LARAMIE -- Ryan Burger was making all the right reads, throwing with conviction and commanding the huddle in fall camp.

Those are just a few reasons the 6-foot-3, 205-pound redshirt freshman signal caller was named the opening-day starter.

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Little known junior-college quarterback Joey Aguilar was the odd man out.

“That’s a competition we didn’t take lightly — both quarterbacks can lead our offense, move us down the field and take care of the football," Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark told the Watauga Democrat in late August. "We felt that over the last four or five days, Ryan has really taken a big step, so he’ll be our starting quarterback against Gardner-Webb.”

A finger injury late in the first half quickly derailed the Burger experience in Boone. He was out. In fact, Clark said he's out for 3-to-4 weeks.



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Enter Aguilar.

The junior connected on 11-of-13 throws for 174 yards. His first FBS pass was a 32-yard touchdown toss to Kaedin Robinson. He added three more on the afternoon to help the Mountaineers pull away late in a 45-24 victory over the Bulldogs. Those four scoring strikes is now a new school record in a quarterback's debut.

"Joey came in, his first collegiate pass for App State is a touchdown, and that gave us the spark we needed,” Clark told the local newspaper after the win.

His first start would come the following Saturday at No. 17 North Carolina.

Aguilar tossed a pair of touchdown passes while completing 22-43 passes for 275 yards. He also added 42 yards on the ground on six attempts.

Unfortunately for the visitors, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior also tossed a pick in the third quarter with the Mountaineers at the UNC 36-yard line in the midst of a 17-17 tie. The Tar Heels turned that into a 31-yard field goal and eventually survived 40-34 in double overtime.

Aguilar was impressive again last Saturday in front of a record 40,000-plus fans inside Kidd Brewer Stadium.

He completed 17-of-29 throws for 241 yards on the day. Three of those tosses were for touchdowns and Aguilar added another on the ground in a 43-28 victory over East Carolina.

Aguilar, a native of Antioch, Calif., played two seasons at Diablo Valley Community College before arriving in Boone this offseason. Last fall, he threw for 1,446 yards and eight touchdowns while completing 64% of his passes. He also tacked on nearly 60 rushing yards per game, rolling up 358 on the season.

Is there a QB controversy at App State? Not yet, but there could be.

Head coach: Shawn Clark (5th year at App State) 28-14 overall record

Offensive coordinator: Frank Ponce (1st season); Defensive coordinator: Scot Sloan (1st season, previously coached at school from 2010-17)

Record in 2022: 6-6 overall, 3-5 in Sun Belt Conference

Offense in 2023: Average 40.7 ppg, 451 ypg (196.7 rush, 254.3 pass)

Defense in 2023: Allow 30.7 ppg, 375.7 ypg (179 rush, 196.7 pass)

Key Returners - Offense: Joey Aguilar (QB - 50-85, 690 yds, 9 TD, 2 INT; 15 rush, 63 yds, TD), Nate Noel (75 rush, 435 yds, 4 TD), Kaedin Robinson (WR - 10 catch, 154 yds, 2 TD), Dashaun Davis (WR - 10 catch, 153 yds, 2 TD, Dalton Stroman (WR - 5 catch, 100 yds, TD), Eli Wilson (TE - 4 catch, 33 yds, 2 TD)

Key Returners - Defense: Andrew Parker (LB - 25 tackles, sack, PBU), Nick Ross (S - 24 tackles, PBU, INT), Darrell Farrar (LB - 17 tackles), Ethan Johnson (CB - 11 tackles, PBU)

Overview: Mack Brown said he is never going to schedule Appalachian State ever again. Those are Craig Bohl's words -- and it's believable. The Mountaineers took No. 17 North Carolina to the brink -- again -- in Week 2 before eventually falling in double overtime 40-34. That scare was in Chapel Hill. A year prior, App State dropped a heartbreaking 63-61 thriller in Boone, N.C. Easy to see why Bohl's good friend has had his fill with that team. Now, they're Wyoming's problem. Shawn Clark's squad comes to Laramie with a 2-1 record, which includes wins over Gardner Webb and East Carolina. Those weren't exactly cakewalks, though the final scores would suggest otherwise. App State has gotten to this point with a balanced offensive attack. Joey Aguilar, who was not the team's opening-day starter, has already thrown for nearly 700 yards and nine touchdowns. Nate Noel is the nation's second-leading rusher with 435 yards on the ground. He has also found the end zone four times. Three pass catchers -- Kaedin Robinson, Dashaun Davis and Dalton Stroman -- all have more than 100 yards receiving through three games. This unit is averaging an eye-popping 40-plus points per game. So, what's the issue? Defense. App State is allowing more than 30 points per game. ball carriers, so far, are finding plenty of success against the Mountaineers' three-man front. The Tar Heels amassed 319 yards on 45 carries. Omarion Hampton finished with 234 of those on his own. Gardner Webb averaged five yards per carry. ECU hit 99 yards on 27 attempts. That could be promising news for Harrison Waylee, Wyoming's starting running back, who ran for 110 yards against No. 4 Texas, including a 62-yard touchdown run on his second carry in a UW uniform.

Thoughts on App State: "I know a lot about them. They are an old FCS -- or I-AA program. Jerry Moore coached out there and I think the world of coach Moore. I know they won three national championships and went into the Big House and beat Michigan at Michigan (in 2007) and then went through a transition where they transitioned to FBS football. They've had several head coaches. Coach (Shawn) Clark is an alum and they're playing at a really high level. So while there have been many coaches that have come through there, what has not changed is they play with a chip on their shoulder. They're a really physical team. They play with great discipline. They have more scholarships now and, you know, they have a winning attitude. They're not afraid to go on the road. I know they went to Texas A&M last year and won. They're one of the more noted teams around the country. So, it's a great opportunity, a great challenge for us to play. What has also changed, they've been able to go out and nationally recruit a little bit. The quarterback, (Joey) Aguilar, is from the Bay Area. Typically they've gotten most of their guys from the surrounding areas outside of Boone in North Carolina and up and down the coast. Aguilar really is an excellent quarterback. You know, they've got a balanced attack. I think they're getting about 450 yards a game, which is impressive. So that's always tough when you have somebody that can run the ball and throw the ball. (Nate) Noel is a really good running back and (Maquel) Haywood. Then offensively, as far as in the throwing game, they do operate with one tight end and two tight ends. Sometimes that poses challenges. (Christian) Horn is a great wide receiver (8 catch, 83 yards, TD). They're explosive on defense ... You know what, (they deploy) a three-down front, they can pressure the passer and are really good in the back end. They're where they're supposed to be. They're athletic and they're not afraid to go out there and put themselves out there and challenge you. So, you know, those are challenges. I think, you know, in the ECU game, I think they had a pick-six for a touchdown -- we had one last week (against us) also -- but they're good. I mean, their record notes it. But I think we're good, too." -- Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl

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