Leaning on crutches with a towel wrapped around his neck, injured running back Marcus Cox smiled as he offered post-touchdown congratulations to several teammates.
He wasn’t moving until fill-in starter Jalin Moore found him.
Moore, a former Crest High standout, extended his right hand and embraced Cox, whose absence didn’t derail Appalachian State’s effort to close out a difficult nonconference schedule with a bounce-back win.
Moore rushed for 257 yards with two touchdowns and quarterback Taylor Lamb accounted for four first-half touchdowns as the Mountaineers built a sizable lead before escaping with a 45-38 victory at Akron on Saturday.
Never miss a local story.
Appalachian, which suffered an overtime loss at Tennessee and a 45-10 home defeat to Miami in the first three weeks of the season, evened its record at 2-2, with a Sun Belt Conference opener against Georgia State looming next weekend.
Cox, a four-year starter who ranks as the No. 2 active career rusher at the FBS level, injured the quadriceps muscle in his left leg against Miami during a 79-yard touchdown run that was negated by a penalty. His on-crutches appearance in warmups Saturday signaled the first career start for Moore, a sophomore who had 89 rushing yards against the Hurricanes.
Moore rushed for 528 yards during the last four games of his freshman season, beginning that stretch with a 244-yard performance when Cox was sidelined at Idaho, but Terrence Upshaw actually started that game.
Moore’s 49-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter pushed Appalachian ahead 38-17, and he scored on a 32-yard run after Akron cut its deficit to 38-31 early in the fourth quarter. The Zips (2-2) responded with another touchdown to reduce the margin to seven points with 5 minutes, 55 seconds remaining, and the Mountaineers’ defense held after punting the ball into the end zone for a touchback with 2:24 left, as Dezmin Reed was credited with a fourth-down sack at the Akron 14.
Moore passed Cox, who had a 250-yard showing as a sophomore, while posting a rushing total that ranks sixth in school history. Star quarterback Armanti Edwards set the Appalachian record with 313 yards in a 2007 playoff win against Richmond.
Appalachian intercepted Akron quarterback Thomas Woodson twice, and Lamb completed 22 of his 30 throws for 280 yards and three touchdowns.
Lamb’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Deltron Hopkins on a forward-flipped jet sweep and Michael Rubino’s 34-yard field goal gave the Mountaineers a 10-0 lead after one quarter, but they fell behind thanks to two touchdown passes from Woodson.
Three Appalachian touchdowns in the last 7:29 of the half, including a 1-yard keeper by Lamb with one second remaining, produced the 31-14 halftime score.
The run started with Lamb’s 36-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Levi Duffield, and Mondo Williams’ 31-yard return of an interception set up the next score, a 37-yard touchdown reception by Zy Letman.
After regaining possession at its 7 with 1:21 left in the half, Appalachian set its sights on another touchdown when Moore gained 28 yards on a first-down rush and Jaylan Barbour had a 27-yard reception on the next play.
An official review overturned Moore’s 2-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining, meaning the clock would start before a snap from the 1, and Lamb jogged into the end zone on a successful keeper just before time expired.
The Winston-Salem Journal is a news partner of the Observer. For more Appalachian State coverage go to http://www.journalnow.com/sports/asu/