The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Appalachian State (5-3, 3-2 SoCon) and took the Mountaineers out of control of their own destiny in the race for a seventh Southern Conference championship in eight years. Wofford (6-1, 4-1 SoCon), which won at Kidd Brewer Stadium for the first time since 2002, remained in the thick of the SoCon title chase, a half-game behind No. 3 Georgia Southern ( 6-1, 5-1 SoCon).
Appalachian took a 28-24 lead on Tony Washington’s 99-yard kickoff return for a touchdown with 4:54 to go in the third quarter but Wofford responded with an 11-play, 75-yard drive and retook a 31-28 advantage on Eric Breitenstein’s second one-yard touchdown of the afternoon on the first play of the final period.
The momentum swung firmly in Wofford’s direction just 1:10 later when defensive end Tarek Odom scored on a controversial 40-yard fumble return to stretch the Terriers’ advantage to 38-28. On the play in question, video replays show that Appalachian State quarterback Jamal Jackson threw the ball several yards into the ground while trying to escape the grasp of a pair of Wofford defenders. However, Southern Conference officials announced that their ruling was that Jackson’s arm was not going forward in a throwing motion and the back-breaking touchdown stood.
Three series later, the Mountaineers suffered their second tough break of the fourth quarter but this time, the misfortune was of their own doing, as Drew Stewart pulled a chip-shot 24-yard field goal wide left with 5:05 to go in the ballgame. Stewart’s third-straight missed field goal came after Appalachian drove 79 yards in 14 plays and kept the Mountaineers’ deficit at 10 points.
Appalachian got the ball back with 2:46 to go and drove inside the 10 yard line but, needing two scores to tie or take the lead instead of just one following to the disputed fumble call, the drive stalled as time expired.
The Mountaineers struggled offensively for much of the day and were held to a season-low 363 yards but remained in the game due to a pair of non-offensive touchdowns. In addition to Washington’s 99-yard kickoff return in the third quarter, Appalachian also got a 47-yard fumble return by sophomore Joel Ross that put the Apps on the board in the second period.
Defensively, the Mountaineers held Wofford’s high-powered triple-option offense in check for much of the afternoon but were done in by big plays. Two-hundred-and-44 of the Terriers’ 440 yards came on just seven plays (34.9 yards per play) while their remaining 60 snaps netted just 3.3 yards per play. Breitenstein, Wofford’s stocky all-America fullback, finished with a game-high 123 yards on 24 rushes, but outside of a 57-yard burst in the first quarter, the Boone native managed just 66 yards on his remaining 23 carries (2.9 avg.).
Jeremy Kimbrough led Appalachian’s defensive effort with a season-high 15 tackles while Ronald Blair and Karl Anderson each added a career-high 10.
Jackson led the Mountaineers on offense with 289 yards of total offense (257 passing, 32 rushing) but was plagued by several drops by his receivers and did not throw a touchdown pass for the first time in five games. Washington, Andrew Peacock and Sean Price each had seven receptions and Steven Miller rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Appalachian now hits the road for two-straight weeks, beginning with next Saturday’s annual Battle for the Old Mountain Jug at Western Carolina. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at E.J. Whitmire Stadium in Cullowhee, N.C.
NOTES: Appalachian State has lost two home games in a season for the first time since 2002 ... the Mountaineers dropped to 17-9 in their last 26 games against top-10 teams ... Appalachian fell to 12-3 all-time at home against Wofford ... Jackson became the eighth player in Appalachian State history with 5,000 yards of total offense, finishing the day with 5,032 total yards ... Washington’s touchdown was Appalachian’s first on a kickoff return since CoCo Hillary’s 95-yard return for a score at Wofford on Sept. 22, 2007 ... the 99-yard return was the second-longest in Appalachian history, behind only Keith Nash’s school-record 100-yarder at Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 12, 1968 ... Ross’ touchdown was his second in as many weeks — the sophomore returned an interception 17 yards to paydirt last Saturday at Samford.