On Sept. 17 in Boone, a wild day for Appalachian State ended with an unforgettable Hail Mary and North State Journal’s choice for the 2022 Comeback of the Year.
In front of a sold-out Kidd Brewer Stadium crowd, the Mountaineers were down 28-26 to Sun Belt foe Troy with just two seconds on the clock, leaving only enough time for a last-ditch 53-yard miracle pass.
With all the excitement around App State’s promising start to the season — and ESPN’s “College GameDay” visiting Boone for the first time — the scene was the culmination of a memorable three weeks for App State’s football program.
Just two weeks earlier, the Mountaineers had scored 40 points in the fourth quarter of a back-and-forth Week 1 home loss to UNC. They followed that with an upset win at then-No. 6 Texas A&M. Now, facing the talented Trojans, the Mountaineers were desperate to keep their momentum going as conference play began.
The stage was set for the next crazy chapter in the Mountaineers’ early-season roller coaster as redshirt senior quarterback Chase Brice rolled out in the pocket and heaved up a prayer toward the end zone.
It wasn’t a perfect throw by any means, coming down a full five yards short of the goal line. However, the football was tipped into the air by a Trojans defender and proceeded to drop straight into the hands of wide receiver Christian Horn, who ran it in for App’s game-winning score and an unforgettable moment in the 2022 college football season.
“I think God’s a Mountaineer today,” App State coach Shawn Clark said after the win. “You can’t put a price tag on what ‘College GameDay’ brought to our university, brought to the town of Boone, and brought to our program. We don’t have enough money in this university to pay for that advertisement. … It was, to me, one of the best atmospheres and environments. You have the best of the best in Boone, North Carolina, and I’m just proud of how our guys handled it.”
In retrospect, the big victory proved to be the high-water mark for the Mountaineers and was an unexpected turning point for both App State and Troy.
The Mountaineers’ momentum ended a week later with a road loss to James Madison, the first of five losses in the team’s final nine games as they finished 6-6 with just a 3-5 record in the Sun Belt.
With two of their wins being against FCS members Robert Morris and The Citadel, a season finale double-overtime loss at Georgia Southern meant that — for all the fireworks in September — the Mountaineers weren’t even bowl eligible.
Conversely, the now-No. 23 Trojans went on to record 10 straight wins, claim their record seventh Sun Belt Conference title and finished with an 18-12 Cure Bowl win over Conference USA champion No. 22 UTSA on Dec. 16.
But despite the way that App State’s season turned out, the Hail Mary win over Troy with the national spotlight on Boone will always be a special moment for college football in North Carolina and one of the biggest days in program history.