Appalachian State head football coach Eli Drinkwitz said he needed his team’s defense to give the offense enough time “to find itself” Saturday afternoon.
The Mountaineers’ defense gave the offense all day.
Holding host South Alabama to 2 yards of total offense on its first 19 plays, No. 21-ranked Appalachian State eventually found the offense and pummeled the Jaguars 30-3 in a Sun Belt Conference game.
The Mountaineers (7-0, 4-0 Sun Belt) held South Alabama to 139 yards offense for the afternoon and retained the Sun Belt’s Eastern Division lead heading into a Halloween showdown with old nemesis Georgia Southern.
“I thought our defense played unbelievable today and held them in check all game,” Drinkwitz said. “We struggled converting third downs and really didn’t play solid enough offensively, but we played well enough to win.”
The Mountaineers had three sacks, Elijah Diarrassouba recovered a fumble, and Demetrius Taylor had another big game that included a blocked field goal.
“The biggest part was us flying around, playing hard, and playing physical,” senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither said. “We knew they wanted to get to the perimeter, so we really focused on that.”
South Alabama went three-and-out on 10 of their first 11 possessions.
Meanwhile, the offense produced enough for the Mountaineers to pull away.
Marcus Williams rushed 11 times for 99 yards, and quarterback Zac Thomas threw for 132 yards. Thomas Hennigan had six catches, one for a touchdown.
The Mountaineers totaled 445 yards offense with no turnovers.
“We have to keep protecting the quarterback, and no fumbles,” Williams said. “One hundred percent ball security -- that’s the main goal.”
Next up for Appalachian State? Thursday night’s nationally televised home game against Georgia Southern. A year ago, the Eagles trounced the Mountaineers, just five days after Appalachian State was ranked nationally for the first time as an FBS program.
Grayson Willingham, Lenoir-Rhyne: A junior quarterback from Weddington, Willingham broke the all-time school career record for touchdown passes, throwing three in the seventh-ranked Bears’ 28-20 victory over Limestone. Willingham has 41 in his career. The old record of 39 was set in 1987 by Brian Bryson.
Greg Liggs Jr., Elon: Liggs had three interceptions as the Phoenix downed host Rhode Island 38-13.
Greg Streater, Campbell: Streater blocked a punt on the final play of regulation, and teammate Alex Santiago picked up the ball and returned it 41 yards for a game-tying touchdown against Gardner-Webb. Campbell went on to win in triple overtime 49-47.
Making sense of the numbers
110: Total yardage of Jalen Brooks’ two touchdown receptions (66 and 44 yards) as Wingate trounced UVa-Wise 45-13. That sets up a South Atlantic Conference showdown next week in Hickory between the 12th-ranked Bulldogs and seventh-rated Lenoir-Rhyne.
4: Grayson Rucker’s touchdowns (two on pass receptions, one run, and an 84-yard punt return) as Mars Hill downed Catawba 55-28.
-1.0: Average yards per rush for Livingstone in its 21-0 loss to Winston-Salem State.
Campbell 49, Gardner-Webb 47 (3 OTs)
Campbell’s Greg Streater blocked a Gardner-Webb punt with 15 seconds remaining, and Alex Santiago picked up the ball and ran 41 yards for a touchdown as time expired, tying the game at 27-27 and forcing overtime.
Each team scored in the first two overtimes, and Campbell (6-1, 3-0 Big South) went ahead 49-41 in the third overtime on a 3-yard run by Johnathan Hawkins. Camels’ quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams then ran for a two-point conversion. The Bulldogs (3-5, 1-2) scored on their next possession but were called for offensive pass interference on the two-point conversion attempt. That backed the ball to the 18, and a pass attempt failed.
Williams passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 100 yards and two more scores.
Marist 27, Davidson 21
The visiting Red Foxes held Davidson’s powerful ground game in check and upset the Wildcats. Davidson was held to 196 yards rushing, about half its per-game average, and standout running back Wesley Dugger was held under 100 yards, carrying 17 times for 85 yards.
Davidson (5-3, 2-2 Pioneer League) narrowed the gap to 24-21 on a 5-yard run by Dugger with 7:22 left, but Marist (2-5, 2-2) ate up six minutes and drove for a field goal. The Wildcats turned the ball over on downs at their own 42 on a final drive.
Elon 38, Rhode Island 12
Greensboro sophomore Greg Liggs Jr. picked off three Rhode Island passes, helping the visiting Phoenix score 31 second-half points in a come-from-behind Colonial Athletic Association game.
Elon (4-4, 3-2 CAA) trailed the Rams (1-7, 0-5) 13-10 midway in the third quarter, but the Phoenix pulled ahead on short touchdown runs by De’Sean McNair and Joey Baughman.
Davis Cheek completed 11-of-20 passes for 148 yards, and McNair carried 17 times for 85 yards.
Furman 28, Western Carolina 7
The visiting Paladins, ranked 14th nationally in the FCS poll, pulled away in the second half to beat the Catamounts in a Southern Conference game played in a steady rain.
Furman (5-3, 4-1) led Western Carolina (1-7, 0-5) only 13-7 at the half, but tailback Devin Wynn ran for a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. Grayson Atkins kicked two first-half field goals for the Paladins.
Western Carolina quarterback Tyrie Adams completed 18-of-22 passes but for just 108 yards.
Shaw 36, Johnson C. Smith 19
Torrin Campbell threw three second-half touchdown passes, as Shaw (4-4, 3-2 CIAA) rallied from a 19-9 deficit and beat the Golden Bulls (2-6, 1-4) before a full house on homecoming at Johnson C. Smith.
The Bulls’ Emanuel Wilson, of North Mecklenburg, ran for a touchdown and passed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
N.C. A&T 64, Howard 6
Jah-Maine Martin rushed seven times for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and Kylil Carter passed for 176 yards and two more scores, as the host Aggies rolled to a MEAC victory.
N.C. A&T (5-2, 3-1 MEAC), bouncing back from a loss last Sunday at Florida A&M, totaled 574 yards’ offense. Chris Moseley picked off two Howard passes. Howard fell to 1-7, 1-3.
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle