Courtesy of Appalachian State Athletics
. - Behind nine crucial points from its defense, top-ranked Appalachian State University topped longtime rival Furman, 37-26, on Saturday afternoon at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
With its 26th-straight Southern Conference victory, No. 1 Appalachian (8-0, 6-0 SoCon) moved to 8-0 for only the second time in the program’s 81-year history.
While its high-powered offense has grabbed the headlines for much of the season, ASU rode a staunch defensive effort to Saturday’s victory. The Mountaineers limited Furman (4-4, 2-3 SoCon) to 266 yards of total offense, 71 fewer than the Paladins’ average coming in and 84 less than ASU had allowed on average through seven games.
The defense was especially stingy in the first half, as it surrendered just 76 yards to help the Apps jump out to a 14-6 halftime lead. The highlight of the first-half defensive effort came after Appalachian quarterback DeAndre Presley (Tampa, Fla./Middleton) threw his first interception of the season, which Furman’s Kadarron Anderson returned 26 yards to the ASU 11 yard line. Thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on a botched field-goal attempt, FU, which trailed 7-3 at the time, had six chances from inside the Appalachian 11 to take the lead but the Mountaineers turned the Paladins away all six times, forcing a field goal that only cut the ASU advantage to 7-6.
Inspired by the defensive stand, ASU’s offense marched 60 yards in six plays on the very next series and stretched the lead to 14-6 on the second of Travaris Cadet’s (Miami, Fla./Central) career-best three touchdowns with 3:28 to go in the first half.
The defensive dominance continued after halftime when just 46 seconds into the second half, ASU defensive end Jabari Fletcher (Atlanta, Ga./Grady) scooped up a botched handoff in the Furman backfield and rumbled 40 yards for his first career touchdown that extended the Mountaineer lead to 21-6.
The teams exchanged touchdowns twice over the next 20 minutes and Appalachian took a 15-point lead deep into the fourth quarter when the Paladins made things interesting by cutting the ASU advantage to 35-26 on a five-yard touchdown pass from Cody Worley to Daniel McFadden with 2:38 left to play. Needing the extra point to draw within one score, Furman’s PAT was blocked by Mountaineer cornerback Troy Sanders (Chester, S.C./Chester), who scooped up the loose ball and took it all the way back for a defensive two-point conversion that gave Appalachian a 37-26 lead and effectively ended any hopes of a Paladin comeback.
Of Furman’s 266 yards, 124 came on just four plays. Over the Paladins’ other 53 snaps, they managed just 2.7 yards per play. ASU’s defense forced a season-high-tying six three-and-outs and allowed Furman to convert only 2-of-13 third-down opportunities.
Linebacker Justin Wray (Covington, Ga./Eastside) led the defensive effort with nine tackles and a quarterback hurry while fellow linebackers D.J. Smith (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) and Brandon Grier (Charlotte, N.C./West Charlotte) chipped in with seven and six tackles, respectively. Defensive tackle Dan Wylie (Washington, Ga./Washington-Wilkes) also registered six stops.
Appalachian’s offensive star was Cadet, who ran a career-high 24 times for 108 yards and the three touchdowns from nine, one and one yards. Despite struggling to find his rhythm for much of the day, Presley still engineered four scoring drives and finished with 217 yards of total offense (137 passing and 80 rushing). Presley’s favorite target was Brian Quick (Columbia, S.C./Ridge View), who caught a game-high four passes for 46 yards, including a 19-yard reception in the third quarter that made him only the fourth Mountaineer to ever reach the 2,000-yard plateau for career receiving yards.
With the victory, Appalachian extended its record winning streak over Furman to six games and its home winning streak, over the Paladins to eight. After winning just eight of the first 31 all-time meetings between the two programs, ASU has won nine of the last 10 games in the series.
ASU faces another fierce rival next Saturday when it travels to Statesboro, Ga. to take on Georgia Southern. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.