Dominant App State disarms winless Warhawks

The Mountaineers rolled up 480 yards of offense, recorded four sacks and intercepted three passes on the way to a 31-13 win against Louisiana-Monroe

Appalachian State quarterback Zac Thomas gains yardage on the ground on his way to 109 rushing yards in Saturday's win at Louisiana-Monroe (App State athletics photo)

Appalachian State wasn’t as dominant as it was last season against Louisiana-Monroe, but it was still dominant enough to make quick work of the winless Warhawks.

Quarterback Zac Thomas and running back Marcus Williams Jr. each ran for more than 100 yards while the Sun Belt Conference’s top-ranked defense intercepted three passes and recorded four sacks on the way to a 31-13 victory that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.

The Mountaineers (4-1, 2-0 Sun Belt) hurt themselves with some bad clock management at the end of the half and allowed a touchdown on the final play of the game, but App State still outgained UML (0-7, 0-4) by a lopsided 480-222 margin.

Thomas rushed for 109 yards while throwing for a pair of touchdowns and Williams added 103 yards on the ground and had a touchdown. Strong safety Ryan Huff led the App State defense two interceptions.

Three thoughts

1. App State came into the game looking to run the ball against a ULM defense that hasn’t stopped anyone on the ground this season, giving up an average of 258 yards per game, and it accomplished its goal in a big way. Not only did quarterback Thomas rush for 109 yards, but so did running back Williams as the Mountaineers rolled up 328 yards on the ground. It was the fourth time in five games this season that they have run for 300 or more yards in a game this season.

2. It’s appropriate that on Halloween the Mountaineers used a trick to get a little treat during the first half. It came in the form of a flea flicker that started with Thomas handing the ball off to Daetrich Harrington, who sucked the defense in on him before turning around and pitching the ball back to Thomas. The senior quarterback then threw downfield and hit wide receiver Christian Wells in the end zone for a 37-yard touchdown to extend App State’s lead to 21-7.

3. The lead at the break might have been even bigger if not for some bad clock management at the end of the half. The Mountaineers had the ball at the ULM 2-yard line with 17 seconds remaining when they called their final time out. But instead of scoring a touchdown or at least a field goal going into the break, they came away with nothing when Thomas failed to throw the ball away and was stopped for a 1-yard loss. The miscue didn’t hurt App State too badly. After receiving the second half kickoff, Thomas drove his team 65 yards on five plays, culminating in a 35-yard touchdown pass to Malik Williams to extend the advantage to 28-7.

Number to know

1,000 — The number of football games App State has played in its program’s history. It reached the milestone with Saturday’s game, a win that improved its all-time record to 633-339-28. The Mountaineers are now 46-5 in their last 51 games against Sun Belt opponents and 22-4 in their 26th road game since joining the conference in 2014.

Player of the game

Zac Thomas, Appalachian State quarterback — The senior set a career high in rushing yardage for the second straight game and recorded his first 100-yard game by picking up 109 yards on 11 carries for a 9.9 yard average. He also completed 13 of 18 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. He now has 55 career touchdown passes, fourth on the Mountaineers all-time list.

They said it

“We’ve got to work on clock management. That was my fault at the end of the half. I saw the signal from the referee and it looked like it was out of bounds. Before I knew it, he was winding the clock on us. We had a play called. We give Zac a lot of benefit with everything, so if he thought he could run the ball, we’ll do that. But we’ve got to work on getting the ball back to the official so we could clock it. We had plenty of time. We had 17 seconds. But it happened. We were able to get away with a win, but we have to work on that in practice.

— App State coach Shawn Clark

Critical Thinking

While the competition isn’t close to what the Mountaineers will face later in their Sun Belt schedule, Clark’s team is gathering some momentum with a second straight conference win in which they dominated on both sides of the ball.

While Thomas and his stable of running backs get most of the attention for putting big numbers on the scoreboard — and it’s deserved — it’s the defense that could make the biggest impact as App State chases its fifth straight Sun Belt championship. The Mountaineers came into Saturday’s game ranked No. 1 in the conference in defense and allowed only 68 rushing yards (222 overall). Of the two touchdowns they gave up, one was a window dressing score on the game’s final play.