KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Luck just wasn’t on Appalachian State’s side on Thursday night.
The ninth-ranked Tennessee Volunteers rallied from a 13-3 deficit to beat the Mountaineers in overtime, 20-13.
“First of all, I am really proud of our guys. They came out here and fought. We knew they would. Our program is all about effort and pride and fighting hard all the way to the end. We have always been that way, so I am really proud of that,” said Appalachian State head coach Scott Satterfield. “We have been very fortunate and blessed in the history of our school, especially in the last 25 years, to win a lot of close games at the end, so we have a lot of confidence in how we finish. We just didn’t get it finished tonight.
The Mountaineers got on the scoreboard first after a fumbled punt by Tennessee. Taylor Lamb capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown to put the Mountaineers up 7-0 just over four minutes into the game.
The Vols were able to answer back with a 23-yard field goal at the 6:14 mark of the first.
Nearing the halfway point of the second quarter, Lamb dropped back and while facing heavy pressure from the Tennessee defense, was able to get just enough on a throw to Marcus Cox on the sideline. Cox, who was being covered by a linebacker, was able to pick the ball out of the air, stay in bounds, and run 33 yards for a touchdown. Mountaineer freshman kicker Michael Rubino missed the extra point, but the Mountaineers still led 13-3.
Once again Tennessee had to settle for a field goal with three minutes left in the third quarter. The 39-yard boot from Aaron Medley cut the Mountaineer lead to 13-6.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the App State defense surrendered a touchdown. Josh Dobbs found Josh Malone for a 67-yard TD that tied the game with 10:30 left to play.
The Mountaineers had two chances to retake the lead late in the contest. However, Rubino missed wide right on a 42-yard field goal attempt. At the end of regulation, the Mountaineers had gotten the ball inside the Volunteer 40-yard line, however on a play with time winding down under 10 seconds, Lamb was not able to get out of bounds on a scramble to stop the clock.
In overtime, the ball just simply bounced Tennessee’s way. On a third and goal, Dobbs scrambled towards the goal line and jumped in the air in an attempt to reach the ball over the goal line. Mountaineer linebacker Keenan Gilchrist blasted Dobbs in mid-air, causing the ball to pop lose. However, Volunteer running back Jalen Hurd jumped on the loose ball for the touchdown in overtime.
“That’s football. There were a couple of balls on the ground that we thought we had a great opportunity to get. I thought our defense played outstanding. They were scrappy and got a couple of turnovers,” said Satterfield. “There were a couple of times where we thought we had a chance to get the ball. Our guys didn’t quit, their quarterback fumbled and they ended up falling on it. That is just the way the ball bounces. You have to play hard and good things will happen.”
The Mountaineers’ overtime possession came up short on fourth down when a pass for Shaedon Meadors in the end zone was off target.
App State never trailed in regulation and saw its defense hold Tennessee to just 319 total yards of offense. Even with all of that, it’s still a tough loss to take.
“I am not into moral victories. We are in it to win it. When you get this close like we did down here and not finish it off, you will learn from it. We went toe-to-toe with one of the better teams in the country right here. We are proud of that fact, but we want to win football games. We will learn from this loss. It hurts, but we will come back strong next week,” said Satterfield.
The App State rushing attack was as good as advertised all preseason. As a team, the Mountaineers rushed for 184 yards while holding Tennessee to 127 yards on the ground.
Cox got his senior season started off nicely with 115 yards on 24 carries. Lamb added 27 yards and a score on the ground.
Hurd led the Vols with 110 yards and a score on 28 carries. The Mountaineers did a fantastic job containing Dobbs and pressuring the senior dual threat QB. Dobbs finished with -4 rushing yards on the night after taking two big losses on a pair of sacks.
Neither team found a lot of success throwing the ball. Lamb passed for just 108 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Dobbs finished with 192 passing yards with a touchdown and a bad interception near the end of the first half that kept the Volunteers from getting a field goal attempt.
The Mountaineers will try to put this heartbreaking loss behind them as they face Old Dominion next Saturday for the home opener at Kidd-Brewer Stadium. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.
Upshaw ruled ineligible
Junior running back Terrance Upshaw has been ruled academically ineligible for the 2016 season.
Upshaw was one of the trio of running backs in the backfield along with Marcus Cox and Jalin Moore expected to give opponents a headache when it comes to stopping the run. Upshaw ran for 445 yards during his sophomore campaign in 2015.
The other running backs listed on the App State roster this season that could see more playing time include sophomore Josh Boyd, freshman Marcus Williams Jr. and freshman Colt Johnson.
Nathan Ham can be reached at 336-489-3062.