Before Troy could trick Appalachian State, a couple of Mountaineers defenders were treated to a tip before the snap.
With a feeling something was coming, Stephen Burns and Kennan Gilchrist blew up a fake field goal in the third overtime to help set up Zach Matics’ game-winning field goal as App State escaped pesky Troy 44-41 on Saturday night at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
It was the sixth straight win for App State (7-1, 4-0), and its 10th straight in Sun Belt play, setting up a Thursday night matchup with Arkansas State for first place.
Tied at 41 in the third overtime and facing fourth-and-2 inside the Mountaineers’ 5-yard line, the Trojans (2-6, 1-3) called timeout to talk it over.
When they returned, Gilchrist overheard one of Troy’s offensive linemen ask another what they were running.
“They was out there calling ‘Regular,’ that kind of let me know something was up,” Gilchrist said. “As soon as they hiked the ball and pitched it, we were right there.
“That just kind of made it obvious, something’s about to happen. We were just blessed to be in the right position to make that play.”
On the snap, holder John Johnson flipped a shovel pass to Clark Quisenberry, who was met at the line by Burns and Gilchrist to give App State the ball.
On the ensuing possession, Marcus Cox — who finished with 144 yards on 30 carries — broke a 15-yard run to give the Mountaineers first-and-goal, but after the Trojans stuffed two runs, the Mountaineers sent Matics out on third down to kick the game winner from 24 yards.
Matics, a senior, made all three of his attempts, including a 38-yarder as rain began falling in the first overtime. On the season, Matics has made 10 of 11 field goal attempts after struggling through a junior season where he made just 1 of 5 and suffered a back injury.
“That was awesome,” coach Scott Satterfield said. “He’s had a great year; I didn’t expect anything different out of him in this game.”
It was the first time all season the Mountaineers have been involved in a game that was competitive in the fourth quarter, and for a time, the Trojans had every opportunity to end App State’s quest for a Sun Belt title.
Troy tied the game following an 11-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Silvers to Teddy Ruben with 3:49 to play, and forced App State to go three-and-out on its next drive.
The Mountaineers answered with one of their better defensive efforts of the second half, forcing a three-and-out after Latrell Gibbs broke up a pass on third down.
After App State couldn’t move the ball, the game went to overtime, with the teams trading touchdown runs in the first overtime before both settling for a field goal in the second.
Quarterback Taylor Lamb, who completed 16 of 26 passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns and an interception, said the game was an important one for the Mountaineers.
“We needed this; a lot of fourth quarters … hadn’t been contested throughout the season, so we needed this to charge back up for a big Thursday night coming up against Arkansas State,” Lamb said. “But a win’s a win, however you put it.”
All week long, App State coaches warned that Troy would pose a challenge despite the fact that the Mountaineers were favored by 24 points.
Early on, it looked like the Mountaineers would roll to another blowout victory when Ronald Blair read a screen pass, and returned an interception 30 yards to help App State to a 7-0 lead just 55 seconds in.
Instead, Troy countered every punch, trailing just 17-10 at the half before seizing momentum with an onside kick to open the second half. The Trojans’ 450 yards were the most the Mountaineers have given up all season.
Satterfield didn’t think the game was a result of an emotional valley between the victory over Georgia Southern and Thursday night’s showdown with Arkansas State.
“I thought we had good energy,” Satterfield said. “I think after such an emotional week last week, it’s hard — we’re all humans — it’s hard to come back with the same intensity we had last week. I still think we played with emotion, we played hard, we fought.
“There were times we didn’t look great out there tonight, but when you get a win, you can coach all that and it’s a lot better. We’ve got to get a lot better.”
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/