RECAP: Mountaineers defeat Buccaneers 42-7

The 2019 football season and the Eliah Drinkwitz era opened with a 42-7 Mountaineer win over East Tennessee State University on Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium. 

In their first drive, App State was forced to punt the ball away after running just three plays. After that, the Mountaineers took control for nearly the entire game. 

“Obviously, we started off a little slow on the offensive side of the ball. The defense did a great job keeping the other team out of the end zone,” Drinkwitz said. “I thought their drive to keep them from scoring before half was really big, and then our offense came out and drove for a touchdown.”

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Junior running back Darrynton Evans celebrates after scoring a touchdown. Evans rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown and caught a pair of passes for 21 yards in the 42-7 win over ETSU.

The offense came to life in the second drive of the game. They jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard rushing touchdown from junior quarterback Zac Thomas with just under three minutes left in the first quarter. From there, the Mountaineers never trailed, leading 21-0 before ETSU put their first points on the board.

It was an overall strong showing for the Mountaineers on both sides of the ball. The offense was a perfect 6-6 in trips to the red zone with six touchdowns and the defense only allowed ETSU to enter the red zone once. App State had 444 total offensive yards and held ETSU to 292 total yards.

Thomas was the focal point of the offense, throwing for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-24 passes. He also rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown on five carries. 

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Junior wide receiver Jalen Virgil scores the first rushing touchdown of his career in the fourth quarter of App State’s 42-7 win over ETSU on Saturday.

Out of the backfield, junior running back Darrynton Evans rushed for 99 yards and a touchdown and caught a pair of passes for 21 yards. 

“Our offense is about getting the playmakers the ball, and so FTS, man. Feed the studs,” Drinkwitz said. “Find ways to give them the ball. Find ways to get them in space.”

Junior wide receiver Thomas Hennigan recorded a career-high in receptions with seven catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.

“(Hennigan’s) been our most consistent wide receiver through fall camp. They’ve had a great connection,” Drinkwitz said. “We told our whole team that you have to believe in yourselves like we believe in you, and he did a nice job of that today.”

Senior outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither led the defense in the first game of the season. The preseason All-Sun Belt first team selection tied the team lead with seven tackles, including one for a loss of eight yards, and broke up a pair of passes. 

“That’s a good football team, in my opinion. Like coach Drinkwitz said, it’s tough to win college football games,” said senior safety Josh Thomas. “Getting this first win is the first step in this journey that we are taking.”

Next week, App State hosts Charlotte at 3:30 p.m.

Moss Brennan contributed to this story.