Austin Watkins

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No. 20 App State closes 13-win season by overpowering UAB in New Orleans Bowl

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Four series in, it appeared we had an upset brewing on the Bayou. Underdog UAB took the ball to open the game and rolled 75 yards in four snaps, scoring on a 25-yard pass from Tyler Johnston III to Hayden Pittman. The Blazers’ defense then forced a three-and-out, allowing UAB to best its previous drive: four plays for 79 yards, capped by another 25-yard Johnston scoring strike, this time to Austin Watkins. Appalachian State’s offense then went three-and-out again on its second possession. By that point the scoreboard read 14-0 Blazers, and the box score read 154-8.

From that point forward, though, it was the blowout the experts expected. No. 20 Appalachian State closed the New Orleans Bowl on a 31-3 run, running away from an overmatched UAB team to close the best season — degree of difficulty included — not only in school history, but in Sun Belt history as well, as the Sun Belt first team to knock off two Power 5 foes in the same season and the first Sun Belt team to start 11-1 closed a 13-1 season in style on Saturday night.

The Mountaineers finally got on the board a minute into the third quarter with a 34-yard Chandler Staton field goal, then found the end zone on their next drive thanks to a 17-yard connection between Zac Thomas and Thomas Hennigan.

After the halftime break, App State took the ball and rolled 75 yards in seven plays, scoring on a play no offensive coordinator would ever draw up: on a 4th-and-1 sneak from the UAB 30, Thomas fumbled the under-center snap, which running back Darrynton Evans scooped and scored, giving the Mountaineers their first lead.

UAB (9-5) tied the game with a 49-yard Nick Vogel field goal, but Appalachian State regained the lead on another fumble, and this time it wasn’t their own. Johnston was sacked by Nick Hampton and lost the ball on the process, which Trey Cobb raced 24 yards to the house, giving App State a lead it would not relinquish.

After a UAB three-and-out, App State put the game away with a 9-play, 85-yard drive punctuated by another Thomas-to-Thomas toss, this one a 27-yarder where Hennigan Moss-ed the UAB defender.

What glimmer of hope UAB had of a comeback was flushed out when Watkins fumbled away a reception at the App State 41-yard line with 1:25 to play.

Following the 14-0 UAB start, App State out-gained UAB 403-184, while the Mountaineers won the ground game 262-40.

The win completes easily the best season since moving to FBS for App State, and begins the Shawn Clark era at 1-0.

Receivers from Purdue, UAB added to Biletnikoff Award watch list

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For the second time in less than three weeks, a major college football award is adding to its watch list.

This week, the Biletnikoff Award announced that it has added two wide receivers to watch, one each from a Power Five and Group of Five school.  Those added this go-around are Purdue’s David Bell and UAB’s Austin Watkins Jr.

In seven games this season, Bell has 635 yards and four touchdowns on 39 receptions.  The freshman’s 5.6 catches per game are third in the Big Ten and tied for 39th nationally.

Watkins’ 93.6 yards per game is 13th in the country and the highest average for any Conference USA receiver.

The Biletnikoff Award is handed out annually to the nation’s most outstanding FBS receiver. The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation, which oversees the honor, stresses that “[a]ny player, regardless of position (wide receiver, tight end, slot back and running back) who catches a pass is eligible for the award.”

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy was the 2018 winner of the award.