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5 takeaways from App State-UNC round three

Ashton Woodruff
Redshirt sophomore offensive lineman Jack Murphy hoists junior running back Nate Noel in the air after a touchdown Sept. 9.

1. Aguilar develops an early connection

In junior quarterback Joey Aguilar’s first career start for App State, he targeted redshirt junior wide receiver Dashaun Davis early and often. Davis led the Mountaineer receiver core in receptions and receiving yards, as 117 of Aguilar’s 275 passing yards were in Davis’ direction. 

The highlight of Davis’ night came off a 33-yard receiving touchdown as he separated from the Tar Heel cornerback, breaking free for an open look in the endzone. 

Every quarterback has a go-to receiver they trust and look for throughout the game. Through two games, Davis appears to fill that role for Aguilar as the two will continue to form chemistry as the season progresses. 

2. Tale of two halves

The first half had App State’s fingerprints all over as North Carolina was forced to play the Mountaineer brand of football. With App State running 42 plays compared to the Tar Heels 29 plays, the Black and Gold held a heavy advantage on time of possession. The scoreboard reflected this too, as the high-flying Tar Heel offense was limited to 10 points at halftime. 

In the second half, North Carolina responded as their offense set the tone for a fast-paced half with quick drives resulting in points. This forced the Mountaineers offense to go off-brand and instead of slow, methodical drives, App State was keeping pace with the Tar Heels. In shying away from a similar formula that led the Mountaineers to an upset against Texas A&M in 2022, the Black and Gold played the second half under the control of North Carolina. 

3. Offensive improvements on third downs

After converting 4/13 on third down in their season opener against Gardner-Webb, the Mountaineers improved to 8/17 on third down against North Carolina. 

Throughout the 2022 season, the App State offense struggled to convert in short-yardage situations. With a clear improvement from the season opener, the Mountaineers look to make a previous weakness a possible strength in a critical component on the outcome of games.

4. Defensive struggles continue

While the Mountaineer defense held North Carolina Heisman hopeful quarterback Drake Maye to 208 passing yards, the Tar Heels tore apart App State on the ground. North Carolina totaled 319 rushing yards, with running back Omarion Hampton leading the way with 234 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Hampton’s first visit to the endzone came when he broke free for a 68-yard touchdown.

The Mountaineers held a defensive game plan to slow down Maye and not have a repeat of 2022, where he threw for 352 yards and four touchdowns. App State’s defense lined up in a two-high safety look throughout the game to protect the throwing lanes. With lining up in this formation, the run game became the most effective retaliation and North Carolina used it to full effect in beating the Black and Gold in the rushing game. 

5. End of a thrilling series

Saturday’s game ended a three-game series that began in 2019. Throughout the three games, the overall score differential was five points in favor of the Tar Heels. With a 34-31 score in 2019, 63-61 in 2022 and 40-34 on Saturday, each game left both fan bases on the edge of their seats. 

While both teams are not scheduled to play each other in the near future, the three-game series will always be remembered for the unexpected, entertaining in-state rivalry formed between App State and North Carolina. 

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About the Contributors
Chance Chamberlain, Associate Sports Editor
Chance Chamberlain (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his second year writing for The Appalachian.
Ashton Woodruff, Photo Editor
Ashton Woodruff (she/her) is a junior IDS Criminal Justice/Photojournalism major, and a Social Work minor. This is her second year with The Appalachian.
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  • J

    JoeSep 12, 2023 at 5:57 pm

    Horrible no call on the obvious Pass Interference on the last play of 2OT.