BOONE, N.C. — As Senior Days go, this is a super-sized one beyond even the stakes of a rivalry game and championship pursuit.

App State's win at Troy last weekend clinched a Sun Belt East Division title and a spot in next weekend's conference championship game at West Division champion Louisiana. In between, this weekend's regular-season finale pits the Mountaineers (9-2, 6-1) against Georgia Southern (3-8, 2-5) on Black Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Limited tickets remain for the ESPN+ game, which will begin at 2:30 p.m. With the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility following a COVID-influenced 2020 season, App State has sixth-year, fifth-year and fourth-year "seniors" among the 28 players being recognized before Saturday's game.
"It's a lot of great players who have given their all for Appalachian State," head coach Shawn Clark said.
Fourteen of those players are "super seniors' who, under normal circumstances, would have exhausted their eligibility last season. Instead, they returned to help App State earn yet another trip to a Sun Belt title game.
Tommy Dawkins Jr.Jacob HuesmanBaer HunterKaiden SmithCaleb SpurlinChandler Staton and Jalen Virgil are sixth-year players who redshirted in 2016 and have been part of a 61-15 run with — to date — Sun Belt titles in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Only Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia have won more games in the last six seasons.
The other "super seniors" — Mike EvansTim FrizzellThomas HenniganXavier SubotschCorey SuttonDemetrius Taylor and Malik Williams — are part of a group that includes five Mountaineers who began playing immediately as true freshmen in 2017 and have been part of 51 wins in 63 games to date.
There are some members of that same recruiting class being recognized Saturday despite the fact that they are eligible to return for another year because they redshirted in 2017, plus some transfers who are wrapping up their college careers or fourth-year team members who plan to move on after earning App State degrees.
It all adds up to a memorable, record-setting group that has totaled 943 game appearances and 496 starts for the Mountaineers. And those seniors would like nothing more than to complete one last game day at The Rock with a rivalry win against Georgia Southern.
"To be able to play at a high level here, to be able to graduate from here and get a world-class degree, it's everything," Clark said. "We tell our kids all the time that you come here to get a world-class degree and have a chance to play for championships. This group has done it all but one season in a COVID year, so I'm very proud of how they represent our university and what they've done for our program."
App State has played Georgia Southern 36 times since 1932 and faced the Eagles annually since they joined the Mountaineers in the Southern Conference in 1993, but this is the first time their matchup was scheduled in advance for the last Saturday of the regular season. Last year's game was moved from mid-October to Dec. 12 because of COVID protocols, and App State won 34-26 with big fourth-quarter plays coming from Virgil (100-yard kickoff return) and Nate Noel (70-yard TD run).
The Mountaineers have won four of the last six meetings, seven of the last 10 and 11 of the last 16.
"I played here, and I know what this rivalry means to everyone that's worn the Black and Gold and all of our fan base," Clark said. "It doesn't matter what the records are; you can throw the records out the window. It wouldn't matter if we were both 0-11 going into this game. It's going to be a great college football game."
Georgia Southern returns to Boone with an interim head coach and multiple options at quarterback to close an injury-filled season.
The Eagles­­ are 2-5 since interim coach Kevin Whitley took over for Chad Lunsford, with former USC coach Clay Helton already set to lead the program next season.
Georgia Southern has had four starting QBs this year, including three in the last three games with redshirt junior Justin Tomlin (the last of seven straight starts came on Nov. 6), freshman Cam Ransom (in a 38-30 win against Texas State) and redshirt freshman Connor Cigelske (who made his college debut last weekend and threw for 121 yards in a 34-17 loss to BYU).
The Eagles rush for 203.2 yards per game and allow 157.6 with a defense that posts 6.2 tackles for loss per game. Their most dangerous offensive weapon has been 230-pound back Logan Wright, who has 10 rushes of 25-plus yards in 2021.
Wright rushed for 177 yards in a season-opening win against Gardner-Webb and 214 more as Georgia Southern gained 503 yards on the ground in a win against Arkansas State.
App State has allowed a combined 28 points and an average of 208.3 yards during the last three games of its five-game winning streak.
"We're doing a lot of good things on offense," Clark said, "but we can't turn the football over, because that will get you beat, but our defense is giving us a chance to win."

Story Links