BOONE, N.C. — The fourth quarter began just like the third quarter ended.

With a sack of Coastal Carolina quarterback Grayson McCall.
 
App State entered Wednesday's sold-out, nationally televised home game against the 14th-ranked Chanticleers with a stiff challenge: slow down an offense that ranked No. 1 at the FBS level in points per game (48.8) and No. 2 in yards per game (554.2).
 
The Mountaineers limited Coastal to 55 yards rushing on 29 attempts and used that success to apply effective pressure on McCall in a 30-27 victory at The Rock.
 
"Our guys fit it right, and they felt good about it," App State head coach Shawn Clark said. "When our guys feel good on defense and we're flying around, getting 11 hats to the football, it's outstanding. I go against this defense all the time, and if we fit our gaps right, we're hard to beat. I think T.D. Roof had some big-time plays tonight, and we sacked the quarterback."
 
App State limited the Chants to 16 offensive yards on 10 fourth-quarter plays, only one of which produced a first down.
 
They punted three times in the fourth quarter alone and five times in the game after totaling just 10 punts in their first six games.
 
"Coach Jones did an excellent job this week game-planning, strategizing ways to fit that offense," linebacker D'Marco Jackson, who had a team-high 11 tackles, said of defensive coordinator Dale Jones. "It's a complicated offense — you've seen the numbers they put up. We were just really prepared for it. I saw guys come in, and the biggest thing was guys finding our edge. That's that thing we felt like we lost last week (in a loss at Louisiana). We weren't swarming to the ball, so that was the biggest thing this week. Play with that App State aggression."
 
App State's ability to hold Coastal's run game in check put the Chants behind the chains, and the Mountaineers were aggressive in pursuing McCall in passing situations.
 
Demetrius Taylor opened the fourth quarter with sack to create a third-and-23 scenario in a tie game, right after Nick Hampton had brought down McCall on a first-down play. Caleb Spurlin also had a sack as App State amassed eight tackles for loss.
 
Taylor had three of those, with another behind-the-line stop on a draw by McCall, and Spurlin recorded 1.5. Roof's five clutch tackles included one tackle for loss, while Jackson and DeAndre Dingle-Prince joined Hampton by also contributing in that category.
 
"If we could get them in a game where they had to drop back and pass, it's in our favor a lot," Spurlin said. "You've got guys like Meech and Nick on the edge that go and make stuff happen. Being able to get them in that position, knowing they're going to have to drop back and throw the ball, that gave us an edge up."
 
A year ago, App State defended Coastal Carolina well for extended periods, but three big plays (75-yard TD pass to tight end Isaiah Likely, 62-yard TD run by McCall, 48-yard run) were responsible for 185 yards while the other 52 snaps accounted for 184 yards.
 
A 74-yard touchdown pass to Kameron Brown gave Coastal Carolina a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter Wednesday. App State held the Chants to 208 yards the rest of the way even though the Mountaineers were short-handed in the secondary throughout the night.
 
"We got shook early, but to be able to stay composed, you keep chopping wood, keep doing your assignment, because at the end of the day, to beat that offense, you have to be assignment-sound," Spurlin said. "I think we did a great job of that."
 
App State's top three cornerbacks were all dealing with injuries, as Donte Small didn't play at all. Starting cornerbacks Shaun Jolly and Steven Jones Jr. were both game-time decisions, and Jolly started alongside first-year team member Madison Cone, who moved over to cornerback from his safety position.
 
Jones did end up playing, eventually replacing Jolly as Cone was one of three defenders (along with Jackson and safety Kaiden Smith) to be on the field for every defensive snap. True freshman Travis McNichols Jr. contributed as well following a week of preparation in which Milan Tucker, a receiver/returner who began his college career as a cornerback, even practiced some at his old position.
 
"Since (Cone) stepped foot on campus, he's just been the real deal," Spurlin said. "He's proved himself time and time again, he's just been waiting on his opportunity, and when he gets it, he takes it … The next-up mentality we have, we don't really worry about it. We have faith in guys that are a little deeper on the depth chart and go out and play."