From “1-0” each week to 12-1 with a shot at their fifth straight bowl win

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From “1-0” each week to 12-1 with a shot at their fifth straight bowl win

Courtesy of App State Athletics

Courtesy of App State Athletics

Courtesy of App State Athletics

Silas Albright, Sports Editor

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With the regular season over, App State football has one game left to attain one of its long-term goals. 

As fans have gotten used to hearing over the course of the season, the Mountaineers place a huge focus on going 1-0 each week. 

“Coach Drink says it all the time: ‘Just keep going 1-0 every week,’” said junior wide receiver Thomas Hennigan. “We’ve just bought into that mentality, and it’s worked out for us.” 

In fact, this mentality has worked out so well that the Mountaineers have recorded two of the biggest wins in program history this year, as well as reaching uncharted territory in the three main college football rankings. 

Focusing on going 1-0 each week was just App State’s way of staying focused to complete its larger, long-term goals of winning the Sun Belt and a bowl game — a feat that is now expected in Boone after the past few seasons.

“Our stated goal is to win the Sun Belt Championship and a bowl game with class, integrity and academic excellence,” former head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said during his introductory press conference at the beginning of the season.

App State has won bowls in each of the last four seasons and has won at least a share of the Sun Belt Championship for the past four. 

“Any time that you have a group that’s been through something before, you always kind of trust that you’re the more experienced team,” Hennigan said. “You’ve been there before, so you know what to expect, and any time you know what to expect, you know how to handle a situation. We were in the same exact position last year, we just (have) to duplicate what we did last year.” 

Aside from the experience that makes this team so battle-tested, the Mountaineers also understand the importance of having their teammates’ backs and trusting each other.

“We’re super close. It doesn’t matter if you’re a starter or scout team, we’ve got one of the closest groups in the country,” said junior wide receiver Corey Sutton. “We trust everybody else and we make sure everybody’s good.”

Between Hennigan, who leads the team with 54 catches and 673 yards, Sutton, who leads the team with seven touchdown receptions, and juniors Malik Williams and Jalen Virgil, the App State wide receiving corps is one of the deepest groups on the team.

The Mountaineers lost Sutton for the remainder of the season after he tore his ACL against Texas State on Nov. 11.

“(There’s) obviously competition in the room, but nobody is envying anybody else,” Sutton said. “We all want everybody else to be successful.”

Although this year’s squad has a chance to be one of the best teams in App State’s history, success isn’t new for the program. 

“It’s been great. App’s always had success since I can remember,” Sutton said. “My dad played here in ‘95, so I’ve always been apart of the App program, and they’ve always been successful just because of the culture that they have here.” 

App State boasts one of the best resumes in the Group of Five and will look to make its final statement of the year against Conference USA runner up UAB in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. 

“Everyone’s been through it, we’ve been going at it since the beginning of the summer really, just full go,” Hennigan said. “Just keeping that 1-0 mentality and being able to finish strong is going to be the biggest thing that’s going to eventually get us the ring in the end.”