time.”
Junior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither lead the team with eight tackles and redshirt junior safety Desmond Franklin intercepted pass and almost scored before losing the ball in the endzone, which resulted in a touchback.
The Mountaineers will look to carry on this momentum and put on another complete performance next weekend when they host Southern Miss in their home opener, the first of a three-game home stretch.
Story By: Zack Antrum, Sports Reporter
Photo By: Mickey Hutchings, Photo Editor