App State’s second half skid leads to 32-28 loss to James Madison


Taylor Ward

Redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice hands the ball off to transfer running back Ahmani Marshall Sept. 24, 2022.

Drew Bailey, Reporter

App State was unable to prevent James Madison’s 32-28 comeback victory Saturday after stretching out a 25-point lead in the first half. The close game continues a trend of nail biters for the Mountaineers as their four games have been decided by an average of 3.25 points. 

“We had them down 28-3 I believe, we have to put the foot on the gas and bury them. We did not do that,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “We did not call it good enough. We did not execute good enough, and the head coach did not coach good enough.”

These two old rivals’ first game in the Sun Belt started with points by James Madison. The Dukes started hot with 39 yards in four plays, but two tackles by junior linebacker KeSean Brown and a third down pass deflection by senior linebacker Trey Cobb held them to a 27-yard field goal. 

Despite a 34-yard pass from redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dashaun Davis, App State punted on their first drive.

Redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kaedin Robinson stiff-arms a James Madison defender in the 32-28 loss Sept. 24, 2022. (Haley Smart)

The Duke’s next drive stalled due to a pass deflection by redshirt senior defensive back Steven Jones Jr. and a sack by redshirt junior linebacker Nick Hampton. This sack moved Hampton up to sixth on App State’s all-time sack leaderboard. 

App State’s offense capitalized on the defensive stand. Davis notched another long catch, this time being 26 yards. Then the running backs took over as sophomore running back Nate Noel returned from injury and redshirt junior running back Camerun Peoples punched in a two-yard touchdown. 

James Madison failed to respond when its quarterback Todd Centeio fumbled the ball and Cobb recovered. This was the Duke’s first turnover of the season.

“Everybody doing their job, nobody doing more than they needed to do,” Cobb said. “That is what we planned to do, that is what we schemed to do and we just went out and executed.”

The Mountaineers cashed in the turnover on their three-play drive when Brice evaded the Dukes’ pass rush and fired a laser to redshirt junior tight end Miller Gibbs for a 10-yard score. 

The Dukes found hope on their next drive when Centeio completed two passes to redshirt junior Reggie Brown for 27 yards. But a Jones Jr. pass deflection and a Centeio incompletion on fourth down once again prevented a James Madison score. 

App State maintained momentum with a 24-yard rush by sophomore running back Ahmani Marshall. Then, a pass interference call on redshirt freshman Dalton Stroman led to a 27-yard touchdown catch by Stroman in the back of the end zone. This was the first touchdown of Stroman’s career. 

Fifth-year seniors Dexter Lawson Jr. and Trey Cobb celebrate on the field together Sept, 24, 2022. (Haley Smart)

The Duke’s next drive was cut short when Hampton forced a fumble that sophomore linebacker Jalen McLeod recovered. 

The Mountaineers kept their foot on the gas with a 11-yard pass from Brice to redshirt sophomore Kaedin Robinson. Noel punctuated his return with a five-yard rushing touchdown, resulting in 28 unanswered points by App State. 

“We did a great job opening up those lanes. I felt like we were in a great groove that first half,” Brice said.

James Madison running back Kaelon Black had a key nine-yard rush on fourth down, setting up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Centeio to Black to end App State’s unanswered point streak. 

The momentum looked to swing James Madison’s way after a Brice fumble gave them the ball at the 10-yard line, but it was all for not as redshirt junior kicker Camden Wise missed the 27-yard field goal, giving App State a 28-10 lead at half time. 

Brice opened the second half with 18 and 19-yard passes to Robinson, but Marshall was stood up on a fourth down run at the James Madison 28-yard line. 

The next four drives featured two three and outs each for the Mountaineers and Dukes. 

James Madison broke the offensive skid when Centeio’s 14-yard rush on fourth down led to a two-yard touchdown run. 

The Mountaineers tried to get back in rhythm with a 20-yard catch by sophomore wide receiver Christan Horn, but Marshall’s seven yards on his next three carries resulted in a punt. 

“We could not move the ball. They stuffed the run game,” Clark said. “They were dropping out of our play actions and we could not recover to stay on the field.”

James Madison found success through the air with a 42-yard catch by Brown and a 36-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Terrance Greene Jr. The Duke’s converted the two-point conversion with a pass from Centeio to wide receiver Kris Thornton to make it a three-point game.

Redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice loads up a pass against James Madison Sept. 24, 2022.

App State’s second half woes continued when Brice was intercepted on the first play of App State’s ensuing drive. 

Black ran in a three-yard touchdown to give the Dukes the 32-28 lead and 29 unanswered points. 

“In this defense, you have to fit it right and have clean eyes,” Clark said. “For the most part, defense did, but when it became a crucial time in the game, we did not get it done.”

The Mountaineers sputtered on their next drive when a three-yard rush by redshirt senior running back Daetrich Harrington Harrington was met with a Brice sack and incompletion. 

The Dukes attempted to put the game away when Centeio’s 34 passing yards and 28 rushing yards willed James Madison to a fourth down and one at the App State 10-yard line. But Cobb continued his monster day when he stopped Black to give the Mountaineers a chance with 2:06 left. 

A 23-yard pass from Brice to last week’s hero Horn started the drive nicely, then a six-yard catch from Robinson and seven-yard catch from senior tight end Henry Pearson kept moving the chains. Two incompletions and a one-yard Brice rush made the game fall on a 4th-and-9 play. Brice laced the ball to Horn, but he was hit and the ball was knocked out. After a miracle 32-28 win last week, the Mountaineers found themselves on the losing end of a 32-28 game. 

“Very disappointing,” Clark said. “This one loss is not going to define this season and we have a lot of football left in front of us.”

The Mountaineers fell to 2-2 and 1-1 in the Sun Belt this season. Next week they will welcome their old Southern Conference rival, The Citadel, to Boone.

“We came into this season big on brotherhood, and I feel like we got to come together even more now,” Cobb said. “We are facing adversity, and this is really where you see what you are made of, so we got to rally together and we got to keep pushing forward.”