CONWAY, S.C. — Appalachian State made a business trip to the beach and became bowl eligible.
Behind a dominant defensive performance and a strong rushing game, the Mountaineers picked up their sixth win of the season with a 23-7 victory at Coastal Carolina on Saturday night. Bowl eligible for the fourth straight year, App State is the only FBS program with a bowl win in each of its first three seasons after the complete transition.
Darrynton Evans’ 26-yard touchdown run and first-time starter Jacob Huesman’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Corey Sutton gave the Mountaineers (6-2, 4-1 Sun Belt) a 14-7 halftime lead against the Chanticleers (5-4, 2-3). Coastal was still trailing by seven points when it took over at its 1-yard line following a fourth-and-goal stop early in the final quarter, but safety Desmond Franklin and inside linebacker Jordan Fehr led the way on a game-changing safety by App State’s defense.
The end-zone tackle by Fehr, Anthony Flory and several other defenders made it a two-possession game, and Appalachian moved ahead 23-7 when Marcus Williams Jr. capped a three-play drive after the free kick with a 4-yard touchdown run.
Fehr also had three sacks and Josh Thomas intercepted a pass for an App State defense that limited Coastal Carolina to 178 total yards, including 72 on the ground, or 179.6 yards below an average that ranked ninth nationally. Offensively, Evans had 159 rushing yards on 27 carries and Williams added 103 yards on 19 attempts as the Mountaineers totaled 278 yards on the ground.
Appalachian, which is one game out of first place in the Sun Belt’s East Division, returns to action next weekend at Texas State (3-6, 1-4).
Huesman completed 9 of 19 passes for 127 yards while starting in relief of an injured Zac Thomas, and App State’s defense limited Coastal Carolina to 31 yards on its first 19 offensive plays. The Chanticleers didn’t pick up a first down until less than five minutes remained in the opening half, and Franklin downed two punts at the 1-yard line.
Clayton Howell and Xavier Subotsch delivered those punts, and Appalachian maintained a 14-7 lead when Tae Hayes made another big special teams play by tipping a 50-yard field goal early in the third quarter. It was his second blocked field goal of the season and the Mountaineers’ fifth blocked kick this year.