Boone, NC (November 1) – In swirling, cold, gusting wet snow, the Appalachian State Mountaineers (3-5, 2-2) humiliated the Georgia State Panthers (1-8,0-6), 44-0, in a Sunbelt(?) Conference contest between two first-year FBS football programs. ASU RB Marcus Cox rushed for 250 yards and three TDs while teammate Ricky Ferguson rushed for 123 yards and a TD as they combined for the second straight week rushing over 100 yards each. Georgia State totaled only eight yards on the ground as snow swirled throughout the game. The Panthers entered the game averaging 316 passing yards per game. Starter QB Nick Arbuckle and back-up Ronnie Bell combined for only nine completions of 17 attempts for 54 yards and an INT. For Collegefootballfan.com, we added these two teams as numbers 126 and 127 to stay on the trail of our Goal to see every FBS program play at least once. Two remain with Charlotte joining this division next season. It was our first trip ever to Kidd Brewer Stadium.
In the second half, maintenance workers blew snow off the yard markers with leaf blowers during TV time-outs as it started to stick to the Pro-turf. Who was watching this game on ESPN3 by this time Guest Game Analyst Joe Massimilla and I could not figure. Joe’s son, Sam, is a sophomore at ASU majoring in music education and a member of the Marching Mountaineers to meet the criteria of the music department at ASU. As we came well prepared with extra layers of clothes and rain gear to withstand the elements, many of the long-time faithful App fans and the ASU marching band left the cold slaughter by the end of halftime before Joe and I did.
On their first possession of the game, Panther QB Nick Arbuckle’s pass was intercepted by LB John Law at the GSU 32. Cox scored his first TD on a one-yard run. Appy State scored again on its next possession finishing off a 90-yard drive when Frosh QB Taylor Lamb (8 for 13, 90 yards passing) wove through the Panther defense for a nine-yard TD run and a 13-0 Mountaineer lead going into the second period. In the second frame, the Panthers could not mount any offense, and a fumble forced by DL Olawale Dada (great name!) was recovered and returned 17 yards by John Law to the GSU 18. Cox would score his second TD from the six for a 20-0 Appalachian lead. Next, Joe and I witnessed what should be an “ESPN classic”. After a 10-yard Georgia State punt into the swirling, gusty winds of Kidd-Brewer Stadium, ASU drove from the GSU 38 to the 17-yard line before using all three remaining time-outs to try to get into the end zone. With three seconds left on the clock, ASU PK Bentlee Critcher came in to extend the score by three from 30 yards away. The Panther’s HC Trent Miles, figuring he still had his three time-outs to burn, figured he’d use them all to “ice” ASU on the attempt. Each timeout was met by crescendos of “Boos” because he only prolonged the agony of those of us sitting in cold, wet, snow- covered aluminum bleachers.
On the third consecutive and final TO, the Panther sideline jumped in unison and yelled toward Critcher to add to the “intimidation”. Set up for the final chance for the attempt, Critcher suddenly went in motion running toward the GSU sideline. The left side of the Panther D reacted and the GSU sideline suddenly froze to a standstill. The long snapper hiked directly back to the holder, Simms McElfresh, who stood up, caught the football and ran untouched through a huge gap on the right side of the line for a 13-yard TD run and a 27-0 halftime lead. The result was met by cheers and laughter from the Appalachian State crowd. The Panthers ran silently to their locker room behind the goal post after the ensuing extra point. Joe and I agreed the entire sequence should be on of ESPN’s Top 10 plays of the day. You’ll probably never see anything like it again. Appy was assessed a 15-yard penalty for excessive celebration for the second half kickoff, but it was definitely worth it for the home team and for the fans watching.
More dominance was demonstrated by the Mountaineers to start the second half. Cox finished a 78-yard drive with a five yard TD run to start, and Critcher polished off a 75-yard drive next time ASU had the ball with a 26-yard FG for a 37-0 Mountaineer lead at the end of the third period. A 35-yard punt return by Donovan Harden and a 15-yard penalty put GSU in their best field position of the day at the ASU 18 before the period ended.
The fourth period started typically for the Panthers as back-up QB Ronnie Bell tried to take it in on a third and goal at the three, but his fumble was recovered by DT Deuce Robinson at the five. RB Ricky Ferguson covered the next 95 yards on four carries for the Mountaineers including an 84-yard sprint down to the GSU seven before he took his fourth carry the final four yards for a TD and ASU’s 44-0 lead with a little over eleven minutes remaining. Joe looked at me and said, “Up to you.” Like when I added Old Dominion earlier this season and Louisiana Tech many years before to add them the annals of CFF.com history, I utilized the “Blow-out waiver” and in this case the apathy factor along with the inclement weather got considered into the mix.
We were on our way out and didn’t miss a thing as we had seen the final score of the 44-0 romp by Appalachian over Georgia State. I’d been up since 4 a.m. to catch my flight to Raleigh to meet up with Joe, we were hungry, had a three-hour drive ahead of us, and I had to catch an 8:30 am flight home the next day. The Mountaineers and Panthers were both in the fold. No. 128 Georgia Southern is two weeks away and No. 129 Charlotte will be assimilated into next year’s plans after the 2014 season. In the short-term, Appy hosts Louisiana-Monroe next week to try for their third consecutive Sunbelt win. Georgia State heads to Troy (1-8, 1-4) to try for their first conference win and FBS win ever. They face mighty Clemson for a big paycheck the following weekend. CFF.com scales down from the FBS (but not by much) as we head to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania next Friday night for a battle for first place in the FCS Patriot League when the Bucknell Bison (7-1, 3-0) host the No. 10 Fordham Rams (8-1, 4-0) most likely for an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. The next day, we will attend the D-3 game between The Alma Mater, Juniata College (4-4, 3-4), when they host the Moravian Greyhounds (4-4, 3-4). It will be the first time in about 30 years that we’ve been back on campus for a football game.
Extra points: ASU Head Coach Scott Satterfield took over the position from legendary ASU HC Jerry Moore in December 2012. As QB for Moore in 1995, he led the Mountaineers to their only undefeated, untied regular season in 1995. He has spent 18 of the last 23 years at Appy State as a player and coach. His task is to lead them to success in the FBS.
Typical strength coaches: Director of Strength and Training for ASU, Mike Sirignano could be seen throughout the game with one of his staff members along the side line in white short-sleeved golf shirts running up and down the sideline exhorting the Mountaineers on. They were entertaining and showing their students how they could shrug off the elements to give them encouragement throughout the ball game.
The weather made written notes and picture taking impossible after a while as paper got wet and cold wet hands were difficult to fit back into gloves where the lining started to come out. I had to check out the Appalachian website for stats, plays, and box scores to finish this review.
Joe pointed out that when we got into town of Boone, he could tell the crowd would not be as big as usual. Many parking spaces available for a fee were not filled when we arrived about three hours before the game. All previous games had been played at night and spaces were hard to come by at this time of day. Many Mountaineer fans were most likely turned away by the weather forecast and by the lack of wins by this year’s team. Appalachian fans got used to winning at the FCS level for many years and are not used to their program’s growing pains as they join the FBS. We hope to see them climb back the top of the Sunbelt conference at least. They have a proud football heritage at ASU. Remember Michigan!
Joe also recalled that the Panther Offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was once HC of Boston College. However, he was released from BC when he reportedly had some interviews with the New York Jets about their open position. He was 20-8 at BC in 2007-2008 after 20 years’ experience in coaching at the collegiate and professional levels including a successful stint with the Green Bay Packers as an assistant. Since BC, he made coaching stops annually at Tampa Bay in the NFL, Omaha in the UFL (whatever that is), and at NAIA school Ave Maria. It’s been a far drop from what was once a career seemingly ready to take off.
After the game, despite the low crowd attendance at the game, most of the dinner venues were pretty full and people lined up waiting to get in along the main drag in Boone (named after the great Pioneer, Daniel). We eventually had dinner at Capone’s Pizza. Petty good.
Boone sits 3,332 feet above sea level. As Joe and I left the stadium back to Sam’s apartment a short distance away, not only were our legs stiffened from sitting in the cold, but I definitely felt somewhat winded walking in cooler and thinner, mountain air. It takes some getting used to. When we left Boone in the car later that evening, I realized going downhill on the interstate toward Raleigh how high we had actually climbed on our way to Boone. It’s way up there compared to our hills in North Jersey.