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East Carolina Falls In Opener to Impressive App State 33-19

ECU ran into a hot Appalachian State team and came out on the short end of a 33-19 loss in Charlotte.
ECU ran into a hot Appalachian State team and came out on the short end of a 33-19 loss in Charlotte.

Appalachian State made it look easy jumping out to a 20-6 first half lead and they never looked back in a 33-19 victory over East Carolina Thursday night at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

ECU(0-1) got on the scoreboard first on a 63-yard Holton Ahlers strike to Keaton Mitchell, but Owen Daffer missed the point after attempton his first career attempt. That quickly helped swing momentum to Appalachian State(1-0) when the Mountaineers answered with a 21-yard Camerun Peoples touchdown run soon after. That was followed by a pair of Chandler Staton field goals that quickly stretched the lead to 14.

On the last play of the half, Holton Ahler’s 41-yard hail Mary pass attempt to C.J. Johnson was initially ruled a touchdown before the replay overturned the call and it was ruled an interception in the end zone by Ryan Huff with no time left in the half.

Things only spiraled in ASU’s favor from there on a night where not much went right for the Pirates.

“I’m very proud of our team tonight. We had a goal to be 1-0. We had a lot of things going on throughout the year and we made our mind up early that we were going to go out there early and play the App State brand of football and not let anybody dictate how we run our offense, defense or special teams,” said ASU head coach Shawn Clark, “We played complementary football. On the second drive, the defense gave up a touchdown and the offense answered. Great teams rely on each other. We’re 1-0, that was our goal for this week, we’ll celebrate tonight and get ready for Miami.”

“Hats off to Appalachian State, they’ve got a really good football team. They’ve got a chance to have a really special year,” ECU head coach Mike Houston said afterward, “We made too many mistakes to be able to have a chance to win the game, but I am proud of the way the kids played and competed.”

Houston outlined where he felt the Mountaineers held the biggest advantage in the contest Thursday night.

“I thought their ability to control the line on both sides was really the difference in the ballgame,” said Houston, “They have veteran skill kids on offense that made some big, big plays.”

“They pressured a lot more tonight than they showed in any game last year. They had not shown that much pressure, but still that’s something we’ve got to be able to handle,” Houston told, “We didn’t really get any breaks tonight but I don’t think that would have made any difference in the ballgame.”

Holton Ahlers went 9 of 18 in the first two quarters for 146 yards with a touchdown before eventually completing 22 of 40 for 295 yards all told and two touchdowns with one interceptions for ECU on a night where he could have done even more with a little bit of luck.

“I hate losing. We could have played a lot better and it starts with me. If you want to blame someone, blame Holton Ahlers,” said Ahlers, “I thought I scrambled a little too much but I’ve just got to learn and get better.

“They’re a good group. Most of those guys are super seniors,” Ahlers told after the game, “They got an extra year and came back to do what they did tonight and they have a good team. They’ve been ranked the last two years and we’ve just got to learn from this and keep going.”

Chase Brice connected on 15 of 20 pass attempts in the first half on the way to a 259 yard passing performance with a pair of touchdowns to lead ASU offensively. The Mountaineer ground game was solid, led by Nate Noel’s 126 yard’s rushing on just 15 carries for 8.4 yards a carry. Camerun Peoples was also stellar with 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the victory.

Keaton Mitchell turned out to be ECU’s most potent running back on the evening with 50 yards on just four carries and five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown while Rahjai Harris was limited to 11 yards on just three runs in the first two periods before ending up with a paltry 22 yards on eight carries. Harris did most of his damage catching the football our of the backfield where he made four catches for 56 yards.

“We’ve just got to execute better and do what we have planned,” said Mitchell, “Next week we’ve just got to practice hard, get back to the drawing board, watch film and just get after it.”

Owen Daffer got ECU on the scoreboard first in the second half for his first career collegiate field goal of 38-yards to trim the Mountaineer lead to 20-9, but a 68-yard Chase Brice strike to Thomas Hennigan led to a 18-yard Corey Sutton touchdown catch on the next play and just 22 seconds after ECU scored, ASU was suddenly up 27-9.

After that a 46-yard Appalachian State run from Nate Noel set up a ten yard Camerun Peoples touchdown run on the very next play and the Mountaineer lead had ballooned to 33-9.

ECU did manage to score a field goal with 6:29 remaining on an 38-yard Owen Daffer field goal and a late 28-yard Ahlers to Ryan Jones touchdown with 2:10 to go to cut the lead to 33-19 late but it proved to be too little, too late.

The Pirates return home to host South Carolina next week at 12 noon on Saturday in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Stay tuned to for the very latest.