Mountaineers lose overtime thriller to rival, end season 6-6

Sophomore+running+back+Nate+Noel+sprints+down+the+sideline+in+App+States+2OT+loss+to+Georgia+Southern+Nov.+26%2C+2022.+

Courtesy of Cade Bettinger, App State Athletics

Sophomore running back Nate Noel sprints down the sideline in App State’s 2OT loss to Georgia Southern Nov. 26, 2022.

Chance Chamberlain, Reporter

In the season’s final game, App State lost to rival Georgia Southern on Nov. 26 after reaching double overtime and ending with a score of 51-48.

“Gut-wrenching loss, gut-wrenching,” head coach Shawn Clark said.

With the loss, App State falls to 6-6 to finish the year and won’t qualify for bowl eligibility for the first time since entering the FBS in 2015. 

“We have to do a total assessment of our program and see who we really are,” Clark said.

The Eagles received the opening kickoff but only had the ball for three plays as Eagles quarterback Kyle Vantrease fumbled the ball and third-year sophomore defensive lineman DeAndre Dingle-Prince recovered the loose ball. 

The App State offense took the field at the 39-yard line in Georgia Southern territory. After two long runs from sixth-year redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice and sixth-year redshirt senior running back Daetrich Harrington, the Mountaineers were in a goal-to-go situation. However, the drive stalled as the Mountaineers were tackled short on first and second down. On third down, a Brice incompletion intended for fifth-year redshirt junior tight end Miller Gibbs forced a 22-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Michael Hughes. 

Georgia Southern responded with a quick five-minute touchdown drive as the Eagles quickly moved the ball down the field. 

After the kickoff, redshirt freshman wide receiver Dalton Stroman caught a 53-yard pass from Brice to flip the field. Once again, the App State offense stalled and the Mountaineers settled for a 37-yard field goal. 

To end the first quarter, Brice led the offense down to the Georgia Southern 7-yard line with long completions to fourth-year redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kaedin Robinson and fourth-year redshirt sophomore wide receiver Dashaun Davis. 

At the start of the second quarter, App State had the ball on the 1-yard line. After an unsuccessful sneak on the third down from Brice, the offense stayed on the field on the fourth down. Brice completed the pass to Robinson but was stopped at the goal line, resulting in a Mountaineer turnover on downs. 

On the next App State drive, sophomore running back Nate Noel ran left for a 51-yard touchdown to give App State a 13-7 lead. 

After the quick score by the Mountaineers, Georgia Southern responded with a touchdown of its own. Twice during the drive, App State had the Eagles on a third-and-long, but long completions by Vantrease kept their offense on the field. 

App State responded with a methodical five-minute drive to retake the lead with accurate passes from Brice and steady gains on the ground by Harrington. Noel capped off the drive with a 12-yard rushing touchdown to give the Mountaineers a 20-14 lead. 

Georgia Southern ended the half with a 35-yard field goal after a quick two-minute drive, with App State maintaining a 20-17 lead. 

App State received the opening second-half kickoff, and Noel immediately made an impact as he ran 49 yards on the drive’s first play. Noel followed up the long run with another first down run of 11 yards. The Eagles stopped the Mountaineers running attack and forced a 24-yard field goal. 

Georgia Southern had a quick strike on a 42-yard completion to redshirt senior wide receiver Jeremy Singleton. App State forced a field goal attempt on fourth down, but the Eagles faked the kick and gained a first down. With new life, Georgia Southern capped off the drive on a 2-yard rushing touchdown to take a 24-23 lead. 

The offensive success from App State continued as the Mountaineers scored in four plays. Brice threw a 40-yard completion to senior tight end Henry Pearson, and Harrington followed up the big play with a rush of 31 yards. Harrington ended the drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown. App State attempted a two-point conversion and was successful as Brice completed his pass to Noel. 

Once again, Vantrease had a deep 50-yard completion to freshman wide receiver Joshua Thompson to set up the Eagles at the goal line. Georgia Southern tied the game on a 1-yard touchdown pass from Vantrease. 

Before the end of the third quarter, Marshall had big rushes of 18 and 19 yards to put the Mountaineers in the red zone. As the fourth quarter began, App State kept the ball in Marshall’s hands with four consecutive running plays, with the fourth being a 2-yard touchdown. 

As Georgia Southern started its next drive successfully, the Mountaineers got the stop they desperately needed as senior inside linebacker Logan Doublin intercepted Vantrease. 

App State couldn’t take advantage of the turnover as the offense was held to a three-and-out, forcing the Mountaineers to punt for the first time in the game. 

A brief scoring spell from both teams was concluded as the Eagles quickly moved down the field, and Vantrease strolled into the endzone for a 3-yard touchdown to tie the game. 

With 4:22 left to play and rain now pouring, App State took the field hoping to break the tie for a game-winning drive. On 3rd-and-3, Brice completed a 33-yard pass to Noel to put the Mountaineers in Georgia Southern territory. In field goal range, App State kept the ball on the ground and in the hands of Marshall. However, the Eagles’ defense tackled Marshall for a loss on 3rd-and-1. With 1:44 remaining, the offense stayed on the field, and once again, Marshall was stopped resulting in a turnover on downs. 

“We haven’t stopped them all night, and they had no timeouts,” Clark said. “Figured if we would’ve gotten the first down, we could’ve kicked a field goal to win or a touchdown.”

The Georgia Southern offense took the field and converted on 3rd-and-7 off a Vantrease completion. However, the Mountaineer defense stepped up and forced the Eagles to punt on 4th-and-20. 

Brice led the App State offense on the field with 0:41 remaining. A 45-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Christian Horn from Brice put App State in field goal territory. However, Hughes’ kick from 30 yards sailed to the left as regulation expired. 

“A lot of confidence in Michael Hughes, and he’ll bounce back better for those,” Clark said.

To start overtime, the Eagles scored in four plays on a Vantrease four-yard touchdown pass.

App State needed to score to extend the game and did so on its first play as Noel ran 25 yards to the endzone.

App State had the first possession in the second overtime, but the offense was stifled and forced to settle for a Hughes 33-yard field goal. 

“They put us in tough situations, and we didn’t make enough plays,” Clark said.

Georgia Southern took the field as the Mountaineers’ defense needed to hold the Eagles to a field goal or less to avoid a loss. The first play resulted in an overthrown pass from Vantrease that sailed into the stands. However, the next throw from Vantrease was on target to sixth-year senior wide receiver Ezrah Archie for a 25-yard touchdown to end the game and season for the Mountaineers. 

“We could’ve done a better job of making those field goals touchdowns, and we have to stop them on defense,” Clark said.

The Mountaineers totaled 376 rushing yards, with Noel leading the team with 12 rushes for 171 yards and three touchdowns. Along with Noel, Marshall had 20 rushes for 91 yards, and Harrington had nine rushes for 74 yards, with both running backs adding a touchdown. 

“I thought our offensive line played really well tonight,” Clark said. “We gave up zero sacks and rushed for a lot.”

In the passing game, Brice led the way with 15 completions for 253 yards, and Horn was his leading receiver with 55 yards. 

The 2022 season will mark the first time that App State will not finish with a winning record since the 4-8 2013 season. 

The Mountaineers will enter the offseason with many questions to answer and prepare for the 2023 season in the spring.

“I do want to thank our seniors that came back and fought their tails off all year,” Clark said.