Appalachian State steadily pulled away from archrival Georgia Southern Thursday night at Kidd Brewer Stadium thanks to a sharp offense and a dominating defense. The win grants the Mountaineers (6-1, 3-0 Sun Belt) bowl eligibility, while the Eagles (5-2, 3-1) get on the bus and try to figure out what went wrong.
Southern came into the contest averaging 43 points a game from week 2 on and looked to keep that pace on the first drive. After electing to take the kickoff the Eagles' all-white offense ran straight down the field: eight plays, 86 yards, four different ball carriers and seven points:
From that point the best thing for Eagle Nation would've been a massive power outtage keeping their eyes off the carnage. It was all App from then on.
Pick your favorite stat: App passed for 202 yards and two scores; Southern passed for 64 and two interceptions. App outrushed Southern 224 to 188. The Mountaineers held possession for 34:08. They gained 22 first downs to the Eagles' 13. App racked up 10 tackles for a loss by the end of the third quarter. Oh, and they outscored the visitors 31-6.
Georgia Southern couldn't do anything after the first drive, punting four straight times. That looked bad until the second half, when two straight drives ended with passes caught by the Black and Gold.
App State dared the Eagles to throw by loading up eight or nine men in the box on almost every play. The visitors couldn't call the bluff.
On cue, the Mountaineer offense kicked into high gear. After an early field goal they took the lead off a Marcus Cox touchdown run with no less than three broken tackles.
Southern punted again and the Appalachian offense marched down the field to go up 17-7. This time it was Simms McElfresh with the touchdown catch from Taylor Lamb:
Only a mercifully timed sack and a missed App field goal kept the score from being more lopsided at the half.
Ironhead Gallon and William Bussey returned to Georgia Southern's defense for the third quarter after sitting out for targeting calls. That seemed to make a difference at first as App went three and out to start the second half.
Instead, Southern missed a 35-yard field goal, Mondo Williams intercepted Kevin Ellison and App tight end Brandon Burns ran untouched into the end zone for a 24-7 advantage. Cox added a second score in what was basically garbage time and LA Ramsby scored right at the end to make the final look more respectable.
Southern fans' worst fear -- being exposed as one dimensional -- was realized tonight. Matt Breida managed just 76 yards. The last time he ran for less than 100 was the 44-0 week one loss to West Virginia. Not a coincidence. Whatever Appalachian did to prepare for this game, Eagle fans sure hope other teams in the conference don't emulate.
For App State, the win sets up a bright and clear path to the Sun Belt title. Arkansas State still hasn't lost a conference game but the Mountaineers will surely come in as a big favorite there. That's the toughest game left for them and 11-1 seems well within reach.
Odds 'n Ends: Southern's radio team kept mentioning someone with a green laser pointer sitting in the end zone seats. Sure enough the public address system later warned the crowd twice about it. Not that it mattered.
The result was historic for both sides. Appalachian State became bowl eligible for the first time ever. Georgia Southern lost its first-ever Sun Belt conference game.
Georgia Southern swore off blue pants for a decade after wearing them in a bad road loss to App State in the late '90s. This time the white helmets, first worn last week for homecoming and trotted out again tonight, might go away for a while.
Behind the stadium there was apparently a cafeteria fire, which media members at the game could see from the press box.
Being told there's a fire nearby at the App St cafeteria pic.twitter.com/P2eqfwrlKm— Nathan Deen (@NathanDeenSMN) October 23, 2015
Must've been Georgia Southern's offense in that building going up in smoke. It sure wasn't on the field.