BOONE, N.C. — During a title-winning season in which App State (13-1) posted the third-best record at the highest level of college football, the Mountaineers finished No. 1 as a statistical champion or co-champion in two NCAA categories.
App State ended the 2019 season in sole possession of first place with a fourth-down conversion percentage of 81.3, and it tied Illinois for the FBS lead with six defensive touchdowns.
Those two categories played an important role in the Mountaineers’ record-breaking season. Of the six defensive TDs, consider that:
— Demetrius Taylor’s sack, forced fumble and fumble return for a touchdown occurred in a 34-31 win at North Carolina.
— Nicholas Ross’ interception return for a touchdown helped lead App State to a 20-15 win at South Carolina.
— Josh Thomas’ interception return for a score gave App State a 42-17 lead in its 45-38 win against Louisiana in the Sun Belt Championship Game.
— Trey Cobb’s fumble return for a touchdown following a Nick Hampton sack broke a third-quarter tie in a 31-17 win against UAB in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
— Shaun Jolly’s interception return for a touchdown broke a tie as App State turned a 21-7 deficit into a 56-21 lead at Georgia State.
— Jolly also returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of a 19-point win against Coastal Carolina.
The fourth-down conversions also occurred at timely moments as App State went 13 of 16 to top the second-place percentage of 79.3 from Coastal Carolina. Some of the biggest conversions:
— The Mountaineers scored two fourth-down touchdowns in the third quarter of their bowl win, as Darrynton Evans ran 31 yards to the end zone after recovering a fumbled fourth-and-1 sneak and Thomas Hennigan outfought a defender for the ball in the end zone on Zac Thomas’ throw on fourth-and-3 from the UAB 27.
— During a 19-play, 97-yard touchdown drive that lasted 10:11 and capped a 17-7 win at Louisiana, Thomas completed a fourth-and-4 pass to Hennigan for a 4-yard gain to the UL 30. Defensive pass interference on a fourth-and-5 throw several plays later didn’t officially count as a conversion, but it helped set up Thomas’ 7-yard TD run with 1:55 remaining.
— App State converted two fourth downs on the drive that gave the Mountaineers a 21-0 lead in the Sun Belt Championship Game.
— Thomas’ 22-yard pass to Collin Reed on a fourth-and-1 snap from the South Carolina 46 prolonged App State’s first scoring drive in Columbia.
Beyond defensive touchdowns and fourth-down conversions, App State excelled in many team and individual statistical categories:
— In all six of its FBS seasons, the Mountaineers have ranked in the top 25 nationally in both rushing yards per game (No. 16 at 231.4 in 2019) and fewest sacks allowed (tied for No. 17 with 18 in 2019).
— App State had a 1,000-yard rusher for the eighth straight year. Only Boise State’s streak of 11 is longer, and Ohio State also has eight straight seasons to be tied for No. 2 with App State.
— Since 2015, App State’s 87 interceptions rank No. 2 nationally behind just the 91 from San Diego State.
— App State set a program record with seven national television appearances in 2019.
— App State led the Sun Belt in attendance for the third time in the last four years.
ADDITIONAL TEAM STATS FROM 2019
— App State tied Ohio State for the third-best winning percentage among FBS teams, behind just LSU (15-0) and Clemson (14-1).
— App State tied for No. 2 nationally with five blocked kicks, behind just the six from Houston.
— App State finished No. 3 in the fewest turnovers committed with nine, behind just the six from Oregon State and eight from San Diego State.
— App State tied for No. 3 in fewest fumbles lost with three, behind just the two from Oregon State and San Diego State.
— Thanks in part to the lack of turnovers committed, App State ranked No. 7 in per-game turnover margin at plus-1.07. The Mountaineers forced 24 turnovers to finish at plus-15, with Florida Atlantic leading the nation at plus-21.
— At 38.8 points per game, App State ranked No. 9 nationally. It set a Sun Belt record with 73 touchdowns.
— App State ranked No. 10 nationally in third-down defense at 30.7 percent conversions allowed.
— App State had a top-30 defense nationally in touchdowns scored, third-down conversion percentage, turnovers forced (No. 15), interceptions (No. 17, 14), sacks (No. 20, 36), pass efficiency defense (No. 20, 117.38), scoring defense (No. 21, 20.0), tackles for loss yardage (No. 22, 380), yards allowed per play (No. 24, 5.01), total defense (No. 26, 336.1 yards allowed per game), rushing TDs allowed (No. 26, 14), fumble recoveries (No. 27, 10), rushing defense (No. 29, 129.4) and TDs allowed (No. 29, 35).
— App State led the Sun Belt in scoring offense, total defense, rushing defense, defensive sacks, turnover margin, turnovers forced, fewest turnovers committed, fewest lost fumbles, third-down defense, fourth-down conversion percentage, defensive TDs, defensive interceptions, blocked kicks, fumble recoveries, kickoff return average and red zone offense.
INDIVIDUAL STATS FROM 2019
— Darrynton Evans scored 24 total touchdowns to rank No. 3 nationally behind just Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (26) and SMU’s Xavier Jones (25).
— With 1,480 rushing yards, Evans ranked No. 9 nationally and was the Sun Belt rushing champion for the second straight year. He finished 27 yards ahead of Georgia State’s Tra Barnett.
— Evans ranked No. 10 in the nation and No. 1 in the Sun Belt with 2,064 all-purpose yards.
— Shaun Jolly was tied for No. 7 nationally (and tied for No. 1 in the Sun Belt) with five interceptions.
— With two blocked kicks, Demetrius Taylor was part of a tie for second place nationally behind the three from FBS leader Ale Kaho of Alabama.
— Demetrius Taylor led the Sun Belt and ranked No. 12 nationally with 92 yards lost on TFLs.