ATHENS, Ga. -- Appalachian State gave the Georgia Bulldogs more than they bargained for Saturday afternoon at Sanford Stadium, but in the end the Mountaineers did not have enough to mount the upset, falling 45-6.
The score, however, is a bit deceptive. Appalachian kept itself within striking distance of the Bulldogs through the early portions of the third quarter. Unfortunately for ASU, Georgia was able to pull away late.
Make no mistake about it, though, the lopsided score is not much of an indicator of how this game was played.
"It was a tell of two halves, there's no question about it," head coach Scott Satterfield said after the game. "I thought our kids came out with a really good game plan to start the game and came out strong. They came out with great effort."
Appalachian sent a message early that it wasn't taking the field in Athens simply to collect a check. With the Mountaineers' struggles to this point in the season, coupled with the Football Championship Subdivision status, most college football fans likely chalked this up as an easy victory for the home-standing Bulldogs.
Georgia players and coaches would likely argue there were no such feelings in the home team locker room before the game. They were taking the Mountaineers seriously.
And ASU showed with its opening drive why the Bulldogs were justified in doing so. After receiving the opening kickoff the Mountaineers efficiently marched 62 yards down the field, picking up three points off a 33-yard Drew Stewart field goal.
The drive saw the Mountaineers run 13 plays over the course of 7:09, giving ASU its longest possession of the season.
"I thought we certainly had some opportunities in the first half to maybe score more points which was disappointing," Satterfield noted. "We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times down there in the red zone in the first half, got up a couple penalties and backed ourselves up and ended up missing a couple field goals that could've been something in the first half as far as it being a tight game, maybe taking the lead. Maybe if we had hit a few plays there."
Quarterback Kameron Bryant put on an impressive showing to begin the game, completing 8-of-8 passes for 73 yards on the drive. The sophomore and his fellow offensive teammates looked calm and confident. Senior receiver Andrew Peacock was Bryant's go-to receiver on the drive, which held true for much of the contest.
In the end, ASU's productivity in moving the football did not translate into touchdowns. In fact, ASU missed a handful of opportunities to find the end zone, settling only for field goal attempts.
After connecting on his first two field goals, including a career-long 49 yard try, Stewart had a kick blocked and pushed another wide right before the break.
That left the Mountaineers going into the half down 14-6 instead of 14-12.
Through the first half of action, ASU had multiple opportunities to jump in front, but missed opportunities after a turnover and failed fake punt attempt cost the Mountaineers a chance to put pressure on the Bulldogs.
"We were moving it," he said. "I would have to go back and watch the film, but if you get off the sticks with these guys it's hard to get first downs. And I think that's what ended up happening. One drive penalties did it. The other drive it was a lost yardage play and that put us behind the sticks and it's hard to overcome that against a team of this caliber.
"You have to stay in rhythm and on the sticks and we did that whenever we were moving the ball in the first half with those drives. We were clicking them off. We were doing good on third down, too, because they were manageable third downs. And then once we got off the sticks a little bit we couldn't overcome against this team. And then in the second half we just never got in a rhythm. We are a rhythm offense and we couldn't get anything going. Georgia was better in the second half."
Appalachian kept itself in the game by moving the ball methodically downfield, picking up four and five yards consistently. The Mountaineers were also successful on third downs early in the game, converting several despite being in unfavorable situations.
For the game, the Mountaineers were 7-of-18 on third downs, not terrible considering the opponent. It wasn't good enough, however. The drop off on third down conversions in the second half, where ASU converted only 3-of-9, was a huge difference maker in the game for the Mountaineers.
The failed conversions resulted in a deflation of any level of momentum the Mountaineers had built.
As the game moved deeper into the second half, Georgia slowly took control. After being held to just 215 yards of total offense in the first half, the Bulldogs rattled off 353 yards in the final 30 minutes of action.
Consequently, the Bulldogs' lead exploded from a 14-6 advantage at halftime to the 45-6 difference at the conclusion of the game.
Kameron Bryant certainly had his moments in the contest for ASU, but the heavy pass pressure resulted in subpar overall statistics. The fact he was so efficient in the first half can't be lost, however.
He finished the game 22-of-39 for 221 yards and one interception.
His favorite target over the course of the game was senior Andrew Peacock, who hauled in 12 passes for 90 yards. Tony Washington also produced, pulling in five passes for 78 yards.
The defense, which was faced with its toughest challenge of the season held up well until late. Karl Anderson posted five tackles, but picked off an Aaron Murray pass in the first have that set the Mountaineers up in a position to challenge for the lead.
ASU was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Brandon McGowan and Michael Frazier tied for the team lead with seven tackles apiece. Patrick Blalock forced a fumble, as did Marcus Cox after the Bulldogs picked off Bryant's pass.
ASU did keep the Bulldog's ground game in check to a degree, holding them to just 127 yards, 60 yards fewer than their season average.