CHARLOTTE – The Appalachian State Mountaineers came out with something to prove in a 33-19 season-opening win over the East Carolina Pirates in front of 36.752 at Bank of America Stadium in the opening act the Duke’s Mayo Classic.
Chase Brice debuted for his third different school, and did not disappoint. The former Clemson & Duke product threw for 259 yards on 20-of-27 passing, with two touchdowns and an inconsequential interception. The Mountaineers supported Brice’s cause on the ground, as Nate Noel scampered for 126 yards, while Cam Peoples totalled 100 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Mountaineers Head Coach Shawn Clark wasn’t shocked that his team stepped up to the challenge. “Our guys were locked in, we came down here Wednesday night and I told our Director of Football Operations ‘it’s over’,” Clark said. “After Wednesday night, I knew this game was done. Our guys are focused, ready to go, that’s what you have to do to be a great football program.”
After both teams opened with three-and-outs to start the game, the Pirates jumped out on top with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Holton Ahlers to Keaton Mitchell. The Mountaineers rattled off 20 consecutive points to close out the opening half on Brice’s first touchdown pass and Peoples’ touchdown run from 21 yards out.
Two key calls kept momentum in the hands of the Mountaineers in the opening half.
Ahlers had a 57-yard run down to the App State 7-yard line called back for holding while the game was still close.
ECU also had a Hail Mary completion at the end of the half overturned on replay review. The initial call had the Pirates coming down with possession in the end zone, but the officials reversed the call on the field, claiming App State’s Ryan Huff came down with the ball for an interception.
While ECU opened the second-half scoring with a field goal, Brice & Peoples put the game out of reach with a pair of touchdown drives totaling just 2:03 of combined time between them. Mallard Creek High School product Corey Sutton hauled in Brice’s second touchdown, an 18-yard pass set up by 68-yard explosive play to Thomas Hennigan.
The Pirates added two late scores, but never came closer than the final margin.
Ahlers threw for 295 yards with two touchdowns and the Hail Mary interception for ECU.
Brice’s 259 yards tied for the fourth-largest passing output in his collegiate career, and his 74% completion percentage was his second highest in college. The only game with a better completion percentage for Brice came as a Blue Devil last season, when he completed 20-of-25 passes in a 48-0 loss at Miami.
Playing for third time at Bank of America Stadium, but the first time as a starter, Brice said he’s eager to put a final signature on his collegiate career at App State.
“When I got here in January, I really just put my head down and focused on how I can better myself as a quarterback here at App, and how we can win football games and keep the winning mentality and tradition alive,” Brice said. “I worked really hard this offseason to better my body, getting back into shape and connecting with my receivers. A lot of that lonely work, that extra time, really showed tonight.”
App State split the East Division Top Billing in the Sun Belt’s Preseason rankings with Coastal Carolina, yet the Chanticleers edged out the Mountaineers with six of the 10 first place votes.
The Mountaineers won for the 20th time in 32 games between the schools, but earned their first triumph over the Pirates since 1975. ECU had won six straight games over App State, spanning the last 45 years of the series.
“This is something we should do every year, the money stays in the state,” Clark said. “It was a great crowd. This is what college football is about.”
Both teams have Power-Five tests in Week Two, as App State travels to Miami while ECU hosts South Carolina for the first time since 1997.
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