Boone, North Carolina – Hitting the reset button, App State Football opened the 2023 season by rallying in the second half and winning in front of a capacity crowd at The Rock.
Showcasing valuable depth, the rookies and non-starters made some of the biggest plays during a 45-24 win over Gardner-Webb in front of 36,075 fans at Kidd-Brewer Stadium on Saturday.
In relief of starting quarterback Ryan Burgerwho went 7 of 11 with an early touchdown pass before being out for the rest of the game with a finger injury, Joey Aguilar He completed 11 of 13 passes for 174 yards and four touchdowns. He threw a touchdown in his first game for the Mountaineers and set a school record for the most touchdown passes by a quarterback in his App State debut.
“Joey came in, and his first collegiate pass at App State was a touchdown, and that gave us the spark we needed,” head coach Sean Clark He said.
Eli Wilson, Kayden Robinson, Dalton Stroman, Dashaun Davis And Christian Horn He had one touchdown apiece, and Nate Noel He rushed for 117 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.
Three turnovers in an eight-minute span from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth quarter enabled the Mountaineers to pull away from the Runnin’ Bulldogs, who led 24-21 in the third quarter before App State scored the final 24 points against them. An opponent that falls out of the FCS playoff in 2022.
With App State leading 31-24 after a long-shot 43-yard field goal Michael Hughesdefensive end Michael Fletcher The second QB pressure of the game led to an interception by the veteran safety and team captain Jackson Greenwho returned the ball 25 yards to the Gardner Webb 23. Noel followed a 16-yard run with a 7-yard score, and pressure from Sean Collins He contributed to the interception of his fellow newcomer Jack Scruggs Shortly thereafter.
Kevin Abrams-Verwin He later forced a fumble that was recovered by the rookie Montez Kellyand Aguilar’s fourth-touchdown pass to Horn capped the scoring.
Burger and Aguilar both threw touchdown passes in the first half, with Burger’s 12-yard strike to Wilson late in the first quarter being followed by the running back McKeel Haywood Fourth and second transformation. The Runnin’ Bulldogs scored the next 10 points, and Aguilar took the field for the first time after a 14-yard punt gave the Mountaineers possession at the Gardner-Webb 32 with 2:13 remaining in the first half.
Aguilar looked left and found a wide open Robinson along the left hash at the 7-yard line. Robinson caught the shot, got past a defender and scored easily to put App State back in front.
“You have to go out there and just play, regardless of whether it’s first, second or third,” Aguilar said. “It’s always the next one, you just have to be ready.”
The Runnin’ Bulldogs started the second half with an 11-play touchdown drive, App State regaining the lead on Aguilar’s 26-yard touchdown pass to Davis and Gardner-Webb taking the final lead on running back Jayden Brown’s third touchdown — a 41-yard reception.
The Mountaineers took the lead for good on Aguilar’s 43-yard touchdown pass to a streaking Stroman down the right sideline, and back-to-back acceleration from Nate Johnson Fletcher forced a three-pointer.
Hughes’ field goal extended the lead to seven points, and the Mountaineers pushed their lead to within two scores for the first time after a Green interception to start the next series. Returning to the bench, he was surrounded by a large group that included the head coach Sean Clark And his injured colleague Anderson Castlea fellow Watauga High School graduate who managed to join the battle via his scooter.
Nick Ross He totaled 12 tackles to lead a defensive unit that had three takeaways in the second half, while Andrew Parker Jr And Terek Funderburk He added six stops each.
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