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Late game woes cost Mountaineers against Cowboys

Redshirt+senior+linebacker+Andrew+Parker+Jr.+sacks+Wyoming+quarterback+Andrew+Peasley+Sept.+23.+The+Mountaineer+defense+gave+up+only+31+passing+yards+in+the+loss.
Courtesy of David Katzenmaier, App State Athletics
Redshirt senior linebacker Andrew Parker Jr. sacks Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley Sept. 23. The Mountaineer defense gave up only 31 passing yards in the loss.

Wyoming snuck away with a 22-19 victory Saturday night in a performance plagued with struggles in pressure situations by the Mountaineers. App State ended non-conference play with a second one-score away loss resulting  in a 2-2 record to begin the season.

App State’s opening drive was led by a strong rushing attack. Junior running back Nate Noel rushed for 25 yards and led the Mountaineers into the red zone. Wyoming’s defense held the Black and Gold  to a 25-yard field goal from junior kicker Michael Hughes to open the scoring.

App State’s defense held strong throughout the entire game. The Cowboys were shut out in the first quarter as freshman linebacker Nate Johnson recorded his second career sack to force a Wyoming punt. Another factor in the first half for Wyoming was their seven penalties. The Cowboys came into the matchup as the fourth lowest penalized team in the country with nine all season. Their seven penalties in the first half halted offensive momentum.

Despite the Mountaineer defense holding strong, the offense struggled to convert in the red zone. App State’s second possession began at the 2-yard line. Despite building early momentum with a balanced rushing and passing attack, the drive stalled out as junior quarterback Joey Aguilar was sacked on 3rd and goal. Hughes nailed a 28-yard field goal to bring the score to 6-0.

To open the second quarter, the Mountaineers  offensive struggles continued. A backward pass from Aguilar was dropped by junior wide receiver Dashaun Davis and recovered as a fumble by Wyoming, setting their offense up in the red zone. This mistake proved costly, as Cowboys quarterback Andrew Peasley rushed for a 9-yard touchdown.

As the game progressed, App State found itself with another offensive drive with the potential of finding the endzone. The rushing attack of redshirt freshman Kanye Roberts and Noel led the Mountaineers down to the 3-yard line. 

The Black and Gold’s offense once again failed to convert in the red zone as Hughes kicked his third chip shot field goal of the half.

“We have to drive the ball down the field and score touchdowns. That’s the bottom line,” said head coach Shawn Clark. “Our best playmakers have to make plays.” 

To cap off the first half, the Mountaineers got another opportunity at points. A poor punt from the Cowboys put the Black and Gold  on the 50-yard line with 15 seconds remaining. An 18-yard pass from Aguilar to junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson set up Hughes for a career-long 50-yard field goal that went through the uprights. App State went into halftime up 12-7.

After eight straight punts in the third quarter, both teams went scoreless in the quarter. Both defenses held strong as senior linebacker Andrew Parker Jr. recorded a sack for the Mountaineers in a slugfest of a third quarter. 

The fourth quarter opened with App State’s only touchdown of the game. On third down of Wyoming’s first possession of the quarter, Peasley attempted to checkdown to his running back. The football was mishandled and tipped into the air to be intercepted by senior defensive back Tyrek Funderburk. The Mountaineer defensive back returned the interception for a 18-yard touchdown to set the score at 19-7.

The very next play put Wyoming right back into the game. Harrison Waylee rushed for a 75-yard touchdown to bring the Cowboys within five points.

With the lead and possession, App State’s goal was to burn as much time as possible. The drive began at the 11:24 mark in the fourth quarter. Noel consistently extended the drive with multiple third down conversion rushes. The Mountaineers drove the ball down the field to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt with 2:02 remaining in the game.

Despite the field goal success throughout the game, Hughes’ kick was blocked and returned for a 62-yard touchdown by cornerback Jakorey Hawkins. A successful two-point conversion put the Cowboys up 22-19.

For the Mountaineers, early fourth quarter mistakes came back to haunt them. With two timeouts burned before the seven-minute mark to avoid delay of game penalties, the Black and Gold’s last drive was a battle against time. Despite the lack of timeouts, a defensive pass interference set the Mountaineers up within field goal range to tie the game. 

With 12 seconds remaining, the Mountaineers ran one last play to take a shot at the end zone before attempting a game-tying field goal. With a strong pass rush in his face, Aguilar tossed the ball in an attempt to find junior tight end Eli Wilson. The pass was up for grabs and intercepted by the Cowboys defense as they stamped the final blow in an exciting and heartbreaking fourth quarter that saw Wyoming comeback to win 22-19.

“We didn’t play well enough on offense,” Clark said.

When asked about the conference schedule ahead, Clark also said, “It don’t get any easier, we have to get back and reassess ourselves.”

The Mountaineers travel to Louisiana-Monroee to open Sun Belt Conference play. App State will have their first opportunity to make a statement in the Sun Belt Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.

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About the Contributor
Avin Patel
Avin Patel, Reporter
Avin Patel is a sophomore finance and banking major. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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