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Not-so-special teams hold the 49ers back, falling 56-41 to Appalachian State

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An in-state rivalry renewed, for the last time until 2026.

Darrynton Evans taking the first play to Mountaineer pay-dirt.
Photographic images by Craig Weston for Blowing Rock News

An unexpected offensive showcase totaling 991 combined yards electrified the crowd at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Darrynton Evans ran for 234 yards and 3 scores for the Mountaineers, proving to be too much for the 49ers as they escaped with a 56-41 victory.

Charlotte’s special teams unit has a ton of work to do. Two weeks in a row they have given up a return touchdown, this week coming at the untimeliest moment in the game. Trailing 49-41 with under three minutes to play, Charlotte attempted an onside kick; Jackson Van Sickles kick bounced directly into the arms of Darrynton Evans, who took it to the house for six sealing the Mountaineer victory.

The Mountaineers wasted no time lighting up the scoreboard as Evans took the first play from scrimmage 87 yards for an Appalachian touchdown. The big play killed both defensive units, with a combined five plays of 50+ yards on the day.

Benny LeMay struck 49er pay-dirt from four yards out, but a missed extra point kept the Mountaineers in front 7-6. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on 3rd and 13 kept the ensuing App State drive alive, eventually leading to a 5-yard Thomas Hennigan touchdown from the arm of Zac Thomas.

Alex Highsmith and Jeff Gemmell had big games for the 49ers defense. Highsmith finished with 4 tackles and 2 sacks, while Gemmell had a team-high 9 tackles.

Charlotte’s offensive line created a monstrous hole and Benny LeMay darted through it for a 57-yard score to pull the 49ers within one. With the defense standing tall, the 49ers had the ball with a chance to take the lead for the first time all day. The 49ers drive stalled in enemy territory after failing to convert on fourth and two, but the Mountaineers failed to capitalize following a missed 32-yard field goal attempt.

The final two minutes of the first half are what will keep these 49ers players and coaches up at night. With a chance to take the lead, as well as receiving the ball after the half, momentum was swinging in the 49ers favor. Junior DE Demetrius Taylor came untouched to sack Reynolds, forcing a fumble recovered by the Mountaineers inside the 49ers 10-yard line.

Zac Thomas found Jalen Virgil for his first of two scores on the ensuing play, capitalizing on Charlotte’s turnover. Appalachian State utilized their timeouts on defense, stopping the clock and forcing a three-and-out with just over a minute to play. The Mountaineers blocked the 49ers punt and following the scramble for the ball D’Marco Jackson scooped and scored, extending the App State lead to 28-13 heading to the half.

Charlotte responded immediately with a 6 play 75-yard touchdown drive to start the second half. Reynolds did it all on the possession, scrambling for 36 yards and finding Cameron Dollar for a 24-yard score on successive plays, cutting the Mountaineer lead to 28-20.

Cameron Dollar snagging a Chris Reynolds pass
Photographic images by Craig Weston for Blowing Rock News

Charlotte’s defense couldn’t secure the stops they needed, and Appalachian State continued to capitalize on the defensive miscues. “We shot ourselves in the foot way too many times.” Senior LB Jeff Gemmell said postgame. “They only have a few run plays, but they show a ton of different looks with various formations, and you really have to master the play call on defense, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

After taking a 42-20 lead in the third quarter, the Mountaineers let Charlotte hang around and stay within striking distance. Ishod Finger busted through the Ted Roof-led defense for a 75-yard run to the Mountaineers 5 yard-line. Benny LeMay capped off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown catch from Reynolds, cutting the deficit to 14 following the successful 2pt. conversion with one minute to play in the third quarter.

After forcing a three and out, the 49ers offense kicked into another gear. In less than 5 minutes the 49ers went 8 plays for 85 yards, finished off with Reynolds finding Victor Tucker on a jump-ball in the corner of the endzone. Charlotte’s 2pt. attempt failed, keeping the score 42-34 with under nine minutes to play.

Photographic images by Craig Weston for Blowing Rock News

The 49ers defense needed a stop to get the ball back in the hands of the red-hot offense, but the Mountaineers had other plans. On 3rd and 3, Darrynton Evans took off up the Appalachian State sideline for a 68-yard touchdown scamper, yet again extending the Appalachian lead to two scores.

Neither defense performed to the level they are capable of, but mental mistakes and special team’s execution stripped the 49ers chance of upsetting in-state rival Appalachian State.


After the action

“This is not a moral victory” Coach Healy said after the loss. “Just competing with Appalachian State is not where we want to be. We’re not going to be everybody’s homecoming game anymore. We’re not going to be a 24-point underdog to another G of 5 team anymore.”

“There’s a new culture around here,” Chris Reynolds said. “We want to go to bowl games, we want to win championships.” Reynolds shined in the loss, totaling 296 yards through the air for 4 touchdowns and one interception, along with 42 yards on the ground.


Notes

  • Ben DeLuca suffered a shoulder injury making an open-field tackle, did not return for the 49ers
  • Mountaineer QB Zac Thomas finished 14 for 20 for 182 yards and three touchdown passes.
  • Benny LeMay’s 3 TD’s on the day move him into third-all time in program history
  • LeMay bounced back from his 35-yard performance against App. in 2018 in a big way, carrying the rock 14 times for 118 yards and two touchdowns.
  • Freshman wideout Micaleous Elder snagged a team high 7 balls for 119 yards.
  • Victor Tucker responded to his one catch performance in week one with 6 catches for 90 yards and 2 touchdowns
  • 24 flags were thrown on the day. 11 on Charlotte for 80 yards, and 13 on App State for 148 yards.

Player of the game

Darrynton Evans – Evans was electric all afternoon, finding the endzone three times and rushing for a new career-high of 234 yards. The 87-yard touchdown on the first play got him rolling, and he didn’t slow down.


What’s next

Appalachian State (2-0) has a bye week before heading to Chapel Hill to take on the 2-0 North Carolina Tar Heels on September 14th.

Charlotte (1-1) heads back to the Queen City looking to bounce back as they take on UMASS (0-2), Saturday, September 7th and 6 PM.