Sports in 2017 saw a lot of big moments, such as the Patriots’ unlikely comeback in Super Bowl 51, Luke Maye’s last second shot in the NCAA men’s basketball championship and 14th seed Garbine Muguruza upset Venus Williams to win Wimbledon, becoming the first player ever to defeat both Williams sisters in final matches.
The App State football team also saw a memorable year, posting a regular season record of 8-4 and clinching their second straight Sun Belt title. The season culminated in Mobile, Alabama, at the 2017 Dollar General Bowl, where the Mountaineers re-matched their Camellia Bowl opponent from 2016, the Toledo Rockets.
It all got started in Athens, Georgia, where the Georgia Bulldogs hosted the Mountaineers to open the season. While the game did not go very well for App State, ultimately losing 31-10, fans did enjoy several bright spots, such as the emergence of junior linebacker Anthony Flory, who finished 2016 with only ten tackles but recorded six against the Bulldogs. Flory would finish the season as second on the team in tackles and first in quarterback hits.
The Mountaineers started to roll after that, winning five of their next six games. The team’s home opener saw a visit from the Savannah State Tigers and App State’s fourth consecutive victory in the first home game. Senior quarterback Taylor Lamb threw for a season-high five touchdowns, two of which went to sophomore tight end Collin Reed, who picked up 106 receiving yards in addition to his touchdowns.
The next week, the Mountaineers defeated the Texas State Bobcats, 20-13, for their first Sun Belt victory of the year. When they returned to Boone, it was for their biggest home game of the season, versus the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
Approximately 35,126 fans showed up for the event, setting the attendance record for Kidd-Brewer Stadium, defeating the previous number of 34,658, set in 2016 when App State took on the Miami Hurricanes. There were six lead changes during the game and the Mountaineer defense forced eight punts on 13 possessions, but Wake Forest prevailed, 20-19, after blocking a would-be game-winning field goal from Michael Rubino with five seconds remaining. It was the Mountaineers only home loss.
App State won their next three games, including a two-touchdown victory over New Mexico State on Homecoming and over Coastal Carolina in their first meeting as Sun Belt opponents. The Mountaineers also beat the Idaho Vandals on the road, overcoming a 20-point deficit and dominating the fourth quarter, with Lamb throwing touchdown passes to Reed and senior receiver Ike Lewis to tie the game before Rubino knocked down what would end up being the game-winning field goal.
The Mountaineers had a tough couple of weeks after this, losing two straight, one with the UMass Minutemen in Amherst and a Sun Belt game with the UL Monroe Warhawks in Monroe, Louisiana. They lost by a total of 10 points, taking the Minutemen into overtime. It was the first time the Mountaineers had lost consecutively since 2014.
However, App State finished the season strong, winning their last three games, including a decisive victory against rival Georgia Southern on national television, a win over Georgia State, who went on to defeat Western Kentucky in the Cure Bowl, and a dominating win over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns to finish off the regular season and clinch their share of the Sun Belt championship. App State had eight players selected to all Sun Belt teams, including a league record three offensive linemen.
The Mountaineers headed to Mobile, Alabama, to finish off their season in the Dollar General Bowl. Their opponent, the Toledo Rockets, was favored by seven points heading into the game, but App State was prepared, intercepting Rockets’ quarterback Logan Woodside three times and cruising to a 34-0 victory. It was the fourth bowl shutout since 2010 and the only one of 2017.
App State also saw the departure of some key seniors in 2017. Quarterback Taylor Lamb finished his career as App State’s career passing-touchdowns leader with 90, which is also a Sun Belt record, along with his 145.85 career passer rating. Linebacker Eric Boggs finished with 346 career tackles, 12.5 sacks and eight interceptions. Offensive linemen Colby Gossett and Beau Nunn made 45 and 40 consecutive starts respectively.
2017 was certainly a year for the books for App State football. After winning the program’s second straight conference title and third straight bowl game, it is tough to believe that 2018 could measure up. But with 24 signees coming in with the new freshman class, only time will tell.
Story By: Brooks Maynard, Sports Editor
Photos by: Lindsay Vaughn, Senior Photographer and courtesy of Stephanie Lee