BOONE — Thomas Hennigan caught a 51-yard touchdown pass, Daetrich Harrington added two fourth-quarter scoring runs and 23rd-ranked Appalachian State beat Charlotte 35-20 in both teams’ season opener on a rainy Saturday at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
The teams exchanged big plays in the final two minutes of the third quarter. Hennigan scored down the right side after a defender slipped on the wet field. Aaron McAllister returned the ensuing kickoff a school-record 97 yards, breaking a tackle on the left sideline to get Charlotte within a point, 21-20.
Harrington went up the middle for a 4-yard score to extend the Mountaineers’ lead to 28-20 early in the fourth quarter. After a Charlotte fumble recovery, the Mountaineers held the 49ers to no yards at the Appalachian State 20 and Harrington added a 15-yard score with 1:15 remaining.
Hennigan had 120 yards receiving. Marcus Williams Jr. ran for 117 yards and a score and Camerun Peoples added 102 yards and another touchdown. The Mountaineers rushed for 308 yards. Zac Thomas added 204 yards passing with a TD and an interception.
Tyler Murray forced a fumble, recovered another and made an interception for the 49ers.
Appalachian State has won four straight Sun Belt Conference titles and finished 19th in last season’s Associated Press Top 25 poll after a 13-1 season.
Due to state COVID-19 restrictions, the school allowed only 50 fans to attend the game, all parents of Mountaineers seniors, and tailgating was not permitted.
Appalachian State was among 10 new teams ranked Sunday in first regular-season Associated Press college football poll, which was stripped of the teams not yet scheduled to play a fall season.
The Sun Belt Conference has two teams ranked for the first time since the conference began sponsoring football in 2001, with Louisiana-Lafayette at No. 19 and App State at No. 23, tied with Kentucky.
The Ragin’ Cajuns pulled off maybe the biggest upset of the weekend, winning at Iowa State 31-14 on Saturday. The Cyclones had been ranked No. 23 and are the one team currently scheduled to play to fall out of the rankings after being in the preseason Top 25.
The grade-based PFF College site named App State’s Shemar Jean-Charles, a cornerback, its national Defensive MVP of the Week after he recorded a career-high four pass breakups, seven tackles and one forced fumble in the 35-20 win against Charlotte.
Jean-Charles (defense) and App State receiver Thomas Hennigan (offense) made the PFF College national teams of the week based on their performances.
Hennigan had 120 receiving yards on five catches, including a 51-yard touchdown, and drew two penalties for defensive pass interference. His perimeter blocking also played a significant role in App State rushing for 308 yards as a team.
Defensively, according to PFF College, Jean-Charles allowed only three catches for 16 yards with no first downs while being targeted 10 times in 28 cover snaps. He frequently guarded standout receiver Victor Tucker, who managed three catches for just 23 yards in the game.
When the 23rd-ranked Mountaineers (1-0) face Marshall (1-0) on Saturday in Huntington, W. Va., the game will air in the highly-coveted 3:30 p.m. time slot on the primary CBS channel. Rich Waltz, former Georgia and NFL quarterback Aaron Murray and Sherree Burrruss will announce the game for CBS.
The game previously had been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network before being elevated to appear on “America’s Most-Watched Network.” While App State has made frequent national television appearances on networks such as ESPN, this will be just the second time the Mountaineers have played on CBS. The first time occurred against The Citadel in 1983, in the sixth-ever App State football game to be televised.