CONWAY, SC — Coastal Carolina leads the Sun Belt’s East Division as the only team with a conference loss.
App State is among a big group of East teams going 2-2 in league play, but the Mountaineers haven’t lost to a division opponent eligible to appear in the Sun Belt Conference title game.
Needless to say, the App State-Coastal game being played Thursday night on ESPN is a big game.
Despite a 2-1 start in the Sun Belt game with losses to FBS freshman James Madison (who doesn’t qualify for the postseason game) and West Division opponent Texas State, App State controls (5-3, 2-2). 2) his ability to represent the East in the league’s championship game. The formula for success knows no shortcuts, beginning with the immediate need to beat the top-ranked Chanticleers (7-1, 4-1).
An App State win at Brooks Stadium in Conway, SC would give any East team at least two conference losses and give the Mountaineers a potentially important neck-and-neck tiebreak over Coastal. All four of App State’s games in November are against postseason-able East Division teams.
“Our kids are locked in and focused,” says the App State head coach Shawn Clark said. “You know it’s going to be a big football game. We can sit here and say it’s not the next game, but it’s a big football game and there’s a big game in the Sunbelt every week. That’s something we’re seeing forward.”
The Mountaineers lead 4-1 in Sun Belt matchups against Coastal Carolina, who were 23-21 down in their 2020 home win over App State with less than three minutes left. Last year, App State overcame an early 14-0 deficit and scored a tied field goal after time was up to earn a 30-27 win that played a key role in propelling the Mountaineers into the Sun Belt for a third time since Title game could appear its inception in 2018. Coastal is the only other team to win the East Division, but the 2020 title game was not contested.
After a 63-61 loss earlier in the season, App State’s defense rebounded, although stats from that game contributed to those totals, ranking in the top 20 nationally in forced fumbles (level 2 with 13), passing yards allowed per game (No. 15 at 179.4) and total yards allowed per game (No. 17 at 308.5).
Coastal Carolina lost some high-profile players as of 2021, but the Chanticleers still own a standout quarterback in Grayson McCall, who has 73 career touchdown passes and just seven interceptions. With 257.6 yards per game in 2022, he has thrown 19 touchdown passes and a single interception while completing 68.8 percent of his attempts.
On the ground, CJ Beasley and Reese White both average more than 65 rushing yards per game. Georgia State transfer Sam Pinckney leads the team with 45 catches for 628 yards, and speedy redshirt freshman Jared Brown already has five touchdown receptions from 50+ yards in eight games.
“[McCall]is really leading this offense,” Clark said. “You will run the (shotgun) triple (option), but he’s also a great thrower. He doesn’t get enough credit for throwing the ball down and stretching the field vertically. He’s coming on his second and third advances and has really evolved as a quarterback in the passing game.”
Coastal used an opportunistic defense to rank second nationally in fumble recoveries (11), fifth nationally in forced turnovers (19), and sixth nationally in turnover margin (up-10 overall, or up-1.25 per game). to reach. “Bandit” Josaiah Stewart presents troubles as Sun Belt’s preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Jerrod Clark anchors the line as a 6-foot-4, 340-pound nose tackle.
App State’s offense has started slowly in its last three games, leading to seven first-quarter points overall in this 2-1 stretch, and that’s a recipe for trouble against a Coastal team that has been embarking on its opponents in the first quarter 80-topped 34 this season.
The Chanticleers were outplayed in the second and third quarters, but a 79-55 lead in the fourth quarter helped them finish games well as they covered deficits in the fourth quarter with wins over Buffalo (38-26) and Georgia Southern ( 34-30). Coastal also have close wins against players like Gardner-Webb (31-27) and ULM (28-21).
The climbers return to the place of running back Peoples of Cameroon two most productive games to date. He rushed for 171 yards in the first half and finished 2020 with 178 on a career-high 27 carries at Coastal Carolina and then set a school record 317 rushing yards at Brooks Stadium during the 2020 Myrtle Beach Bowl win over North Texas.
Peoples had a quiet afternoon against Robert Morris last weekend, however Nate Noels 157 yards on 20 carries in the last two games has allowed fans to see the kind of burst that had been missing since a 116-yard debut against North Carolina.
“We know the schedule and we know that tough games are on the agenda,” said Clark. “This week is about playing clean football, maintaining some drives on offense and really being able to step up to the football on defense to get them off their mark.”