Gameday Grades: App State @ UNC

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Gameday Grades: App State @ UNC

Junior quarterback Zac Thomas waits in the pocket in App State's 34-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Junior quarterback Zac Thomas waits in the pocket in App State's 34-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Lynette Files

Junior quarterback Zac Thomas waits in the pocket in App State's 34-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Lynette Files

Lynette Files

Junior quarterback Zac Thomas waits in the pocket in App State's 34-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.

Zack Antrum

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Quarterbacks: B+

Zac Thomas had a strong showing, going 20-29 with 224 yards. He was picked off once, but other than that he put on a very solid display. As the Tar Heels began their second half rally, he came up big several times, completing back-to-back passes for 35 and 43 yards to junior wide receivers Thomas Hennigan and Malik Williams at one point setting up a crucial rushing touchdown. He also rushed for 57 yards with several key runs on third down to extend drives.  

 

Running Backs: B

Junior Darrynton Evans led this running back core with 78 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries. After he rushed for 234 yards against Charlotte two weeks ago, the Tar Heels knew they had to find a way to stop him from doing the same against them, and at times, they were successful. 

 

Wide Receivers: B-

Hennigan led all App State receivers with 90 yards on six catches with a long of 35 yards. Williams also had six receptions and 78 yards and caught a 43 yarder when it seemed like the Tar Heels were poised to make another fourth quarter comeback. Corey Sutton’s much anticipated return did not disappoint either, catching 7 passes for 58 yards. 

 

Offensive Line: C+ 

The offensive line had an average showing, but showed up when needed. It gave up two sacks and struggled to open up holes for Evans to get through. However, it was able to hold its blocks long enough for Thomas to find his receivers and breakout on runs if needed. 

 

Defensive Line: A

Demetrius Taylor had a monstrous game in the trenches for the Mountaineers. The junior forced a fumble that he returned for a touchdown, and picked off UNC quarterback Sam Howell. The defensive line also earned three sacks with 2.5 credited to Taylor. 

 

Linebackers: B 

At times, the linebackers struggled to stop the Tar Heels’ run game, but did make big plays and put pressure on Howell. Senior Jordan Fehr had a game high 15 tackles and Akeem Davis-Gaither had eight tackles and his first career interception. 

 

Secondary: C+

The secondary struggled to stop the UNC receivers, who collectively caught for 323 yards in the game. True freshman cornerback Nicholas Ross had a huge breakup on third down in the fourth quarter, and cornerback Shaun Jolly and safety Kaiden Smith had six tackles each.

 

Special Teams: A-

Aside from the shaky defense on the opening kick, the Mountaineer special teams put on an excellent performance. Kicker Chandler Staton opened up the scoring for the Mountaineers with field goals on consecutive drives, and Davis-Gaither blocked a last-second kick that sealed the deal for App State.

 

Player of the Game: Demetrius Taylor

The big man scored on a fumble recovery that he forced, and followed with an interception that set up a Mountaineer touchdown. He also had 2.5 sacks in a much improved defensive performance from the previous game against Charlotte. 

 

Overall Team Grade: A+

After getting off to a fiery start it looked as if the Mountaineers might have let another game of this stature slip away, but they made the necessary plays to earn their first win against a Power Five school since 2007. App State showed that they can compete with the biggest schools and made a huge statement to future opponents.