BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State’s Steven Jones had a busy Saturday filled with notable blocks.
On Monday, he was named the Sun Belt Conference’s Special Teams Player of the Week.
Jones became the second App State special teams player recognized through three games thanks to his record-tying work in a 72-7 home win against Gardner-Webb. He scored a touchdown off his own blocked punt, blocked another punt to set up another touchdown and helped Clifton Duck return a punt 62 yards for a touchdown with two separate blocks in the middle of the field.
“He loves football, and that’s one of the things I really like about him,” App State special teams coach Stu Holt said.
“Coach was telling us when we get there to have big eyes and shoot your hands, and that’s what I did,” Jones said. “I executed it all practice. I got to the game. Two blocks. Touchdown.”
A redshirt freshman cornerback from Rockingham, N.C., Jones has two blocked kicks on the season to share the top spot nationally with Auburn’s Jordyn Peters, Temple’s Quincy Roche and Memphis’ John Tate. The two blocked punts against Gardner-Webb tied a school record set previously by Dino Hackett (two blocks during his 27-tackle game against East Tennessee State in 1985) and Chuck Hill (two blocks against both Liberty and Western Carolina in 1987).
With a group led by Holt and instructed by many members of head coach Scott Satterfield’s staff, the Mountaineers lead the nation with four special teams touchdowns even though they have played just three games. Appalachian is the only FBS program with a touchdown via a kickoff return, a punt return and the return/recovery of a blocked punt, as Darrynton Evans was named the Sun Belt’s Special Teams Player of the Week after scoring on a 94-yard kickoff return at Penn State and Thomas Hennigan had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown a week later at Charlotte.
The Mountaineers are also the only program with a special teams touchdown in three straight games.
“I’m really proud of our special teams, and that really comes with team speed,” Satterfield said. “That’s what really shows in the backups and special teams when those guys get in the football game. It was fun to see those guys perform. As a head coach, it doesn’t matter how we score. When your number is called, you have to be ready to go.”
On Jones’ touchdown, benefiting from attention given to teammate D’Marco Jackson, he rushed up the middle and blocked an end-zone punt with his left hand while having his right shoulder grabbed. Jones chased down the bouncing ball near the right side of the end zone and pounced on it before it crossed the boundary for a two-point safety instead of six points.
It was App State’s first touchdown via a punt block/return since Scott Cornatzer recovered a blocked punt in the end zone against Chattanooga in 2001.