Mountaineers proving to be closers

App State has used fourth-quarter play to move to the top of the Sun Belt Conference

Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb has led the Mountaineers to four wins when trailing after halftime this season. (Jeremy Brevard / USA TODAY Sports)

Anyone who follows golf knows that the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday.

Anyone who has followed Appalachian State over the past few weeks is starting to learn that the Mountaineers don’t really getting going until the football version of the back nine.

The fourth quarter.

Coach Scott Satterfield’s team has saved its best for last all season by outscoring its opponents 81-34 in the final 15 minutes of its games. It’s a finishing kick that has helped App State pull out three straight victories and catapult itself back to the top of the Sun Belt Conference standings.

“That’s how you win, finishing off in the fourth quarter,” Satterfield said. “There’s a fine line between winning and losing and a lot of times it comes down to just a few plays. It’s keeping your concentration and going as hard as you can go for 60 minutes. We’ve been very fortunate to finish off these games in the fourth quarter.”

The first hint of the Mountaineers’ late-game magic came in a one-point loss to Wake Forest on Sept. 23, when with a Kidd-Brewer Stadium record crowd watching from the stands, they put themselves in position for a game-winning 38-yard field goal that was blocked with five seconds remaining.

Two weeks later against New Mexico State, they were able to finish off the comeback by scoring three touchdowns in the final 7:13 to keep their homecoming celebration from being spoiled. Freshman wide receiver Malik Williams hit Thomas Hennigan on 27-yard trick play to put App State ahead before Jalin Moore ran 56 yards for the clinching touchdown in a game that saw it set a school record with six interceptions.

The Mountaineers (5-2, 4-0 Sun Belt) then rallied from a 21-0 deficit on the road at Idaho to win 23-20, with the final 16 points scored in the fourth quarter.

Although they entered the final period with a one-point lead against Coastal Carolina last week, the game was in doubt until a pair of Williams touchdowns finally put the upstart Chanticleers away allowing App State to remain undefeated in conference play.

While Satterfield acknowledged his team needs to do a better job earlier in games, he attributed its ability to battle from behind and finish strong to a combination of timely adjustments, conditioning and an abundance of veteran players in key positions.

None of those players has been more instrumental in driving that fourth quarter success than senior quarterback Taylor Lamb, whose 427 passing yards against Coastal were the second most in school history and whose 47 career touchdown throws are a new App State record.

“We’d love to win every game by 20 or more points. That would be awesome, but it’s hard to do in this day and age of college football,” Satterfield said. “There’s a ton of parity around the country. We see it week in and week out. Regardless of teams’ records, it’s about matchups and it comes down to execution.”

That execution will be tested again Saturday when Satterfield takes his Mountaineers on the road for a nonconference showdown at UMass.

The game is a rematch of the 2006 FCS national championship in which App State defeated the Minutemen 28-17 for the second of its three straight titles.

While the Mountaineers have gone on to achieve success at the FBS level since, UMass is still struggling with the transition. The Minutemen are just 1-6 on the season, however they have scored 50 or more points in each of their last two games and are coming off their first win last week against Georgia Southern.