App State took advantage of a strong first half and a record setting day from freshman running back Marcus Cox to defeat Western Carolina 48-27 in the final game for App State in the SoCon at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Cox set an App State freshman record for rushing yards in a single game, finishing with 219. He also ran for 3 touchdowns and caught 2 passes for 19 yards and a touchdown.Cox added enough to his season totals to set new freshman records for single season rushing yards with 1,254, rushing touchdowns with 15 and offensive touchdowns with 21.The Mountaineers set the tone on the first drive of the game when redshirt sophomore quarterback Kameron Bryant hit senior wide receiver Andrew Peacock for a 39-yard reception that ignited the crowd and set App State up in the Catamount red zone.On the ensuing play, Cox took a handoff from Bryant and sprinted up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown run that put the Mountaineers up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.The Mountaineers would never relinquish the lead.After the App State score, Western worked on putting together a long drive of their own.The Catamounts drove all the way down to the App State 13 yard line, but sophomore quarterback Troy Mitchell fumbled. Senior defensive lineman Adam Scott scooped up the loose ball, stalling a promising Western drive.The Mountaineers took over and drove down the field into Catamount territory.Bryant scrambled for 23 yards before ducking out of bounds at the Western 15-yard line.The big play set up a Bryant pass over the middle to Cox, who snagged the ball and sprinted around the Western defense into the endzone for a 15-yard touchdown. The lead extended to 14-0.After one quarter in Boone, App State had outgained Western 191 yards to 63.Early in the second quarter, the Catamounts missed an opportunity to change momentum when junior linebacker Christian Gill dropped an interception with an open field in front of him.App State capitalized on the mistake, adding a field goal off the foot of senior placekicker Drew Stewart to make the score 17-0.As the quarter went on, Western’s offense continued to struggle.The Mountaineers were in the middle of another drive when Cox sprinted 56 yards down the sideline for a touchdown that fired up the crowd again.After a Catamount punt, the Mountaineer offense produced another big scoring play when Bryant found senior wide receiver Tony Washington open downfield and placed a pass perfectly over his shoulder, allowing him to jog in for a 50-yard touchdown to extend the App State lead to 31-0.The Catamounts capitalized on an opportunity to break the shutout when a bouncing punt hit the foot of junior defensive back Joel Ross, resulting in a live ball that Western freshman defensive back Damian Walker recovered in Mountaineer territory at the 40-yard line.The Catamounts took advantage of the good field position. Junior quarterback Eddie Sullivan hit sophomore running back Darius Ramsey with a pass, allowing him to maneuver into the endzone to put Western on the board and cut the App State lead to 31-7.Head coach Scott Satterfield said the first half went as planned.“We felt that if we could get up a couple scores early, then we could get that momentum and we would have a great chance at it,” he said. “I didn’t envision it being like it was, to get 31 points so quickly on them, but that was our vision in what we wanted to happen early in this game.”Western’s first drive of the second half ended quickly when Sullivan, who was hurried by redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Thomas Bronson, lobbed a pass into the middle of the field that was intercepted by senior linebacker Karl Anderson, who returned it 37 yards for a touchdown.“I was just able to get some good depth, recognize the pass pretty clearly,” Anderson said. “Rodger Walker had a great block out on the perimeter on the only guy that had a chance to make a tackle, and I just kind of tight roped the sideline and got into the endzone.”Western responded when junior running back Shaun Warren plunged into the endzone from three yards out to cut the App State lead to 38-14.Cox capped off another third quarter scoring drive for the Mountaineers, powering in from 2 yards out to make the score 45-14.Midway through the third quarter, Peacock was hit hard as he extended his body to attempt a catch. Peacock was on the field for nearly 10 minutes as medical staff came to his aid.He left the game on a stretcher. Satterfield said he had lost consciousness and was at the hospital, but was later released and came back to rejoin his teammates after the game.App State then extended the lead to 48-14 with a 48-yard field goal from Stewart.Sullivan drove the Catamounts down the field into Mountaineer territory and capped the drive off with a 6-yard touchdown strike to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Karnorris Benson.Western attempted a two-point conversion, but failed, resulting in a 48-20 score.In the final minutes of the third quarter, senior quarterback Jamal Londry-Jackson entered the game for App State for the last time. It was Londy-Jackson’s first appearance since Oct. 12 in the game against Samford.Londry-Jackson completed all five of his pass attempts for 13 yards and helped the Mountaineers run out the clock late in the game.The Catamounts made a fourth quarter dent in the lead when Sullivan scrambled out of the pocket and scampered 14 yards for a touchdown.The 48-27 score would not change, as the Mountaineers drained the last five minutes of the game by running the ball.The win was App State’s ninth-straight victory in the battle for The Old Mountain Jug. After a win over Wofford, it also marks the first time this season that the Mountaineers have won back-to-back games.“We wanted this one real bad for the seniors,” Cox said. “It was our last time playing Western Carolina as a school, and we knew the jug was on the line.”The Mountaineers will now set their sights on FBS play, as they will play in the Sun Belt Conference beginning next season.App State ends the SoCon era with an all-time conference record of 204-87-5.Story: CORY SPIERS, Opinion editorPhoto: PAUL HECKERT, Senior Photographer