Courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics
BOONE, N.C. — DeAndre Presley (Tampa, Fla./Middleton) accounted for 374 yards of total offense and three touchdowns to lead top-ranked Appalachian State University to a 34-31 victory over No. 19 Elon in front of a school-record crowd of 31,531 on Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Presley completed 14-of-19 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and ran 23 times for a career-high 170 yards and two more scores to lead Appalachian (5-0, 3-0 SoCon) to its 23rd-consecutive Southern Conference victory and its 15th-straight triumph over Elon (2-3, 1-2 SoCon).
Presley was impressive from his first play of the game — a 39-yard pass to CoCo Hillary (Edgefield, S.C./Strom Thurmond) — to his last, an eight-yard first-down run that sealed the victory with under two minutes to play. At the end of that run, Presley sustained a head injury and walked off the field with assistance from ASU athletic training personnel. He will be evaluated further on Sunday and his status for next Saturday’s home tilt with The Citadel is unknown at this time.
Presley’s 39-yard connection with Hillary on the first play from scrimmage set the tone for an eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that gave Appalachian an early 7-0 lead but, aided by a roughing the punter penalty on its initial series, Elon scored the game’s next 10 points to take a 10-7 advantage.
The Phoenix’s only lead of the game would be short-lived, as the Mountaineers needed only four plays to erase the deficit, with a 39-yard touchdown run by Cedric Baker (Wilmington, N.C./New Hanover) capping the one-minute, 37-second drive that gave the Apps a 13-10 lead they would never relinquish.
Elon drew back within three points on three different occasions but each time, ASU responded. Following the first two times that the Phoenix cut the deficit to three, the Mountaineers answered with touchdowns to stretch the lead back to 10 and after Elon scored with 3:50 to go to make it 34-31, the Apps got four big first downs to run out the clock.
Besides Presley, Appalachian’s biggest plays of the day were made by Hillary. The senior finished with three receptions for 76 yards — both season highs — and all three receptions were huge ones. In addition to the 39-yard gain on the first play of the day, he hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Presley on a third-and-goal play to give ASU a 34-24 lead early in the fourth quarter and made a 24-yard catch on the final drive to give the Mountaineers one of the four first downs it needed to seal the victory.
Appalachian’s defense also contributed with big plays in the win. The Mountaineers sacked Elon quarterback Scott Riddle three times and finished with seven tackles for loss. More importantly, the ASU defense came up the biggest when it mattered most, twice turning away the Phoenix away on fourth down, the second of which came on the ASU six yard line early in the third quarter.
Buck Buchanan Award candidates D.J. Smith (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) and Jabari Fletcher (Atlanta, Ga./Grady) led the Black and Gold defensively, with Smith registering a game-high 14 tackles, including one for loss, and a pass break-up and Fletcher notching two sacks and three tackles for loss among his four stops.
Largely because of Riddle’s 394 yards on 31-of-43 passing, Elon held a 503-478 edge in total yardage but Appalachian held a 7.6-7.2 advantage in yards per play. Behind Presley’s 170 rushing yards, the Mountaineers out-gained the Phoenix 274-109 on the ground.
Penalties were ASU’s achilles heel throughout the afternoon, as it was flagged 12 times for 116 yards, including nine times for 96 yards in the first half alone.
Off to just the seventh 5-0 start in school history, Appalachian closes its second two-game homestand of the regular season next Saturday when it hosts The Citadel (2-4, 0-3 SoCon). Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium.