By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
MONROE, LA. — Appalachian State faced some serious adversity in the first half of its Sun Belt Conference football game at Louisiana-Monroe Saturday, but the Mountaineers responded like a championship-caliber team to roar past the Warhawks 59-14.
Sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb (8-of-15 passing for 261 yards) threw for three touchdowns, ran for another and set up an additional score with his stunning 78-yard option run in the second period to lift ASU to a comfortable win after both the offense and the defense struggled early.
Lamb finished with seven carries for 103 yards on the ground and 364 yards of total offense as he directed an attack that piled up 654 yards on the night. Junior tailback Marcus Cox added 23 attempts for a game-high 123 rushing yards as App State slashed the talented Warhawk defense for 375 yards on the ground and five running touchdowns.
Linebacker Eric Boggs led the defensive effort for the Mountaineers with two interceptions, a pass breakup and 11 tackles as Appalachian — statistically one of the top-10 FBS programs nationally in several categories — gradually took charge on both sides of the ball.
The victory sets up a nationally-televised showdown on ESPNU for the Mountaineers (5-1 overall, 2-0 in conference) with arch-rival Georgia Southern at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday night with first-place on the line — something that fans of these two former Football Championship Subdivision powerhouses have come to expect from their Southern Conference days and now renewing that tradition in the Sun Belt.
Whoever wins will also be bowl eligible for the first time as Football Bowl Subdivision programs. Georgia Southern beat winless New Mexico State 56-26 on Saturday night at home to improve to 3-0 and 5-1.
Georgia Southern topped ASU, 34-14, last season in a Thursday-night, nationally-televised game from Statesboro, Georgia that deeply stung the Mountaineers. App State is 6-1 on the road since over the past two seasons.
Despite the slow start, Appalachian unleashed an offensive barrage with 59 points, a 45-point margin of victory and 654 total yards to set opponent records at Malone Stadium in a Sun Belt contest.
Louisiana-Monroe (1-5, 0-2) struck for a pair of big passing plays from QB Garrett Smith early to take two leads, 7-0 on its opening drive and 14-10 in the opening minutes of the second quarter.
Appalachian was also stung when one of its top defenders, senior free safety Doug Middleton, was ejected from the game in the first half for a controversial targeting penalty that was upheld after video review.
But after Smith’s 31-yard strike to Marcus Green made it 14-10, the Mountaineers showed amazing resiliency, particularly in the second half, to turn what had been a tight contest into another rout, limiting the Warhawks to 350 yards by the end of the night.
Key in-game adjustments allowed App State to score on six of its next seven possessions and the Mountaineers built leads of 24-14 by halftime and blew out ULM with a 21-0 barrage in the third period.
Coming off last season’s 31-29 victory over the Warhawks in the final seconds at Kidd Brewer Stadium, ASU came into this road game with a healthy respect for Louisiana-Monroe, particularly on defense.
But this game turned out to be similar to most of Appalachian’s other wins during the past calendar year as the Mountaineers wore down ULM on both sides of the ball and ended the contest with 42 straight points.
ASU has won 11 of its past 12 games, including eight consecutive Sun Belt contests. The only loss for the Mountaineers during that time was a 41-10 thrashing at the hands of Clemson — currently ranked No. 5 nationally in the Associated Press Top-25 poll — in week two of the current season.