Appalachian State’s Southern Conference Legacy: Moments and Milestones No. 8


When talking about the amazing eight-year run in the SoCon that the Mountaineers have been on, you don’t get too far without mentioning Labor Day Weekend in at least two of those seasons.

Of course no one will soon forget the events of Sept. 1, 2007, but fans of the Black and Gold will also likely mention Sept. 4, 2010. It would be a day ASU would trail for 53:55 of the game, including by as many as 21 points with 14:54 to play, but a span of 7:51 in the final frame  saw ASU explode for 28 points to pull off an unbelievable, 42-41, over the home-standing Mocs.

It was a steamy afternoon in the Scenic City of Chattanooga, Tenn., and it would be a day that would see the city play host to one of the best games in Southern Conference history, with Appalachian State showing true championship pedigree when its mettle was tested by an upstart Chattanooga team under then second-year head coach Russ Huesman.

The hype leading up to the SoCon season opener was powered by the Chattanooga marketing machine, urging fans to come early and stay late on what was to be a “White Out” Saturday to open the 2010 football season.

The Mocs had a veteran quarterback returning in B.J. Coleman–a prototypical quarterback who transferred into the program from the University of Tennessee. The Mocs also had a variety of big-play options in the passing game, including players like Brian Sutherland and the Mocs’ leading receiver, Joel Bradford. There were also weapons in the ground game such as Chris Awuah, Keon Williams and Erroll Wynn.

If that wasn’t enough, the Mocs brought a highly-touted defense into the matchup against the Mountaineers, which returned seven starters, and featured some of the league’s best at their respective positions, including defensive end Josh Williams, as well as one of the most talented secondaries in the Southern Conference, led by the speedy Buster Skrine.

The perils of opening conference play on the road to start the season, being the defending five-time SoCon champs, having won 20-straight Southern Conference games and to cap it off, it was the first game in a new era, as the Armanti Edwards era came to a close the previous season in the FCS Semifinals with a 24-17 loss to Montana in the Missoula snow. All those things added up against the Mountaineers heading into the matchup, as well as a Chattanooga team which got a taste of success in Huseman’s first season at the the helm, as the Mocs were able to post their first winning season on the gridiron since a 6-5 mark in 2005, and was only the program’s second winning campaign since a 7-4 mark in 1997.

The Mocs also entered the matchup unranked, while the Mountaineers were once again beginning season ranked near the top of the national rankings, coming into the season at No. 3 in The Sports Network Poll.

The bar had been raised, and with 17 starters back, it was an eager Chattanooga team to test itself and a win in the opener against Appalachian State would send shockwaves through the Southern Conference football landscape. Bold statements were even made by the Chattanooga coaching staff, specifically, by the Mocs’ offensive coordinator, Marcus Satterfield, who had this to say in the lead-up to the season-opener with the Mountaineers: I’ll put our overall team speed against any other team in our league (Chattanoogan.com, 8-15-10).

It was certainly a bold claim, but after Chattanooga jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the game, Satterfield looked more like a prophet than an offensive coordinator. It seemed the marketing, the hype and the delivery in the form of execution on both sides of the ball had Chattanooga on its way to one of the biggest upsets in Southern Conference history.

In fact, the Mocs were in danger of blowing the game wide open, as Chattanooga led the football game by 21 points with less than 14 minutes to play, holding a 35-14 lead.

The Mocs staked themselves to a 21-point halftime edge (28-7) in front of a loud and rowdy, 15,325 fans on-hand at Max Finley Stadium/Davenport Field by using some big plays, mostly coming through the air.

The Mocs, led by the trusty arm of Coleman, would score on their first four possessions of the afternoon. The Blue and Gold opened the scoring with a 29-yard Mike Hammonds field goal to take a 3-0 first-quarter advantage. On its second possession of the game, the Mocs would post the second of what would be several big plays in the passing game on the afternoon, as Chris Pitchford electrified the crowd with a 53-yard TD reception, and after the first of three missed PATs on the afternoon, the Mocs led it 9-0 with 7:35 remaining in the opening quarter of play.

The Apps would answer the early Mocs’ onslaught on their next possession, as DeAndre Presley proceeded to lead the Apps on a 10-play, 52-yard drive, which culminated in a 2-yard Presley run to cut Chattanooga’s lead to a meager two points, at 9-7, with 2:36 remaining in the quarter.

But the Mocs’ offense would sting the Appalachian State defense one more time before the conclusion of the opening quarter of play, using a big gain through the air on a 3rd-and-7 play just inside ASU territory, at the 48, as tight end Garrett Hughes hauled in a 12-yard pass to keep the drive alive. The Mocs would find the end zone for the second time on the afternoon when Coleman hooked up with Joel Bradford for a 36-yard scoring strike to make it a 16-7 game with 21 seconds remaining in the opening frame.

The Mocs would dominate the second quarter of play, out-scoring the Mountaineers 12-0 to take a 28-7 lead into the halftime locker room. Coleman and the Mocs would put together a three-play, 47-yard drive early in the second quarter to extend their advantage to 15 points. On the first play from scrimmage, Sutherland hauled in a 46-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage to put the nose of the football at the 1-yard line. After getting stopped for no gain on the first play following Sutherland’s long reception, Coleman would plunge in from a yard out to take a 22-7 lead with 11:29 remaining in the half following a second missed PAT.

The Mocs would used some trickery to close out the scoring in the opening half of play, using just three plays to cover 67 yards. It was again the speedy Sutherland at the forefront of the scoring drive for the Blue and Gold, as he gained half the drive yardage on one play, scampering 34 yards on the first play of the drive, getting the ball into Mountaineer territory at the 33.

Coleman then found Bradford for a 24-yard gain, setting up the second unconventional play of the drive, which would help the Mocs to the 21-point halftime edge. Sophomore running back Chris Awuah, who was a high school quarterback, lined up in the shotgun in the wildcat formation for the Mocs, and he would find redshirt freshman wideout Marlon Anthony for a 9-yard scoring strike with 59 ticks remaining on the first-half clock, and after another missed PAT, the Mocs trotted into the Finley Stadium locker room with a shocking 28-7 lead.

The third quarter was a much slower pace, but the Mountaineers would seemingly start to gain some momentum offensively, as the Black and Gold moved the football with its best efficiency since the opening quarter of play.

The Mountaineers got the football late in the third quarter of play, taking over at their own 14-yard line. Presley and the Mountaineer offense needed just four plays to move 86 yards to cut Chattanooga’s lead in half, at 28-14, when All-SoCon tight end Ben Jorden hauled in a 14-yard pass from Presley with 1:17 remaining in the half.

The key play in the drive came from All-SoCon wide receiver and current St. Louis Rams wideout Brian Quick, who posted a 49-yard catch on the drive’s opening play.

However, the Mocs, just like they had seemingly done all afternoon to this point, came up with an answer. The Mocs, who failed to score in the third quarter, got the football back with a minute to play in the third frame.

UTC needed just three plays to cover 77 yards, using a 62-yard run by Sutherland on a quick pitch to get the Mocs all the way to the ASU 15 to offer an emphatic response to the Jorden scoring catch in the final 1:30 of the quarter to get the Apps within 14 points. That big play on the initial play of the drive would eventually lead to a Hughes 16-yard scoring reception from Coleman, extending the Mocs’ lead back to 21 points (35-14) with 14:54 remaining in the game. That score would set the stage for a wild final frame.

After the Mocs put themselves in the catbird’s seat after Coleman’s third scoring pass of the day, it would be pretty much all Black and Gold the rest of the way. It took the Mountaineers just 58 seconds to offer a response to the Hughes TD catch, as backup running back Cedric Baker came into the game to replace Devon Moore, who went out with an injury, and Baker would record the first of his two fourth-quarter rushing scores, finding pay dirt from three yards out to make it a 35-21 game following Jason Vitaris’ PAT. The Mountaineers would cover 77 yards in just three plays, with the key play in the drive coming via a Matt Cline 38-yard reception from Presley on the drive’s first play.

The Mountaineers would turn the momentum swiftly in their favor following the Baker score, with redshirt freshman wide receiver Tony Washington leveling a bone-crunching hit on Mocs return man Buster Skrine forcing the football free, and fellow redshirt freshman linebacker Karl Anderson recovered the ball and returned it 18 yards to give the Mountaineers the football deep in UTC territory.

It took ASU just three plays to cover 33 yards and cut the Mocs’ lead to just seven points, when Presley scampered into the end zone from four yards out to make it a 35-28 with 12:22 to play in the contest. The ASU offense was put in good stead by reserve running back Devin Radford on the drive’s second play from the 25, scampering 16 yards to get the Mountaineers inside the 10.

Appalachian State would tie the contest by virtue of another opportunistic play, which came this time on the defensive side of the football, as Jabari Fletcher broke through the UTC line and forced and recovered a Coleman fumble, which would give the Mountaineers the football deep inside of Chattanooga territory, with the nose of the football resting at the 7-yard line. Baker would record his second scoring run of the game, scampering in from seven yards out on the first offensive play of the series, and the ballgame was tied, 35-35, with 11:01 to play in the game.

The defense continued its fourth-quarter dominance, holding the Mocs to a three-and-out on the ensuing series, getting the ball back in the hands of Jackson and the ASU offense, helping set up one of the most bizarre plays in the history of Appalachian State football. The play would complete a string of 28 unanswered points by ASU and give the Mountaineers their first lead of the day.

On a play that would officially go down as a “33-yard TD catch,” Presley would take with the Mocs having jumped off-sides, and instead of grounding the ball, Presley and ASU would look to take advantage of the free play. Jackson’s pass into the flats to Cline was behind the line of scrimmage and Chattanooga forced a fumble, however, Jackson would recover the Cline fumble and then he cut all the way across the field, out-racing the UTC defense 33 yards for a score to give ASU a 42-35 lead with 6:05 to play. The wild play was fitting in what had been just another in the latest chapter of wild finishes between Appalachian State and Chattanooga on the gridiron. The scoring play concluded a six-play, 61-yard drive that took 2:54 off the game clock.

The Mocs eventually got the football back with 2:56 remaining in the game and wouldn’t go quietly into the late Scenic City afternoon. Poised, veteran quarterback Coleman would lead the Mocs on an 11-play, 86-yard drive, taking 2:05 off the game clock to get the Mocs within a point, at 42-41, after calling his own number from the 3-yard line to get the ball into the end zone with 51 seconds remaining in the game. A pair of 20-plus yard completions to Pitchford and Sutherland on the drive proved to be the biggest plays in the scoring drive for the Mocs.

Having already missed three PATs on the day, Mocs head coach Russ Huesman decided to go for the win instead of opting to attempt the PAT, which have tied the football game. Coleman dropped back to pass on the two-point conversion play, and he tried to fit the ball into his tight end Garrett Hughes in double coverage, and the ball was batted away by ASU Buck Buchanan Award candidate Mark LeGree, setting off celebrations on the ASU sidelines. After recovering the on-sides kick, Jackson knelt to the Finley Stadium turf as the final seconds elapsed off the clock, concluding what was an epic win for the Mountaineers, extending ASU’s SoCon winning streak to 21-straight games.

“In his third-career start, Presley accounted for 365 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, completing 22-of-29 passes without an interception for 340 yards and two scores and running 11 times for 25 yards and another pair of touchdowns. He was also credited with 33 receiving yards and another touchdown on the bizarre score that gave Appalachian its first lead (GoASU.com game recap, 9/4/2010).”

It was a big day for Chattanooga’s Sutherland, who accounted for 239 all-purpose yards ( 95 rushing yards, 59 kick-return yards and 85 receiving yards), while Coleman finished the day by completing 23-of-37 passes for 340 yards and three TDs in one of his best performances as a UTC quarterback.

In what was truly an offensive showcase, the two teams combined for 83 points and 987 yards of total offense (UTC-492, ASU-486), but also combined for five total turnovers in the contest. It was an epic win for the Mountaineers and would be the start of a sixth-straight Southern Conference crown for the Mountaineers. The Mocs would just miss the playoffs, completing the 2010 season with a 6-5 record. That finish would prove to be disappointing given the high expectations for Huesman’s Mocs heading into his second season.

 

 

 

 

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