All week long, it was touted as a chance to find out what the Appalachian State defense was really made of.
With one of its leaders in the locker room and its back to the wall, the Mountaineers showed their grit, answering with a momentum-changing goal line stand to key a 59-14 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday night at JPS Field at Malone Stadium in a Sun Belt Conference game.
To that point, the Mountaineers’ vaunted defense had mixed results in its first true test since Clemson, allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the game – the first touchdown App State (5-1, 2-0) had allowed in the first quarter all season.
After Malachi Jones scored on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Lamb to make it 17-14 midway through the second quarter, the Warhawks (1-5, 0-2) worked their way into Mountaineers territory, picking up 15 yards to get to the App State 12 on a targeting penalty that resulted in senior captain Doug Middleton’s ejection.
ULM’s shot at seizing momentum with a fourth-and-2 run from the App State 5 came up short, with Devan Stringer and Alex Gray meeting Kaylon Watson in the backfield.
From there, it was Lamb’s show, with the sophomore quarterback breaking a career-long 78-yard run to start App State’s offensive explosion as the Mountaineers reeled off 35 straight points – the first six of which came on his 13-yard touchdown run to help make it 24-14.
The touchdown run put Lamb over the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time in his career, finishing with 103 yards on seven carries.
Lamb was even better through the air, completing 8 of 15 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns – all of 37 yards or more.
Over the second and third quarters, Lamb led the Mountaineers’ offense to touchdowns on five of six offensive drives, with the other ending on McElfresh’s fumble just before halftime.
After the goal-line stand, the App State defense found its groove as Eric Boggs grabbed the second of his two interceptions and the Mountaineers held the Warhawks to just 75 yards over their next five drives before reserves took over in the fourth quarter.
As the Mountaineers’ passing attack started to grind on the Warhawks’ pressing man defense, the run started to open up for Marcus Cox, who ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries.
In last week’s victory over Georgia State, Cox was held to 76 yards, snapping a streak of seven straight games with more than 100 rushing yards. Satterfield said going into the game establishing the run was a priority, no matter how many defenders the Warhawks put in the box.
The victory was the Mountaineers’ eighth straight conference win, setting up a pivotal Sun Belt showdown with Georgia Southern (5-1, 3-0) on Thursday night at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The short week doesn’t allow much time for celebration, with the Mountaineers returning to practice Sunday evening in Boone after a late-night flight home.