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Coastal Carolina makes history at The Rock, 27-24

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — A brilliant, fourth quarter play call and execution by App State quickly morphed into a fatal nightmare on Oct. 10 at Kidd Brewer Stadium, allowing the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers to craft their first ever win at The Rock, 27-24, on a field goal as time expired.

The outcome of a college football game rarely (if ever) hinges on a single moment, though. Although the Mountaineer defense proved stout against Coastal Carolina’s rushing attack and in protecting the perimeter throughout the game, blown pass coverages in the first quarter were problematic — and led to a 14-point “hole” that App State needed to overcome during the final three quarters. That is a challenge in any game but especially facing a 3X Sun Belt Conference “Player of the Year” quarterback like Coastal Carolina’s Grayson McCall.

It was an electric atmosphere at Kidd Brewer Stadium for App State vs. Coastal Carolina on Oct. 10. Photo courtesy of App State Sports

CCU built that deficit on four, big-play passes in the opening frame, McCall throwing to three different receivers for 40, 31, 51, and 17 yards. The 51-yarder on 2nd-and-9 to WR Jameson Tucker running alone down the left side, with no defender within 15 yards, was a direct touchdown. The other long aerials led to scoring threats.

After McCall completed another long pass-catch-and-run, a 63-yarder to redshirt junior running back Brayden Bennett in the second quarter, the Mountaineer defense stiffened and allowed only a 33-yard field goal by Kade Hensley — but it kept intact a 14-point CCU advantage, 17-3, with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the first half.

The Mountaineer offense was simply having trouble getting untracked in the first half. Three of App State’s offensive possessions ended with punts. In the first quarter, Coastal Carolina held a 180-36 advantage in total offense.

The margin of error is small in this conference and we have to make sure we eliminate the explosive plays on defense and we can’t turn the football over on offense.

Three Mountaineer penalties didn’t help, including the unusual flag for an “illegal touch” when a Mitchell Lake punt landed atop the helmet of redshirt sophomore special teams player, Andre Hamilton. The ball caromed forward and was downed at the 1-yard line by Milan Tucker, but what was deemed an illegal touch brought the ball back to the CCU 37, giving the Chanticleers better field position.

App State QB Joey Aguilar passed for 305 yards vs. Coastal Carolina on Oct. 10. Photo courtesy of App State Sports

But get untracked the Joey Aguilar-led App State offense did, erasing the deficit to tie the game at 17-17 midway through the third quarter. A  10-play, 75-yard TD drive at the end of the first half shrank the CCU lead to just 17-10, then a 6-play, 54-yard drive ending with an Aguilar to David Larkins TD pass in Q3 knotted the score (with Michael Hughes PAT kicks).

McCall & Co. responded with yet another TD at the end of the third quarter, retaking the lead at 24-17 on a McCall 32-yard pass-and-run to tight end Kendall Karr. Not to be outdone, the Mountaineer offense duplicated the CCU effort. On the sixth play of an 80-yard drive, Aguilar took advantage of a mismatch on the left side, lofting a TD pass to 6-4 wide receiver Dalton Stroman against a much smaller defender.

A New Ballgame?

With another Hughes PAT kick, the score was knotted at 24-24. Roughly eight and a half minutes remained in the game.

The App State defense did its part. With McCall at the helm, Coastal Carolina started the next possession at its own 17. AppNation got a scare when the redshirt senior McCall hit Jameson Tucker for a 47-yard gain, taking CCU deep into Mountaineer territory. But the App State defense only allowed eight more yards and the visitors from Conway, S.C. were faced with a critical decision on 4th-and-2. Go for it and extend the drive, probably finishing with a winning TD, or kick a chip shot of a field goal and take the lead but remain vulnerable to a loss if App State responded with a TD.

Mountaineer WR Makai Jackson scampers for big gain on Oct. 10 vs. Coastal Carolina. Photo courtesy of App State Sports

After a timeout, the Chanticleers elected to try and extend the drive. A McCall keeper running right was anticipated by redshirt sophomore linebacker Caden Sullivan, the play ending in a 1-yard loss and the jubilant Mountaineers taking over on downs with 4:58 remaining. If they used up enough clock, either a field goal or a TD would win the day.

But this is where the final drama begins. On the very first play, Aguilar hit Milan Tucker crossing over the middle and down the right sideline for what would have been a 69-yard gain except that CCU cornerback Keonte Lusk punched the ball out of Tucker’s hands. As the ball bounced toward the sidelines another cornerback, Abraham Temoney, dove for the ball and gathered it in on the ground. The referees’ decision on the field was that he had gained possession inside the field of play. The video review by the upstairs officials was inconclusive, so they allowed the referees’ ruling to “stand” without sufficient evidence to overturn the call.

So with 4:43 left on the clock, it was Coastal Carolina’s turn to do what App State had originally tried to do: run out the clock and score a TD or field goal.

With a combination of short McCall passes to veteran receiver Sam Pinckney and rushes by three different running backs, CCU advanced the ball to the App State 7-yard line with three seconds remaining. What for Hensley was a 24-yard chip shot was good and the Chanticleer sideline erupted.

After thanking the App State students and fans who filled Kidd Brewer Stadium for a mid-week, Tuesday night game, head coach Shawn Clark said, “It was a great college football game in a tough conference. The margin of error is small in this conference and we have to make sure we eliminate the explosive plays on defense and we can’t turn the football over on offense.”

App State TE David Larkins touches down in the end zone on Oct. 10 vs. Coastal Carolina. Photo courtesy of App State Sports

Although they accomplished their offensive production primarily in different halves, both McCall and Aguilar threw for more than 300 yards. The Coastal redshirt senior completed 19-of-28 passes for 373 yards and two TDs, the App State junior transfer was 18-31, for 305 yards and two TDs. Coastal deployed seven rushers for 196 yards and one TD, App State used five runners for 111 yards and a touchdown. Notably, one of the FBS rushing leaders, the Mountaineers’ Nate Noel, left the game early with a lower leg injury, rushing just once for one yard.

After the game, Clark praised what he described as a “deep” running back room that stepped up in Noel’s absence, said that Noel would be evaluated by doctors, and shared that Watauga alum and junior converted running back Anderson Castle should be ready to go by the Old Dominion game on Oct. 21, adding additional depth to the RB corps.

Clark indicated that one of the most important needs for his team right now is rest, to get healthy in advance of meeting the Monarchs in Norfolk, Va. in 11 days.

SCORING SUMMARY
Team Qtr Clock Score Type Play Drive Score
1 11:12 TD RUSH Bennett,Braydon 1 yd rush 7/83/03:43 0-7

CCU

1 07:22 TD PASS Tucker,Jameson 51 yd reception thrown by McCall,Grayson 5/63/02:28 0-14
2 11:05 FG Hughes,Michael 29 yd Field Goal 8/60/03:03 3-14
2 07:30 FG Hensley,Kade 33 yd Field Goal 6/59/03:35 3-17
2 03:25 TD RUSH Marshall,Ahmani 3 yd rush 10/75/04:05 10-17
3 06:18 TD PASS Larkins,David 2 yd reception thrown by Aguilar,Joey 6/54/02:45 17-17
3 03:03 TD PASS Karr,Kendall 32 yd reception thrown by McCall,Grayson 7/77/03:07 17-24
4 08:47 TD PASS Stroman,Dalton 5 yd reception thrown by Aguilar,Joey 6/80/02:34 24-24
4 00:00 FG Hensley,Kade 24 yd Field Goal 11/77/04:43 24-27

 

POSTGAME NOTES from App State Sports
  • App State is 3-3 through six games for the second straight season. The Mountaineers’ three losses are by a combined 12 points, including a double-overtime loss at then-No. 17 North Carolina and three-point losses to Wyoming and Coastal Carolina.
  • App State lost on a final-play field goal for the first time since a 2017 double-overtime loss at UMass and on a field goal as time expired in regulation for the first time since 2000 at Chattanooga.
  • Coastal Carolina won for the first time in Boone (to move their all-time record in Boone to 1-6). The previous game in Boone was a 30-27 App State win over the 14th-ranked Chanticleers, also on a last-second field goal.
  • Official attendance for the sold-out Tuesday game at Kidd Brewer Stadium was 34,252. That’s the seventh-largest crowd in stadium history and the largest for a Tuesday/Wednesday game anywhere since a 2011 game between Pitt and visiting UConn (40,219). The 2021 Wednesday game between App State and Coastal in Boone drew a sold-out attendance of 31,061.
  • The Mountaineers played most of the game without the nation’s second-leading rusher. Nate Noel had a 1-yard run and a 4-yard catch on the first drive before a lower body injury kept him from returning.
  • App State had a -1 turnover margin in the game. The Mountaineers are now 5-11 under head coach Shawn Clark when losing the turnover battle. They are 17-1 when winning the turnover battle and 7-3 when they have the same number of turnovers as the opponent.
OFFENSE
  • App State was a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone with three touchdowns and a field goal.
  • The Mountaineers’ 305 passing yards were the second-most this season, while the 111 rushing yards marked a season low.
  • A running-back-by-committee after Noel went down to injury included 48 rushing yards from Kanye Roberts, 41 from Maquel Haywood and 15 from Ahmani Marshall, who notched his first touchdown of the season with a 3-yard score in the second quarter.
  • Joey Aguilar completed a pass to a season-high 11 receivers, the fourth time in his five full games to complete passes to nine or more receivers. Aguilar finished the game with 305 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Makai Jackson and Milan Tucker had career-long catches of 67 and 69 yards, respectively.
  • Dalton Stroman’s touchdown catch was his second of the season, and David Larkins’ was his second also.
DEFENSE
  • Andrew Parker Jr. tied his career high with 12 tackles to lead all players in the game.
  • Caden Sullivan logged a career-high nine tackles. He had 1.5 TFLs, including a huge fourth-down stop of Grayson McCall in the fourth quarter that set up a potential go-ahead App State drive.
  • Ethan Johnson and Nate Johnson (no relation) also notched career highs with nine tackles and seven tackles, respectively.
SPECIAL TEAMS
  • Michael Hughes made his only field-goal attempt from 29 yards. He has now made 11 of 14 attempts on the year, including every attempt inside 44 yards.
  • Two of Mitchell Lake’s four punts landed inside the 20. He averaged 41.2 yards per punt with a season-best long of 56.
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