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HomeCollegeMountaineers zip up Pirates, 43-28, in front of record-tying crowd

Mountaineers zip up Pirates, 43-28, in front of record-tying crowd

By David Rogers. BOONE, N.C. — When Yosef ziplined into Kidd Brewer Stadium carrying an American flag, the Sept. 16, in-state rivalry game between Appalachian State and East Carolina took a dramatic turn even before the first snap of the football. A record-tying stadium crowd of 40,168 got their money’s worth in watching the two teams battle to a 43-28, come-from-behind win by the Mountaineers over the Pirates.

BONUS PHOTOS AT BOTTOM OF ARTICLE (click any image for slideshow mode)

The fans, even a large contingent of Pirate sympathizers massed in the North End Zone bleachers and northeast corner grandstands, brought energy to the moment-after-moment action on the field.

Mountaineer QB Joey Aguilar showed nice touch in completing this second half pass during the 43-28 win over East Carolina at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Sept. 16. Photographic image by David Rogers

Mountaineer head coach Shawn Clark acknowledged after the game that East Carolina is a better football team than their now 0-3 early season record suggests. Certainly, the way the Pirates’ junior quarterback Alex Flinn directed ECU’s opening possession to a TD supports that notion. It was a 9-play, 75-yard drive that took almost five minutes off the clock — and kept the Mountaineers’ potent offense off the field.

App State proved why keeping their offense off the field might be important for an adversary when it took just two plays and a Michael Hughes PAT kick to tie the game at 7-7. Quarterback Joey Aguilar rifled a short pass to WR Kaedin Robinson for seven yards on the right side, then running back Nate Noel maneuvered himself through traffic on the left side before sprinting down the sideline for a 68-yard finish in paydirt.

nate noel
Nate Noel (5) got things started for the Mountaineers on Sept. 16, with this 68 yard run from scrimmage. to the end zone. Photographic image by David Rogers

After a subsequent trade of first quarter possessions and the Mountaineers stalled at the ECU 19, Hughes put App State ahead with a 36-yard field goal to end the first stanza’s scoring, but the 10-7 lead would not hold up for very long.

Aguilar has not given up much in the way of takeaways — interceptions — so far this year, with a 9-2 TDs vs. INTs ratio in the first three games. One of those INTs came against East Carolina, facing pressure with the Mountaineers pressed back against their own goal line after Pirate junior Luke Larson’s punt was deftly downed at the Mountaineer 1-yard line, early in the second quarter. Noel gave his team a little “breathing room” with a four-yard run up the middle on first down, but on 3rd-and-6 from the 5-yard line, Aguilar’s pass to the left flat was picked off by EC U freshman defensive back Antoine Jackson and returned the 8 yards to the end zone for a “pick 6.” With the PAT kick, the Pirates bagged a 14-10 lead, looking for still more “treasure” that might be hidden on The Rock.

And they found it. With App State’s offense unable to respond, ECU got the ball back with good field position at their own 43-yard line. Flinn, with whom many Watauga area football fans may be familiar as an alum of NCHSAA 4A powerhouse A C Reynolds High School in Asheville, manufactured an 11-play, 57-yard drive and put the visitors even further ahead on Rahjai Harris’ 4-yard rush, his second TD of the day.

milan tucker
Wide receiver Milan Tucker crosses the goal line for an App State TD on Sept. 16, vs. ECU at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Photographic image by David Rogers

A two-score deficit was hardly what AppNation was hoping for with just over two minutes remaining in the first half, but the Mountaineers took just four plays and barely a minute to narrow the gap. The big plays on the drive included an Aguilar-to-Christan Horn pass for 16 yards, immediately followed by an 18-yard jitterbug weave by running back Kanye Roberts down the right sideline before cutting back to cross into the end zone closer to the center of the field.

Turning the Tide?

When the APP defense stopped Flinn and the Pirate offense in the final minute of the first half, it proved a harbinger of things to come.

App State’s defense came up big vs. East Carolina on Sept. 16, including this tackle for loss by Andrew Parker, Jr. Photographic image by David Rogers

If the second half was an offensive gem for the Mountaineers, it was a defensive masterpiece. Whatever adjustments were made at halftime, they were golden. For the final two quarters of play, ECU ran 25 plays and gained just 42 yards of total offense, minus 5 yards rushing and completing just six of 14 passes for 47 yards. Oh, and the App State defense picked off two Flinn passes to stop whatever drives the Pirates were trying to get started. Jordan Favors, the Mountaineers’ redshirt sophomore safety out of Griffin, Ga., got one of those INTs near midfield early in the third quarter. Philyaw Omari, a redshirt freshman out of Charlotte’s Hough High School, got the second of the half — the third of the game for App State — with three minutes left in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Aguilar & Co. were having their heyday. Receiving the second half kickoff, it took the California junior college transfer just eight plays to connect with Robinson for a 34-yard strike for a TD, with the Hughes PAT putting the Mountaineers back ahead, 22-21.

Asheville-A.C. Reynolds alum QB Alex Flinn had several good moments in facing the Mountaineers on Sept. 16 for East Carolina, especially in the first half. Photographic image by David Rogers

Forget for a moment that shortly after Favors’ interception near midfield, Pirates linebacker B J Davis forced a fumble by Roberts that was scooped up by defensive back Shavon Revel and run back for 43-yard fumble return for TD, putting the Pirates back ahead 28-22. Blessed by extra possessions thanks to the defensive unit’s takeaways, Aguilar and the App State offense lanced the Pirates for 253 yards in the second half, 114 rushing and 139 passing. Through the air, Aquilar completed 10-of-15 passes, including three touchdowns to put the game all but away.

After Revel’s fumble return, the Mountaineers reeled off three consecutive TD possessions to complete the day’s scoring, including a 34 yard pass from Aguilar to WR Milan Tucker, a one-yard keeper run by Aguilar, and a 6-yard pass to redshirt sophomore tight end David Larkins, who has battled injuries and was playing in his first game as a Mountaineer, head coach Shawn Clark  told reporters later.

The Mountaineers will now prepare for a long road trip to the Rocky Mountains where they will face Wyoming, a BCS contender competing in the Mountain West Conference, another of the so-called “Group of 5” conferences. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 23, and is slated to be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.

NOTEWORTHY, from App State Sports:
  • Attendance at Kidd Brewer Stadium was 40,168, tying the school record set during last season’s opener against North Carolina. Eight of the top 10 crowds in Kidd Brewer Stadium history have occurred since the start of the 2022 season.
  • App State now owns two of the three 40,000-attendance games in the history of the Sun Belt Conference. The record is a 2009 Louisiana home game against Southern that had 41,357 fans.
  • The Mountaineers increased their all-time series lead over East Carolina to 21-12 and have a 2-0 advantage with both teams as FBS members.
  • App State improved to 50-9 in home games since 2014, the sixth-best winning percentage nationally in that span (and best among Group of Five programs).
  • The Mountaineers improved to 31-1 when winning the turnover battle since 2018, including a 17-1 mark with Shawn Clark as the head coach.
  • App State’s 81 wins since the start of the 2015 season are tied with Notre Dame for sixth-most in the country among FBS teams behind Alabama (105), Clemson (102), Georgia (94), Ohio State (93) and Oklahoma (87).
  • First-time starters for the Mountaineers included TE David Larkins and OLB Thomas Davis.

OFFENSE

  • App State has started the season with three straight 40+ point performances for the first time since 2010. The Mountaineers finished 10-3 that season and were Southern Conference Co-Champions.
  • Nate Noel rushed for 178 yards and a touchdown and tied his career high from the previous game with 26 carries. It was his fourth straight 100-yard game dating back to last year, becoming the first App State player to do that since Darrynton Evans in 2018.
  • Joey Aguilar threw for 241 yards with three touchdowns, an interception and a rushing touchdown. Through two-and-a-half games after he entered in the second quarter for injured starter Ryan Burger against Gardner-Webb, Aguilar has thrown for nine touchdowns and accounted for 10, while only tossing a pair of interceptions.
  • Kaedin Robinson led the receiving corps with four catches for 57 yards, including his second touchdown of the season, a 34-yard grab that gave App State a 22-21 lead early in the third quarter.
  • Kanye Roberts rushed for 42 yards on six carries with his first touchdown of the season and the third of his career.
  • Returning All-American kick returner Milan Tucker scored his first career receiving touchdown, a go-ahead score in the third quarter to put the Mountaineers up 29-28. It was his second career score of any kind (kickoff return at Marshall last year).

DEFENSE

  • App State played stingy defense, allowing just 14 points from the Pirate offense (their other 14 came from a pair of defensive touchdowns).
  • The Mountaineers held ECU to 79 rushing yards in the game, including -5 in the second half.
  • App State hauled in three interceptions in the game, the first time doing that since 2021 at Arkansas State.
  • The interceptions came from Nick Ross (fourth career), Jordan Favors (first career) and Omari Philyaw (first career).
  • Inside linebacker Derrell Farrar racked up a career-high eight stops to lead all Mountaineer tacklers.
  • App State’s season-high four sacks were by Markus Clark (first career), Brodrick Gooch (first career), Andrew Parker Jr. (second career), and Nate Johnson (first career).

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Michael Hughes made a 36-yard field goal on his only attempt.
HEAD COACH SHAWN CLARK POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE

 

SELECTED TEAM STATS (StatBroadcast.com)

  • Net Total Yards: ECU 240, APP 465
  • Net Rushing Yards: ECU 79, APP 224
  • Net Passing Yards: ECU 161, APP 241
  • Rushing TDs: ECU 2, APP 3
  • Passing TDs: ECU 0, APP 3
  • Defensive TDs: ECU 1, APP 0
  • Time of Possession: ECU 27:25, APP 30:44
  • 3rd Down Conversions: ECU 3/11, APP 7/14
  • 4th Down Conversions: ECU 0/1, APP 0/1
  • Penalties: ECU 11-80 yards, APP 3-25 yards
  • Turnovers
    • Fumble Recoveries: ECU 1, APP 0
    • Interceptions By: ECU 1, APP 3
  • Sacks By: ECU 1, APP 4
  • Tackles for Loss By: ECU 3, APP 7
  • Runs Stuffed By: ECU 2, APP 19
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STATS (StatBroadcast.com)

Passing

  • APP – Joey Aquilar 17-29, 241 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
  • ECU – Alex Flinn 17-31, 158 yards, 0 TDs, 3 INTs

Rushing

  • APP – Nate Noel, 26 carries, 178 yards, 1 TD
  • ECU – Rahji Harris, 12 carries, 56 yards, 2 TDs
  • APP – Kanye Roberts, 6 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD
  • ECU – Javious Bond, 3 carries, 20 yards
  • APP – Joey Aguilar, 6 carries, 13 yards, 1 TD

Receiving

  • APP – Kaedin Robinson, 4 catches, 57 yards, 1 TD
  • APP – Milan Tucker, 2 catches, 51 yards, 1 TD
  • ECU – Jhari Patterson, 4 catches, 44 yards
  • APP – Makai Jackson, 2 catches, 43 yards
  • ECU – Jaylen Johnson, 3 catches, 41 yards
  • APP – David Larkins, 3 catches, 31 yards, 1 TD
  • ECU – Shane Calhoun, 3 catches, 28 yards
  • ECU – Chase Sowell, 4 catches, 26 yards
  • APP – Christan Horn, 2 catches, 24 yards
  • APP – Nate Noel, 3 catches, 18 yards
  • APP – Dalton Stroman, 1 catch, 17 yards
BONUS PHOTOS (Click on any image for slideshow mode)
Mountaineer QB Joey Aguilar showed nice touch in completing this second half pass during the 43-28 win over East Carolina at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Sept. 16. Photographic image by David Rogers
At the snap… Photographic image by David Rogers
David Larkins (85) brought down by an East Carolina defensive back, but only after a big gain pass from Joey Aguilar. Photographic image by David Rogers
Blocking for a Michael Hughes field goal. In the middle, that is Griffin Scroggs, offensive tackle No. 74. Photographic image by David Rogers
michael hughes
Michael Hughes (99) kicks off vs. ECU on Sept. 16. Photographic image by David Rogers

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