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App State handles Arkansas State to win its conference opener
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App State handles Arkansas State to win its conference opener

Appalachian State won its Sun Belt Conference opener with ease, beating Arkansas State 45-17 on Thursday in Boone.

The Mountaineers move to 3-1.

Quick Takeaway:

The 26-day layoff seemed to be no problem for the Mountaineers. App State opened Sun Belt play by thumping Arkansas State in all facets. App State’s offense exploded for 521 total yards and the defense pieced together its most disruptive performance of the season.

The Mountaineers last played Campbell on Sept. 26, a 52-21 victory before COVID-19 cases in the program caused a shutdown.

App State quarterback Zac Thomas tied a career high with four touchdown passes. Christian Wells, a redshirt freshman wide receiver, had two touchdowns. 

The Deciding Stretch:

App State had two turnovers in the second half on back-to-back possessions that could’ve let Arkansas State creep back into contention.

Instead, Appalachian fought off a scoring chance from Arkansas State and went on to score 10 more points before halftime.

The Red Wolves had a first-and-goal at the Mountaineers’ 1-yard line. But a negative run, a stop from App State linebacker Tim Frizzell on a QB scramble and an incompletion led to a missed 24-yard field goal.

Arkansas State’s next possession, spawned off a fumble by Appalachian's Marcus Williams Jr., became a turnover on downs and set App State up for its next touchdown.

How They Finished:

Arkansas State got a third-quarter score off a 48-yard run from Lincoln Pare to drop the Mountaineers' lead to two scores. And then quickly after, App State found itself in a third-and-long.

Thomas uncorked a 60-yard touchdown run where he took off down the middle of the field, then made his way to the App State sideline and dove for the pylon.

How They Opened:

App State scored on its first three drives and flashed some depth in its passing game. The first score came on a 46-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Wells.

The second drive ended with a 55-yard score from Daetrich Harrington, his seventh touchdown of the season. And on the third, Thomas found tight end Mike Evans for a 5-yard pass in the red zone.

Who Starred:

The App State defense, which created pressure with its pass rushers all night.

The Mountaineers had six total sacks, two from senior Demetrius Taylor. They also got two interceptions from junior inside linebacker D’Marco Jackson.

What’s Next:

App State starts a two-game road stretch, an Oct. 31 game at UL Monroe followed by a trip to Texas State a week later.

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@EthanJoyceWSJ

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