Thomas leads App State past East Tennessee St. 42-7

New coach Eliah Drinkwitz earned a win in his first game on the Mountaineers sideline

Appalachian State's Ryan Huff tackles East Tennessee State's Malik McGue as he loses the ball during the Mountaineers' 42-7 win Saturday in Boone. (Walt Unks / Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

BOONE — Zach Thomas threw a pair of touchdowns and ran for another as Appalachian State ran up a huge second-half lead to beat East Tennessee State 42-7 in a season opener on Saturday.

Thomas, who finished with 150 yards passing, took Appalachian State 84 yards in 13 plays on the team’s second drive, capping it with a 1-yard run for a touchdown with 2:58 left in the first quarter. He connected with Malik Williams from six yards for another score late in the second and the Mountaineers took a 14-0 lead into halftime.

The Mountaineers opened the floodgates in the second half, scoring on four-consecutive drives starting with Darrynton Evans’ 13-yard touchdown dash and Thomas’ 31-yard scoring pass to Thomas Hennigan for a 28-7 lead at the end of the third. They added two more scores in the fourth, on a 15-yard run by Jalen Virgil and a 17-yard throw to Christian Wells from backup QB Jacob Huesman.

“I think we had a good day,” senior safety Josh Thomas told “We stopped the run for the most part trying to contain (Quay) Holmes, their No. 1. He’s a good strong back, and we had to really gang tackle. I felt like they were going to spread us out on the perimeter, and I think we did good with our corners making tackles.”

It was the Mountaineers first win under new head coach Eliah Drinkwitz, who came to Boone after being offensive coordinator at NC State.

“When you win, it’s a lot of fun,” Drinkwitz, who calls plays for the Mountaineers, told “There were a couple times I was sitting back there talking, and I forgot that I needed to be watching the defense. It was different. I had a couple of times that I needed to lock in and flip over to defense to make sure I was on top of that. When I was a seventh-grade coach, I coached both offense and defense, so I never had to switch over the headsets, but this was a little bit different.”

Trey Mitchell threw for 117 yards and the Bucs only score. Quay Holmes had 68 yards rushing on 19 carries.