Chase Brice and App State Roll Over ECU in Season Opener
The story of the Duke’s Mayo Classic was App State’s first-year quarterback who transferred from Duke University, Chase Brice. Brice was the biggest question mark on a loaded mountaineer roster after throwing just ten touchdowns to fifteen interceptions last year with the Blue Devils. Brice did not disappoint to open up the season though, tossing for 259 yards, two touchdowns, and one garbage-time interception completing twenty of his twenty-seven passes.
Brice looked very comfortable in the App State offense taking shots downfield early and often connecting with senior wideout Thomas Hennigan on two deep post bombs with one resulting in a score. The night did not start out great for the Mountaineers though. After both offenses were held to three-and-outs on their first possessions, ECU’s quarterback Holton Ahlers opened up the night with a screen pass to running back Keaton Mitchell who took it for sixty-three yards and a touchdown giving ECU the early lead.
However, on the next App State possession, Chase Brice answered with a thirty-four-yard bomb to Thomas Hennigan over the middle of the end zone for App State’s first points of the year. App State would then add to their lead on the next possession when running back Camerun Peoples ran from twenty-one yards out for his first score of the season taking a fourteen to six lead into the second quarter.
At this point, the App State defense had stifled ECU’s offense allowing zero points for the rest of the half after their opening touchdown. In contrast, the App State offense was rolling as they marched into the Pirates red zone on two straight possessions, but were unable to finish those drives coming away with only two field goals.
The first half ended on a somewhat controversial play as ECU attempted a hail mary on the final play of the half. The pass was tipped and bobbled between a pile of ECU and App State players. The pass was initially called a touchdown after an ECU player came out of the pile with the ball, but after further review was labeled an interception sending the game into halftime.
To start the second half ECU had a solid drive resulting in a thirty-eight-yard field goal to slightly cut into the App State lead. In response, Chase Brice threw a sixty-nine-yard deep post to Thomas Hennigan to set the App State offense up in the red zone. Fellow senior wideout Corey Sutton finished off the drive by making his defender miss on an out route and taking it in for an eighteen-yard score. The Mountaineers would then extend their lead even further at the start of the fourth quarter. Running back transfer from Miami Nate Noel had a big night with 126 yards on fifteen carries, the biggest of which coming on this drive when he ran for forty-six yards to get to ECU’s twelve yard line. Camerun Peoples would then finish off the drive with a twelve-yard run and touchdown for his second of the day.
At this point, the game was out of reach for the Pirates as App State held a thirty-three to nine advantage in the fourth quarter. Holton Ahlers would end up marching down the field on ECU’s two final possessions to make the final score a little more acceptable, ending with App State on top thirty-three to nineteen.
I have a few takeaways from this game for App State. Firstly, the offense was firing on all cylinders all night long. This ECU defense is nothing to write home about, but still seeing Chase Brice look as comfortable as he did in the App State offense on week one is a good sign. The App State running attack looked ferocious as well with the two-headed monster of Camerun Peoples and Nate Noel combining for 226 yards on thirty-six carries with two touchdowns, averaging six-point-three yards per carry. On the defensive end, the rushing defense did their job allowing only eighty-six total rushing yards, no rushing touchdowns, and only three-point-six yards per carry.
The only negative takeaways for App State would be their passing defense. Holton Ahlers carved up the App State secondary, throwing for 295 yards, two touchdowns, and averaged seven-point-two yards per attempt. And even though App State was the dominant team this game was a lot closer than it should’ve been. Two good second-quarter drives, that made it to the red zone, only ended with two field goals. The halftime hail mary, which could have easily been called a touchdown, would have made the game a little too close for comfort. To beat a team like Miami on the road next week, App State is going to have to bring all the same positives from this game to that one while cutting out all the mistakes. The Mountaineers will undoubtedly be an underdog against the Hurricanes next week but if we can get a similar performance from Chase Brice in week two, App State might just put the college football world on notice.