BOONE, N.C. — Replays confirmed what the 35,126 fans in Kidd Brewer Stadium and ESPN3 viewers had witnessed.
Yes, Appalachian State true freshman receiver Thomas Hennigan used only one hand – his left hand — to haul in a 35-yard pass from quarterback and former Calhoun High standout Taylor Lamb in the fourth quarter of a 20-19 home loss to Wake Forest on Saturday.
“Great throw,” Hennigan said while sitting next to Lamb during the postgame press conference. “That’s all I can say.”
It’s the longest connection to date from the highly regarded college newcomer and the fifth-year senior who directs what’s currently the most balanced passing attack in the country.
Lamb has thrown for 994 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions through four games, and Hennigan is one of a whopping seven App State players with more than 100 receiving yards. No other FBS team has more than six players with at least 100 receiving yards.
Eight App State players caught passes from Lamb on Saturday, and Hennigan finished with a team-high five receptions for 74 yards. He also had a punt return of 35 yards, the longest one for the Mountaineers since Jaquil Capel recorded a 45-yard return in the 2016 opener at Tennessee.
Hennigan gained 35 more yards for his team by showing off superb ball skills. Sprinting down the left sideline with one-on-one coverage from a Wake Forest defensive back in the fourth quarter, he extended his left arm to secure a perfectly placed deep throw from Lamb.
That catch put the Mountaineers in position to take a 19-17 lead on Michael Rubino’s 39-yard field goal with 10:35 remaining. A starter in all four App State games since he graduated earlier this year from Northwest Guilford High School, Hennigan leads App State with 17 receptions for 176 yards.
“I would say I’ve probably grown the most in these four games more than I have in my whole football career,” Hennigan said. “I’ve got to give it up to the guy sitting next to me and all the other receivers in the room.
“There’s a lot of seniors on this football team, and everyone’s had my back from the very beginning. When I showcase what I can do, they know I have their back. It’s just great playing on such a tight-knit football team.”
Malik Williams, Jalen Virgil, Ike Lewis, Zy Letman, T.J. Watkins and tight end Collin Reed also have surpassed 100 receiving yards with Lamb spreading the ball around to a group that has been short-handed all season because of injuries.
With Williams and another college newcomer, center Noah Hannon, giving App State three true freshman starters on offense, Hennigan opened the season with four catches for 28 yards at Georgia and two catches for 17 yards against Savannah State.
He’s become a bigger downfield weapon in the last two games, starting with a six-catch, 57-yard performance in a Sun Belt Conference opener at Texas State. He had two third-down conversions, including a 6-yard reception for his first college touchdown, late in the second quarter of that 20-13 road win.
In each of the last two games, Hennigan also has drawn a flag for pass interference on a downfield throw, including Lamb’s fourth-and-15 attempt on the final drive against Wake Forest.
Hennigan’s ability to come down with catches in heavy traffic or at least prevent anything negative from happening in a jump-ball scenario with a defensive back makes him a viable target for Lamb in critical situations.
“That’s a really good feeling as a quarterback,” Lamb said. “A lot of times, your guys aren’t going to be wide open because the DBs are really good players, and they can run. If you have a one-on-one shot, that’s where we’re taking it. To have confidence to throw back-shoulder (routes) or over the top is a really good feeling. It’s what we needed to take some pressure off our run game, and I thought we did that.”
Teams With The Most Players Who Have 100-Receiving Yards In 2017:
1. Appalachian State - 7
T2. Arkansas State - 6
T2. Central Michigan - 6
T2. Kansas - 6
T2. Ohio State - 6
T2. Oregon - 6
T7. Nine teams - 5