Last Updated on September 22, 2018 7:51 pm
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State showed no signs of rust in its 2018 debut at The Rock.
The Mountaineers rolled to a 72-7 home victory against Gardner-Webb on Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium. Playing a week after the scheduled home opener against Southern Miss was canceled because of Hurricane Florence, App State (2-1) scored twice on special teams during a 52-point first half and posted the third-highest point total in program history.
App State put up 692 total yards during a performance that, in terms of scoring, ranks behind only a 115-0 win against Piedmont in 1936 and a 79-35 win against Western Carolina in 2007.
Steven Jones tied a school record with two blocked punts, including one that he recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that followed Zac Thomas' 64-yard scoring strike to Dominique Heath in the opening minute, and Clifton Duck's 62-yard punt return for a score helped push App State ahead 42-7 with 12:42 left in the second quarter.
One of six quarterbacks to see action for Appalachian, Thomas completed 11 of his 15 pass attempts for 185 yards before sitting out the entire second half, and a career-long run of 81 yards from senior Jalin Moore highlighted a two-touchdown performance in which he rushed for 119 yards on his eight first-half carries. He was the second-leading rusher behind D'Andre Hicks, who capped a 150-yard effort with a 73-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Gardner-Webb (1-3) scored on its second drive of the game, but App State pitched a shutout the rest of the way with a defense that got a pair of sacks from redshirt freshman Jermaine McDaniel Jr. as well as interceptions from Desmond Franklin and Kaiden Smith.
App State's first-half explosion included touchdown runs from Darrynton Evans, who scored the first non-return TD of his young career, and Thomas. The Mountaineers went into the break with a 52-7 lead and 401-89 advantage in total offense.
Heath's second touchdown catch came on a 19-yard throw from backup quarterback Peyton Derrick, who posted the first touchdown pass of his career and finished 7 of 7 through the air for 68 yards. Derrick's 3-yard scoring run pushed the advantage to 66-7 late in the third quarter.
After completing all 14 of his passes for 295 yards at Charlotte in his last outing, Thomas ran his completions streak to 18 before misfiring on a throw. He hit a wide-open Heath for the 64-yard score on his first pass of the afternoon, and Jones sprinted free to block an end-zone punt two minutes later.
Jones chased down the loose ball and pounced on it near the right edge of the end zone for App State's first touchdown via a punt block/return since Scott Cornatzer recovered a blocked punt in the end zone against Chattanooga in 2001. When Jones blocked another punt to set up another score, he tied Dino Hackett (two blocks against Western Carolina in 1985) and Chuck Hill (two blocks against both Liberty and Western Carolina in 1987) for the school record.