CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Trailing by 21 points with less than 14
minutes to go, No. 3 Appalachian State University football scored four
touchdowns in a 7:51 span then thwarted a two-point-conversion attempt
with under a minute to play to hold on for a heart-stopping 42-41
victory over Chattanooga on Saturday at Finley Stadium.
Appalachian (1-0, 1-0 SoCon) extended its Southern Conference winning streak to 21 games by overcoming a 35-14 fourth-quarter deficit. Chattanooga (0-1, 0-1 SoCon) led 28-7 at halftime and regained its 21-point lead when Garrett Hughes caught B.J. Coleman's third touchdown pass of the afternoon on the first play of the fourth quarter.
From there, the Mountaineers took over, scoring the game's next 28 points in under eight minutes, capped by a bizarre 33-yard touchdown "reception" by quarterback DeAndre Presley. Chattanooga jumped offsides on a third-and-one play from the Mocs' 29 yard line, giving Presley and the Mountaineers a free play. Presley threw a quick pass to wide receiver Matt Cline, who was drilled by UTC defender Chris Lewis-Harris and fumbled. Presley picked up the loose ball and weaved his way through the UTC defense, picked up a number of key downfield blocks and scored the go-ahead touchdown from 33 yards out.
After the teams swapped scoreless series, the Mocs took possession at their own 14 yard line with 2:56 to go and drove 86 yards in 11 plays, capped by a three-yard touchdown run by Coleman on third and goal that cut the Mountaineer lead to one at 42-41 with 56 seconds left in the game. With a pair of UTC kickers having already combined to miss three extra points, Chattanooga head coach Russ Huesman elected to go for two points and a potential victory following the score. However, Buck Buchanan Award candidate Mark LeGree batted down Coleman's pass into the end zone on the two-point attempt to preserve the one-point lead. Brian Quick recovered the Mocs' ensuing onside kick attempt to seal Appalachian's epic come-from-behind triumph.
Both sides of the ball contributed to the epic comeback. On the offensive end, things started clicking at the end of the third quarter when the Mountaineers marched 86 yards in four plays, culminating the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Presley to tight end Ben Jorden that made it 28-14 with 1:17 to go in the third.
However, it looked like the touchdown would be inconsequential when UTC answered by driving 77 yards in three plays and stretched the lead back to 21 with on Coleman's 16-yard scoring strike to Hughes six seconds into the final period.
Appalachian answered quickly with an identical three-play, 77-yard scoring drive that took only 49 seconds off the clock. Cedric Baker scored from three yards out to cut the ASU deficit to 35-21.
On the ensuing kickoff, redshirt freshman Tony Washington leveled Chattanooga returner Buster Skrine and forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow redshirt freshman Karl Anderson and returned 18 yards to give ASU possession deep in UTC territory. Three plays later, Presley ran it in from four yards out to bring the Mountaineers within seven at 35-28.
Buck Buchanan Award candidate Jabari Fletcher single-handedly took over the game on the next series, sacking Coleman twice, the second of which forced a fumble that Fletcher recovered himself at the Chattanooga seven yard line. It only took one play for the offense to capitalize, with Baker recording his second touchdown run in under three minutes to knot the score at 35-35.
A three-and-out by ASU's defense on the ensuing series set up Presley's wild go-ahead scoring run.
In his third-career start, Presley accounted for 365 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, completing 22-of-29 passes without an interception for 340 yards and two scores and running 11 times for 25 yards and another pair of touchdowns. He was also credited with 33 receiving yards and another touchdown on the bizarre score that gave Appalachian its first lead.
Quick was Presley's favorite target, catching five passes for 121 yards. Cline had a game-high eight receptions for 89 yards and Jorden had three huge catches for 45 yards and a score. Devin Radford ran 10 times for a team-best 85 yards.
Defensively, Fletcher stuffed the stat sheet with two sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough registered a team-high eight stops. Troy Sanders and Justin Wray added seven tackles apiece.
The teams combined for 83 points and 978 yards but were plagued by five total turnovers (two for ASU and three for UTC). Coleman led the Mocs with 340 yards on 23-of-37 passing and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing).
Appalachian opens the 2010 home campaign next Saturday when it hosts Jacksonville at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.
NOTES: Due to UTC's "White Out" promotion, for which the Mocs wore all white uniforms, Appalachian wore its gold Nike Pro Combat alternate uniforms rather than donning all black on a near 90-degree day in Chattanooga ... ASU will also wear the Pro Combat duds on Sept. 18 vs. N.C. Central ... Appalachian's comeback from a 21-point deficit was its largest in at least 12 years (a complete breakdown of where the comeback ranks in ASU history will be available in the game notes for next week's home opener vs. Jacksonville) ... the Mountaineers racked up 253 of its 486 yards of offense in the final 17:29 of the game (167 yards in the fourth quarter) ... Presley's 340 passing yards rank 21st in ASU history ... his 365 yards of total offense are good for 23rd in ASU's all-time annals ... Fletcher's two fumble recoveries matched a school record that has been achieved 30 times, most recently by Sam Martin overcame a five-yard punt on his first attempt of the season to average 38.3 yards over his final four boots of the afternoon, three of which were downed inside the 20 yard line ... ASU running back Devon Moore was dressed but did not play due to a quad injury ... defensive end Lanston Tanyi sat out with a toe injury ... Tanyi's injury may require season-ending surgery next week ... wide receiver CoCo Hillary served the first game of a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules ... Hillary will return to action on Sept. 18 vs. N.C. Central.vs. Wofford in 2008 ... punter