By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
BOONE, N.C. — In 1994, Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore watched his Mountaineers win an overtime playoff game in sudden fashion, 17-10, over New Hampshire in a first-round game.
On Saturday, the roles were reversed and this veteran coach and his team was handed one of the most painful and abrupt defeats in Mountaineer history as Illinois State blocked an extra point to beat ASU 38-37 in a second-round battle before 16,719 spectators at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
"Sometimes, the things that you think are the simplest end up making things really tough," said Moore. "I've never lost a game like that."
A 25-yard pass from Matt Brown to James O'Shaughnessy on the first play of overtime gave the Redbirds (9-3) a lead after Appalachian State (8-4) had rallied from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit to tie the game and forced extra time.
After Nick Aussieker drilled through the PAT, the Redbirds went on defense.
It only took the Mountaineers three plays to match ISU's touchdown after a 17-yard strike from Jamal Jackson to Sean Price set up Jackson's four-yard scoring strike to Andrew Peacock.
The loud and boisterous ASU crowd, which was rollicking during the fourth-quarter comeback, went pin-drop silent before senior Sam Martin lined up for the kick that would send the contest to a second overtime.
But Shelby Harris and Colton Underwood crashed through the ASU offensive line, and Harris leaped to block Martin's kick with his left forearm. It was the fourth career block of Harris' three-year career.
"I couldn't have done it without Colton Underwood and we got a good push," said Harris, who routinely lines up next to the All-American defensive end when defending placements. "We were both able to stay on our feet. I have very long arms."
Long enough to end Appalachian State's season and send Illinois State to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division I Football Championship for the first time since 2006, where the Redbirds will meet No. 2-seeded Eastern Washington.
"It's hard to say (what happened) until you watch it on film," said Martin, a senior who is expected to draw interest from NFL teams in the spring. "I feel like I hit the ball well and the snap was fine and the hold was fine. It was a routine PAT, just like any other."
Martin was 16-of-16 on extra points this season and had only missed one other PAT in his four-year ASU career.
The preseason All-American punter helped hem Illinois State in throughout the day with seven boots for a 48.9 average, including five inside the 20-yard line and one that was downed at the Redbird one. He also contributed five touchbacks on kickoffs.
What had started at a tepid pace for the first quarter and a half, with Illinois State taking a 7-0 first period lead on Tyrone Walker's 41-yard catch and run of a Brown pass, turned sizzling hot the rest of the way as athletes from both teams rose up to contribute spectacular plays.
"It was going to be one of those games," said Illinois State coach Brock Spack. "There were some ugly plays on both sides of the ball and there were some beautiful plays."
Walker sparkled from start to finish with 10 catches for 176 yards and a 32-yard touchdown late in the third period to go with his earlier score and give the Redbirds that 11-point, 28-17 lead.
O'Shaughnessy had just three catches for 78 yards, but all of them were crucial to ISU's victory.
His 44-yard, diving grab late in the second quarter set up O'Shaughnessy's nine-yard TD grab two plays later to give the Redbirds a 14-7 halftime advantage.
And, of course, his moves to break free on a seem route to begin the overtime session put Illinois State in position to finally win.
"For me it was wide open," said O'Shaughnessy. "I looked in the ball and made sure I caught it."
Brown struggled in the first half and had five separate throws that were in the hands of Appalachian State defenders, but he dodged each bullet and finished 20-of-32 for 322 yards passing and five touchdowns, along with 349 yards of total offense.
"Our guys did a great job today of being able to make guys miss and make something happen that wasn't really there to begin with," said Brown. "They had some holes in coverage at times and we saw it in film and I thought we did a great job of preparing for those and exploiting areas they left open."
Appalachian State had its share of heroes as it battled back from a sluggish start.
Playing with an injured ACL in his left knee that is almost certain to require surgery in the off-season, Jackson hung in against a pass rush that grew in ferocity as the game went on.
"I would rather play with it and continue to compete," Jackson said. "I can get another knee, but I'll never get to play with these seniors out on the field again, so I didn't care how bad it was hurting."
Still, the junior quarterback completed 33-of-45 passes for 373 yards and two TDs with one interception.
Sidelined for one play in first half, Jackson returned in the next series and increased in his sharpness as the contest wore on.
"I was not going to come off that field," Jackson remarked. "I can't use the injury as an excuse."
Price, the redshirt freshman phenom, turned in yet another brilliant performance, breaking Football Championship Subdivision records for freshman receptions (81) and freshman receiving yardage (1,196 in just 10 games), shattering marks previously held by Drew Amerson of Cal State-Northridge (71) and Marshall's Randy Moss (1,073 in 1996).
Price had 13 catches for 167 yards and two touchdowns.
Tony Washington was so dangerous in the return game for the Mountaineers that Illinois State started kicking the ball away from him as the game wore on. Washington had nine total returns for 159 yards, including one kickoff return of 46 yards.
Andrew Peacock added 11 receptions and the one TD catch for 79 yards and tossed one 10-yard touchdown pass to tight end Drew Bailey as Peacock was being smothered by defenders from Wildcat formation with 3:31 remaining in regulation.
Martin's PAT tied the game at 31, but the Mountaineers wasted an opportunity to get into field goal range on their final possession of the fourth quarter when a Jackson third-down rush of two yards came up inches short of a first down at the ASU 48.
Rather than risk going for it with 33 seconds left, Appalachian State decided to punt and gamble on overtime.
"I would have made the same decision," said Spack. "If you fumble a snap, or something else goes wrong, we're only a couple of first downs from field goal range."
Senior linebacker Jeremy Kimbrough helped put the Mountaineers in position for the comeback with another outstanding day, making 15 tackles, with nine solo stops, 3.5 tackles for loss (minus-14 yards) and one sack, while safety Troy Sanders added 11 tackles, with a tackle for loss and two pass breakups.
Kimbrough was one of many Appalachian State players stunned by the devastating finish in his final Mountaineer game.
"I never thought that my last game would come down to an extra point and it's tough," said Kimbrough. "But we could have made many plays earlier on in the game to not even get into that situation."
But Illinois State made one more play to survive and advance.
"Appalachian State is a great team and we came in here and beat them," said Spack. "That means a lot."