Who: Coastal Carolina (3-1) at Appalachian State (3-0)
When: 3:30 p.m.
Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C.
Occasion: Sun Belt Conference opener
TV: Live online on ESPN+
Radio: WRNN 99.5-FM
Live stats: Through AppState.statbroadcast.com and GameTracker
App. State 23-7 on Nov. 3, 2018 in Conway
Strength: Pass defense
Weakness: Offensive line depth
Strength: Pedigree, experience
Weakness: Pass defense
Coastal Carolina’s defensive front seven vs. App. State running back Darrynton Evans: The junior from Florida became the first FBS player since 1999 to rush for at least 200 yards, score three rushing touchdowns and return a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game in a 56-41 win against Charlotte on Sept. 7. Junior quarterback Zac Thomas is an experienced and dangerous weapon as well, but the Mountaineers would prefer to run if they can with 115 rushing attempts and 74 passing attempts this season. Coastal has been stingy against the run, ranking third in the conference and 34th in the nation in rushing yards allowed at 106.8 per game, while App. State averages 238 rushing yards per game to rank fourth in the conference and 25th in the country.
Players to watch
Junior running back C.J. Marable (5-10, 190): He’s coming off his third straight 100-yard rushing game, the most by a Chant since De’Angelo Henderson had five straight in 2015. and leads the Chants in rushing yards with 298 and receiving yards with 157.
Sophomore quarterback Fred Payton (6-2, 190): While splitting time with Bryce Carpenter, the Suwanee, Ga. native has completed 58 of 89 passes (65.2 percent) for 670 yards and four touchdowns with five interceptions, and has rushed for 63 yards.
Senior cornerback Chandler Kryst (5-9, 170): The fifth-year senior from Tega Cay is tied for the national FBS lead with three interceptions – two against Kansas and one against Norfolk State – and has returned them a combined 32 yards.
Junior quarterback Zac Thomas (6-1, 210): App. State has won its last 14 games with Thomas as the primary QB. He has completed 50 of 73 passes (68.5 percent) for 556 yards, five touchdowns and one interception this season.
Junior running back Darrynton Evans (5-11, 200): Has rushed for at least 99 yards in nine of his past 12 games and leads the team with 52 carries for 411 yards and seven rushing touchdowns in just three games.
Junior defensive end Demetrius Taylor (6-1, 275): He became the first FBS players in two decades to record 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a fumble return for a TD and an interception in the same game when he did it against North Carolina last week.
He said it
“All I know is they’re a really good football team that has an excellent offense, and excellent defense, that has scored 100 points the last two games and is ranked the No. 8 total defense in the country right now. . . . We’re going to have to play our best football to have an opportunity to win Saturday.”” – App. State first-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz
“We’ve got really good football players who play hard and coaches who coach them hard and have tried to form a team identity for this year. But it’s not about me. We’ve got really good football players and our teams play hard and play together. So I don’t think there’s anything particular that I’ve done.”” – Drinkwitz on his impact on the program
“I know our guys are excited and looking forward to playing in a conference game, playing in a great atmosphere that we’re going against. Hopefully you’ll see a team that’s prepared for that, that doesn’t think the moment is too big or the situation is too big. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to be playing in this environment really for the first time, so as a coach you’re always concerned how they’ll respond to unique circumstances or a different situation we probably have not seen up to this point this season.” – CCU head coach Jamey Chadwell
Coastal begins Sun Belt Conference play in perhaps the toughest place to play in the league in the North Carolina mountains. Kidd Brewer Stadium’s 30,000 seats are sold out.
“From coaches, fans, just people in general you don’t even know talk about the atmosphere there, which goes to show how good it is,” CCU sophomore quarterback Fred Payton said. “I’m excited just to see how we do in that type of atmosphere. We played at Kansas but people say it doesn’t even compare, pales in comparison to how it is at App. State.”
The Chants are looking to make an impact in the conference this season for the first time in its three years in the league. They have gone 4-12 in their first two seasons combined and have a four-game losing streak in conference games. “We have to win some games period in the conference. We have not won many since we’ve been here,” Chadwell said.
Appalachian State is riding a couple impressive win streaks. It has won nine straight games, which is the third-longest streak in the country behind only Clemson (19) and Ohio State (10), and has won 12 straight games at home, which is the eighth-longest streak in FBS. Coastal held a five-point third-quarter lead before falling 37-29 at Kidd Brewer Stadium in October 2017.
The Mountaineers are coming off a 34-31 win at North Carolina last week. “Their talent level jumps out at you. Defensively and offensively they’re better than anyone we’ve played this year,” Chadwell said. “. . . That’s the biggest challenge is will we get overwhelmed, one with the atmosphere, but are they just that much better?”
The Mountaineers are averaging 44 points per game, which is 13th in the country, and will be difficult to stop with experience and talent at both the quarterback and running back positions with Thomas and Evans.
They will present a challenge for a Coastal defense that is ranked eighth in the country in total defense, allowing just 254.3 yards per game, including 147.5 passing, which is 11th in FBS.
The Mountaineers have allowed 429 yards of offense per game, which is 94th in the country, but have a big-play defense. They have a favorable 6-to-1 turnover margin, and their average of eight tackles for loss per game ranks first in the Sun Belt and 16th nationally.
▪ Coastal is looking for its fourth consecutive win after falling 30-23 to Eastern Michigan in its season opener, which would be its longest win streak in its two-plus seasons as an FBS program.
▪ Coastal is 0-5 all-time against App. State, with four of those coming on the road. Since joining the Sun Belt the Chants have dropped their two games in the series by a combined score of 60-36.
▪ CCU is looking to win its second straight conference opener, having defeated Louisiana 30-28 last season. All three conference openers have come on the road.
▪ Coastal is 7-3 in its last 10 road games dating back to a 13-7 road win at Idaho late in the 2017 season.
▪ At 36, Drinkwitz is the sixth-youngest active head coach in FBS. He spent the past three seasons as N.C. State’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Chadwell is 42.
Appalachian State -16
App. State 34, Coastal Carolina 23: The Chants should be able to hang tough with their defense, as they did in 2017 at Kidd Brewer Stadium, but the class of the Sun Belt will win out.