Appalachian State marched into Statesboro and snapped rival Georgia Southern’s two-year winning streak over the Mountaineers with a 34-26 victory on Saturday.
The final score of this one was misleading, as App dominated the second half after trailing the Eagles after at halftime by a 17-7 margin. At one point, the Mountaineers ripped off 24 unanswered points from the end of the midgame break until early in the fourth quarter, essentially ending any hopes of Georgia Southern retaking a lead.
Nate Noel was the star for App in this one, rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries, including a 70-yard touchdown run that gave the visiting team a 31-20 lead with 12:51 left in regulation, capping the 24 unanswered points the team from Boone was able to put on the board.
Third-string quarterback Miller Mosley hit Dexter Carter Jr. on a slant with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter to pull Georgia Southern within six points of App, 32-26, but the game was all but over at that point as GS was unable to put together any consistent offense once Justin Tomlin left with injury in the second quarter.
Appalachian State signal caller Zac Thomas gave the Eagles fits with his arm (208 yards, two touchdowns and an interception) as GS defenders looked lost at times trying to cover Thomas Hennigan, Henry Pearson and Jalen Virgil.
The first half showed that even down several offensive starters, Southern was able to hang with its biggest rival as long as Tomlin was healthy and the pass defense held its own. Neither stayed true for long.
Thomas gave the Eagles the first points of the day by gift-wrapping David Spaulding a pick-six late in the first quarter to put GS up 7-0.
Following Tomlin’s touchdown run in the second quarter that put the Eagles up 14-0, the backup quarterback left for the day nursing a leg injury, as GS was outscored 34-12 the rest of the way.
By the time Virgil and Noel had scored two touchdowns in the span of 3 minutes of game time in the third quarter, the game was over, for all intents and purposes as Mosley threw two backbreaking interceptions that allowed App to come away with the win.
In the last four games it has played, Chad Lunsford’s team has blown 3 halftime leads and the Eagles are 1-3 in the last four games of this season after starting 6-2.
I would say this was just a tough loss with a third-stringer under center, but this has become a pattern no matter who starts at quarterback.
Both squads will look to end the year strong, presuming that all playoff bowl games do not get cancelled between now and the end of the month.