Coastal Carolina hung with the class of the Sun Belt Conference for three quarters, but Appalachian State’s statistical domination was finally reflected on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
The Mountaineers outgained Coastal 405-178 and didn’t allow any points on defense, yet the Chanticleers were within a touchdown before the Mountaineers pulled away with a pair of scores in the final quarter for a 23-7 win.
Appalachian State (6-2, 4-1 Sun Belt Conference) rebounded from its loss to Georgia Southern last Thursday that dropped it out of the Associated Press Top 25 Poll, while Coastal (5-4) fell to 2-3 in the conference and remains one win shy of becoming eligible for the program’s first bowl game.
Coastal entered the contest averaging 31.5 points, 438 total offensive yards and 251.6 rushing yards per game, but was held without an offensive touchdown and to just 11 first downs and 72 rushing yards on 26 carries.
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“I think it’s clear they were able to shut us down,” CCU head coach Joe Moglia said. “We’ve been doing a good job of moving the ball this year. I think we’ve done a good job of being consistent. We’ve been doing a good job of time of possession. But we were outmatched with these guys. They were able to shut us down I think pretty consistently across the board.”
Coastal was 1-for-10 on third down and failed on its one fourth-down attempt.
A Coastal goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter kept the Chants within a TD, but Torrance “C.J.” Marable was tackled in the end zone for a safety, and Appalachian State added a 1-yard Marcus Williams Jr. touchdown run less than 2 minutes later to take a 23-7 lead with 9:46 remaining.
Both teams started backup quarterbacks. Freshman Fred Payton got his second start for Coastal in place of senior Kilton Anderson, who has a high ankle sprain, and sophomore Jacob Huesman started his first game for the Mountaineers in place of sophomore Zac Thomas, who suffered a concussion last week.
“[Payton] has done a very good job for us but the reality is he’s a freshman,” Moglia said. “. . . Our ground game has been pretty good all year, and if you’re going to take it away it’s going to put pressure on any quarterback. That certainly was the case tonight.”
Anderson entered the game in the fourth quarter and was Coastal’s leading rusher with 22 yards on three carries. Payton completed 10 of 16 passes for just 79 yards with an interception, was sacked three times and rushed nine times for 5 yards.
“We didn’t think Kilton was 100 percent as we got late in the week and Fred had been playing well, so we thought it would make sense to go ahead with Fred and see later on if we thought we needed Kilton,” Moglia said. “If he was 100 percent you would have seen more of him tonight. I liked the way he moved tonight. I thought he looked pretty good. It will be interesting to see how he’s able to move around and handle things this week.”
Coastal was saddled with poor field position throughout the game. The Chants started from inside their 2-yard line four times in the game – twice after punts, once following an interception and once after a turnover on downs – and its best starting field position in 12 offensive possessions was its own 31.
“This is my 25th year coaching football. I think if we had another game like that where the field position was as lopsided as it was today I’d remember it. I don’t remember it,” Moglia said. “You don’t begin drives too often inside the 2-yard line. . . . That’s difficult to work your way out of.”
Appalachian State struck first on a 26-yard Darrynton Evans touchdown run 4:44 into the game. The sophomore took an inside handoff and bounced around the left side of the line and down the left sideline.
Coastal responded with a defensive touchdown, as sophomore defensive back Derambez Drinkard of Blythewood returned an interception 60 yards for a score. Huesman’s pass in the right flat hit Williams Jr. in the back of the helmet and the ball popped in the air. Drinkard caught the gift in stride and raced unchallenged to the end zone.
Drinkard added a second interception at the 1-yard line to end a Mountaineers scoring threat in the second quarter, catching a ball that was thrown behind the receiver and deflected off his hands.
But Appalachian State took a 14-7 lead into halftime, as Corey Sutton caught a 33-yard pass that went through the hands of a defensive back who had good coverage in the end zone with 1:40 left in the second quarter.
Coastal had just 62 yards of offense and three first downs in the first half.
The Chants had an opportunity to cut into the lead but a Massimo Biscardi 50-yard field goal attempt was blocked for ASU’s fifth blocked kick of the season.
The Mountaineers reached the CCU 25 on the ensuing drive before Teddy Gallagher sacked Huesman for a loss of 8 yards, Jave Brown made an open-field tackle for no gain and Gallagher forced an incompletion with pressure on a blitz. The Mountaineers were lined up for a long field goal but took a delay of game penalty and opted instead for a punt that was downed inside Coastal’s 1-yard line.
Payton threw a deep pass intended for Malcolm Williams in an attempt to get off the goal line and it was intercepted at the CCU 47 by Josh Thomas for CCU’s only turnover.
The Coastal defense had its share of highlights Saturday against the Sun Belt’s top offense that was averaging more than 40 points per game. In addition to Drinkard’s two takeaways, the Chants had a goal-line stand early in the fourth quarter – stopping the Mountaineers on four consecutive runs inside the 5-yard line – forced another turnover on downs, drove the Mountaineers out of field goal position on another drive, forced five punts and had seven tackles for loss.
“We played a very good team tonight. I was pleased with the way our defense held up,” Moglia said. “We still gave them a couple big plays, more than that. We did have a handful of stands with them that I feel pretty good about. The defense did step up when it needed to and I thought did a good job.”
The Chants gave up several first downs and big chunks of yardage because of missed tackles, as well, and allowed 278 rushing yards on 56 carries.
“I feel we had a pretty good defensive game today. I don’t feel it’s our best game we can have. We still made some small mistakes,” said sophomore defensive end Tarron Jackson, who set a career high with nine total tackles. “. . . We definitely had a couple [missed tackles] tonight that could have given us more stops. We’ve been working on it. It’s a big focus and we still have a lot to work on, but it’s improving.”