Record Rally Lifts ASU in Regular-Season Finale

ELON, N.C. — No. 9/8 Appalachian State University matched its biggest rally in 40 seasons of NCAA Division I football, overcoming a 21-0 deficit to down Elon, 28-24, in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Rhodes Stadium.

The 21-point deficit matched the largest that Appalachian (8-3, 6-2 SoCon) has ever overcome in a victory since joining the NCAA Division I ranks in 1972. ASU also overcame a 21-point deficit in a 42-41 triumph over Chattanooga in the 2010 season opener.

With the thrilling victory, the Mountaineers all but sealed an at-large berth in the 2011 NCAA Division I Football Championship and will likely receive a first-round bye and second-round home game when the field for the 20-team tournament is announced on Sunday. The playoff bracket will be unveiled during a half-hour selection show that begins at 10 a.m. Sunday and will be aired nationally on ESPNU.

A multitude of mistakes in the early stages of the game led to Appalachian being down by three touchdowns just 12:23 into Saturday’s game. On three-straight possessions, ASU fumbled at its own 35 yard line, shanked a punt to give Elon possession on the Mountaineer 32 and threw an interception that gave the Phoenix the ball just 27 yards away from paydirt. Elon turned all three miscues into short touchdown drives and Appalachian found itself in a 21-0 hole with 2:37 still left to play in the opening period.

Despite the early comedy of errors, the Mountaineers got back into the game quickly by putting together back-to-back touchdown drives, capped by scoring strikes from Jamal Jackson (Atlanta, Ga./North Atlanta) to Brian Quick (Columbia, S.C./Ridge View) and Travaris Cadet (Miami, Fla./Central) that cut the deficit to 21-14 less than midway through the second quarter.

Elon added a field goal with 21 seconds to go in the first half to stretch its advantage to 24-14, a lead that stood up going into halftime when a 50-yard field goal by Sam Martin (Fayetteville, Ga./Starr’s Mill) was negated by a snap infraction.

Led by its defense, it was all Appalachian after the break. After Elon rolled up 264 yards of offense in the first half, the Mountaineer defense limited the Phoenix’s high-powered offense to just four yards and forced two turnovers on Elon’s five series after halftime.

ASU drew within four points on Quick’s second touchdown catch of the day with just over six minutes to go in the third quarter but the tide of the game turned completely on the fifth play of the fourth period when true freshman Ronald Blair (Greensboro, Ga./Greene County) crushed Phoenix quarterback Thomas Wilson, causing a fumble that was recovered by Brandon Grier (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) at the Elon 30. Five plays later, Jackson threw his fourth touchdown pass of the game to a wide-open Steven Miller (Piscataway, N.J./Piscataway) and Appalachian took its first lead of the game at 28-24.

Elon made it interesting when, after taking over on its own 14 yard line with 2:38 to play, it drove 73 yards to the ASU 13 yard line. However, Appalachian’s defense had one more big play left in it, and Jeremy Kimbrough (Decatur, Ga./Cedar Grove) delivered when he stepped in front of a slant pattern by Elon’s Jeremy Peterson and batted down the pass before it reached Peterson in the end zone to give ASU the ball back with 1:23 to go. One play later, Cadet rumbled 12 yards for a first down that sealed the Mountaineers’ 16th-straight victory over Elon.

After being knocked out of the contest after a vicious hit on the game’s first series, Jackson rebounded to complete 26-of-42 passes for 284 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. Quick hauled in 11 of Jackson’s 26 completions for 150 yards and two scores. In addition to matching a career high with the 11 catches, Quick also became only the fifth player in ASU history to go over 1,000 receiving yards in a season and tied a school record with his seventh 100-yard game of the campaign.

Defensively, ASU surrendered 384 yards but just 120 after halftime. The Mountaineers forced three turnovers, two of which came in the second half, and took Elon’s Aaron Mellette, who caught 14 passes for 236 yards, out of the game for much of the second-half comeback. Mellette did not catch a pass in the second half until after Appalachian had taken the lead in the fourth quarter.

Kimbrough led the defensive effort with 12 tackles, including one for loss, and the game-saving pass break-up. Demetrius McCray (Covington, Ga./Newton), who did a yeoman’s job in tough assignment of covering Mellette for most of the ballgame, finished with 11 tackles, two pass break-ups and an interception. Up front, Blair had two sacks and a quarterback hurry to go along with the game-changing forced fumble while John Rizor (Fayetteville, N.C./Jack Britt) added 1.5 sacks and two QB hurries.

NOTES: Appalachian’s 16-straight wins over Elon date back to 1965 … Elon’s last win in the series came in 1964, when both teams were members of the NAIA Carolinas Conference … ASU overcame a halftime deficit to win for the second time this season (the Mountaineers trailed Chattanooga, 3-0, at the break in a 14-12 win on Sept. 24) … Appalachian won after trailing going into the fourth quarter for the first time since the improbable comeback from a 21-point final-period deficit at Chattanooga in the 2010 opener … the Mountaineers’ all-but-assured postseason berth will be its seventh-straight, second in NCAA Division I FCS only to New Hampshire, which will almost certainly receive its eighth-consecutive playoff bid on Sunday … Jackson’s four touchdown passes were the most by a Mountaineer since Presley tied a school record with five on Oct. 16, 2010 vs. The Citadel … senior Xan Thomas (Durham, N.C./Riverside) made his first start of the season and second of his career at left tackle … senior right guard Matt Ruff (Charlotte, N.C./Providence) had his string of 37-consecutive starts — tied for the longest on the team — snapped due to a head injury sustained last Saturday versus Western Carolina … the five sacks recorded by ASU’s defense was its second-highest total of the season behind only its six versus Savannah State on Sept. 17 … Appalachian rushed for fewer than 50 yards (46) for the first time since it managed only 39 yards on the ground in a loss to Richmond in the 2008 NCAA Division I Football Championship quarterfinals … despite rushing for only 46 yards, the Mountaineers’ outgained Elon on the ground, 46-40.

Appalachian State Sports Information
6048 Appalachian Athletics Center
425 Jack Branch Drive
Boone, NC, 28608
www.GoASU.com

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