There’s a great photo of Collin Reed from Saturday. He’s in the middle of a moment he doesn’t want to forget.
The senior tight end for Appalachian State has his hands on his head and is whooping at the top of his lungs with a smattering of Mountaineers fans behind him. It’s just after the closing moments of App State’s 20-15 win against South Carolina.
Reed — from Boiling Springs, S.C., about 100 miles to the northwest of Columbia — didn’t shield his feelings afterward, either. This was another meaningful moment of his career, as well as Appalachian’s second victory against a Power-Five school in 2019.
“I mean, as a senior and coming home, playing in a game like this and pulling off a W, you just try to soak it all up,” Reed said. “Everything you do is so much more important because you know it’s the last ride. You know, it meant a lot to me.
“It meant a lot, what this team did going out there and getting that W and just trying to soak everything up. You know, embrace every single person that I see and let them know how much I love them. This team is something special. It’s been something that we’ve been building for a long time, and we’ve just got to keep it rolling now.”
App State is the first Sun Belt team to beat two P5 programs in the same season. The conference formed in 1991. Interestingly enough, there are eight P5 programs that still haven't won a pair of games over their peers: N.C. State (4-5), Syracuse (3-6) and Georgia Tech (2-7) in the ACC; Arkansas (2-8) and Vanderbilt (2-7) in the SEC; Rutgers (2-7) and Northwestern (1-8) in the Big Ten; and Washington State in the Pac-12 (4-5).
When Appalachian beat North Carolina, 34-31, on Sept. 21, it started the early conversation for the Mountaineers as a top G5 team. When it beat South Carolina, App State reminded the landscape of what it could accomplish.
“We wanted to prove that we belonged,” Coach Eli Drinkwitz of App State said. “And a lot of us in that locker room wanted to prove that we belonged here.”
The South Carolina game had no impact on conference play or the Mountaineers’ season goals of a conference title and a bowl game win. But it did show how App State could bounce back from a tough loss. Georgia Southern beat App State in Boone on Oct. 31, a 24-21 defeat where the Mountaineers scrambled for two fourth-quarter touchdowns.
Against South Carolina, App State shut down the Gamecocks' run game. They allowed only 21 rushing yards after Georgia Southern put 335 yards on them the week before. The Mountaineers fought off South Carolina's late surge and found just enough points to stay in control.
“It’s definitely big for us and our program, our school, the town of Boone,” said defensive back Shemar Jean-Charles. “These are two games we were looking forward to in the beginning of the season.
“And I’m just glad we were able to come out with a win, especially to win out in this fashion, especially after what happened last week. Being able to bounce back and just get a big win for our program and our school, it’s huge.”
When the clock ran out, App State players stormed midfield before turning back to and sprinting toward that crowd on the visitors side. App State players shook hands and hugged family members, fans and each other near the hedges where Reeds’ jubilant moment was caught on camera.
Reed said App State set out to win the state this season. To him and the rest of the team, that included South Carolina, too. After planting a flag in two flagships, the Mountaineers have three more games to win in order to bring the Sun Belt title game back to Boone.
There was time to celebrate on Saturday night. Now, as Reed mentioned, it’s time for App State to get back to business and take on then defining final stretch of their season.
“We’re trying to prove something to the conference and the nation every game,” Reed said. “You know, this one was a little more personal for some of us, but it was the same way when we went and played in Chapel Hill.
“You know, the guys that didn’t necessarily get looks, they always play with a chip on our shoulder but also when we’re in conference, we’re still playing with a chip on our shoulder because we have so much to play for.”