ATLANTA - Appalachian State took control of the East Division of the Sun Belt Conference with its 56-27 win over East rival Georgia State Nov. 16 at Georgia State Stadium, which used to be known at Turner Field.
The Mountaineers improved to 9-1 overall, 5-1 in the Sun Belt. Appalachian State has two games left – at home against Texas State Nov. 23 and another road game at Troy Nov. 29. Appalachian State can clinch a second straight East Division title with wins over each.
It didn’t come easy, at least in the beginning, against Georgia State (6-4, 3-3 Sun Belt) The Panthers took the early lead by using big plays in their running game to build a 21-14 advantage in the first quarter. Tra Barnett had 75 yards rushing on eight carries including a 44-yard bolt. Destin Cotes added 92 yards rushing, including a 67-yard touchdown run.
Georgia State’s Chris Bacon made things even more difficult on the Mountaineers when he returned a Zac Thomas pass for a 34-yard interception return to put the Panthers in front 21-7. But, the Mountaineers answered with a 20-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Corey Sutton to bring App State to 21-14.
"Nobody flinched," App State Eliah Drinkwitz said. "Everybody was thinking we were going to go back out there and get it back and we scored four or five plays later."
A long pass to Sutton put the Mountaineers in the position to score on a 3-yard TD run by Thomas to tie the game 21-21. It was the first of six straight App State touchdowns that was sparked by a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by Shaun Jolly.
Jolly added an interception on Georgia State’s next series that was converted into a one-yard Darrynton Evans touchdown catch with 22 seconds left, giving the Mountaineers a 35-21 halftime lead.
"That flipped the whole momentum," Drinkwitz said of Jolly's touchdown. "We just tied it up and then we get the interception and that's a 14-point swing right there. it's the difference in the ballgame."
Evans added a 29-yard touchdown run, giving App State a 42-21 lead.
Evans, who gained 131 yards rushing in the game, raised his season total to 1,014 yards this season. The Mountaineers gained 280 yards on the ground against the Panthers and churned out 553 yards in total offense.
Georgia State quarterback Dan Ellington, who was playing with an injured ACL in one of his knees, completed 12-of-27 passes with just 88 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
Thomas completed 19-of-31 passes for 256 yards, including eight to Corey Sutton for 173 yards a touchdown catches of 12, 20 and 24 yards.