Saturday, September 16, 2023

App State Outlasts ECU, 43-28


BOONE – It had been forty-four years since the East Carolina Pirates had made the trip to Kidd Brewer Stadium to take on the App State Mountaineers. After agreeing to a four-game series that featured one neutral site game in Charlotte and two trips to Greenville in upcoming seasons, Mountaineers and Pirates fans had circled today on their calendar as the matchup to look forward to for the 2023 football season. They game on the field lived up to the hype off of it as App State held off East Carolina 43-28 in front of a raucous crowd of 40,168, the largest in Kidd Brewer Stadium history.

East Carolina started with a strong nine-play, seventy-five-yard drive to open the game. After methodically moving the chains, junior running back Rahjai Harris punched it in from six yards out to give the visiting Pirates an early 7-0 lead. App State came out swinging when they received the ball for the first time. On the second play from scrimmage, Nate Noel burst like a rocket through the line and raced down the home sideline for a sixty-eight-yard score. The App State defense stepped up on the next drive as Nick Ross picked off a Pirate pass and returned the ball to the Mountaineers offense. App State took the lead on a thirty-six-yard Michael Hughes field goal, a lead the home took into the second quarter.

After pinning the Mountaineers deep in their own territory after a tremendous special teams effort to down a punt inside the one-yard-line, the Pirates’ Antoine Jackson stepped in front of an App State pass and walked nine yards to the end zone for the pick-six. After trading punts throughout the middle of the quarter, the Pirates found momentum on offense, mounting an eleven-play drive culminating with Rahjai Harris’s second rushing score of the day. Just like the opening drives of the game, App State responded to another long ECU drive with an explosive play. Milan Tucker took the kickoff and returned it into ECU territory, aided by a facemask penalty. Four plays later, Kanye Roberts burst through for an eighteen-yard rushing touchdown to make it a five-point game going into the half.

Starting the second half, the App State wanted to come out and make a statement and did so with Kaedin Robinson’s thirty-four-yard scoring reception from Joey Aguilar. Aguilar threw another long touchdown to Milan Tucker later in the third quarter. The Mountaineers offense was also responsible for ECU’s third-quarter scoring, however as a fumble was picked up by the Pirates defensive back Shavon Revel. The former Reagan High and Louisburg standout raced fifty-seven yards for the Pirates’ second defensive touchdown on the afternoon. The App State defense stepped up as well as Omar Philyaw’s interception set up the Mountaineers just inside the red zone late in the quarter. Joey Aguilar put an exclamation point on the short drive six plays later, scoring on a keeper around the right side to give the Mountaineers a 36-28 lead going into the final stanza.

A light rain started to fall as the fourth quarter began but it was a happy rain for the Mountaineer faithful in attendance when Joey Aguilar hit tight end David Larkins to make it a two-score lead for the home team. A late attempt by East Carolina to get back in the game fell incomplete as a fourth-down pass sailed out of bounds. The App State offense then ran out the clock and celebrated a 43-28 win. 

Next Week

App State is on the road next week facing a tough Wyoming squad while East Carolina hosts in-state FCS foe Gardner-Webb.