Mountaineers blow by Georgia State after rocky start

Moss Brennan and Silas Albright

After a slow start that saw the Mountaineers down as many as 14 points in the first quarter, junior quarterback Zac Thomas led App State to a 56-27 victory over Georgia State. 

The Mountaineers scored went on to outscore the Panthers 49-7 after trailing 14 in the first quarter. 

“It’s about staying in the fight,” App State head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said after the game. “Every play has a life of its own. No matter what’s happened, you have to play this play the best you can. That’s what we did.”

The Mountaineers allowed Georgia State to score on their second drive of the game after going three-and-out on their first two drives of the game. 

The Mountaineers were able to come back on their next drive on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to junior wide receiver Corey Sutton. 

The momentum did not last as the next drive ended on another three-and-out after Georgia State scored on a 67-yard rushing touchdown. 

The next Mountaineer drive resulted in an interception from Thomas that was returned for 34 yards and a touchdown, giving the Panthers an early 21-7 advantage with 1:38 left in the first quarter.

“Our defense was playing a heck of a game, and they were getting stops that we needed,” Thomas said. “The offense was clicking enough to get the scores we needed.”

That was the last score for Georgia State until under 6 minutes in the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers went on to score 49 unanswered points on seven straight touchdowns and take total control of the game.

App State marched up the field on three gains of at least 15 yards on their first three plays of it’s next drive, before Thomas connected with Sutton for a 20-yard touchdown with 9 seconds left in the first quarter, making the score 21-14.

Both defenses held strong and forced several quick possessions early in the second quarter. Eventually, The Mountaineer offense put together a drive to get to the Georgia State 3-yard line before the Panthers forced a fourth and one opportunity. Thomas took the snap on fourth down and trotted into the end zone to tie it up at 21 with 6:20 left in the first half.

Sophomore cornerback Shaun Jolly gave App State it’s first lead of the game on a 30-yard pick-six with 2:18 left in the first half. It was his second pick-six of the season. 

“I was prepared, and the coaches put me in the right positions to make plays, so I had to take advantage of it,” Jolly said after the game. “The previous play they ran the same route, a 5-yard out, and the coaches got on me on the sideline that I had to make a play this time.”

The Mountaineer defense got a quick stop and the Panthers punted the ball away with 55 seconds left in the second quarter. A fifteen yard unsportsmanlike penalty on Georgia State followed by a 31-yard rush from Thomas set Darrynton Evans up for 1-yard touchdown catch to push the App State lead out to 35-21 heading into halftime.

The only score of the third quarter for either team came after a 40-yard reception from Sutton set up Evans for a 29-yard touchdown run to give the Mountaineers a 42-21 lead with 5:58 left in the quarter.

Sutton caught his third touchdown and freshman running back Raykwon Anderson scored from 5 yards out in the fourth quarter to put the game further out of reach. After the Anderson score, the Mountaineers led 56-21 with 11:04 to play.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in our coaching staff and Zac and our O-line, so I felt just as good as I feel every game,” Sutton said after the game

Georgia State managed to score a touchdown at the 5:35 mark to make the score 56-27, the final score. 

The defense forced three takeaways and held the Panthers to four-of-15 on third down conversions in the game, giving room for the offense to put the game out of reach.

Thomas finished the game with four touchdowns, an interception and 256 yards on 19-for-31 passing. He also rushed six times for 52 yards and a touchdown.

Sutton finished with three touchdowns and 173 yards on eight receptions. Evans picked up 131 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.

Jolly had two interceptions and broke up three passes in the game. Senior linebacker Jordan Fehr led the Mountaineers with 10 total tackles, including two for a loss of yardage. 

The Mountaineer offense as a whole put up seven touchdowns and 553 yards from scrimmage. 

With the win, App State improves to 9-1 overall and 5-1 in the Sun Belt while Georgia State falls to 6-4 overall and 3-3 in the conference.

Next up for the Mountaineers is a matchup against Texas State (3-7, 2-4 Sun Belt) at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 23. It will be Senior Day and Heroes Day at Kidd-Brewer Stadium when the Bobcats come to Boone.