College Sports

Appalachian State nearly upsets No. 10 Penn State

Appalachian State’s Thomas Hennigan (5), Corey Sutton and Josh Thomas (7), break up a pass in the end zone for Penn State’s KJ Hamler.
Appalachian State’s Thomas Hennigan (5), Corey Sutton and Josh Thomas (7), break up a pass in the end zone for Penn State’s KJ Hamler. AP

Mountain magic nearly returned on Saturday afternoon.

It puffed up as Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans returned a kickoff for 100 yards and a touchdown against No. 10 Penn State. It kicked up again with three late touchdowns thanks to the hands (and feet) of its new starting quarterback. And it lingered as the teams went into overtime.

Appalachian State nearly shocked the nation again, going into overtime before ultimately losing, 45-38. Penn State scored on its first possession of the extra period, then intercepted Mountaineers quarterback Zac Thomas to seal the game.

The Mountaineers authored a dominant final quarter to force overtime. App State scored four touchdowns in the final stretch, three of which came for a quarterback in his first career start.

Appalachian State’s Darrynton Evans runs back a kick for 100 yards against Penn State during the first half Saturday in State College, Pa. Penn State outlasted the Mountaineers 45-38 in overtime. Chris Knight AP

Beginning the fourth with a 14-point deficit, Thomas tossed the first touchdown of his college career. The Mountaineers’ 10-play drive, which lasted four minutes, ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Malik Williams.

Penn State mounted a response. Then the unfazed Thomas put together another scoring drive. He found Williams down the left sideline, for a 24-yard touchdown play to help pull App State within seven points.

From there, the Mountaineers kicked and recovered an onside kick. And Thomas yet again provided.

The redshirt sophomore dropped a 39-yard pass into the hands of Corey Sutton, who was pushed out at the 1-yard line, on the third play of the drive. Thomas scored a rushing touchdown right after, tying the game for the first time since the half.

It took only five more minutes to score again. Senior running back Jalin Moore scored a 16-yard touchdown for a seven-point lead with 1:12 left.

Penn State responded with a game-tying touchdown with 57 seconds left, and a missed 56-yard field goal from App State kicker Chandler Staton pushed the game into overtime.

App State won the overtime coin toss and elected to give the ball to Penn State to go first. The Nittany Lions scored in four plays and then shut it down with the interception on the following defensive series.

The Mountaineers outgained the Nittany Lions (451 yards to 434), whose offense is led by Heisman-contending quarterback Trace McSorley. Thomas was 25 for 38, going for 270 yards and two touchdown passes. McSorley threw for 230.

Following Evans’ score, App State’s defense forced Penn State into discombobulation. The Nittany Lions’ offense, led by McSorley, sputtered around for the better part of the first half. It’s lone touchdown drive, the first of the game, benefited from two Mountaineers penalties that combined for 30 yards. McSorley capped that series with a 12-yard run.

From there, the Mountaineers’ defense bogged down the Nittany Lions for the next four series, including two three-and-outs. Penn State closed the half with a score-tying field goal with 11 seconds left in the first half.

The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to