A day in Death Valley


Chris Warner

After a disappointing 41-10 loss to Clemson (2-0) on Saturday, members of the Appalachian State football team (1-1) all seemed to be singing a similar tune about the Tigers, applauding the overall talent level of their opponents.

“They’re a well-coached football team number one,” head coach Scott Satterfield said. “And then they’re a super talented team.”

The first quarter appeared promising for App State after their defense held the ACC preseason player of the year Deshaun Watson and company to a mere 3 points, including an interception by sophomore cornerback Latrell Gibbs on the Tigers’ first drive.

But it would be Clemson’s defense that sparked a 28-point second quarter and put the game out of reach.

Roughly three minutes into the second quarter, sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb attempted to throw an inside slant but ended up watching Clemson’s junior defensive tackle Carlos Watkins streak by him for a 15-yard interception return touchdown.

The ill-advised throw came after the App State struggled mightily running the ball, accumulating a meager 3 yards in the first quarter. It wasn’t his first of the game, and it wouldn’t be his last, either.

“They are athletic, fast, physical, they’re a good secondary,” Lamb said. “I’m not saying that had everything to do with [the loss], but that had a lot to do with it.”

Satterfield also boasted about the talent in Clemson’s secondary.

“What they have in their secondary, their starters, there’s three guys that are NFL-bound, probably after this year,” Satterfield said. “They can man you up, and when they do that they let their safeties run free, so they were getting an extra hat on our running game.”

Lamb threw his first interception on arguably the Mountaineers best drive of the first half. Beginning on their own 30-yard, the Mountaineers drove all the way to the Clemson 24-yard line, thanks to a defensive penalty and a 27-yard screen reception by sophomore running back Terrence Upshaw.

But following the screen, Lamb took a shot to the right side of the end zone attempting to connect with junior tight end Barrett Burns, who was open — for a second. That was, until Clemson’s junior 6-foot-5-inch safety Jayron Kearse came flying across the field and outmuscled Burns for an interception.

“Even though they’re so young defensively, that secondary is the best thing I’ve ever faced,” Satterfield said. “They make it so hard on you. There’s not any holes where you can go get a ‘free’ five yards.”

Lamb continued to struggle following his pick-six, throwing yet another interception only two plays later. After a 2-yard rush by junior running back Marcus Cox, Lamb offered up another donation to the Clemson defense. This time, it was junior linebacker Ben Boulware with the interception.

The repeated Mountaineer turnovers, coupled with the fact that Clemson dominated time of possession, exhausted the App State defense, making them vulnerable. The Boulware turnover opened the floodgates for the Tigers’ offense.

“The three [interception] second quarter just killed us,” Lamb said.

It would only take one minute for Watson to connect with graduate receiver Charone Peake for a 24-yard touchdown, putting them up 17-0 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter.

Peake became Watson’s best friend in the second quarter, amassing four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns– the second coming two drives later on a 59-yard strike as he slipped behind the Mountaineers’ secondary. Eighty-six yards and two touchdowns were both career highs for the graduate receiver.

The offensive explosion by Clemson in the second quarter frustrated junior linebacker John Law, who felt that every area of the defense had some responsibility for the loss.

“There was stuff that everybody could improve on,” junior linebacker John Law said. “We gave up too many deep balls, we didn’t defend the run as well as I wanted to.”

Clemson took a 31-0 lead into the half, and never looked back.

Watson only played two drives in the second half, scoring on a one-play, 41-yard touchdown pass to speedy sophomore receiver Artavis Scott.

The Mountaineers began to gain some momentum when Clemson put in their second-team defense, but it never really felt like they were catching up– the damage had been done.

After a field goal in the third quarter, Lamb finally connected with Barrett Burns in the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown pass. It was Lamb’s only pass of an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter, and the Mountaineers only touchdown of the day.

A few players stood out despite the blowout loss.

Marcus Cox reached the 100 yard mark once again, making him only the seventh running back in App State’s history with 2,800 career rushing yards.

Terrence Upshaw also finished with 69 rushing yards, 52 of which came on a single carry in the fourth quarter.

Senior defensive end Ronald Blair put forth probably the most admirable individual performance, amassing two sacks and eight total tackles, something which specifically caught the head coach’s attention.

“He stood out for us out there,” Satterfield said. “He looked like he belonged in this game, and he does. He’s that kind of player. He played really well.”

Lamb said the team needed to put the loss behind them

“As a whole we’ve just got to step it up and forget about this loss,” Lamb said. “It’s gone. [We have to] take this off week and use it to our advantage.”

App State enters a bye week, giving them time to rest, repair, and prepare for their next game against Old Dominion on Sept. 26. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

Story by: Chris Warner, Sports Editor