Appalachian State grabbed the upper hand in a budding rivalry against Charlotte on Saturday, pounding the 49ers 45-9 at Richardson Stadium.
The Mountaineers (1-1) rode a brutally efficient performance by sophomore quarterback Zac Thomas, who completed 14-of-14 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Two of them went to sophomore Corey Sutton, a former Mallard Creek High star.
The Mountaineers broke the game open in the second half on three big plays - a 59-yard punt return for a touchdown by Thomas Hennigan, a 90-yard touchdown catch-and-run from Thomas to Sutton and fumble recovery in the end zone by Austin Exford.
“Three goofy plays, three plays right there, kind of shot us,” said 49ers coach Brad Lambert.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The 49ers (1-1) managed just three field goals by freshman Jonathan Cruz against a Mountaineers defense that allowed 203 yards.
Appalachian’s offense, in the meantime, rolled up 434 yards. Charlotte held Mountaineers tailback Jalin Moore to 38 yards on 11 carries. That came a week after Moore rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown in a season-opening loss against Penn State.
“They took away our running game early so we had to go a little bit more with the passing game,” Mountaineers coach Scott Satterfield said.
The game, the first between theschools, was played before a Richardson Stadium record crowd of 19,151, with a good portion of the fans wearing Appalachian State gold and black.
Appalachian, which lost its season opener 45-38 in overtime to Penn State last week, led 10-0 after one quarter. The 49ers had their best chance to put pressure on the Mountaineers early in the second quarter when they got to the Appalachian 7 after a 16-yard run by tailback Benny LeMay.
But two penalties pushed the ball back to the 22 and the 49ers eventually had to settle for a 46-yard field by goal by Cruz.
Charlotte, which wore down in the second half, finished with nine penalties for 80 yards.
▪ Referee Stephen LaMantia committed a cardinal sin during the first half when it sounded as if he referred to the Mountaineers as Appuh-lay-chian State. That mispronunciation drew lots of boos and jeers from Mountaineers fans.
▪ The 49ers went with two quarterbacks for most of the first half, with starter Chris Reynolds giving way to backup Hasaan Klugh for several snaps. Klugh, last season’s starter and a dangerous runner, gave the Mountaineers defense a different look.
▪ 49ers backup quarterback Evan Shirreffs didn’t dress for the game. Lambert said Shirreffs out with an injury that Lambert didn’t disclose.
▪ Mistakes hurt Charlotte in the first half. On Appalachian’s first drive, 49ers safety Ben DeLuca was whistled for a late hit on Jalin Moore after Moore had already picked up 19 yards. Later in the half, freshman Alex Duncan was called for unsportsmanlike conduct during a kickoff that Cruz had sent into the end zone for a touchback.
▪ The 49ers stacked the box in the first half, holding Moore to 32 yards on 10 carries. That opened things up in the secondary, though. Appalachian’s Thomas completed all 10 of his passes in the first half for 177 yards and two touchdowns.
▪ Cruz’s three first-half field goals included a 54-yarder, second longest in program history. Blake Brewer kicked a 56-yarder against Florida International in 2015.
▪ Charlotte had more time of possession in the first half (16:56 to 13:04), but had fewer yards (250-104) and points (24-9) than the Mountaineers.
▪ The 49ers caught a break in the fourth quarter when Mountaineers safety Desmond Franklin fumbled going into the end zone after intercepting a pass. The play was ruled a touchback.
They said it
“This is a great game because of the atmosphere. A big crowd, albeit there were a lot of Appalachian State fans, which we love, obviously.” -- Satterfield.
“We’ve got to eliminate those plays and then find a way offensively to run the ball and get it into the end zone.” -- Lambert, on three Appalachian scoring plays in the second half.
“That was one of a kind. You sign up to come to Charlotte for those opportunities. That’s the foundation you’re building.” -- DeLuca, on the record crowd.
“I didn’t think he was that fast. I looked up (at the scoreboard video) and he was taking off.” -- Thomas, on Sutton’s 90-yard touchdown reception.
Charlotte opens Conference USA play next Saturday against Old Dominion; Appalachian plays its first home game of the season against C-USA’s Southern Mississippi.
Appalachian St. 45, Charlotte 9
APP—FG Staton 31, 10:25.
APP—Thomas 5 run (Staton kick), 1:03.
CHA—FG Cruz 46, 9:05.
APP—Sutton 27 pass from Thomas (Staton kick), 6:46.
CHA—FG Cruz 54, 1:37.
APP—Heath 7 pass from Thomas (Staton kick), 0:43.
CHA—FG Cruz 48, 0:08.
APP—Hennigan 59 punt return (Staton kick), 6:01.
APP—Sutton 90 pass from Thomas (Staton kick), 14:45.
APP—Exford 0 fumble return (Staton kick), 9:28.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Appalachian St., Moore 11-38, Mar.Williams 4-31, Z.Thomas 8-29, D.Evans 6-24, Derrick 1-11, Hicks 5-6. Charlotte, LeMay 7-35, McAllister 7-30, Klugh 10-23, Camp 6-13, McGaugh 3-3, Bent 1-1, Dollar 1-(minus 2), Reynolds 8-(minus 8).
PASSING—Appalachian St., Z.Thomas 14-14-0-295, Huesman 1-1-0-0. Charlotte, Reynolds 12-22-1-108, Klugh 0-2-0-0, (Team) 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING—Appalachian St., Sutton 3-155, Mal.Williams 3-51, Pearson 3-50, Hennigan 2-18, Virgil 1-11, Heath 1-7, D.Evans 1-3, Hicks 1-0. Charlotte, V.Tucker 4-33, LeMay 3-26, Kofa 2-35, Quattlebaum 2-1, McAllister 1-13.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.