A&T Aggies upset Appalachian StateMountaineers sink to 0-2 overall in Coach Satterfield’s first season
BOONE — In one of its most disappointing losses in recent memory, Appalachian State fell to underdog North Carolina A&T, 24-21, in its home opener Saturday.
The Mountaineers have now dropped to 0-2 overall. The mood on the mountain could be characterized, at best, as concerned as Appalachian inches closer to joining NCAA Division 1 football next year. Trailing by 18 points with less than six minutes to go, Appalachian State University football rallied to pull within three points but a would-be game-tying field goal missed wide left in the waning seconds.
North Carolina A&T (1-0) led 24-6 following Cody Jones’ 27-yard field goal with 8:11 to play but Appalachian State (0-2) scored two touchdowns in a span of 4:59 to to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 24 seconds to go. The Mountaineers then recovered an onside kick and moved 20 yards in three plays to set up a 46-yard field-goal attempt with seven seconds remaining. However, senior Drew Stewart’s attempt sailed a couple of feet wide of the left upright to dash Appalachian’s hopes of a miraculous comeback.
Appalachian dominated in most phases of the game, outgaining N.C. A&T, 378-244, and picking up 23 first downs compared to the Aggies’ 12. However, A&T scored two non-offensive touchdowns on a 91-yard kickoff return and a 57-yard interception return that proved to be the difference in its first win over App State since 1993.
D’Vonte Grant’s 57-yard interception return for a touchdown with four seconds to go in the second quarter capped a disastrous opening half for the Mountaineers, who trailed 21-6 at halftime despite surrendering only 100 yards of offense over the first two periods.
The score remained 21-6 until Jones’ field goal stretched the Aggies’ lead to 18 points nearly midway through the fourth quarter. Behind backup quarterback Kameron Bryant, who replaced starter Jamal Londry-Jackson at the beginning of the second half, Appalachian answered with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass from Bryant to tight end Barrett Burns with 5:23 left in the ballgame. A two-point conversion pass from Bryant to Simms McElfresh pulled the Apps within 10 points at 24-14.
After a failed onside-kick attempt, Appalachian’s defense forced a three-and-out but a 41-yard punt pinned the Mountaineers at their own one yard line. They were able to move out from the shadow of their own goal post but N.C. A&T seemingly iced the victory when Appalachian turned the ball over on downs at its own 14 yard line with 3:01 remaining.
However, instead of kicking a field goal on fourth and five from the App State nine yard line, the Aggies elected to go for what would have been a game-clinching first down. The strategy backfired when Patrick Blalock and Dante Blackmon stuffed A&T running back Dominique Drake for a three-yard loss and the Mountaineers took over on their own 12 with 1:53 to play.
From there, Bryant engineered a textbook eight-play, 88-yard drive. After an incomplete pass on the first play of the series, Bryant completed his final six passes of the drive, including a nine-yard touchdown pass to freshman running back Marcus Cox that drew the Mountaineers within three points with 24 seconds left in the game.
Stewart followed with a textbook onside kick that was recovered by Kevin Walton at midfield. An 11-yard completion to Andrew Peacock and a nine-yard run by Cox set up Stewart’s heart-wrenching miss with two seconds left on the clock.
In just one half of work, Bryant completed 21-of-31 passes without an interception for 191 yards and two touchdowns to nearly lead what would have been perhaps the most improbable comeback in program history. Senior Tony Washington had a career-high 11 receptions for 101 yards to lead all receivers while Peacock also hauled in 11 catches (matching a career high) for 93 yards. Cox caught three passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed eight times for 36 yards (4.5 avg.).
The unexpected loss puts pressure on a program, and new head coach Scott Satterfield, with so much at stake with the transition occurring next season to the Division 1 Sun Belt Conference. Satterfield’s first season was marked with controversy from the beginning as longtime head coach Jerry Moore has previously indicated that he had planned on returning for at least one more season with Appalachian. On December 2, 2012 after a first round home playoff loss to Illinois State, athletics director Charlie Cobb announced that Moore would not return for the 2013 season, a move that surprised Moore, who would later say that there must have been a communication gap between himself and Cobb.
The Mountaineers will now need to win 7 or their remaining 10 games to ensure a winning record for the regular season. Appalachian has not had a losing season in 20 years (1993, 4-7).
Several former Tuscola players continue to play key roles for App State.
Former Tuscola player and ASU junior Austin Chambers recorded one assist and continues to play significant minutes on special teams and linebacker while former Tuscola standout Graham Fisher (junior) continues to anchor the offensive line at center, a position that he became the starter in during his freshman year. Both players are among the leaders on the team academically as well.