Last Updated on October 21, 2021 7:03 am
BOONE, N.C. — Sellout crowd. Ranked opponent.
And a field flooded with fans after a tiebreaking, game-winning kick.
Chandler Staton's 24-yard field goal as time expired lifted App State to a dramatic 30-27 win against No. 14 Coastal Carolina on Wednesday night in front of 31,061 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The victory moved the Mountaineers into first place in the Sun Belt's East Division.
“We're in control of our own destiny right now,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said. “I'm so proud of this team and everyone involved in our organization. This is a great win for our university and for this program.”
With the Chanticleers as the highest-ranked FBS team to ever visit The Rock, which drew an above-capacity crowd for a midweek game being shown on ESPN2, the Mountaineers posted their second-ever win against a ranked opponent — and first since the 34-32 win against Michigan in 2007, when App State was an FCS program.
App State had a pair of 100-yard receivers for the third time this season, as Malik Williams caught 10 passes for a career-high 206 yards and Corey Sutton added 113 yards on six catches. Chase Brice threw for a career-high 347 yards and two touchdowns, and Staton's game-ending kick was his 55th career field goal — tying Bjorn Nittmo for the school record.
Defensively, the Mountaineers limited Coastal to 55 rushing yards — 208.5 below its season average — on 29 attempts a week after falling 41-13 at West Division leader Louisiana. Nick Hampton and Demetrius Taylor (3.0 TFLs) recorded sacks on consecutive plays bridging the final two quarters, Caleb Spurlin added a sack and D'Marco Jackson led the team with 11 tackles.
“When you can pack out The Rock on a Wednesday, a sold-out game, have people coming from all over the place to support us after last week, it's a sweet feeling,” Jackson said. “This was an all-around great win for App Nation.”
App State's defense came up huge in the fourth quarter, forcing three Coastal punts, the last one being fair-caught by Thomas Hennigan at the App State 38 with 3:53 remaining. Brice had back-to-back throws of 16 and 19 yards to Williams to get the Mountaineers in scoring range. With time on its side and timeouts lacking for the Chanticleers after a third-and-1 conversion to the 11 with less than two minutes remaining, App State milked the clock to set up a storm-inducing kick executed with a snap from Christian Johnstone, hold by Clayton Howell and kick from Staton.
It was App State's first game-winning field goal as time expired in a game at The Rock since the 44-41 victory against Troy in three overtimes in 2015.
“Tonight is the exact reason that I came back,” said Staton, a sixth-year super senior. “When we got done with last year, I just wasn't ready. It wasn't a good year. Just kind of looking forward, I was like, we have something different. We have a lot of guys coming back. This team is going to be something special, and I still haven't done what I wanted to do here.
“And tonight was exactly what I was looking for. And not even just the kick, but really this entire week. You know, we got whooped last week, and the way that we came back from last week and prepared all through practice, it was a completely different vibe. Being around people like that is the reason that I came back.”
Despite facing an early 14-point deficit, App State took its first lead on Brice's 28-yard touchdown pass to Sutton with 9:39 left in the third quarter.
The Chanticleers responded with an 83-yard touchdown drive, moving ahead 27-21 on Shemari Jones' short scoring run with 4:36 left in the quarter, but App State tied the game at 27-all on a 43-yard touchdown run by Camerun Peoples.
Coastal Carolina jumped out to a 14-0 lead with touchdowns on its first two drives, but App State rallied to tie the game thanks to the tandem of Brice and Williams, with a surprise connection between Michael Hughes and Milan Tucker playing a key role in the tying score.
Back-to-back completions of 45 and 32 yards to Williams set up a 1-yard touchdown run from Peoples early in the second quarter, and Coastal Carolina was caught off-guard when Hughes drilled a short, line-drive kick toward the right sideline. Tucker made a diving catch off one hop before it went out of bounds, and a third-and-9 predicament from the Coastal Carolina 47 turned into a long touchdown pass to Williams. Staton went over 400 career points with his second extra point of the night.
Coastal Carolina did retake the lead and extend it with a pair of field goals in the final 2:23 of the half, as Massimo Biscardi made a 50-yard field goal and then, after a lost fumble by App State, hit a 46-yarder to end the half. App State then outscored Coastal 16-7 in the second half, setting off a wild celebration in Boone.
Fans rushed the field after a home win for the first time in 14 years — following the FCS semifinal win against Richmond — and added another ranked win to the win that happened at the start of that same 2007 season.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Spurlin said. “That's probably the best crowd, best atmosphere I've been a part of here, hands down. It just meant so much to us and meant so much to the fans.”
Williams, whose previous high was 123 receiving yards, had the seventh-highest receiving yardage total in school history and the first 200-yard receiving game since 2012.
“It all starts right there at practice,” he said. “Once we started doing that, it was just like, this has got to come on Wednesday. It was just love out there.”
Brice, meanwhile, eclipsed the 326 passing yards he had two games ago at Georgia State. Like many of his teammates, he played below his standard during the loss at Louisiana.
“I played bad, then we're going to struggle,” Brice said. “Tonight, I tried to play the best I could give, give my guys an opportunity, let the guys up front sort out everything, make their calls and trust them upfront. And I've just got to go out, go play and have fun. This week at practice, that's what I focused on, just trying to enjoy the moment, enjoy playing football. I talked with guys, it is just ball at the end of the day.”