Depleted App State team guts out win over Campbell

With a roster slashed by COVID-19 quarantines, the Mountaineers found a way to improve to 2-1

Appalachian State running back Daetrich Harrington finds a hole in the Campbell defense to break loose for a 40-yard touchdown during the Mountaineers' 52-17 win Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone. (Walt Unks / The Winston-Salem Journal via AP)

Playing with a skeleton crew due to COVID-19 quarantines, Appalachian State bounced back from a second-quarter hole to beat visiting Campbell 51-21 on Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

The Mountaineers found out Wednesday that more than 20 players were quarantined, along with three assistant coaches and a graduate assistant.

“We had three positions wiped out,” App coach Shawn Clark said. Clark had to resort to changing positions during a 1:45 p.m. team meeting on Wednesday of game week in order to have enough depth at the depleted positions.

One of the spots hit hardest was wide receiver, which meant that App State leaned heavily on its run game.

“(Quarterback) Zac Thomas could have had a field day if he had his wide receivers today,” Clark said. Instead, he was held to 131 yards, while App rushed for 417 and seven touchdowns.

Three thoughts

1. Prior to this season, Campbell had played just four FBS opponents in its history, including App State in 2014. This game was the third of four FBS foes on the Camels scheduled this year.

2. Quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams gave Campbell an early lead, running it in from one yard out for the game’s first score in the first quarter. After Daetrich Harrington matched him at the close of the first, Williams rushed 10 yards for a second touchdown to put Campbell back on top, 13-7. App then scored the next 45 points. Williams finished with 44 yards on the ground and 101 in the air to lead the team in both categories.

3. App’s defense continued its dominant performance against the pass, holding Campbell to eight completions in 20 attempts. Heading into the game, the Mountaineers had the lowest completion rate allowed in the nation at 40%. App also led the country in pass breakups and added five more in the game.

Number to Know

131— Yards gained by true freshman running back Nate Noel in the first game of his career. He and Harrington gave App a pair of 100-yard rushers for the second time this season.

They Said It

“I went to practice on Wednesday and had three running backs. He was standing there drinking water, so I said come over here and had him run a few plays”

— App State coach Shawn Clark on how linebacker/safety Anderson Castle ended up rushing eight times for 42 yards

Player of the Game

Daetrich Harrington, App State running back — The workhorse of the Mountaineers running game, Harrington rushed 32 times for 214 yards and four touchdowns. He became the first App State player to score four in a game since Armanti Edwards in 2009.

Critical thinking

While it was a gutty team performance by App to have so many first-time players and out-of-position guys step up to keep the train moving, it’s still a wonder that the game was even played. In addition to the injury risk presented by going so deep into the depth chart or having players line up at spots they haven’t played since high school or peewee ball, there’s also the risk that the virus wasn’t completely contained by the mass quarantine. It remains to be seen whether this game will be remembered for the heroic play by the App reserves on the field or the boneheaded greed of the older people making the decisions in offices and conference calls.