COLUMBIA, S.C. — Appalachian State gave up a lot of rushing yards in a 24-21 home loss to Georgia Southern on Oct. 31.
South Carolina had no such fortune against the Mountaineers. Appalachian State’s defense held the Gamecocks’ rushing offense to a mere 21 yards on 27 carries. South Carolina didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter on a drive dependent on the passing of freshman Ryan Hilinski and App State held on to take a 20-15 victory over the Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Appalachian State was particularly rough on former A.C. Reynolds standout running back Rico Dowdle, who was playing for injured starter Tavien Feaster. Dowdle was held to a paltry nine yards rushing on 14 attempts. Dowdle had one gain that went for 18 yards, but was thrown for nine yards in losses.
App State middle linebacker Jordan Fehr finished with 12 tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage for 11 yards in losses. Akeem Davis-Gaither had seven tackles and was credited with 2.5 for eight yards in losses.
“We felt like we had a great plan on how to attack their run,” App State coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “Our guys played with great effort and I felt like we tackled better than we did all season.”
It was a sharp contrast to the Mountaineers’ previous game, when Georgia Southern rushed for 336 yards in a 24-21 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 31. The Eagles broke two long touchdown runs in the third quarter that gave them a 24-7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“We were physical at the line of scrimmage,” Drinkwitz said. “We got off of blocks. We tackled better than we had before. We fit our gaps right. How do we ensure that (happens again)? We go back and fit it right than when we gave up 336 yards to Georgia Southern the week before. Obviously we’re not perfect at it. We have to make sure that we have our focus on execution and make sure we have a great week of practice.”
Appalachian State had actually allowed 31 yards rushing on 17 carries in the first half. Dowdle gained just one yard on four carries in the second quarter and had eight yards on three carries in the third quarter.
The Mountaineers’ defense, particularly their running defense, face a difficult challenge in controlling Georgia State’s leading rusher Tra Barnett, who has piled up 1,118 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.
Drinkwitz credited former App State assistant coach and current Georgia State offensive coordinator Brad Glenn for the design of the Georgia State rushing game.
Barnett is a big reason why Georgia State is sixth nationally in rushing with 274.7 yards.
“They do a lot of option-style things with their rush game,” Drinkwitz said. “It’s an RPO style-offense. They’re reading the nose (tackle), they’re reading the end, they’re reading the third-level defender and throwing routes behind him, so he’s got multiple ways to attack us and that’s why their offense is so good.”