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Mountaineers survive shootout against ULM 41-40

Courtesy of Matthew Barnes, App State Athletics
Junior running back Nate Noel breaks away from a Warhawk defender Sept. 30.

After a heartbreaking finish against Wyoming, App State responded with a gutsy and high-scoring matchup against ULM to improve to 3-2. In a game that saw a combined 1,007 total yards, junior kicker Michael Hughes displayed some late-game heroics to lift the Mountaineers to a 41-40 victory. 

“I’m very proud of our players,” said head coach Shawn Clark. “Everyone involved in our program just showed resilience. The odds of us winning that football game were not good, but everyone stuck together.”

The first quarter began as a nightmare for the Black and Gold, as the Warhawks opened the game up with a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes. ULM’s first touchdown was set up by the defensive efforts of knocking the ball loose from redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson’s hands. 

After being down 14-0 early, the Mountaineers responded quickly as junior quarterback Joey Aguilar found junior wide receiver Christan Horn for a 52-yard touchdown. Horn broke away from single coverage and walked into the endzone. On the next play, Warhawks quarterback Jiya Wright threw an interception to redshirt senior cornerback Tyrek Funderburk who returned it for a 23-yard touchdown. Funderburk recorded his second pick-six of the season as App State tied the game in two plays. 

After an up-and-down first quarter, the Mountaineers totaled 150 yards with 119 through the air. 

As the second quarter progressed, Aguilar found Robinson in the back of the endzone on third down for a 6-yard receiving touchdown. Robinson gave App State their first lead as the Mountaineers scored 21 unanswered points. 

ULM quickly answered with a 14-yard jump ball receiving touchdown tying the game at 21. 

Five minutes later, the Black and Gold drove down the field and capped off their drive with a 10-yard rushing touchdown by redshirt freshman running back Kanye Roberts. 

The final scoring drive of the half came when the Warhawks found the endzone on a 3-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game at 28. With both offenses revolving around the run game to begin the season, both focused on the opposite in this game, with a combined total of more than 600 yards in the first half. 

App State’s offense didn’t slow down to begin the second half as Aguilar threw a check-down pass to Horn, who avoided multiple ULM defenders for a 22-yard receiving touchdown. Horn totaled six receptions for 124 yards and two touchdowns on the night. 

On the next drive, the Warhawks continued their offensive dominance as Wright snuck across the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown. After an extended break for an injured ULM player, redshirt sophomore safety Jordan Favors blocked their extra point attempt, maintaining the Mountaineers’ 35-34 lead.

As the third quarter wore on, the App State offense began to falter, and the Warhawks took advantage as Wright threw his fourth touchdown pass of the night to wide receiver Tyrone Howell on an 8-yard reception. Wright finished the game with five total touchdowns, as Howell had three receiving touchdowns. ULM attempted a two-point conversion, but failed as the Warhawks held a 40-35 lead. 

With an opportunity to retake the lead early in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineer settled for a 28-yard field goal from Hughes after the offense stalled out in the red zone. Hughes’ kick brought the Black and Gold within two points. 

The Warhawks possessed and chewed up the clock as their offense was on a potential game-sealing drive. With the ball set up near the goal line, ULM decided to go for it on fourth down with a chance to go up by two scores with five minutes remaining. The App State defense immediately sniffed out the fourth down play, and gave the Mountaineer offense an opportunity for a game-winning drive. 

With the offense driving down the field and nearing field goal territory, the Black and Gold found themselves in a fourth-and-long situation. As the play developed, Aguilar decided to keep it himself and scramble, but fell half a yard short of the first down marker.

The App State defense responded with a quick three-and-out, in what could’ve been the final chance for the Mountaineer offense. Due to Clark conserving timeouts, the Mountaineer offense had another opportunity with a little more than a minute remaining. 

The late-game drive started rough as the Black and Gold found themselves in a third-and-long scenario, but Aguilar completed a 14-yard pass to Robinson for a first down. Aguilar then connected with Robinson twice to set up Hughes for a game-winning field goal. Robinson totaled 10 receptions for 112 yards and one touchdown. 

With the ball spotted at the ULM 44-yard line, Hughes drilled a career-long 54-yard field goal to give App State a 41-40 victory as the clock expired. 

“I knew it was going to be a long one, but we practice those kicks every day in practice,” Hughes said. “I had the confidence in me that was just built up over the years. It’s just trusting the guys around me and getting the job done.”

The late-game heroics from Hughes and Aguilar led the Mountaineers to a come-from-behind victory. Aguilar completed 27 of his 39 passes for 335 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. While the focal point of this game was the passing game, junior running back Nate Noel continued his 100-yard game streak with a 108 rushing-yard performance. 

After back-to-back, one-score games, App State heads into their bye week before hosting 2-3 Coastal Carolina Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2. 

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About the Contributor
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.
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