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Mountaineers bowl eligible after demolishing Panthers 42-14

Max Sanborn
Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar attempts a pass against Marshall Nov. 4. After the Mountaineers win over Georgia State, the California native is up to 26 touchdowns this season.

App State and Georgia State faced off in Atlanta Saturday for a rainy Veterans Day matchup. The Mountaineers dominated 42-14, winning their third straight and improving to 6-4 and 4-2 in Sun Belt play.  

“I love this football team,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “They continue to fight, play for each other, play for our fans and gave us another great example of playing four quarters of complementary football.”

To begin the game, both defenses stifled the opposing offenses, resulting in three-and-outs. 

Georgia State broke the defensive battle as the Panthers drove down to the Mountaineer 4-yard line on a 20-play, 8:40-minute drive. The drive included a fourth-down conversion near midfield, but Panthers quarterback Darren Grainer fumbled the ball in a goal-to-go situation as redshirt senior inside linebacker Andrew Parker Jr. recovered it.

“It was big,” Clark said of the turnover. “Our defense has been playing lights out these last eight quarters.”

The Black and Gold immediately took advantage of the turnover as junior running back Nate Noel broke free for a 61-yard rushing touchdown on the drive’s fourth play. Noel has been recovering from a lower leg injury but sprinted away to give App State an early 7-0 lead.

“Nate came out and ran the ball hard,” Clark said.

Opening the second quarter, the Mountaineers struck quickly to extend their lead 14-0. A deep pass from junior quarterback Joey Aguilar rainbowed into the endzone and was caught by sophomore wide receiver Makai Jackson for a 44-yard touchdown. 

Following the App State score, Parker Jr. continued to wreck the Panthers offensive line with three straight tackles, forcing Georgia State to punt the ball. 

What looked like another scoring drive for App State halted as Aguilar muffed and recovered the ball on a play-action fake on third-and-short. Instead of keeping the offense on the field on fourth-down near midfield, the Mountaineers opted to punt and play the field position game. 

The decision to punt worked out in favor of the Black and Gold, as their defense forced another three-and-out, giving Aguilar and the offense excellent starting field position at midfield. 

On the drive’s first play, Aguilar took another deep shot to Jackson, which was caught for a 45-yard reception. With the ball near the goal line, Aguilar threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson, giving App State a 21-0 lead.

After the Mountaineer defense forced their fourth straight three-and-out, Aguilar fumbled the ball on a botched handoff and it was recovered by Georgia State. With the Panthers offense set up in the red zone, Grainer’s pass to the endzone was intercepted by redshirt sophomore cornerback Trenton Alan Yowe.

The Black and Gold ran out the rest of the clock to end the first half and took a 21-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.  

On the first play of the second half, Aguilar fired a deep pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dalton Stroman, who ran past the Panthers’ secondary for a 77-yard touchdown to extend the Mountaineers lead to 28-0. Aguilar’s connection to Stroman marks the longest pass play of the season.

After a few quiet drives resulting in punts, the Georgia State defense intercepted Aguilar’s deep pass intended for redshirt junior wide receiver Dashaun Davis. 

The App State defense kept a stronghold on the Panthers offense, forcing their ninth punt of the day. With the third quarter winding down, the Mountaineers kept the ball on the ground with complete control of the game, up 28-0. Redshirt freshman running back Kanye Roberts was given five straight carries to begin the drive. 

On a third and long, Aguilar found Robinson for an 11-yard reception to continue the drive. With the ball in the red zone, Boone native junior running back Anderson Castle rushed up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown, giving the Mountaineers a 35-0 lead.

Georgia State broke their scoring drought with an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive ending in a 3-yard receiving touchdown to make the score 35-7.

The Mountaineers answered back as Roberts rushed for 26 yards and a 20-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter. 

The Panthers responded again with an 11-play drive resulting in a 1-yard touchdown pass, but only made the score 42-14.

App State got the ball back with 5:31 remaining in the fourth quarter and took Aguilar out of the game with a 28-point lead. The Black and Gold kept the ball on the ground and drained the clock.

 As the final seconds ticked off, the Mountaineers clinched bowl eligibility with their sixth win and moved one step closer to a spot in the Sun Belt Championship. The Black and Gold also remain historically perfect against Georgia State, improving to 10-0 all-time against the Panthers. 

“It really started in pre-game, we came out to circle the field and they didn’t want us to circle the field to say our prayers,” Clark said. “You mess with the bulls, you get the horn.”

App State dominated all three phases of the game in the 42-14 victory. The offense totaled 509 yards as Aguilar completed 14 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns. Noel led the ground game with 86 yards and one touchdown as the Mountaineers totaled 254 rushing yards. 

On the defensive side, the Black and Gold limited the Panthers to 260 total yards and held the Sun Belt rushing leaders to 139 rushing yards. Parker Jr. led the defensive efforts as he totaled 14 tackles.  

App State will take its momentum from back-to-back dominant victories and face a crucial road test against undefeated No. 21 James Madison Nov. 18 at 2 p.m.

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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.
Max Sanborn
Max Sanborn, Photographer
Max Sanborn (he/him) is a sophomore Commercial Photography Major, from Indian trail, NC. This is his first year with The Appalachian.
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