Mountaineers defeat Georgia Southern on Senior Day, Sun Belt Championship next
Chase Brice completed 12 of 24 passes for 265 yards and two touchdowns, Jalen Virgil had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and App State took down conference rival Georgia Southern 27-3 on Saturday. The Mountaineers finish the regular season with a 10-2 record, 7-1 in Sun Belt Conference play, while the Eagles finish 3-9, 2-6 against Sun Belt Conference opponents. App State now has five seasons with 10 or more wins since 2015.
Head coach Shawn Clark acknowledged in his post-game interview that getting ten wins in a season is "hard to do" in college football. "We stuck together when things got tough...and now we have a chance (to play for a championship)."
The Mountaineers struggled to run the ball efficiently throughout the afternoon as they totaled just 94 yards on the ground. Sophomore Anderson Castle led the team with 31 yards off of six carries while Cam Peoples and Nate Noel combined for 46 total yards. Saturday's game was the first time all season where App State did not score a rushing touchdown.
Thomas Hennigan led the Mountaineers with 111 receiving yards off of three catches and a touchdown.
Corey Sutton had 55 yards off of five catches and Malik Williams added 41 yards off of two catches and a score. All three receivers were among 14 super seniors honored in their last game at The Rock prior to kickoff. 28 seniors total were celebrated. "It's really cool to call this place home," Hennigan said during his post-game interview. "These last two years, it's really started to hit me how much this place means to me...I'm indebted to this university forever."
App State's defense made their presence known once again as they would allow just 107 passing yards, and account for 12 tackles for loss and six pass break-ups. The Mountaineers would tally four sacks as well, two of them coming from linebacker Nick Hampton. Hampton now has eight sacks this season which leads the team.
App State opened the afternoon with an eight-play, 80-yard drive which resulted in a 36-yard touchdown strike from Brice to Malik Williams in the first quarter. Neither team would score the rest of the first half and the Mountaineers would go into halftime up 7-0. After both teams exchanged field goals, App State would hold a 10-3 lead. Throughout the third quarter, the Mountaineers and the Eagles were unable to gain an advantage over the other offensively.
One play after Georgia Southern scored their field goal, however, that would change.
Jalen Virgil now has three kickoffs returned for a touchdown in his collegiate career, two of them coming this season. The super senior wide receiver returned a kick for 100 yards and a score against the Miami Hurricanes in September.
From there the Mountaineers took control scoring 10 more points in the fourth quarter, off of Hennigan's 68-yard touchdown catch and a 36-yard field goal from Chandler Staton, and would hold Georgia Southern scoreless. Saturday's game is the third straight where App State's defense has held the opposing team to three points or less in the second half.
While Georgia Southern's season comes to a close, App State travels back to Cajun Field next Saturday to face off against the Lousiana Ragin Cajuns in the 2021 Sun Belt Championship. The Mountaineers are seeking revenge after they lost to the Ragin Cajuns 41-13 on October 12th.
App State will look to capture their fifth-straight Sun Belt Championship trophy in four years after last year's championship game was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Kickoff for next Saturday's Sun Belt Conference Championship game between App State and Lousiana begins at 3:30 pm on ESPN.