BOONE, N.C. — An unofficial homecoming for several Appalachian State players occurs a week before the 2018 home opener.
App State hits the road again this weekend, as the Mountaineers (0-1) will play at Charlotte (1-0) on Saturday at 6 p.m. in a sold-out Richardson Stadium. The first football meeting between two in-state, FBS schools separated by less than two hours, with a pair of sixth-year head coaches in Scott Satterfield and Brad Lambert, will be shown on ESPN+.
The Charlotte metro region represents the largest alumni base for Appalachian State, and App State’s roster includes 12 players who attended a high school in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County or a county adjacent to Mecklenburg. That list doesn’t even include standouts such as Salisbury’s MyQuon Stout or Shelby’s Jalin Moore, who grew up less than an hour from Charlotte.
“It’s a sold-out game, so I’m expecting it to be everything everybody expects it to be with the energy being crazy,” Moore said. “It’s two North Carolina teams going against each other, and a lot of people love seeing that.”
Mecklenburg County high schools produced three opening-game starters for App State: cornerback Clifton Duck (Butler), receiver Corey Sutton (Mallard Creek) and inside linebacker Jordan Fehr (Providence). Duck played solid coverage while amassing seven tackles in an overtime loss at Penn State, Fehr posted eight tackles in his first career start and Sutton had a team-high six catches for 87 yards in his first college game.
The Mountaineers and 49ers will have players who were teammates and friends in high school, as Duck played at Butler for four years with Charlotte running back Benny LeMay, who had a 58-yard run and 71-yard reception on his way to gaining 218 all-purpose yards last weekend in a 34-10 victory against FCS Fordham. Led by free safety Ben DuLuca, who ranked first nationally with five forced fumbles in 2017, the 49ers defense ended Week 1 of the 2018 season as the national co-leader in rushing defense at minus-9 yards allowed. Four sacks contributed to that number for Charlotte, which began playing official games in 2013 and made its FBS debut two years later.
“I think they have two really good defensive ends that are good pass rushers — that’s probably their strength,” Satterfield said. “The defensive backs can run and break on the ball, as well. We have to try to find formations to get into where we can establish the run. We all know we want to get that going and then find some easy throws for Zac (Thomas).”
App State had more success in the passing game than the running game at Penn State before both components clicked in the fourth quarter. Moore rushed for 88 yards, giving him a career total of 3,258 that ranks second among active FBS backs, and Thomas had two runs of at least 15 yards. Slot receiver Dominique Heath added a 19-yard carry, and Darrynton Evans’ two overtime carries included a fourth-down conversion.
Defensively, the Mountaineers limited Trace McSorley to 229 passing yards, but App State wasn’t able to force a turnover against the Nittany Lions.
“We have to do a good job of confusing the quarterback into throwing into coverage so we can get some of those picks,” Satterfield said. “When you go in and play physical, hopefully you’ll knock a ball loose. Somewhere along the line, we have to win that turnover battle.”