By Todd Purvis/Sports editor
Although the Colonel football team was looking to pick up where it left off last season, its winning streak that dated back to almost a year ago was snapped last weekend.In what appeared to be an offensive struggle for both teams early in the contest, the Mountaineers of Appalachian State broke the halftime tie of 14 points wide open by scoring five-second half touchdowns en route to a 49-21 finish, handing Eastern the loss in its season opener.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t win the game, but the score is a little bit lop-sided,” head coach Danny Hope said. “I don’t think that it indicates some of the things that we did well in the game.”
Both Eastern and Appalachian State went back and forth in the first stanza of play, but neither team was able to put any points on the board.
In the second quarter, the Mountaineers looked to capitalize off of a roughing-the-punter penalty by the Colonels, but the penalty was offset by an illegal formation called against Appalachian State, resulting in a replay of the down. On the following play, Mountaineer punter Wes Herlocker was back to punt the ball away, but the ball was snapped over his head, giving Eastern possession at the Mountaineer three-yard line.
On the ensuing play, freshman running back Mark Dunn was able to find the pay dirt from three yards out, giving Eastern the 7-0 lead.
After the Colonels got on the board first, Appalachian State wasted no time at all, as they managed to get into the end zone on their next two drives.
On their first drive following the Eastern score, the Mountaineers drove the ball 76 yards down field and capped off the drive with a five-yard touchdown pass from Appalachian State quarterback Richie Williams to tight end Daniel Bettis.
The Mountaineer defense forced Eastern to go three and out and forced another punt that gave Appalachian State the ball at the Colonel 46-yard line.
From the 46-yard line, Williams only needed one play to recapture the lead for the Mountaineers, as he hooked up with wide receiver Victor Chavis for the score, giving Appalachian State the 14-7 lead.
“We went out there and played really hard on defense,” Hope said. “We didn’t make as many plays as we needed to, and that allowed their quarterback to have a career day.”
Eastern then fought back and managed to find the end zone once again before halftime off of a 24-yard strike from freshman quarterback Josh Greco to sophomore tight end Patrick Bugg, which tied the score at 14 all at the break.
“I thought that it was relly big that we were able to come back from behind and tie the game up at halftime,” Hope said.
As third-quarter play picked up, so did the Mountaineer offense. Appalachian State racked off three unanswered touchdowns with drives of 76, 28 and 54 yards, giving them a demanding 35-14 lead.
In the fourth, the Colonel offense responded by getting on the scoreboard one final time, as Greco pounded the ball into the end zone from one yard out, which cut the lead to 35-21.
After a fumble later in the game, Eastern gave the ball back to the Mountaineers just behind midfield, where Appalachian State was able to get into the end zone once again.
“We took a run at it at the end of the fourth quarter,” Hope said. “We had a costly fumble that eliminated opportunity to score.”
Appalachian State scored one final time in the fourth to put the game away by a final score of 49-21.
The Colonels’ passing game was led by Greco, who threw for 162 yards on 18 attempts for one touchdown.
“As the game progressed, he played better and better,” Hope said.
C.J. Hudson led the way on the ground for Eastern, as he picked up 72 yards on 18 carries.
Bugg pulled in a career-high seven passes in the game-good enough for 76 yards and one touchdown.
“Patrick played really well,” Hope said. “He’s an excellent tight end.”
On the other side of the ball, junior linebacker Jerome Jones led the Colonel defense. Jones recorded 13 tackles in the game, seven of which were solos and two and a half were tackles for a loss.
“Jones had a really good game,” Hope said.
Senior safety Pierre Wright also finished with double-digit tackles, as he had 10 stops on the day, including one forced fumble and one interception.
“Pierre had an exceptional day,” Hope said. “Even though they had a lot of passing yards, our secondary had a good day.”
The Mountaineers were led by Williams, who finished the game with 409 yards of total offense, with 90 rushing yards and 319 passing yards. Williams recorded four touchdown passes.
“Their quarterback made a difference in the game. He had a career night,” Hope said. “We had guys in position to make plays on him, we just couldn’t tackle him. It was like trying to tackle Houdini out there.”
Eastern was plagued by turnovers in the contest, as they had one interception and three fumbles.
“If we wouldn’t have turned the ball over four times, we might have had a shot at the game,” Hope said.
Eastern returns to action this weekend in their home opener against instate rival Western Kentucky University. Kickoff is scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday at Roy Kidd Stadium.
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