BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State showed no signs of rust in its 2018 debut at The Rock.
The Mountaineers rolled to a 72-7 home victory against Gardner-Webb on Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium. Playing a week after the scheduled home opener against Southern Miss was canceled because of Hurricane Florence, App State (2-1) scored twice on special teams during a 52-point first half and posted the third-highest point total in program history.
App State put up 692 total yards during a performance that, in terms of scoring, ranks behind only a 115-0 win against Piedmont in 1936 and a 79-35 win against Western Carolina in 2007.
Steven Jones tied a school record with two blocked punts, including one that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that followed Zac Thomas’ 64-yard scoring strike to Dominique Heath in the opening minute, and Clifton Duck’s 62-yard punt return for a score helped push App State ahead 42-7 with 12:42 left in the second quarter.
One of six quarterbacks to see action for Appalachian, Thomas completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 185 yards before sitting out the entire second half, and a career-long run of 81 yards from senior Jalin Moore highlighted a two-touchdown performance in which he rushed for 119 yards on his eight first-half carries. He was the second-leading rusher behind D’Andre Hicks, who capped a 150-yard effort with a 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Gardner-Webb (1-3) scored on its second drive of the game, but App State pitched a shutout the rest of the way with a defense that got a pair of sacks from redshirt freshman Jermaine McDaniel Jr. as well as interceptions from Desmond Franklin and Kaiden Smith.
App State’s first-half explosion included touchdown runs from Darrynton Evans, who scored the first non-return TD of his young career, and Thomas. The Mountaineers went into the break with a 52-7 lead and 401-89 advantage in total offense.
Heath’s second touchdown catch came on a 19-yard throw from backup quarterback Peyton Derrick, who posted the first touchdown pass of his career and finished 7 of 7 through the air for 68 yards. Derrick’s 3-yard scoring run pushed the advantage to 66-7 late in the third quarter.
After completing all 14 of his passes for 295 yards at Charlotte in his last outing, Thomas ran his completions streak to 18 before misfiring on a throw. He hit a wide-open Heath for the 64-yard score on his first pass of the afternoon, and Jones sprinted free to block an end-zone punt two minutes later.
Jones chased down the loose ball and pounced on it near the right edge of the end zone for 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. When Jones blocked another punt to set up another score, he tied Dino Hackett (two blocks against Western Carolina in 1985) and Chuck Hill (two blocks against both Liberty and Western Carolina in 1987) for the school record.
Appalachian State posted its third-highest point total in program history. It won 115-0 against Piedmont in 1936 and 79-35 against Western Carolina in 2007. Both of those two games were also home games.
In the modern era, it was App State’s largest margin of victory since a 66-0 shutout of Campbell in 2014.
The Mountaineers have scored four special teams touchdowns in three games. Before Steven Jones recovered his own punt block in the end zone and Clifton Duck reached the end zone on a 62-yard punt return Saturday, Thomas Hennigan had a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown against Charlotte in Week 2 and Darrynton Evans had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Penn State in Week 1.
Steven Jones blocked two punts to tie the school record also held 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).
Steven Jones accounted for 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.
App State has had a pair of 100-yard backs in two straight home games, as D’Andre Hicks (150 rushing yards on 11 carries) and Jalin Moore (119 rushing yards on eight carries) reached that mark against Gardner-Webb. Moore had 110 yards and Daetrich Harrington gained 118 in last year’s home finale against Louisiana.
Appalachian rushed for 432 yards (its highest total since posting 441 and 469 in back-to-back games against Troy and Georgia State in 2014) and finished with 692 total yards (its highest total since posting 697 against Presbyterian in 2008).
Jalin Moore’s 81-yard touchdown was the longest carry of his career. He had a 63-yard gain at New Mexico State in the 2016 regular-season finale.
After completing all 14 of his passes for 295 yards at Charlotte in his last outing, Zac Thomas started 4 of 4 for 83 yards Saturday, giving him 378 yards and four passing touchdowns during his streak of 18 straight completions.
Backup quarterback Peyton Derrick is 8-of-8 passing for his career after he went 7 of 7 for 68 yards Saturday. He had the first touchdown pass of his career and first rushing touchdown of his career.
Thomas, Derrick, Jacob Huesman, Zeb Speir, Jackson Gibbs and Tanner Wilson all played at quarterback against Gardner-Webb. Speir had his first career completion, a 9-yard pass to Brad Absher.
Senior receiver Brad Absher had a career-high three catches. He entered the game with two career receptions.
D’Andre Hicks and Darrynton Evans had the first touchdown rushes for their careers. Evans has scored twice on kickoff returns. True freshman Camerun Peoples played for the first time in his career and gained 53 yards on nine attempts.
Redshirt freshman Jermaine McDaniel Jr. recorded the first two sacks of his career with a pair of first-half takedowns.
Kaiden Smith, a sophomore safety, recorded the first interception of his career. Desmond Franklin picked off a pass for the second straight game.
App State players making their debuts included Camerun Peoples, Jackson Gibbs, Tanner Wilson, Mike Price, Jordan Mitchell, Weston Gillespie, Will Israel, Braden Collins, Jake Henry, Trey Ross and Jordon Earle.
App State coach Scott Satterfield
“First of all, I’m really obviously pleased to go out and play the way we did. We talked about our standard of play and how we train each and every day and that standard needs to be pretty high. So, after the start of today, I thought our kids came out and were ready to play and really performed well. I’m even more proud of the guys that finished the game. We cleared our bench and played everybody today that was down in uniform. The great thing is that there wasn’t a sloppy play when they got in. Sometimes, you get guys that haven’t played a whole lot and they get into the game and get some sloppy play here and there. Man, those guys came in and were ready and prepared to play and did a great job. That helps the morale of the football team, and I think that it helps them to come back and practice even harder with the guys on the scout team. You take these games for what it is, and it’s the fact that we got a win, No.1, and No. 2, we got a lot of guys that can play. We got better with those. It’s a big week for us next week. We talked about it in our locker room that next week is Sun Belt play. We’re excited to start Sun Belt play with South Alabama coming in here, and we’ve got to have our best week of practice. We all know that South Alabama came out and beat both Troy and Arkansas State (last season) and they are very talented.”
On special teams:
“Special teams today was incredible again. I know probably that there is no other team in the country that’s scored three straight weeks in special teams, and we then scored two today. I’m really proud of our special teams, and that really comes with team speed. 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. I would like to have a much more balanced team like we have now where your special teams is very, very solid.”
App State senior Jalin Moore
“We were flying around. Everybody had ants in their pants. We were ready. We’ve been waiting on it since we heard the Southern Miss game was cancelled.”
App State redshirt freshman Steven Jones
“Coach was telling us when we get there to have big eyes and shoot your hands, and that’s what I did. I executed it all practice. I got to the game — two blocks and a TD.”
App State junior Clifton Duck
“This year our special teams has just been all together and playing for one another.”
App State graduate student Dominique Heath
“I’ve been waiting to break one big, so to get that out of the way felt real good.”
Gardner-Webb coach Carroll McCray
“App’s got a great team, and we knew that coming in here. Coach Satterfield’s done a great job in his recruitment, retaining players and improving them while they’re here.”
“He was as kind as he could be to us today, and he showed his class by the way they played today. I appreciate him being a man of integrity and showing his class in that manner.”