Coastal

By Alan Blondin

BOONE, N.C.

Coastal Carolina knew all along that all of its grand aspirations, which all seemed reachable through six games, would hinge on its game at Appalachian State on Wednesday night at Kidd Brewer Stadium.

And the Mountaineers wiped some of those goals away, including an undefeated season and CCU’s visions of a New Year’s Six bowl berth.

A 24-yard field goal by Chandler Staton as time expired gave App State (5-2, 2-1) the upper hand in race for the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division title with a 30-27 win over the Chanticleers (6-1, 2-1), who entered the game ranked 14th in The Associated Press Top 25 poll.

“Now the only thing is we don’t control our destiny any more,” CCU super senior linebacker Teddy Gallagher said. “We’ve got to wait for them to lose to try to make the Sun Belt Championship [game] and we’ve got to try to take care of our business every game from now on and that’s all we can do.”

Coastal had won 18 consecutive regular season games, which was the longest streak in the nation, and had also won 11 consecutive Sun Belt games and seven road games in a row.

“There’s still a lot out there [to accomplish],” CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell said. “Look how it’s flipped. One loss and now we’re acting like everything in the world is ending. That’s sort of where we put ourselves. Now that we have lost and now we don’t think we’re invincible hopefully those little things that get us, we’ll get them corrected and move forward.

“. . . And just get our mindset back because it is a tough loss, one especially that you put a lot into.”

CCU recovered a fumbled handoff exchange at its 6-yard line with 7 minutes remaining and the game tied at 27. But the Mountaineers forced a Coastal punt with 4 minutes left and drove 55 yards in nine plays for the game-winning points against a beleaguered CCU defense.

It is App State’s first win against a ranked FBS team since it made the transition to FBS from FCS in 2014, and just the second ever along with its shocking upset of No 5 Michigan in 2007.

“It’s just one game. When our expectations are to go undefeated, you know one game hurts really bad,” Gallagher said. “But when you look back at where we were a couple years ago we were fighting to get six wins. . . . You just kind of put it in perspective. We obviously didn’t play our best tonight and lost the football game, but it’s one game.”

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The nation watched on ESPN2, and fans showed up for the entertaining showdown that featured five lead changes and two ties, as the announced attendance of 31,061 is the fourth largest crowd in App State history. Jubilant fans stormed the field following the win to join the celebrating Mountaineers.

“It’s a great place to play. There were a lot of people here and I think half of them trampled me after the game,” Chadwell quipped. “That’s awesome that they feel like them beating us is rushing-the-field worthy. I think that’s where our program is, and for us to continue to stay there we’ve got to win games like this. I tried to find their coach but it was mass chaos.”

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Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall (10) throws a pass during the first half of the team’s NCAA college football game against Appalachian State on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Boone, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley). Matt Kelley AP

National rankings take a hit

CCU entered the game with the most prolific offense in college football under quarterback Grayson McCall, ranking first in the nation in both points per game (48.8) and yards per play (8.8) and second in yards per game (554.2).

While the offense still produced 27 points and 346 yards despite struggling for stretches of the game, especially in the second half, and averaging just 1.9 yards on its 29 rushing attempts, the step up in competition for CCU played out more drastically on the defensive side of the ball.

After allowing less than 275 yards of total offense against three consecutive opponents to move up to eighth in the country in points allowed per game (15) and third in passing yards allowed per game (151.5), the CCU defense was torched for 575 yards, including 347 passing by former Clemson and Duke QB Chase Brice.

McCall completed 15-of-23 passes for 291 yards and a touchdown while under duress much of the game. He entered the game leading the nation in passing efficiency, completion percentage and yards per attempt.

“We felt that if we got them in a game where they had to drop back and pass, it’s in our favor a lot,” said Appalachian State defensive end Caleb Spurlin. “You got guys on the edge that just go make things happen. So I think getting them in that position where you knew they were going to have drop back and pass the ball gave us an edge.”

Making an early statement

App State won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball, but CCU put up the first 14 points of the game.

The Mountaineers drove 60 yards in eight plays to the CCU 28, where junior safety Shi’heem Watkins broke up a fourth-and-3 pass to receiver Malik Williams with a big hit from behind to give CCU possession.

Coastal converted a pair of long third downs with a beautiful McCall 28-yard pass to Jaivon Heigligh despite double coverage on the left sideline on third-and-10 at the CCU 28, and pass interference call on a throw to Heiligh on third-and-7 at the ASU 41. Shermari Jones capped an 11-play, 72-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.

CCU forced a punt on App State’s second possession with the help of a 15-yard facemask penalty on center Baer Hunter, and on third-and-3 McCall hit Kameron Brown over the middle for a 74-yard TD. McCall scrambled to his left and looked like he would run for the first down but stopped shy of the line of scrimmage and hit Brown 10 yards over the middle, and Brown outraced defenders to the end zone.

“Our whole plan was to take [the crowd] out of it and we had them out of it, and we let them back in it,” Chadwell said. “If we’d have done something a little bit different at the beginning we might have been able to really take the crowd out of it there, but we didn’t do it.”

Mountaineers going deep, early and often

App State entered the game with a clear offensive game plan to attack CCU with deep passes and feature Malik Williams, one of its trio of talented receivers.

The Mountaineers almost ignored their talented receivers Corey Sutton and Thomas Hennigan against cornerbacks early in the game and attacked CCU with deep passes to Williams, who was being defended by safeties, often one-on-one in man coverage.

He had seven catches for 145 yards and a touchdown in the first half and finished with 10 catches for 206 yards — just 52 yards after catches. Though Hennigan had just one catch for 23 yards, Sutton was included in the long balls later in the game and finished with six catches for 113 yards and a TD.

Brice had a clean pocket much of the night, as CCU had no sacks and was credited with just two quarterback hurries on his 28 dropbacks and four tackles for loss. App State had three sacks, four QB hurries and eight tackles for loss.

“They hit the middle of the field quite a bit, and when you take those shots you’ve got to be able to protect,” Chadwell said. “When you have a little bit more time to make some of those plays, we made the quarterback look like a draft pick today. He made some really nice throws. We made some nice plays early where we were there covering and knocked them away, but as it got going on he just put them on the money.”

In the first quarter alone, Brice attempted four passes of 25 yards or more — three to Williams.

A long pass to Hennigan and two to Williams were broken up by Lance Boykin, Alex Spillum and Mateo Sudipo before Brice finally landed a 45-yard strike down the middle to Williams on the final play of the first quarter. Williams caught a 32-yard pass on the very next play in one-on-one coverage against Derick Bush to set up a 1-yard Camerun Peoples TD run for App State’s first score.

The second score would be a 47-yard bomb over the middle to Williams, who ran past linebacker Silas Kelly and safety Mateo Sudipo. Brice was pressured up the middle by C.J. Brewer and was hit just after he threw.

Brice went deep twice on ASU’s first possession of the second half. Boykin broke up a pass to Hennigan and Sutton scored on a 28-yard TD reception thrown to the left pylon, and that refrain continued.

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Coastal Carolina safety Mateo Sudipo (13) deflects a pass intended for Appalachian State wide receiver Malik Williams (14) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Boone, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley). Matt Kelley AP

App State gets sneaky

Despite two long field goals by Massimo Biscardi of 46 and 50 yards to give him the CCU career record with 43 made field goals, App State won the special teams battle with one play.

A well-executed onside kick got the ball back for the Mountaineers following their first score early in the second quarter.

Exploiting something the coaching staff must have seen on film, Mountaineers kicker Michael Hughes lofted a soft kick to the right sideline about 12 yards downfield and backup cornerback Milan Tucker recovered just inside the sideline at the CCU 48 with no CCU defenders nearby. App State scored two plays later to tie the score.

“That was a devastating turn of events there that really changed that game from a special teams standpoint,” Chadwell said. “When you play on the road and play against good teams you’ve got to win on special teams and I thought they beat us on special teams, but Mas did a great job for us.”

Biscardi passed Justin Durham, who made 42 field goals, on the all-time list. CCU’s first kicker, Josh Hoke, is third with 40.

Some, but not enough

Coastal had its share of big plays on defense, but not enough to hold off the Mountaineers.

The Chanticleers got a pair of turnovers on downs. Shi’heem Watkins broke up a fourth-and-3 pass with a solid hit on App State’s first possession, and nose tackle Jerrod Clark tossed the center aside to meet Gallagher in the hole to stop Nate Noel on a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter.

Gallagher forced a fumble on a completion to Corey Sutton and Manny Stokes Jr. recovered late in the first half to set up a field goal.

And Brewer recovered the fumbled exchange between Brice and Daetrich Harrington at the CCU 6 to thwart a scoring opportunity in the fourth quarter.

“We all fight for each other, I think that’s why losses hurt a little bit more because you know how much it means to your teammates so you try to leave everything out there on the field,” Gallagher said. “I know I try to leave everything out there. When you come up short you just think about certain plays you could have made to make the game a little bit different.”

Poll implications

Coastal has been ranked for 19 consecutive releases of both The Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today AFCA Coaches Poll dating back to last October. They entered the game ranked 16th by the coaches.

Though they’ll take a tumble with the loss in Boone, will a prime-time loss on the road against a respected opponent be enough to drop the Chanticleers out of the Top 25 altogether, or will there be a 20th consecutive week as a ranked team?

Up next

Coastal still has an active win streak. It has won 11 consecutive games at Brooks Stadium and returns to Conway for yet another midweek prime-time game against Troy at 7:30 next Thursday night.

The Trojans are 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the conference and are coming off a pair of close wins over Georgia Southern (27-24) and Texas State (31-28) after falling 24-13 at South Carolina. Troy is off this week.

“This is a game we felt pretty confident in us winning,” said super senior receiver Kameron Brown, who had three catches for 98 yards, including an 81-yard TD. “It hurts. This is not something we’re used to. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth but at the same time this is all part of being a man, like our mantra is. It’s supposed to hurt, we’re going to hurt from this but by the time tomorrow comes we need to be past this and focus on our next opponent.”

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Appalachian State running back Camerun Peoples (6) is hoisted by teammates after his touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Coastal Carolina on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Boone, N.C. (AP Photo/Matt Kelley) Matt Kelley AP

This story was originally published October 20, 2021 11:21 PM.

Source : https://www.charlotteobserver.com/sports/college/article255163802.html

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