BOONE — Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans slashed through and ran around Charlotte’s defense for 234 yards and three touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 56-41 victory at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Sept. 7.
Evans’ first run, an 87-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game, was made possible by a huge running lane on a basic dive play in the middle of the line. An experienced offensive line created that hole, and helped the Mountaineers gain 458 yards.
Overall, the Mountaineers average 451 yards and 49 points per game. The Appalachian State offense is gaining yards and scoring points with a big reason being the Mountaineers’ offensive line.
“I think we’re doing real well right now,” App State offensive line coach Shawn Clark. “With Darrynton, we averaged 7.1 yards per carry Sept. 7. Our line’s blocking well. We’re communicating well. Our running backs are hitting the holes and when we don’t block a guy and make one miss and when you do that, you can be successful.”
Appalachian State’s zone blocking scheme is a big reason. So is the experience that is along the line. App State has four returning starters from the Mountaineers’ Sun Belt Conference champions.
“Nothing changes for us, which is the good thing with the zone scheme on the offensive side of the ball,” Clark said. “We’ve done it for four or five years now at Appalachian. The guys have had a million reps with it and to be good at something you’ve got to do it over and over again. If you have a bad play, it doesn’t mean the next one isn’t going to be good. Just continue to run the football and things are going to happen.”
When new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz took over the Mountaineers, it was thought that the offense would use the pass to control the football. Against Charlotte, App State ran the ball 39 times for 276 yards, while quarterback Zac Thomas completed 14-of-20 passes for 182 yards.
Clark feels the Mountaineers have a strong running game and Drinkwitz is using what is working for the offense.
“Coach Drinkwitz is doing a great job as far as doing what’s best for the team,” Clark said. “He wants to be balanced on the offense throwing and catching the ball. The running and passing has been good. Some of our strengths are running the football and we have continued to do what’s best for the program.”
Clark would like to see Appalachian State’s line protect the quarterback better, but overall Clark said he is happy with the progress of the offense after two games. Clark is counting on the techniques of the linemen and their ability to read defenses to protect Thomas when he’s in the pocket.
Much of that responsibility falls on center Noah Hannon, who makes the calls along the offensive line. It’s Hannon’s job to read not just the defensive line, but to know where the middle linebacker lines up and where the safeties are.
“There’s no such thing as dumb offensive linemen,” Clark said. “The game has evolved so much. Noah Hannon is going to be an orthopedic surgeon and he’s our center. He has to make every single call on the offensive line. That’s a hard job to do but he’s really good at it.”
Hannon also has to remember the snap count.
“He’s had a couple of those, but for all his positives, I’ll take a couple of bad snap counts any time,” Clark said.