The depth chart in Appalachian State quarterback Taylor Lamb’s family shows that his father, uncle and two grandfathers played college football. So did an uncle and one of his cousins. Another cousin still is.
Taylor’s dad, Bobby, is the head coach at Mercer, and previously held the same job at Furman. And Taylor played high school ball for his Uncle Hal in Calhoun, Ga.
You could probably guess the topic of conversation at every family gathering.
“We’ve got a whiteboard in every room when we’re all together,” Taylor said Wednesday.
His bloodlines have served him well, as the redshirt junior is in his third season as the Mountaineers’ starting QB.
But this week he is dealing with something that cannot be drawn up on a whiteboard, something that goes beyond the familial to the collegial: How does a team regroup when an enormous upset slips through its fingers?
Appalachian State fell in overtime to No. 9 Tennessee in its season opener last week in Neyland Stadium, 20-13, after leading for much of regulation. And lost agonizingly, too — Vols running back Jalen Hurd fell on a fumble in the end zone by his quarterback, Joshua Dobbs.
The Mountaineers had a chance to answer, but their final drive of the day ended when Lamb’s fourth-down pass for wide receiver Shaedon Meadors was batted down in the end zone by Micah Abernathy.
Lamb ran for one touchdown and threw for another. His team led 13-3 at one point, and was poised to play giant-killer exactly nine years after another edition of the Mountaineers downed Michigan in the Big House.
“I think our team has forgotten about it,” Lamb said as he looked ahead to Saturday’s game against Old Dominion on ASN. “We’re a week-to-week team, and I’m a week-to-week guy. The biggest game of the year is this week. There’s no time for us to go back to last Thursday and do it all over again. We’ve got to focus on this week.”
When he allows himself a backwards glance, he looks at the third-quarter interception he threw at the Tennessee 31 – “a real momentum-swinger,” he said – and the offense’s inability to take advantage of a 45-yard punt return by Jaquil Capel to the UT 28 with 7:31 left in a tie game.
The Moutaineers ran the ball three times, and Michael Rubino, who earlier missed an extra point, pushed a 42-yard field goal wide right with 5:24 to play.
App State also saw the clock run out after driving to the Tennessee 34 in the closing seconds, setting the stage for the extra period.
“That’s the game of football,” Lamb said. “Sometimes you’re late or out of time. It’s a game of inches.”
Something that one of his family members no doubt told him while he was still in diapers, still being introduced to the sport.
“I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” he said.
He actually did do other things at Calhoun High; besides football he played golf, tennis and basketball. Played “a little point guard,” as he said, which is interesting, since Tennessee defensive coordinator Bob Shoop likened him to one in the days leading up to the opener.
“I would never shoot,” Lamb said. “I was always looking for the open guy, the guy that can shoot, the guy that can put it in the basket easier than me.”
Things came easier to him in the fall. He led the football team — again, coached by his uncle — to two state-championship games, winning one.
“Throughout high school, (the love of the game) kind of grew,” Taylor said. “I knew where I was going to go in the future.”
He redshirted his first year at Appalachian State, then was named Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year as a sophomore. He set a school record by throwing 31 touchdown passes last year, and is among the school’s all-time leaders in passing yards, completions, touchdown passes and total offense.
Now he just needs to lead, period. Just call upon everything he has ever been taught and bring the entire team together.
You know, like a family.
Above and middle: Photos courtesy Appalachian State Athletics