Last Updated on September 3, 2021 7:38 am
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Country music star and App State alum Luke Combs will perform Saturday at The Rock, with fans filling Kidd Brewer Stadium for his highly anticipated concert.
Consider his song-leading cameo in a triumphant App State locker room at Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night a memorable warmup.
“I'm pretty parched right now,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said to open his postgame press conference. “Had a chance to sing with Luke Combs in the locker room, so I enjoyed that.”
Playing at the home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers, the Mountaineers had mayo-covered mojo on their side as they went on a roll to claim a big lead and post a 33-19 victory against East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference. A crowd of 36,752 was on hand as App State built a 33-9 lead in the Duke's Mayo Classic.
Chase Brice was nearly flawless through three quarters, throwing for 259 yards with touchdowns to Thomas Hennigan (114 receiving yards) and Corey Sutton, who each increased their career totals to 18 TD catches apiece. A new-look offensive line paved the way for two App State backs to surpass 100 rushing yards, as Nate Noel had 126 on 15 carries and Camerun Peoples scored twice on a 14-carry, 100-yard night.
Defensively, Ryan Huff came up with a key interception and the Mountaineers recorded four sacks, including 1.5 from Brendan Harrington. Nick Hampton and Tim Frizzell had back-to-back sacks leading up to Huff's pick, Tommy Dawkins Jr. teamed with Harrington on one sack and D'Marco Jackson was App State's leading tackler with eight stops.
“I'm very proud of our team tonight,” Clark said. “We had a goal of being 1-0, and we've had a lot of things going on throughout the year, and we made our mind up early that we were going to go out early and play the App State brand of football and not let anybody dictate to us how we're going to run our offense, defense or special teams. We played complementary football.”
App State (1-0) took the lead for good, moving ahead 7-6, as Brice connected on a deep throw to Hennigan for a 34-yard touchdown with 6:24 remaining in the first quarter. In the final minute of the period, the Mountaineers extended their lead thanks to a 21-yard touchdown run from Peoples, and Chandler Staton added a pair of field goals (21 yards, 43 yards) in the second quarter to produce a 20-6 halftime lead.
The end of the half wasn't without drama, though, as back-to-back sacks from Hampton and Frizzell forced a Hail Mary attempt. With three App State receivers back deep, Hennigan tipped the ball up in the middle of a crowd that had gathered near the goal line. Huff wrapped two hands around the ball before there was a pileup, and the officials ruled the play a touchdown after an ECU receiver emerged with the ball, but a review overturned the on-field call and awarded Huff with an interception.
ECU opened the third quarter with a 38-yard field goal, but App State responded immediately, starting with Brice's 68-yard completion to Hennigan on first down. On the next snap, Brice threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Sutton, who missed all of last season while rehabbing a 2019 injury. He scored for the first time since Nov. 23, 2019.
App State had an opportunity to stretch the lead to an even bigger margin, as Anderson Castle recovered a fumbled kickoff following big hits from Logan Doublin and Tyler Bird. The Mountaineers' only turnover of the night spoiled that opportunity, and ECU (0-1) managed to add a field goal and a touchdown in the closing minutes.