CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Chase Brice threw for 259 yards and two touchdowns and Appalachian State ran for 226 yards to beat East Carolina 33-19 in a season opener on Thursday night.
Holton Ahlers gave the Pirates the lead on a 63-yard touchdown pass to Keaton Mitchell early in the first quarter. Brice engineered a pair of scoring drives, hitting Thomas Hennigan from 34 yards out to cap a seven-play, 66-yard drive, and moving 78 yards in nine plays, with Camerun Peoples scoring on a 21-yard run.
Chandler Staton kicked two second-quarter field goals, from 21 and 43 yards, to put the Mountaineers up 20-6 at halftime.
“We’ve got to grow up and play in games like this,” said Houston, whose last season-opening win came when he brought his James Madison team to Greenville in 2017. “We’re playing a veteran team that has won a lot. It was a really, really intense ballgame. I thought we did some good stuff, but just too many mistakes.”
Brice was 20-of-27 passing and was picked off once. Nate Noel carried 15 times for 126 yards and People added 100 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 14 carries.
“He’s got a great surrounding cast,” Houston said of Brice. “You’ve got four sixth-year senior receivers, two quality running backs, a quality offensive line. There’s not as much pressure on him as there was last year (at Duke).”
Ahlers was 22 of 40 for 295 yards and two touchdowns and an interception. Mitchell led the Pirates with 50 yards on four carries and pulled in six passes for 80 yards and a score.
“I thought he did some good things,” Houston said. “I’m sure there’s going to be some things he can improve on, but I thought he did some good things tonight.”