BOONE, N.C. — East Tennessee State took a 7-0 lead into halftime, but an Appalachian State burst early in the second half led to a 21-7 Mountaineer victory Saturday afternoon in front of a homecoming crowd in at Kidd-Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
East Tennessee State (2-4, 0-3 SoCon) struck first with an impressive 14-play, 82-yard scoring drive in the second quarter. ETSU rushed the ball 13 times for 73 yards on the drive, capped by sophomore fullback Andre Brooks' (Greenville, S.C.) two-yard plunge. Brooks crossed the goal line with 4:52 left in the first half and after junior kicker Jonathan Godfrey's (Johnson City, Tenn.) point after, ETSU carried a 7-0 lead into the locker room.
Appalachian (2-3, 1-1 SoCon) made the most of its halftime adjustments with three straight touchdown drives to open the second half. East Tennessee State totaled 119 rushing yards on 26 carries in the first 30 minutes, but Appalachian's defense limited ETSU to 35 yards of total offense in the second half.
After the defense forced ETSU to punt on its first possession of the third quarter, Richie Williams completed the first pass of the half to Alan Atwater for 13 yards. The sophomore signalcaller then rushed for two yards and Atwater followed with a 15-yard carry up the middle to the ETSU 40. Williams then went around the left side on an option and dashed 40 yards for his longest touchdown run of the season. Erik Rockhold's PAT kick knotted the score at 7-7.
Buccaneer senior punter Aaron Bass (Clinton,Tenn.) was called onto the field to punt from his own 15 yard line on the ensuing possession. The Mountaineers' Jonathan Chasteen burst through the left side of the line and blocked the punt. The Mountaineers took over at the Bucs' two.
Atwater gained one yard on a dive on first down and then Williams pushed his way into the end zone on a quarterback sneak. Rockhold's PAT gave Appalachian a 14-7 lead.
After DaVon Fowlkes returned the Bass's next punt to the ETSU 36, Williams wasted little time finding Sterling Hayward wide open up the left side for a 40-yard touchdown connection. The second touchdown connection between Williams and Hayward in as many weeks set the final tally at 21-7.
Up by a pair of scores, the Mountaineers entrusted Atwater to help them grind out the fourth quarter clock. After totaling 61 and 71 yards respectively as a starter over the previous two weeks, Atwater rushed 12 times for 101 yards in the final period to solidify the win. Atwater's 190 yards on the ground marked the third most by a freshman in program history.
The No. 2 rusher in the Southern Conference, Buccaneer senior tailback Gaven Varner (Summerville, S.C.) rushed for 104 yards to lead East Tennessee State. Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Scott Butler (Kingsport, Tenn.) and Carl Meadows (Cumming, Ga.) each completed 2-of-5 passing for only 18 yards combined through the air.
On defense, senior linebacker Matt Palmer (Summerton,S.C.) and redshirt freshman linebacker Mike Cullen (Roswell, Ga.) tied for the team lead with 12 tackles. Palmer, the Southern Conference leader in tackles for a loss, tallied four on the afternoon.
Staring at the final meeting between the interstate rivals, Appalachian files a 32-13-1 all-time record into the books versus East Tennessee State.
The Buccaneers will now have an open week before homecoming weekend, where they will host Liberty on Oct. 18 at 2 p.m. from Memorial Center in Johnson City, Tenn.