Sean Price hauled in a 22-yard touchdown pass from Jamal Jackson with 22 seconds to go to give No. 13/12 Appalachian State University a thrilling 28-25 victory over No. 25 Samford on Saturday at Seibert Stadium. Trailing 25-21 with 1:33
to go in the ballgame, Jackson engineered a seven-play, 80-yard drive to lead Appalachian State (5-2, 3-1 SoCon) to its fourth-straight victory.
"Jamal put the ball on me and I was able to make the catch," Price said. "I had never been in that situation before at this level. It happened in high school, but it was nothing like this. It got pretty frantic, but it was also a great situation and I enjoyed it."
The game-winning drive was set up by Appalachian’s defense, which stopped Samford twice with the Bulldogs needing only one yard to seal their first victory over the Mountaineers since 1970. On second-and-one with 2:33 to play, Ronald Blair and Davante Harris stuffed SU’s Jeremiaha Gates for no gain and, on the following play, Blair and Adam Scott combined to keep Gates short of the first down marker again, forcing Samford to punt. The boot sailed into Appalachian’s end zone, setting the stage for the late-game heroics.
After an incomplete pass to open the drive, Jackson hit Price for a 20-yard gain. Two plays later, Jackson scrambled for 17 yards to move the Mountaineers into Samford field position and, after an incomplete pass, he connected with Andrew Peacock for a 21-yard pass that gave the Apps the ball on the 22 yard line.
On the very next play, Jackson lofted the ball into the end zone for Price, who had a step on Samford defensive back James Bradberry. Price stretched out to make a spectacular lunging catch and got his right foot down inside the right sideline before Bradberry was able to push him out of out-of-bounds. The official, in great position to make the call, displayed the touchdown signal immediately, setting off a wild celebration along the Appalachian sideline and stunning Samford’s homecoming crowd that was announced at 9,712 at 6,700-seat Seibert Stadium.
"you've got to go through games like this to become a championship team," said ASU coach Jerry Moore. "I am very happy for the players. And I'm real proud of the comeback. Ever since (Samford) joined our league, Samford has always played us tough. Every game has been tight. And we didn't play our best game today, either. But we made the plays when we had to at the end."
Samford returned the ensuing kickoff six yards to its 36 yard line but lost six yards on its first two plays thanks to a dropped pass and Scott’s third sack of the game. On the final play of the ballgame, Samford attempted to lateral its way to a 70-yard game-winning touchdown but Appalachian’s Brandon Grier ultimately came away with the ball and nearly returned it for a touchdown before being dragged down at the 3 yard line as time expired.
For most of the afternoon, it did not appear that Appalachian would need a heart-stopping finish to come away with its fourth-straight victory. Despite struggling offensively, the Mountaineers jumped out to a 21-10 halftime lead and held the same advantage going into the fourth quarter.
However, Samford (5-2, 3-2 SoCon) erupted in final period and put together back-to-back touchdown drives that turned a seemingly safe 11-point Mountaineer lead into a four-point deficit with 7:37 left to play.
"We came up with some big plays on that game-winning drive," Moore said. "But our players have been here before. They've played in their share of big games, and those experiences helps us in games like this."
Appalachian responded to the Bulldogs’ go-ahead touchdown by driving 67 yards on its ensuing possession but the series stalled out at the Samford 15 yard line with 4:01 to go. The Bulldogs immediately picked up a first down, followed by a nine-yard run that set up the second- and third-down stops and put the game-winning sequence in motion.
Although it sputtered for much of the day, Appalachian’s offense stepped up when it mattered most, racking up 179 of its 413 yards in the fourth quarter. With the 413-yard performance, the Mountaineers surpassed the 400-yard plateau for the seventh-straight game to open the season, extending a school record.
"We got an opportunity today, and we took it," Scott said. "(Defensive) coach (Dale) Jones and his staff called a great game for us. They really did a great job preparing us for today's game. We practiced against the fake punt, but they caught us off guard when they pulled it off. But we kept fighting, and we made the plays."
Jackson accounted for 294 of the 413 yards, highlighted by 288 yards and two touchdowns on 22-of-39 passing. For the second-straight week, senior running back Steven Miller set career highs for receptions and receiving yards, finishing with team-high 98 yards on six catches. Miller also ran for 88 yards on 17 carries. Peacock was Jackson’s favorite target with seven receptions for 60 yards while Price shrugged off a slow start to finish with 90 yards on five catches.
"Our offense can get things clicking," Price said. "We have the weapons, and the confidence in our abilities. But the big question is, can we do it all the time? Today, we did."
Defensively, the star was Scott, who made his first-career start in place of injured Deuce Robinson and finished with three sacks among his career-high seven tackles. Sophomore Joel Ross opened the scoring for the Mountaineers with a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown in the first quarter and Jeremy Kimbrough led the squad with 10 stops. All told, the Mountaineer defense limited Samford to just 337 total yards, which was the Bulldogs’ lowest output of the season.
Appalachian returns home next Saturday for a mammoth Southern Conference showdown versus No. 5/4 Wofford (5-0, 3-0 SoCon going into Saturday night’s game at Georgia Southern). Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
NOTES: Appalachian State won a game on its final offensive play for the first time since Armanti Edwards found Matt Cline for a four-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to lift Appalachian to a 35-31 win over Richmond in the NCAA Division I Football Championship quarterfinals in 2009 … Appalachian moved to 6-1 all-time versus Samford with its fifth-straight win over the Bulldogs … the Mountaineers remain as the only Southern Conference team that Samford has not defeated in its five seasons in the league … Appalachian is 4-0 all-time against SU in Birmingham and moved to 5-4 in games played in the state of Alabama … Jackson became the ninth 4,000-yard passer in Appalachian State history, finishing the day with 4,014 career yards … Jackson also became the ninth passer in school history with 300 completions, finishing the game with 318 for his career … Appalachian had a season-high six sacks defensively but also surrendered a season-high four sacks … coming into Saturday, the Mountaineers had surrendered a total of five sacks all season...With its fourth-straight win, Appalachian State moved to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in Southern Conference play. Samford dropped to 5-2 overall and 3-2 in SoCon play...Appalachian State moved to 6-1 all-time versus Samford with its fifth-straight win over the Bulldogs. The Mountaineers are 4-0 all-time against the Bulldogs in Birmingham...Appalachian State remains as the only Southern Conference team that Samford has not defeated since it joined the conference in 2008...Appalachian State limited Samford to 339 yards, SU’s lowest offensive output of the season (prev. 347 at Western Carolina on Sept. 22)...Appalachian State had a season-high six sacks (prev. 4 at Chattanooga on Sept. 22 and vs. Elon on Oct. 6)...For the second-straight week, senior running back Steven Miller set a career high for receptions (six) and receiving yards (92)...Joel Ross’ 17-yard interception return for Appalachian State’s first touchdown was the first interception and first touchdown of the sophomore’s career...Junior Adam Scott made his first-career start in place of injured Deuce Robinson at the rush position and matched a career-high with two sacks.
Score by Quarters 1 2 3 4 Total
Appalachian State 7 14 0 7 - 28
Samford 10 0 0 15 - 25
1st - 11:42 SAM - Cameron Yaw 25 yd field goal, 7-67 3:18 0 - 3
07:10 APP - Joel Ross 17 yd interception return (Drew Stewart kick) 7 - 3
02:26 SAM - Tony Philpot 1 yd pass from Andy Summerlin (Cameron Yaw kick), 6-66 1:53 7 - 10
2nd - 07:43 APP - Rod Chisholm 20 yd run (Drew Stewart kick), 8-85 2:20 14 - 10
05:16 APP - Steven Miller 48 yd pass from Jamal Jackson (Drew Stewart kick), 3-61 0:50 21 - 10
4th - 14:41 SAM - Kelsey Pope 18 yd run (Chris Cephus pass from Andy Summerlin), 9-85 3:33 21 - 18
07:37 SAM - Fabian Truss 1 yd run (Cameron Yaw kick), 9-62 4:36 21 - 25
00:22 APP - Sean Price 22 yd pass from Jamal Jackson (Drew Stewart kick), 7-80 1:11 28 - 25
FIRST DOWNS: ASU 21, SAMFORD 15
RUSHING YARDS: ASU 125, SAMFORD 82
PASSING YARDS: ASU 288, SAMFORD 270
TOTAL YARDS: ASU 413, SAMFORD 352
FUMBLES: NUMBER LOST: ASU 1-0, SAMFORD 1-1
TURNOVERS: ASU 1, SAMFORD 2
PENALTY YARDS: ASU 9-79, SAMFORD 6-79
TIME OF POSSESSION: ASU 28:18, SAMFORD 31:32
3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS: ASU 2-14, SAMFORD 4-16
4TH DOWN CONVERSIONS: ASU 1-4, SAMFORD 1-1
ASU: MILLER 17-88, CHISHOLM 4-26-TD
SAMFORD: TRUSS 18-46-TD
ASU: JACKSON 22-39-INT-2TD-288
SAMFORD: SUMMERLIN 18-30-INT-TD-270
ASU: PEACOCK 7-60, MILLER 6-98-TD, PRICE 5-90-TD
SAMFORD: TRUSS 8-113, PHILPOT 3-67-TD
Photo Courtesy: Sean Price, ASU Athletics