BOONE — The Eliah Drinkwitz era at Appalachian State picked up where the Scott Satterfield left off — with a victory.
The Mountaineers methodically built a 42-7 win over former Southern Conference rival East Tennessee State in front of 25,147 fans at sundrenched Kidd Brewer Stadium on Aug. 31. But Appalachian State needed a big second half to build its big lead.
Drinkwitz, coaching in his first game college game as a head coach, said the victory was special for him. He took over for Satterfield, who left for Louisville after the Mountaineers won the Sun Belt Conference Championship game in December.
Drinkwitz was hired later in the month.
“When you win, it’s a lot of fun,” Drinkwitz said of what it’s like to be the head coach. “It’s interesting. A couple of times I was sitting back there talking (with the offense) and I realized that I had to be watching the defense. It was just different. When I was a seventh-grade head coach I didn’t have to switch over the headphones, so this was different.”
The Mountaineers went into halftime leading 14-0 and increased it to 21-0 on 13-yard run by Darrynton Evans that capped an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
But East Tennessee State answered with a 12-play, 86-yard drive capped by a Nate Adkins 5-yard touchdown reception from freshman Trey Mitchell. Mitchell had to take over for Bucs starter Chance Thrasher, who left the game because of an undisclosed injury in the first half.
Appalachian State answered the Bucs’ touchdown with a 31-yard Zac Thomas touchdown pass to Thomas Hennigan. Thomas released the ball just before blitzing ETSU cornerback Jeremy Lewis unloaded a big hit on him.
Hennigan did his part by splitting two defenders to catch the ball, and then bouncing off one of them to get to the end zone. The catch capped App State’s second 75-yard scoring drive — this one lasted eight plays.
Drinkwitz felt that touchdown was the start of the Mountaineers’ final match to the win, especially when App State stopped an ETSU drive at the Mountaineers’ 21-yard line instead of scoring late in the first half.
“To keep them from scoring at the end of the first half and then our offense came out and went 75 yards for the touchdown blue the game wide open,” Drinkwitz said.
App State got a 15-yard reverse touchdown run from Jalin Virgil and a 17-yard TD pass from backup quarterback Jacob Huesman to freshman receiver Christian Wells to close out the Mountaineers’ scoring.
Appalachian State held a 444-292 advantage in total yards. Evans led all runners with 99 yards on 14 carries, and the Mountaineers totaled 283 yards rushing.
East Tennessee State FCS All-American running back Quay Holmes settled for 68 yards on 19 carries. Senior defensive back Josh Thomas said containing Holmes was the top priority for the App State defense.
“We had a good day stopping the run, for the most part, trying to contain Holmes,” Thomas said. “He’s a good back, so we really had to gang-tackle.”
The game got off to a good start for the Mountaineers when former longtime head coach Jerry Moore met the captains from both teams for the pregame coin toss. Appalachian State celebrated the 30th anniversary of Moore's arrival at Appalachian State.
East Tennessee State won the toss, chose to receive, and picked up two first downs before the Bucs’ drive stalled at their 49-yard line.
App State’s first drive was a three-and-out, but the Mountaineers’ defense answered with a three-and-out on East Tennessee State. App State got the ball back and a 10-yard Thomas pass to Hennigan led to a 1-yard Thomas touchdown run.
Thomas passed six yards to Malik Williams for the Mountaineers’ other first-half touchdown, which gave App State a 14-0 lead.
“They stuck together,” Drinkwitz said. “Obviously we started a little slow on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense did a great job keeping the other team out of the end zone.”