1000 x 90

Tar Heels outlast Mountaineers, 63-61

DAVID ROGERS FOR HIGHCOUNTRYSPORTS.NET – BOONE, N.C. — Let it be known that Appalachian State and North Carolina were not playing basketball on this picture perfect, early autumn weekend, even if a 63-61 score in favor of the Tar Heels suggested it. No, they were playing football on Sept. 3, a brilliant Saturday afternoon — and many in attendance at Kidd Brewer Stadium left at the end believing they had just witnessed the greatest show on turf.

Even the folks who paid $700 to “scalpers” the day before arguably got their money’s worth, along with the rest of the 40,168 fans making up the record crowd. And then there were the other onlookers atop every vantage point behind the fences and walls, wishing they had gotten a ticket even for the grassy knoll below the scoreboard. Estimated to be as many as 10,000, even they got a bonus’ worth of excitement for their efforts.

That is, unless you valued defense. Sure, there were moments on the “D” side of the ball for both sides, but when the winning team rolls up 567 yards of total offense only to have the losing team one-up them with 664 yards, a grand total of 1,231 yards, you have to figure this game was thrill-a-minute, offensively.

Tight end Miller Gibbs dives for a fourth quarter App State TD. Photo by David Rogers

And it was. There were momentum shifts and comeback rallies aplenty, including a final 31 seconds for the ages.

App State led by 21-7 with barely 45 seconds gone in the second quarter. The Tar Heels rallied back, reeling off three consecutive TDs (along with defensive stops) to take a 28-21 lead as they were heading into the locker room at halftime (the last TD of the half came with one second on the clock). Then, in the third quarter, the visitors from Chapel Hill added another touchdown and two field goals to seemingly put the Mountaineers on their heels (to coin a phrase), 41-21, the last FG coming off the foot of placekicker Noah Burnette from 44 yards out with just 11 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

And then there was the fourth quarter. It was an entire football game unto itself — and the Mountaineers got to start with a 20-point handicap. App State scored not one, not two, not three, but SIX touchdowns in the final period alone. And the Tar Heels tallied three of their own. In fact, three TDs (two by APP and one by UNC) came in the final 31 seconds.

After the Mountaineers’ Camerun Peoples scored on a 38-yard TD scamper around the left side and placekicker Mike Hughes was good on the PAT to tie the score at 49-49, with just four minutes remaining, many along the sidelines and in the grandstands started thinking, “overtime.”

Mountaineer running back Nate Noel escapes a tackler for a big gain in the second half. Photo by David Rogers

But in front of a re-energized record-setting crowd, App State was smelling the proverbial “blood.” On 3rd-and-9 from the Mountaineers’ 42-yard line, UNC’s redshirt freshman QB Drake Maye spotted junior running back D.J. Jones releasing into open space on the right side as the Mountaineers sent everything but the kitchen sink and two defensive backs on an all-out blitz. His wide receivers lured the two DBs toward either sideline, so Jones found nothing but daylight between him and the goal line upon catching the ball at the 36-yardline. Neither of the defensive backs could recover fast enough to catch him and the visitors were back in front, 56-49, following a successful PAT kick.

Armchair quarterbacks all over the stadium were asking themselves, “What more can the Mountaineers do?”

It turns out there was plenty in the hands of the Mountaineer QB, Chase Brice.

Taking command at his own 25, Brice & Co. ripped of chunks of gridiron real estate through the air and on the ground in a 10-play drive that was complete when the veteran QB found wide receiver Deshaun Davis for a 28-yard TD aerial with just 31 seconds to go, pulling the Mountaineers to within a single point, 56-55. The App State braintrust faced a critical deicision: kick the PAT and likely send the game into overtime with a tie. Go for the 2-point conversion, and win if successful.

“At Appalachian State, we come here to win football games,” said an emotional App State head coach Shawn Clark when asked about the decision to go for the first 2-point conversion with 31 seconds remaining, that was ultimately unsuccessful.

“We aren’t playing for ties,” added Clark. “We aren’t playing for overtime. When we were down 14, I said we were going to score, get the ball back, score again, and go for two… It was a great play call. You can say it was a bad throw or it’s a bad catch, but it is on the head coach for going for two. I made my mind up early that we were going for two, for the win. You don’t go for second place at Appalachian State.”

Ironically, that decision was far from the end of it, even with only 31 seconds remaining in regulation. As anticipated by just about everyone in the stadium, the Mountaineers attempted to quickly get the ball back with an onside kick. Had Chapel Hill smothered it, the Tar Heels could have simply run out the clock and secure a 56-55 victory.

Wide receiver Kaedin Robinson hauls in the late TD pass that pulled the Mountaineers to within two points, 63-61. Unfortunately for App State, the 2-point conversion attempt to tie with 9 seconds left in the game was stopped just inches short. Photo by David Rogers

It may seem incongruous, but if App State’s onside kick was going to be unsuccessful in recovering possession of the football, the next best outcome was what happened: UNC’s sophomore tight end Bryson Nesbit fielded the ball cleanly along the sideline, taking it in stride and sprinting untouched for another Tar Heel TD. But that gave the ball back to App State with just under 28 seconds remaining on the clock. An unsportsmanlike penalty against UNC put their kickoff back at the 20-yard-line instead of the 35, making a return attempt all the more probable.

APP’s kick return specialist, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Milan Tucker did his job, with a 47-yard return that put the ball past midfield, on the UNC48, and that was where the Mountaineer offense would take over for a desperation drive with just 19 seconds left on the clock.

No problem, said the Mountaineers’ veteran QB, Brice. On consecutive no-huddle plays from the shotgun formation, Brice hit a big, speedy target: 6-2, 210 lb., Asheville native and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Kaedin Robinson for a 22-yard gain, then again for the remaining 26 yards across the middle for yet another fourth quarter TD. It pulled the Mountaineers to within two points, 63-61, so with only 9 seconds on the clock the only decision to make was to go for another 2-point conversion, for the tie. Brice faked a handoff to Peoples, sprinted right and cut hard toward the goal line, but was stopped just inches short of the goal line by UNC junior defensemen Noah Taylor and Kalmon Rucker.

Another App State onside kick attempt this time was smothered by the Tar Heels and Maye had only to kneel down with 8 seconds remaining to preserve the visitors’ win.

App State WR Deshaun Davis grabs a pass from QB Chase Brice for a 20-yard gain in the 4th quarter of the Sept. 3 game against in-state rival, North Carolina. Photo by David Rogers

Although disappointed by the nail biter loss, Clark understood the significance of what the game meant beyond the X’s and O’s in his opening statement to the press.

“I want to say thank you to App Nation — what an incredible atmosphere we had out there today with 40,000 fans to set an all-time attendance record,” said Clark. “A great football game. A great football game. Why we don’t play these in-state football games every single year blows my mind, but I’m very proud of our football team to score 61 points and (produce) 664 yards of total offense. Our guys never quit, (even) being down 20 in the fourth quarter. We’re going to have a helluva football team. We’ll get some things fixed on defense. We have to, to give us a chance to win. Our goal was to win the opener today, but that didn’t happen. Our next goal is the Sun Belt Conference championship.

“We’ll go to Texas A&M next week. Our guys are hurt and we are disappointed, but not discouraged. The future is bright at Appalachian State.”

UNC wide receiver Gavin Blackwell shrugs off two Mountaineer defenders in the second half for a large gain. Photo by David Rogers

With the win, North Carolina is 2-0 on the young season while App State begins its 2022 campaign at 0-1. Mere inches separated these two teams from different early season records.

Key Game Notes

  • The App State running back room joined Brice to collectively produce 288 yards rushing on the ground against a Power 5 defensive line that Clark described as an outstanding unit, “… filled with five-star recruits.” Led by Nate Noel’s116 yards on 14 carries (2 TDs) and Peoples’ 65 yards on 13 carries (1 TD), all six RBs contributed.
  • Watauga native Anderson Castle, a sophomore RB, had a key role at a critical juncture in the first quarter to extend a drive that would ultimately give the Mountaineers a 21-7 lead early in the second quarter. On 3rd-and-1 from the wildcat formation, the former Watauga HS quarterback gained 2 tough yards to get a first down near midfield.
  • The attendance of 40,168 exceeded the previous record of 35,126 when Wake Forest came to Kidd Brewer Stadium, also setting a Sun Belt Conference attendance record.
  • According to ESPN’s Adam Rittenburg, the Mountaineers are the first team in 15 years to score 40 points in the fourth quarter and the 62 points combined (with UNC’s) in Q4 is one shy of the FBS record.
  • According to a report by CBS Sports before the game, Caesars Sportsbook had the over/under for combined total points set at 56 points. BOTH teams exceeded that total, combining for a remarkable 124 points.
  • According to App State’s sports information team, the 124 combined points is the most in the school’s history and the first time two teams both scored 60+ points since 2019 (UCLA-Washington State).
  • App State’s 61 points were the most ever in a losing effort, according to the school’s sports information team.
  • According to ESPN Stats & Info, App State’s 61 points are tied for 6th-most in a regulation loss since 1936 (the AP poll era)
  • App State’s last six games against Power 5 teams have all been decided by seven points or less, including two wins (@ North Carolina and @ South Carolina in 2019) and four losses (vs. UNC, @ Miami, @ Penn State, and vs. Wake Forest)


QtrTimeScoring PlayV-H
1st11:36APP – Noel, Nate 52 yd TD RUSH 8-75 03:240-7
1st08:21UNC – Jones, J.J. 23 yd TD PASS from Maye,Drake 8-75 03:157-7
1st06:35APP – Pearson, Henry 22 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 5-75 01:467-14
2nd14:18APP – Wells, Christian 2 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 11-65 00:427-21
2nd09:30UNC – Paysour, Kobe 14 yd TD PASS from Maye,Drake 10-75 04:4814-21
2nd04:08UNC – Pettaway, George 21 yd TD RUSH 7-66 03:0521-21
2nd00:01UNC – Nesbit, Bryson 10 yd TD PASS from Maye,Drake 9-72 01:4328-21
3rd11:55UNC – Maye, Drake 12 yd TD RUSH 8-75 03:0535-21
3rd02:21UNC – Burnette,Noah 47 yd FG 8-34 03:0838-21
3rd00:11UNC – Burnette,Noah 44 yd FG 4-2 01:4941-21
4th12:10APP – Noel,Nate 1 yd TD RUSH 8-71 02:5041-28
4th10:37APP – Gibbs,Miller 13 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 3-28 01:3341-35
4th09:25UNC – Hampton,Omarion 2 yd TD RUSH 3-75 01:1249-35
4th07:20APP – Horn,Christan 46 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 7-77 02:0149-42
4th04:00APP – Peoples,Camerun 38 yd TD RUSH 3-64 00:4649-49
4th02:50UNC – Jones,D.J. 42 yd TD PASS from Maye,Drake 5-75 01:1056-49
4th00:31APP – Davis,Dashaun 28 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 8-75 02:1956-55
4th00:28UNC – Nesbit,Bryson 43 yd TD KO63-55
4th00:09APP – Robinson,Kaedin 26 yd TD PASS from Brice,Chase 2-48 00:1063-61


First Downs3037
Rushes-Yards (Net)35-21543-288
Passing Yards (Net)352376
Passes Att-Comp-Int36-24-037-25-1
Fumble Returns-Yards0-01-0
Punt Returns-Yards0-02-25
Kickoff Returns-Yards2-453-89
Interception Returns-Yards1-130-0
Punts (Number-Avg)2-46.02-38.0
Possession Time27:5727:18
Third-Down Conversions9-146-12
Fourth-Down Conversions1-11-2
Red-Zone Scores-Chances4-43-3


North Carolina

Punt ReturnsNo.YardsTDLong
Kick ReturnsNo.YardsTDLong
Gray, Cedric6-71300
Biggers, Giovanni4-61000
Kelly, Cam’Ron2-4600

App State

Noel, Nate1411601162528.3
Peoples, Camerun13661651385
Harrington, Daetrich5480480199.6
Brice, Chase25-37-13766461
Davis, Dashaun6721288
Pearson, Henry4461225
Horn, Christan3741467
Robinson, Kaedin2481265
Howell, Clayton138383800
Punt ReturnsNo.YardsTDLong
Kick ReturnsNo.YardsTDLong

Statistics provided by StatBroadcast