Boone, North Carolina population: 19,965
Kidd Brewer Stadium 10/20 attendance: 31,061
Not a math major, so how does this happen? Especially since Boone is only the 49th largest city in the state. The answer: Appalachian State football. Even on a Wednesday night, scores of people from outside the city limits descended on Kidd Brewer Stadium to see their beloved Mountaineers in action.
Though App State fans consistently pack ‘The Rock’, they knew this was no ordinary game. Their opponent was the #14 ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. CCU, in many ways, has become the media darlings of college football and has often been referred to as ‘America’s Team’. A brash group from Conway, South Carolina who rose to prominence so quickly that it did not sit well with the more ‘established’ fan bases in the Sun Belt Conference.
To add fuel to the fire, Coastal defeated the Mountaineers in 2020 for the first time in their 7 game history. CCU’s 34-23 win in Conway propelled them to become champions of the Sunbelt East, a title App held in both 2018 & 2019. The stage was set at the ‘Field of Dreams’ (my nickname for Kidd Brewer) for the ultimate fan experience: A revenge game.
The enthusiasm exuded by the record crowd was quickly diminished when Coastal Carolina proceeded to dominate the first quarter of play. RB Shermari Jones capped a 10 play, 72-yard drive with a one-yard TD run to put CCU up 7-0. Then QB Grayson McCall connected with WR Kameron Brown on a long 74-yard touchdown. End of 1st quarter: Coastal Carolina 14, Appalachian State 0.
Even the most confident Mountaineer fan HAD to have some doubt creep in at this point. CCU averaged 48.3 points per game in their 6 contests and just controlled all aspects of the initial 15 minutes. Coastal took the 2020 match-up of course. Plus they already had 2 losses in 2021, including a 41-13 thrashing at the hands of rival Louisiana the previous week in Lafayette.
Whether there was actual doubt or just perceived doubt by this neutral fan, it never materialized on the field. Appalachian State spent the next 3 quarters controlling the game on both sides of the ball, all while 31,000 of their closest friends cheered them on.
The Mountaineers both opened up the offense and tightened the screws on defense. QB Chase Brice consistently hit receivers behind the CCU secondary for big chunk yardage. The running game was fierce, racking up 228 yards on 41 carries. And maybe the most impressive stat was App State holding Coastal to 55 rushing yards with an average on 1.9 yards per carry. CCU came into Wednesday night averaging 263.5 yards on the ground, but that aspect of their offense was completely taken away.
This combination of factors powered App State to outscore Coastal 27-13 in the second and third quarters combined. But even with all that momentum, it was still a tie game entering the 4th quarter. The huge crowd at Kidd Brewer was both excited and anxious at the same time. Things were trending in their direction obviously but Coastal, even not playing up to their full capacity, was still a very talented team who would be difficult to defeat.
These two heavyweights squared off to a draw for the vast majority of the final stanza. It wasn’t until App State took over on their own 38 with 3:53 remaining that the identity of the victor would become clear. A methodical 9 play drive that both ate clock and forced Coastal to use all of their timeouts put them in prime position. And when K Chandler Stanton nailed a 24-yard field goal as time expired, pandemonium broke loose at Kidd Brewer.
Mountaineer fans poured onto the field to celebrate their huge victory. It was the 8th FBS stadium I’ve rushed the field at and it’s awesome to live vicariously through the home fans in their moment of unbridled joy. Their win over CCU not only gave App State revenge for 2020, but it also planted them firmly leading the Sunbelt East again.
All of this captivated a national audience on a Wednesday night, plus Twitter was on fire. For those watching at home, they either turned off the TV and went to bed or started watching something else. For those of us Boone, the reality of having 31,000 people attend a game in a town that holds less than 20,000 started to become apparent.
I spent the next hour stuck in the Rivers Street Parking Garage praying that I’d get out in time to catch my 5:45 am flight from RDU to Las Vegas. The sea of fans eventually parted, and though I did not get any sleep, I was able to make my flight. Ideal? No. But as a fan who lives for moments like this, it’s of course well worth it... #ForTheLoveOfTheGame