Kidd Brewer Stadium at Appalachian State is nicknamed the “Rock” for its obvious geological features. However on Wednesday night, it could have also been descriptive of the Mountaineers defense, as #14–Coastal Carolina ran into a rock wall up and dropped a 30-27 decision in front of an raucous crowd of just over 31,000 in Boone, North Carolina. The win was Appalachian’s first over a ranked FBS opponent since the Mountaineers stunned Michigan 34-32 back in 2007.
The evening started off well for the Chanticleers, who for the seventh straight opening possession put points on the board. After stopping the Mountaineers on downs, Coastal marched 72-yards in ten plays to grab a 7-0 lead on a Shermari Jones 1-yard touchdown run. Jones finished the contest with just sixteen yards on four carries, an illustration of the tough sledding ahead for CCU’s ground attack.
After another defensive stand, Coastal quarterback Grayson McCall inserted himself into the scoring. On a night in which McCall was outdueled by Appalachian State and former Clemson quarterback Chase Brice, McCall connected with Kam Brown on a 74-yard catch and run to put the visitors up 14-0 with just over one minute remaining in the first quarter. The improvisational score came as McCall scrambled out of the pocket and found Brown for the long touchdown. As it turned out, that was the only TD toss of the night for McCall.
Momentum began to swing in favor of the Mountaineers on their following possession. Trailing by two scores and on the ropes late in the 1st period, Brice found WR Malik Williams on a 3rd and 9 conversion, good for forty-five yards, setting up Appalachian’s first touchdown. Three plays later, Camerun Peoples plunged in from one yard out to close the deficit to 14-7 early in the 2nd. The 3rd and 9 conversion was one that CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said helped turn Appalachian State’s fortunes around.
“We’re up fourteen to nothing and it’s third and long and we’ve got a chance to run them out of the building and give up a huge, big play.”
If that wasn’t the big momentum change, the ensuing kickoff provided that moment as Appalachian orchestrated a perfect onside kick to steal a possession. One they turned into a three-play, forty-eight yard scoring drive to tie the game at 14 with 13:20 to go before halftime.
Coastal carried a 20-14 advantage into halftime, but the Chanticleers were struggling with their offensive bread-and-butter. CCU generated just 38 yards rushing in the first half and finished the game with 55 yards total on the ground.
Meantime, Appalachian bludgeoned the Chanticleers to the tune of 228 yards rushing and 575 yards of total offense. Brice finished the night 18-of-28 for 247 yards and two touchdowns with his favorite target being Williams. The Chester product torched his home state school, reeling in ten receptions for 206 yards and a score.
The back-and-forth affair came down to the final drive as the Mountaineers took over in a 27-27 game with 3:53 remaining. A couple of first downs later, Appalachian was setting up for Chandler Staton’s game-winning field goal from 24 yards out. His eleventh make of the season handed CCU its first loss of the year and propelled the Mountaineers into a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt East Division with the Chanticleers and Troy Trojans.
Coastal (6-1/2-1) returns home next Thursday to host Troy at 7:30pm on ESPN2, while Appalachian celebrates “Homecoming” next Saturday against ULM at 3:30pm.