Saturday, September 21, 2019

App State Defeats UNC in Dramatic Fashion, 34-31

CHAPEL HILL – Before Saturday afternoon’s game. North Carolina and Appalachian State had only met once on the gridiron, in 1940. The matchup of the two in-state schools, separated by only a two-and-a-half-hour drive, made for an electric atmosphere at UNC’s Kenan Stadium. The two teams gave the fans a great show as they combined for 65 points and 854 yards of offense, but in the end, it was Appalachian State walking away with a 34-31 win and bragging rights in the state.

With the announced crowd of 50,050 on the edge of their seats with anticipation, North Carolina’s Michael Carter shot out like a cannon on the opening kickoff, blazing all the way to the 21-yard line before being tripped up. When true freshman Sam Howell hit Dazz Newsome over the middle for a touchdown on the next play, it looked like North Carolina was going to be in early control of the momentum of the game.

Appalachian State looked to respond on their first drives of the game, but sacks and penalties forced the Mountaineers to settle for two Chandler Staton field goals. Enter the play of App State defensive end Demetrius Taylor. The junior sacked the UNC quarterback and forced a fumble, then picked up the fumble and scampered twenty yards to the house to give the Mountaineers their first lead of the day. Two drives later, Taylor tipped and then intercepted a UNC pass and returned it to the 26-yard line. Four plays later, Darrynton Evans scored the first of his two first-half touchdowns and the Mountaineers were in full control of the game.

Looking to find any momentum before the half, UNC head coach Mack Brown turned to his true freshman signal-caller, Sam Howell, to guide the Tar Heels down the field with a three-minute offense. Howell, in only his fourth collegiate game, led the UNC offense down the field, going 6-7 for 65 yards through the air and rushing for the other ten. Howell’s eleven-yard pass to Michael Carter with one second left in the half cut the App State lead to ten at the half.

When an App State punt was downed at the two-yard line in the third quarter, the Tar Heels put on what was perhaps their greatest offensive showing of the afternoon. Paced by the running of former Wallace-Rose Hill star Javonte Williams and Howell’s arm, the Heels put it in the end zone with an incredible one-handed catch by tight end Carl Tucker. Appalachian State responded quickly, though, with two long passes by Zac Thomas to get the Mountaineers inside the five and Darrynton Evans punching it in from three yards out to keep the lead at ten going into the final stanza.

The fourth quarter started out as a punt fest for both teams but got interesting late. When North Carolina got the ball with five minutes remaining and down ten points, things didn’t look promising for the home team. But, eight plays and eighty yards later, the Heels found themselves in the end zone and only facing a three-point deficit. All Appalachian State needed to do to secure the win would be to run out the final three minutes on the clock. They partially succeeded but were forced to punt the ball back to the Tar Heels, leaving them only thirty seconds and no timeouts. UNC drove into App State territory and was poised to tie the game with a long 56-yard field goal. After a timeout, the UNC kicker lined up for what would be the biggest kick of the early season, but the Mountaineers special teams was having none of it and blocked the field goal attempt.

The final score read 34-31 in favor of the visiting Mountaineers and rang in the era of Appalachian State being seen as an equal among its North Carolina college football FBS brethren.

North Carolina (2-2) faces defending national champion and ACC conference foe Clemson next week while Appalachian State (3-0) opens Sun Belt competition against Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers also took down a Power 5 program earlier this season, defeating Kansas on the road.

Notable North Carolinians
Akeem Davis-Gaither (Thomasville) the senior linebacker had one interception to go along with five solo tackles. Blocked what could have been the game-tying field goal.
Jordan Fehr (Providence) – the senior linebacker was all over the field for the Mountaineers, leading the team with fourteen tackles.
Sam Howell (Sun Valley) – the true freshman quarterback had his first three-touchdown performance in only his fourth collegiate start. He also ran for a score late.