We’ve reached the final stop of our recap series (Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Georgia Southern, Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, ULM, South Alabama, Texas State, Troy) and now we’ll head to the great state of North Carolina.
The Mountaineers have been dominant since joining the Sun Belt and in 2017 they brought home their second consecutive conference title. Scott Satterfield will be back at Kidd Brewer Stadium for his sixth season in 2018 and the expectations will be as high as ever.
It’s been an impressive transition for this program as they made the jump from the FCS ranks and here we’ll recap what was a very good season in 2017.
A schedule that was missing both Arkansas State and Troy immediately made the Mountaineers the heavy favorite to bring home a conference title. The coaches called for a first place finish as did the UDD panel.
App State had a very nice nucleus returning as quarterback Taylor Lamb would be back for his fourth-year as the program’s starter behind center. Running back Jalin Moore entered his junior season with over 2,100 career rushing yards to go along with a very experienced offensive line led by seniors Colby Gossett and Beau Nunn. On the other side, the defense was loaded with a ton of returning starters. Linebacker Eric Boggs was expected to be one of the best in the Group of Five and corner Clifton Duck recorded five interceptions as a freshmen.
It was setup to be a great year for the Mountaineers and outside of the opener against Georgia, App State figured to be a favorite in each game. It was setting up to be a special year for Scott Satterfield’s squad.
The Mountaineers opened the season with a tall task as they headed to Athens to take on the Georgia Bulldogs “Between the Hedges”. UGA lost starting quarterback Jacob Eason early to injury but true frosh Jake Fromm performed admirably as Georgia notched 31 points and pitched a shutout going into the fourth quarter. The final was 31-10 but this one was never really close.
The next week App State would crush FCS member Savannah State by a count of 54-7 and then would go on the road to collect an ugly win over Texas State. It wasn’t pretty in the first three weeks, but the Mountaineers would enter the huge week four contest with Wake Forest with a 2-1 record and some momentum.
The next Saturday would be the biggest crowd in Kidd Brewer Stadium history as 35,126 would be in attendance to see the Demon Deacons and the Mountaineers go at it in the battle of two North Carolina schools. Behind a strong performance from Taylor Lamb that saw the senior throw for 372 yards, the Mountaineers took a 9-3 lead into half. A crazy third quarter gave us three combined touchdown passes from each team and Wake would enter the fourth quarter with a 17-16 lead. The two squads would trade field goals in the first half of the final quarter as the Deacs held on to a 20-19 lead. App State would have the ball on the final possession as Michael Rubino lined up for a 39-yard field goal. The attempt would be blocked and App State would lose a heartbreaker.
After a bye week, the Mountaineers would host New Mexico State in one of the most exciting Sun Belt games of the 2017 season. App State a 45-31 victory as they would need four touchdowns in the final quarter to pull away. The defense came away with six interceptions and that would be the difference.
The close games didn’t end there as the Mountaineers would make a visit to the Kibbie Dome for the final time the next week. The Vandals took a 17-0 lead into the half. After claiming a 20-0 lead in the third quarter, the bottom fell out for the Vandals as the Mountaineers recovered two fumbles and Taylor Lamb engineered a fourth quarter comeback to give App State a 23-20 win to improve to 3-0 in league play. The next week would be another close call as the Mountaineers would squeak by Coastal Carolina by a count of 37-29.
Through this portion of the season, the Mountaineers had been playing with fire and it would finally start to burn them beginning on Halloween weekend. App State would take on UMass in Amherst and would suffer a bad loss. Holding a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers would give up a last minute drive and the Minutemen would nail a 45-yard field goal to force overtime. There UMass would get a win in double overtime as App State would turn it over and UMass would drill another field goal.
The next week the Mountaineers would travel to Monroe and lose an absolute shootout to the Warhawks. Taylor Lamb would be outgunned by Caleb Evans as ULM scored the final touchdown with under a minute remaining for a 52-45 win. Each team recorded over 500 yards of offense in the thriller.
After a short week, the Mountaineers returned to Boone and took care of business against Georgia Southern on a Wednesday night. Then things would really get going as App State found their groove in the last three games of the season.
App State went on the road to pick up a statement win against Georgia State by a count of 31-10. On senior day, Louisiana-Lafayette came to town as Taylor Lamb and the offense put up 63 points on as the Mountaineers claimed a share of the conference title.
Then in Mobile, the Mountaineers may have pulled out the most impressive win of the bowl season in the shutout victory over Toledo. The Rockets entered the contest having one of the most powerful offenses in college football and the App State defense held them 146 total yards in the 34-0 victory.
Entering the season, the Mountaineers had some huge questions to answer at wide receiver as leading returning receiver Shaedon Meadors would miss the season. Therefore, there would be very little returning outside. The Mountaineers would have to get young very quickly and we weren’t sure what production we would get from the outside.
Fast forward to 13 games later and the future is bright in Boone at the wideout position. Freshmen Thomas Hennigan and Jalen Virgil both stepped up big time this past fall and recorded a combined 65 receptions, 949 yards, and 10 touchdowns. The Mountaineers will have a new quarterback in 2018 and he’ll benefit from this solid receiving duo.
Jalin Moore entered his junior season having over 2,100 career rushing yards and many expected for him to be the Sun Belt’s best offensive player. After sharing carries with Marcus Cox, it was now the Shelby, North Carolina native’s turn to be the star.
What was suppose to be a great year got off to a very slow start. Moore only ran for 136 yards in the first four weeks and only went for over 100 yards once in the first seven games. Moore missed two games and was knocked out of two others with injuries.
The junior got rolling in the last four games as he reached over 100 yards in each contest and finished the season with over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Moore will return as the top back in the Sun Belt for his senior season and figures to be a monster if able to stay healthy.
In four years, Scott Satterfield has accumulated a 31-9 record in the Sun Belt with two conference championships. The Mountaineers are now 3-0 in their bowl games and have set the bar for how to make the transition from the FCS to the FBS.
This is a team that returns a lot in 2018 and gets Troy coming to Boone which will likely decide the first ever Sun Belt East division champion. Losing Taylor Lamb and defensive coordinator Nate Woody to Georgia Tech hurts, but this program has the infrastructure to keep winning at a high level.
Expect the Mountaineers to be in the mix for a conference title in 2018 and in the near future.