The Charlotte 49ers are traveling up the mountain to take on the Appalachian State University Mountaineers for the first time in Boone, N.C. This is the second time the two young FBS programs have faced-off in as many years.
The Mountaineers are early in their sixth season as an FBS program. App State has been bowl eligible the last four seasons and are 4-0 in their bowl games during that span. The Mountaineers are also chasing their third consecutive Sun Belt Conference championship. Charlotte made its FBS debut as a member of Conference USA in 2015. Last year the 49ers finished their season 5-7. Both of these programs have one thing in common- a new, young head coach.
Charlotte brought in Will Healy from Austin Peay as their new head coach who started this season 1-0. Eliah Drinkwitz, N.C. State’s former Offensive Coordinator also exited his first game as App State’s new Head Coach 1-0. Healy (34 years, 7 months) and Drinkwitz (36 years, 4 months) are the third-youngest and sixth-youngest FBS coaches in the country.
It was a one-sided battle when the two North Carolina schools faced-off last September. The Mountaineers left as Kings of the Queen City winning the matchup 45-9 behind Quarterback Zac Thomas’ perfect game as a passer. Thomas finished the game 14-14 for 295 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Zac Thomas’ perfect game was the first time an App State or Sun Belt quarterback finished a game with at least 10 completions and no incompletions. Thomas also had a 5-yard rushing touchdown. Last season’s matchup brought in a record-setting 19,151 fans to Richardson Stadium.
The Mountaineers returned 10 of 11 offensive starters and six defensive starters from last year’s team who went 11-2. Charlotte native Corey Sutton was Thomas’ top target in the 45-9 win catching three passes for 155 yards including a 90-yard touchdown which ranks as the longest receiving touchdown in school history. Sutton is suspended for this week’s game for violating team rules.
The winner of this year’s game will be decided on the frontlines. “We watched last year’s tape against them, and we have to be much better in the trenches,” Coach Drinkwitz said in his weekly press conference. App State struggled running the ball against the 49ers, who ranked ninth nationally last season for by allowing only 105.7 rushing yards per game. Last week, Charlotte allowed Gardner-Webb to rush for 159 rushing yards on 35 attempts. Charlotte won 49-28 to start their 2019 campaign. App State’s leading rusher in last year’s game had 38 yards. Some of the defensive standouts in Charlotte’s 4-2-5 scheme include senior safety Ben DeLuca, who has seven forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries in his career, and cornerback Marquill Osborne, a transfer from Tennessee.
Charlotte’s 49 points against Gardner-Webb are the most scored by the 49ers in their FBS era and they look to add onto this momentum and give Healy a 2-0 start in his first year as Head Coach.
App State is currently on a seven-game winning steak which is tied for the nation’s third-longest with Ohio State, behind Clemson (16) and Army (10). The Mountaineers are on an 11 game win streak at home which ranks ninth nationally. The Mountaineers are also looking to give their new head coach a 2-0 start in his first year.
Kickoff is this Saturday, September 7 at 3:30 p.m. in Boone, N.C.