The East Carolina Pirates play the Appalachian State Mountaineers on Thursday September 2nd in the opening game of the 2021 college football regular season for both teams. East Carolina returns several starters to its offense from last season that scored an average of 30 points and gained over 400 yards per game. Holston Ahlers returns to quarterback the Pirates and has thrown 51 touchdown passes in his first three seasons. Tyler Sneed is the leading receiver back from last season while CJ Johnson will stretch the field for the Pirates. A duo of running backs Keaton Mitchell and Rahjai Harris will lead the Pirates' potent ground game.
East Carolina allowed 35 points and 447 yards per game last season with its biggest problems against the rush. However 14 of the 15 top tacklers from last season return, led by linebacker Xavier Smith who will be flanked on either side by Jireh Wilson and Bruce Bivens. Elijah Maurice and Rick D’Abreu will anchor the East Carolina defensive line, while returning cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian has four interceptions in 33 tackles in 2020.
Seventeen of 22 starters return for Appalachian State in 2021. Last season Appalachian State was 9-3 overall and 6-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. Starting at quarterback would likely be Duke transfer Chase Brice, who last year suffered through a poor season at Duke with 15 interceptions. Running back Camerun Peoples returns to lead the ground game for the Mountaineers, while Corey Sutton returns at wide receiver after opting out last season. The offensive line has two starters returning with Baer Hunter becoming the center after starting last season at guard.
Last season Appalachian State allowed only 20 points per game and this season should be as good if not better with nine starters back. The top starters returning are defensive ends Caleb Spurlin and Demetrius Taylor, who posted six quarterback sacks and 13 tackles for a loss in 2020. Safety Kaiden Smith leads a deep and experienced secondary. Linebackers D’Marco Jackson and Trey Cobb anchor a strong linebacker corps that allowed only 150.9 yards rushing per game in 2020.