Mountaineers’ defense shines in 31-7 Heroes Day victory


Hiatt Ellis

Senior linebacker Trey Cobb celebrates with teammates after one of his two interceptions against South Alabama. Cobb has three career picks, all coming in the past three games.

Dan Davidson, Former Sports Editor

App State defeated South Alabama 31-7 on Heroes Day Saturday behind a dominant defensive performance by the Mountaineers. 

“I can’t say enough good things about our defense,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “That’s what great teams do. When one side’s not playing well, the other side picks it up.”

After a quick three-and-out and fumble on their first two drives, the Mountaineers scored the first two touchdowns of the game. Graduate transfer quarterback Chase Brice found super senior receiver Jalen Virgil twice for a combined 57 yards, setting up the Black and Gold in the red zone. On fourth-and-two from the 6-yard line, Brice kept it himself and sprinted into the end zone. 

On the ensuing Jaguar drive, senior linebacker D’Marco Jackson tipped a pass, and senior linebacker Trey Cobb snagged it out of the air for his second interception of the season. The Mountaineers quickly capitalized on the turnover, taking two plays to find the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown reception for super senior receiver Corey Sutton with 1:43 to go in the first quarter. 

“Once I had seen the ball in the air, the first thing that came to my mind was ‘make a play,’” Cobb said. “That’s something that we emphasize every week.”

Graduate transfer quarterback Chase Brice zips a ball across the middle to super senior receiver Jalen Virgil. Virgil had two catches for 57 yards against the Jaguars. (Samuel Cooke)

The offense struggled for the remainder of the game, stalling at 14 points until late in the third quarter. After back-to-back Mountaineer punts, super senior receiver Thomas Hennigan muffed a punt, immediately conceding possession to the Jaguars. South Alabama’s Desmond Trotter tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass on the next play. 

Brice threw an interception on App State’s next drive, but the defense held firm and forced a missed field goal. Despite two turnovers and a fumbled punt, the Mountaineers entered halftime with a 14-7 lead. 

“When you don’t go out there and execute like you should, like a championship team should, you have a performance kind of like tonight,” Hennigan said. “We can learn from it, get it corrected on the film and come back next week.”

The offensive struggles continued into the third quarter until App State ended a nearly 30-minute scoring drought with a 25-yard field goal from Chandler Staton, taking a 17-7 lead.

The Mountaineers pieced together a nine-play, 51-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach. Brice found Hennigan for a 14-yard touchdown on another fourth down, and the Black and Gold took a 17-point lead with 8:23 remaining. 

“We want the offense to be aggressive because we know the type of defense we have,” said senior defensive lineman Demetrius Taylor. “We’re not afraid of the challenge.”

Cobb sealed the deal with his second pick of the day, returning this one 100 yards to the house. Cobb’s 100-yard pick-six was App State’s first 100-yarder since 1990. 

The Mountaineers sported American flag-themed helmets in celebration of Heroes Day Saturday. (Hiatt Ellis)

“I most definitely was gassed,” Cobb said. “Running 100 yards like that, I haven’t done that in a long time, so I felt it for sure.”

The Mountaineers hurt themselves all day with penalties and turnovers. They were flagged six more times than the Jaguars for 51 more yards and turned the ball over three times, not including the muffed punt. 

“We just didn’t play well,” Clark said. “We can make excuses and say the wind, the weather, this and that, but great teams find a way.” 

Cobb finished with six tackles and two interceptions, including his 100-yard pick-six. Junior linebacker Nick Hampton posted eight tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss, while senior defensive back Steven Jones Jr. totaled six solo tackles and two pass breakups. 

On offense, Brice threw for 195 yards and two interceptions while racking up three total touchdowns. Junior running back Cam Peoples ran for 90 yards on 23 carries, and Hennigan caught five balls for 37 yards and one touchdown. 

Heroes Day was celebrated at Kidd Brewer Stadium Saturday, recognizing veterans, firemen, police officers and healthcare workers in the Boone community and across the nation. 

“My dad was a Vietnam veteran. My brother-in-law flew helicopters. It’s got a soft spot in my heart,” Clark said. “I think the whole country should appreciate those guys more because if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be living in the greatest country in the world.” 

App State next takes on Troy in Alabama Nov. 20 at 3:30 p.m. After Georgia State defeated Coastal Carolina Saturday, the Mountaineers need to win just one of its final two regular season games to clinch a spot in the Sun Belt Championship.