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Good, bad and ugly from Mountaineers comeback win

Senior+offensive+lineman+Isaiah+Helms+lifts+junior+running+back+Maquel+Haywood+in+celebration+of+his+first+touchdown+of+the+game+against+Southern+Miss+Oct.28.
Leah Matney
Senior offensive lineman Isaiah Helms lifts junior running back Maquel Haywood in celebration of his first touchdown of the game against Southern Miss Oct.28.

App State survived another come from behind victory against Southern Miss on Homecoming weekend. The 48-38 victory featured superb quarterback play, lingering slow starts and a puzzling run defense. 

The Good

With the run game in check, the Mountaineers offense relied on the arm of junior quarterback Joey Aguilar. To begin the game, Aguilar turned over the ball twice in the first half on a fumble and interception. Aguilar persevered as he completed 23 passes for 391 yards and four touchdowns. Aguilar also set a new single game passing yards high.

The Black and Gold quarterback continuously targeted junior wide receiver Christan Horn, as he set a career-high in receiving yards with 165. Horn also caught eight passes, two of which were touchdowns.  

The first-year App State starter has grown each game and has become the focal point of this team. On the season, Aguilar has thrown for 21,173 passing yards and 20 touchdowns. Aguilar is tied for seventh in passing touchdowns amongst college football quarterbacks, ranking first in the Sun Belt.

The dependence on the passing game and Aguilar was not expected heading into the season, but Aguilar’s performance has kept App State in games every week. 

The Bad

Slow starts in the first half continue to plague the Mountaineers as App State found themselves down 24-14 against Southern Miss. Fortunately, the Black and Gold responded and ended the game with 20 unanswered points to improve their record to 4-4. 

These late responses are a dangerous game as the Mountaineers were heavy favorites against the previous 1-6 Golden Eagles. Playing down to your opponent every week in the first half creates an uphill battle to climb. 

App State has held the lead at halftime twice in eight games played. This is the formula for why this team is 1-4 in one-score games, as the offense constantly has to battle back in the second half.

One thing yet to be seen by the 2023 Mountaineers, unlike past teams, is an entire game dominated from kick-off. With the remaining schedule featuring teams with a combined 24-8 record, it’s unlikely App State will provide one of those performances in 2023.

The Ugly

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Southern Miss took full advantage of the Mountaineers run defense and rushed for 301 total yards, averaging seven yards per carry. Golden Eagles running back Frank Gore Jr. led the way with 247 rushing yards on 24 attempts. Gore Jr. also rushed for a 75 and 42-yard touchdown.

After their comeback win over Southern Miss, App State has allowed 1,653 rushing yards, an average of 5.58 yards per attempt and 206.63 rushing yards per game, all ranking last in the Sun Belt. 

The Black and Gold also rank 125th out of 130 teams in college football in rushing defense.

The Mountaineers offense can only do so much to keep this team in games when the defense under defensive coordinator Scot Sloan has yet to perform up to the App State standards.

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About the Contributors
Chance Chamberlain
Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor
Chance Chamberlain (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Leah Matney
Leah Matney, Photojournalist
Leah Matney (she/her) is a junior with a digital marketing major and photography minor from Lincolnton, NC. This is her first year with The Appalachian.
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