Jalin Moore found himself in an unfamiliar position last week when Appalachian State traveled to play Akron.
With senior star Marcus Cox out due to a leg injury suffered the previous week against Miami, Moore earned his first collegiate start against the Zips. The redshirt sophomore running back made the most of his opportunity, rushing for a career-high 257 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries as the Mountaineers held on for a 45-38 win.
Moore had 151 rushing yards and scoring runs of 49 and 32 yards, respectively, in the second half to seal the win. His 39 carries were the fourth-most by an App State player in a single game. It was the sixth-best rushing performance in school history and the program’s top individual effort since DeAndre Presley’s 264 yards against Western Illinois in 2010.
“I did not expect to get that many carries,” said Moore, who was named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week. “It was the most carries I’ve ever had. I always go into a game with a lot of confidence. I know what I can do, and I know the coaches believe in me.
“I just try to do my best whenever I get the opportunity.”
App State head coach Scott Satterfield was impressed with the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Moore but made sure to credit his offensive line, tight ends and receivers for their quality blocking. Cox, the No. 2 active FBS rusher (4,366 yards), is listed as day-to-day for the Mountaineers (2-2) going into Saturday’s Sun Belt opener against Georgia State (0-3) on ASN.
There’s no need to rush Cox back when Satterfield has Moore, who has rushed for 405 yards (tied for 21st nationally) and two scores on 82 attempts (11th in country) this season.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence in Jalin,” Satterfield said. “There were some questions early on in the season about what’s wrong with him and I just told everybody to be patient. He’s an outstanding back, and he’ll have a breakout game soon. It just so happened that this was the week.”
Moore has shared carries since the North Carolina native’s time at Crest High, where as a senior in 2013 he battled injuries and split carries with then-sophomore and future Virginia signee Tre Harbison. That season Moore earned Cleveland County Co-Player of the Year honors after rushing for 1,481 yards and 24 TDs, while Harbison ran for 1,608 yards and 23 scores for the Class 3-AA state runner-up.
FCS schools Southern, Gardner-Webb and Wofford pursued Moore before he signed with App State, which is two hours north of Shelby in Boone. Moore said the former FCS power got involved after Crest assistant coach Omar Porter reached out to then-App State running backs coach Chris Foster, a former football teammate of his at Gardner-Webb.
Satterfield recalled that Moore wasn’t flashy but ran hard and put up big numbers for a winning program. Moore credits his mother, grandmother and stepmother for staying on him about his schoolwork and keeping him levelheaded and in church—and out of trouble.
“Coach Porter thought I would be a good fit at App State,” Moore said. “I wanted to go to a big school like that and prove myself. It was a blessing that he talked to the coaches about me and they gave me a scholarship. I didn’t think they were going to offer me. But I prayed about it, and my prayers came true.”
After a redshirt year, Moore had 32 carries in the first nine games of the 2015 season before rushing for 528 yards in the final four contests. He led the squad in yards per carry (7.4) and was second in rushing yards (731) to earn a spot on the Sun Belt All-Freshman Team.
Moore’s breakout game came on Nov. 14 at Idaho when Cox was hurt. Terrence Upshaw started against the Vandals, but Moore set the school’s freshman rushing record with 244 yards on 27 carries in the win. He added 104 rushing yards and a score the following week in a win over Louisiana. A week later he had two TD runs, including the go-ahead score with 76 seconds left, in a victory at South Alabama.
His 96 rushing yards in the Camellia Bowl helped App State rally for a thrilling win over Ohio. That capped an 11-2 season in which the second-year FBS program set the Sun Belt wins record.
The fashion-savvy Moore, known as the team jokester, carried the ball a combined 20 times in this season’s first two games before rushing for 89 yards on 23 attempts in the Miami loss. He followed with last week’s monster game, rushing for 257 of App State’s 307 yards in a win that saw the Mountaineers control the ball for almost 34 minutes.
“He’s a big, strong guy and has really good speed,” Satterfield said. “He’s a little impatient to the hole, where Marcus is a little more patient. He learned to do that this weekend and had some great, long runs. To carry the ball 39 times, a lot of guys can’t do that.”
Moore, who has rushed for 933 yards and five TDs in the past eight games, knows his workload will likely decrease once Cox returns. But Moore is not thinking about that.
Right now, he is enjoying finally being a feature back.
“Going back to high school, I’ve never really been the guy,” Moore said. “That just instilled in me to take advantage of every opportunity I get. Every time I get the ball in my hands I’ve got to make the coaches see something special and make them want to keep giving me the ball.”
Above: Photo courtesy Allyson Lamb/Appalachian State