Mountaineers manhandle Chants in Sun Belt opener

The Coastal Carolina football team suffered a 56-37 loss at the three-time defending Sun Belt Champions Appalachian State on Saturday in the Chanticleers’ first Sun Belt Conference game of the season. The loss came despite Coastal scoring 21 points in the first half, its second-highest first-half total ever against a Sun Belt opponent.

Coastal falls to 3-2 on the season and 0-1 in Sun Belt play, while Appalachian State remains unbeaten at 4-0 overall and 1-0 in conference action.

The loss snaps Coastal’s winning streak at three-straight games, drops the Chants to 0-6 all-time versus the Mountaineers and extends its Sun Belt losing streak to five-straight contests dating back to last season.

The teams were evenly matched statistically, with App State holding a slight 430-393 advantage in total yardage. Coastal earned 21 first downs to App’s 20, though the Mountaineers were slightly better on third-down conversions, finishing 7-of-12 compared to Coastal’s 5-of-13. Both teams were perfect in the red zone, with Coastal converting all five of its chances and App State going 6-of-6.

Sophomore quarterback Fred Payton took all 66 snaps for the Chanticleers, completing 20-of-31 attempts for 240 yards and two touchdowns. The sophomore added two more touchdowns on the ground as he totaled 37 yards rushing.

Junior running back CJ Marable finished as the Chants’ leading rusher with 95 yards, spoiling his chance to become Coastal’s first running back with four-straight 100-yard games since De’Angelo Henderson recorded five-straight in 2015.

Wideout Jaivon Heiligh hauled in a team-high six catches for 85 yards, both new career-highs, while fellow wide receiver Jeremiah Miller and tight end Isaiah Likely recorded three catches and a touchdown apiece. Both of their scores came from 14 yards out.

On the defensive side of the ball, linebacker Teddy Gallagher totaled a team-high 10 total tackles and 1.0 tackle-for-loss, while safety Kameron Burton registered a career-high nine stops, including seven solo tackles.

Senior Mallory Claybourne had seven tackles and an interception, while redshirt freshman linebacker Cincir Evans added seven tackles of his own and 1.0 tackle-for-loss.

App State quarterback Zac Thomas was 19-of-23 for 246 yards, two scores and an interception through the air, while the trio of Daetrich Harrington (11 att., 71 yards, TD), Darrynton Evans (15 att., 63 yards, 2 TD) and Marcus Williams Jr. (8 att., 43 yards, 2 TD) combined to rush 36 times for 174 yards and five touchdowns in the win.

The Mountaineers’ defense was led by Akeem Davis-Gather’s team-high eight tackles, which included 1.0 sack, while three other defenders totaled seven tackles.

The Chanticleers took the opening kickoff and drove 75 yards on 10 plays to get on the scoreboard first to start the contest, as Payton capped the opening drive off with a six-yard quarterback run to put the visitors in all white in front 7-0 with 10:01 to go in the first quarter.

The CCU opening drive was highlighted by a 12-yard pass from Payton to Likely, a 10-yard run off the left side by Jacqez Hairston, an eight-yard scramble by Payton and aided by a personal foul penalty by the Mountaineers’ defense.

However, the Mountaineers’ offense answered with a score of their own just minutes later to tie the game up at 7-7, as Evans ran in untouched from eight yards out to end an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive with just 2:20 off the clock.

After the Chants’ offense was held to a three-and-out, the Mountaineers took advantage of a partially blocked punt to take over on their own 42-yard line.

A 48-yard pass from Thomas to Corey Sutton over top of the CCU defense followed by an 11-yard strike from Thomas to Colin Reed two plays later put the home team in black and yellow on top 14-7 with 6:27 to play in the opening quarter.

The Chants and Mountaineers then traded punts before lightning in the area forced a two-hour delay with 1:39 to go in the first quarter of play with the CCU offense about to take the ball on its own 30-yard line.

Just three plays after the long weather delay, Marable broke loose for a 42-yard sprint to the end zone to tie the game up at 14-14 to highlight a three-play, 70-yard touchdown drive just before the first quarter ended.

The back-and-forth scoring affair continued on the Mountaineers’ ensuing drive as the home team completed four passes for 27 yards and ran the ball seven times for 38 yards to retake a seven-point lead at 21-14 on an Evans one-yard touchdown run with 9:15 to go before the halftime break.

However, Coastal refused to quit and responded with another score of its own, as the offense drove 75 yards on 11 plays over the next 5:32 of the game to knot the score back up this time at 21-21 on a Payton touchdown pass to Likely from 14-yards out with 3:52 to go in the opening half.

App State retook the lead less than two minutes later, as Thomas connected on a 55-yard pass to Thomas Hennigan down the right sideline to set up a one-yard touchdown plunge by Williams four plays into the drive to put the score at 28-21 in favor of the Mountaineers with less than two minutes to go in the second quarter.

A fumble by the Chanticleers on the ensuing kickoff backed the visitors back to their own three-yard line to start their next drive.

A three-and-out, a 36-yard punt, and an offsides penalty by the Chants helped to set up an App State touchdown pass from Thomas to Sutton to cap a three-play, 29-yard scoring drive to push the home team in front by two scores at 35-21 going into the halftime break.

Out of the break, the scoring slowed down and the defense picked up for both squads as the two teams each punted on their opening possessions of the third quarter to keep the score at 35-21 with less than 10 minutes to go in the frame.

However, it would be App State that would score first in the second half, as the Mountaineers took the ball 43-yards on five plays on their second offensive possession in the second half to add to its lead on a 22-yard touchdown run by Harrington with 8:33 to go in the third quarter.

The Coastal offense was not done, as the Chants got a 26-yard pass and catch from Payton to Marable, a pair of six-yard completions to T’Qele Holmes and a 16-yard reception by Miller to put highlight the drive and put the Chants inside the App State 20-yard line.

Yet a sack and two short pass attempts forced the Chants to settle for a Massimo Biscardi 32-yard field goal to cut the Mountaineers’ lead to 42-24.

Now it was the defense’s turn to come up with a big play, as on the Mountaineers very first play on its next offensive series a bull-rush up the middle by Tarron Jackson forced a quick throw by Jackson that was intercepted by Claybourne and returned to the 36-yard line. A personal foul call added 14 yards to the end of the return to put the Chants in business at the App State 15-yard line.

Three plays later, Payton scurried in from 11-yards out for his second rushing touchdown of the game.

Coastal elected to go for a two-point conversion after the score but was unsuccessful on the pass attempt to put the score at 42-30 in favor of the home team in black with 49 seconds left before the fourth quarter.

CCU got the ball back less than two minutes later deep in its own territory but had App State’s Shaun Jolly pick off a third-and-14 pass attempt and return it 24 yards for the score to push the Mountaineers’ lead back out to three scores at 49-30 with less than 12 minutes to go in regulation.

A three-and-out by the Chants on the following drive gave the ball back to App State on the Chants’ 39-yard line with just over 10 minutes remaining. The Mountaineers chewed up almost four minutes of clock as they ran the ball 10-straight times and punched it in for their final score of the game. The resulting extra point gave App a 56-30 lead.

Coastal added one final touchdown in the closing minutes, using a nine-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Payton to Miller with 27 seconds remaining. App State recovered the following on-side kick and ran out the rest of the clock.

Coastal Carolina (3-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) will have an open week next week before returning home to host Georgia State (2-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) in Sun Belt play in two weeks on Saturday, Oct. 12. Game time will be announced on Sunday.

– Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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