BOONE, N.C. — Arkansas State couldn't slow Taylor Lamb and couldn't get its own offense out of the mud in the first half Thursday night.
But ASU has made a habit of following slow starts with fast finishes.
The Red Wolves did it again Thursday, when they scored on their first five possessions of the second half and gained 392 yards after halftime in a 40-27 victory over Appalachian State at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The victory, ASU's fifth in a row, put it in sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt Conference standings with three games remaining in the season.
The victory came after a shaky first half for the Red Wolves (6-3, 5-0), who have trailed at halftime in two of their last three Sun Belt games.
ASU exploded for 294 yards in the third quarter, sparked by Johnston White's 26-yard touchdown run, Michael Gordon's 73-yard touchdown run and J.D. Houston's 32-yard field goal that turned a 21-17 halftime deficit into a 34-21 lead.
Houston added two more field goals in the fourth quarter to finish off the Mountaineers (7-2, 4-1), who had won 10 consecutive Sun Belt games before Thursday's loss in front of an announced crowd of 18,721.
With victories at Louisiana-Monroe, at New Mexico State and vs. Texas State, ASU would win its third outright Sun Belt title in the last five seasons.
Gordon finished with 136 yards on 17 carries, while Fredi Knighten passed for 208 yards and rushed for 69 yards. ASU gained 309 yards on the ground and 517 yards of offense.
In the first half, though, ASU was held to 125 yards of offense. Its only scoring came because of quality plays from its defense, which still allowed 305 yards despite forcing three turnovers.
Khari Lain recovered a fumble on the Appalachian State 8 in the first quarter that led to Knighten's touchdown pass to Tres Houston, then defensive end Chris Stone scooped up a Lamb fumble and raced 19 yards for a touchdown.
Lamb was giving ASU fits, though. The sophomore competed 14 of 21 passes for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns in the first half.
Appalachian State, which gained 305 yards in the first half, was held to 160 in the second half. Lamb finished 22 of 35 for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Read Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.