Mountaineers beat Coastal Carolina 56-37 despite 2 hour weather delay

Moss Brennan

Silas Albright , Reporter

Over 25,000 fans were on their feet cheering on the Mountaineers as they took the field ahead of their Sun Belt conference opener against Coastal Carolina at 3:30 p.m. Fireworks exploded, speakers blared and flags waved like they do at every game day at The Rock. Nearly five and a half hours later, and in front of many fewer fans, the Mountaineers walked off the field with a 56-37 win.

Due to lightning in the area, the game was delayed for just over two hours late in the first quarter with App State leading 14-7. The stadium was cleared and the teams went to their locker rooms. 

“Always great to start conference play 1-0. It was a unique game today with the delays and having to deal with the lightning,” head coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. “I thought our guys handled the adversity well. We also had the factor of where we spent a lot of energy last week against UNC, so to be able to come back and sustain that energy for as long as we did today made me real proud of our guys.”

Before the delay, App State won the coin toss and elected to kick the ball away to the Chanticleers to start the game. Coastal’s offense took over in the first drive of the game going 75 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown.

The Mountaineer offense answered back on their first possession of the game. A 35-yard pass from junior quarterback Zac Thomas to junior wide receiver Malik Williams got them into Chanticleer territory. Junior running back Darrynton Evans finished the drive with an 8-yard touchdown to tie it 7-7 with 7:36 left in the first quarter.

App State pressured Coastal into a three-and-out on its next possession. The Mountaineers took over at its own 42 yard line. Thomas found junior wide receiver Corey Sutton for a 48-yard catch to set the Mountaineers up in Coastal Carolina territory. Senior tight end Collin Reed finished the drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception to put App State up 14-7 with 6:27 left in the first quarter. 

At 4:14 p.m. with 1:39 left in the first quarter, the game was delayed due to lightning strikes in the area. The teams returned to the field at 6:05 p.m. and were given 10 minutes to warm up. Play resumed at 6:17 p.m., after a two hour and three minute delay.

It didn’t take long for both offenses to pick up where they left off. The Chanticleers scored a game-tying touchdown on a 42-yard rush from junior running back CJ Marable to make it 14-14 with 23 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Mountaineers answered back on their next possession, putting together a touchdown drive in which they ran 13 plays for 64 yards. Evans punched in a touchdown from 1-yard out for a 21-14 lead.

Coastal Carolina came right back with a long drive of its own that ended with a 14-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Fred Payton to tight end Isaiah Likely, tying it at 21. 

On the Mountaineers next possession, after a 55-yard reception by junior wide receiver Thomas Hennigan, junior running back Marcus Williams Jr. found the end zone on a 1-yard run to put the Mountaineers up 28-21. 

The App State defense held the Chanticleers deep in their own territory, eventually forcing them to punt from their own four yard line. Hennigan returned the punt 12 yards and the Mountaineers took over from the CCU 29 yard line. Thomas found Sutton for a 15-yard touchdown to make it 35-21 with 45 seconds left in the first half. It was Sutton’s first touchdown of the season.

“We really took control of the game right at the end of the second quarter where we had those 14 points right there, and then we scored right out of halftime,” Drinkwitz said. “It put us up 21, and I think that was the difference in the ballgame.”

Sophomore running back Daetrich Harrington scored a touchdown in the third quarter on a 22-yard rush to put App State up 42-21. 

The Chanticleers kicked a field goal and scored a touchdown on back-to-back drives to make it 42-30 after failing to complete a two-point conversion. Coastal Carolina got a stop on the Mountaineers next possession.

Sophomore cornerback Shaun Jolly intercepted the second pass of his career and returned it 24-yards for the first pick-six of his college career in the fourth quarter. 

“He’s got a knack for finding the football. They had run that same concept earlier, and he had come down too hard,” Drinkwitz said. “Coach Harbison made an adjustment with him, he stayed deep and the quarterback threw it right to him. That really shut the game down, so that was a big-time interception.”

Jolly was ready for the play the second time.

“As soon as he threw it, I was ready to make the play,” Jolly said.

Megan McCulloh
Sophomore cornerback Shaun Jolly gets set for a play in App State’s Sun Belt Conference opener against Coastal Carolina on Sept. 28. Jolly had the first pick-six of his career for a 24-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The App State defense forced a three-and-out on Coastal’s next possession.

When the Mountaineers got the ball back, they ran 6:20 off the clock while going 39 yards for the touchdown. Williams Jr. ended the drive with a 2-yard rushing touchdown to make it 56-30 with 3:55 left. 

Coastal Carolina scored a touchdown with under a minute left in the game to make it a final score of 56-37. 

Junior quarterback Zac Thomas completed his first nine passes and finished the game with 246 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. 

“We had to make a statement as an offense. We put some pretty good numbers in past weeks, but I think this game really set us apart as an offense,” Thomas said. “A lot of things were clicking. Even when stuff wasn’t clicking, we were still making plays. This offense is really good. I think it’s one of the best in college football.”

The Mountaineer running backs rushed for five touchdowns and 174 yards on the day. Evans picked up 60 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries; Harrington picked up 71 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries; and Marcus Williams Jr. rushed eight times for 43 yards and two touchdowns. 

Malik Williams caught a game high six passes for 75 yards, Hennigan finished with 89 yards on five catches and Sutton caught five passes for 76 yards and a TD. Reed’s 11-yard touchdown catch was his only reception of the game. 

App State’s defense held the Chanticleers to 5-for-13 on third down. Senior linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither led the team with eight total tackles and a sack. Safeties Josh Thomas, Ryan Huff and linebacker D’Marco Jackson finished with seven tackles each. 

The Mountaineers will turn their attention to a Sun belt Championship rematch between App State and Louisiana-Lafayette. That game is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. from Cajun Field and will be broadcast on ESPN2.