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5 takeaways from the Mountaineers’ win over Gardner-Webb

Ava Colapietro
Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar looks downfield against Gardner-Webb Sept. 2.

1. Nate Noel looks healthy 

After an injury plagued 2022 season that cost him three games and limited activity, the junior running back posted 117 rushing yards and a touchdown.

Noel was able to break through tackles consistently and wear the Runnin’ Bulldogs defense down throughout the game. 

Noel set a career-high 24 carries and was featured as the team’s primary running back, splitting touches with Navy transfer junior running back Maquel Haywood. 

If the Mountaineers want to return to their winning ways, Noel needs to be a primary focus of the offense.

2. Slow starts are still here

Last season, the Mountaineers often struggled during the opening stretches of games, going multiple drives without establishing any momentum on both sides of the ball.

In the first half, the defense missed tackles in the open field and allowed Gardner-Webb to move the chains down the field. Coming out of halftime, the Black and Gold allowed 14 points before starting to force turnovers and stopping the Runnin’ Bulldogs on third down. 

Starting the game the offense had a lot of energy, but were not able to move the ball down the field. Rushing lanes created by the offensive line were non-existent and it resulted in the running game having a tough start. As the offense aired the ball out, those lanes opened up and the offense began to flow.

3. The quarterback battle rages on

Head coach Shawn Clark named redshirt freshman Ryan Burger the starting quarterback prior to the Mountaineers matchup with Gardner-Webb. In his first career start, Burger completed seven of 11 passes for 70 yards and one touchdown, before being pulled toward the end of the first half due to injury. 

While the numbers aren’t terrible, Burger looked like a young quarterback in his first start. He displayed hesitancy and indecisiveness while making reads and going through his progressions. 

With 2:13 left in the second quarter, Clark subbed in junior quarterback Joey Aguilar in place of Burger. As if it were scripted, Aguilar’s first pass was a 32-yard touchdown to redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson. 

“I thought we needed a spark to get us going,” Clark said. “Joey came in and his first collegiate pass for App State is a touchdown.” 

Aguilar finished his first career Mountaineer game going 11/13 for 174 yards and four touchdowns. He looked much more decisive and pushed the ball down the field consistently. Aguilar spent two seasons playing junior college football at Diablo Valley Community College prior to transferring to App State in the spring.

“My offensive coordinator and my head coach at junior college obviously helped me get ready mentally and physically for the game,” Aguilar said.

With Burger expected to be out three to four weeks, Aguilar will start at quarterback according to Clark.

4. Fans packed out Kidd-Brewer Stadium

The Black and Gold opened their season in front of 36,075 fans, which ranks second all-time in Kidd-Brewer attendance history behind last season’s home opener against North Carolina. 

“I want to say thanks to the students,” Clark said. “We had 36,000 App fans at the rock today. It’s huge, it’s big in recruiting and for everyone involved.”

With an already sold-out family weekend showdown against East Carolina Sept. 16, another attendance record may be broken. 

5. 1-0

While the start may not have been pretty, the Mountaineers figured it out en route to a 21 point victory over Gardner-Webb.

“Happy to be 1-0, but we have a lot of work to get done,” Clark said.

The Black and Gold needed to knock the rust off with this being the team’s first game since last fall. 

With a rematch against No. 17 North Carolina set for Saturday, App State needs to fix some of the issues they saw against the Runnin’ Bulldogs if they wish to avenge last season’s heartbreaking 63-61 loss.

The game is set for 5:15 p.m. and can be watched on ACC Network.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Smith, Sports Editor
Ethan Smith (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his third year writing for The Appalachian.
Ava Colapietro, Photographer
Ava Colapietro (she/her) is a freshman majoring in Business (General Management) with a minor in Photography and is from Lake Norman. This is her first year with The Appalachian
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