App State Football vs Marshall

Appalachian State (4-4, 2-2 Sun Belt) vs Marshall (4-4, 1-3 Sun Belt)

Saturday, November 4th, 2023 6:00pm EST

TV/Video: NFL Network

Radio: FLAGSHIP 97.3 FM (North Wilkesboro), 96.5
FM/1450 AM (Boone), 99.1 FM/1060 AM/1030 AM (Charlotte),
105.3 FM/1320 AM (Greensboro), 790 AM (Johnson City),
107.7 FM/1450 AM (Hendersonville), 103.9FM/1250AM (Marion), Varsity Network App

Kidd Brewer Stadium

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: Fieldturf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 66.21

Marshall: 64.44

Home: 2.19

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 3.96 points

VegasInsider Line: App State -4

Series: App State leads 15-10

Last Meeting: App State 21, Marshall 28, November 12, 2022, Marshall, WV

The last third of the regular season is upon us and this is the time of the year when the championships are decided. Neither App State nor Marshall have looked like a division contending team. Yet the Sun Belt East remains wide open and could be for the taking. One would expect some teams to rise and separate themselves from the rest. This game will be a de facto elimination game for conference championship contention for whoever loses. It could be a fourth conference loss for Marshall or a third for App State, all to division foes. Like this series needed any more spice added to it. These historical juggernauts have routinely gotten into each other’s way since 1977. Marshall has won consecutive games in this series only one time when games were played in back-to-back years (1987-99). When Marshall won the Southern Conference in 1994, their only conference loss was to App State. Ten of the twenty-five games in this series have been decided by one score or less, and Saturday looks to be no different.

The Thundering Herd were having a great start to their season until they got to the month of October. They started the season with four wins but have not won a game since. Three of the first four games were played at home, with the one road game being played at East Carolina, who is now 1-7. Three of the four October games were played on the road, and the other was James Madison on a Thursday in Huntington. There were signs of this Marshall squad appearing to fall behind, but their schedule did them no favors. Looking back, FCS Albany and ECU should have been pushovers. However, the Herd played Albany to a four-point game, and the ECU game was played tighter until late in the fourth quarter, in a game that had a weather delay. Suddenly, the schedule got tougher, but defeating Virginia Tech by a touchdown seemed to set aside the woes of the previous games. After playing in one score games in four of the first five games, Marshall lost the last three games by multiple scores and have zero offensive touchdowns in the last two losses.

The true heartbeat of the Marshall team is junior running back Rasheen Ali. His season got off to fast start, thanks to 91 carries, 475 yards and nine rushing touchdowns in the month of September. However, just like the Herd, Ali has fizzled in October. Ali missed the game against James Madison and has just 218 yards in the last three contests and only two rushing touchdowns. Ali had a season low 12 carries for 52 yards last week against Coastal Carolina. Continuing the theme of the downward October trend, just look at the play of Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher. His completion percentage has dropped nearly ten points from month to month, from 71% to 61.3%. In September, Fancher was sacked just twice. In October, he was sacked nineteen times!! So, when you wonder why Fancher did not finish the Coastal game, Marshall coach Charles Huff was quoted, “overall health and general lack of execution.” Huff also mentioned that he would have kept Fancher in had the game been close.

This is what this team will do. We are going to give you some anxious moments in the first half while the offense gets going, and then some tense moments in the second half as the team adjusts, and ultimately gives themselves a chance late. The Mountaineers scored five touchdowns in the second half, and four touchdowns on their final four possessions in the win over Southern Miss. The last three touchdown drives travelled 228 yards and took only 15 plays. Joey Aguilar threw for 391 yards. It might have been the quietist nearly 400-yard performance in recent memory. All that credit goes to the pass catchers who finished in the end zone. Dashaun Davis’ 57-yard touchdown reception was a highlight catch and run. Christian Horn had a superb game with eight receptions, 165 yards and two scores. Eli Wilson also scored on a 26-yard catch and frolic to the south end zone. Although the run game was slowed tremendously, Kanye Roberts turned a middling performance into a respectable one with a 61-yard go ahead score to help him finish with 109 yards for the second straight game.

The defense is still growing and figuring out how to put their best players on the field. Giving up a first drive touchdown has occurred in three of the four Mountaineers’ home games. Playing from behind is frustrating, but at this point, the players are accustomed to it. Understanding your deficiencies is as important as maximizing strengths, and in the short term, might be more important to this group’s success. The Mountaineer defense intercepted six passes in the first four games and allowed just one touchdown pass. Yet, the month of October has seen App State intercept just one pass while surrendering eight touchdown passes. The defense has also allowed over 400 yards in four straight games, and 560+ yards in two of the last three weeks. The 175+ rushing yards allowed in each of the last five games was punctuated by a 301-yard effort by Southern Miss last week. Marshall has the worst rushing offense in the league by a wide margin, even with Rasheen Ali averaging 99 yards a game.

There are a couple different ways to look at this game. Both teams have a unit that performs well above their conference opponents. When App State has the ball, they will have their hands full with a defense that has been mostly stingy, but a lot has been asked of them of late with the Marshall offense stumbling. Conversely, that Mountaineer defense has given up a lot of yards lately. Is it so simple as to which team has the worst unit? This Marshall offense is essentially all Fancher and Ali. They have been asked to do a lot, and at times they have, but there is only so much punishment they can take. A lot of Fancher’s game comes down to scrambling out of the pocket, which forces him to complete a lot of off-platform throws. That is shown by how many yards he has lost as a “runner”. It’s a little sickening to see that Fancher was credited with 45 carries in games against Old Dominion, NC State and Georgia State, in which he gained 136 yards. At three yards a rush, that does not seem too bad, but 102 of those 136 yards came against ODU. The next 30 carries went for 34 yards. This next twelve carries, against JMU went for -66 yards. Keep in mind, this includes yards lost being sacked. Against Coastal, he had seven carries for eight yards. Can you see the picture here? Fancher has been beaten up physically over the past five weeks and the only cure might be rest. The question becomes, how does Marshall maximize their best players, who are dealing with injuries, over the course of the next four weeks? Cole Pennington stepped in for Fancher for the final five drives of the Coastal game. The first went 60 yards over fourteen plays but resulted in a turnover on downs. The other four drives resulted in a fumble, another turnover on downs and two interceptions. Fancher and Pennington threw two interceptions each. Marshall will make a big play or two. Fancher is more likely to make those plays and Ali will not be far behind. The Mountaineers must limit those big plays and counteract them when Marshall gets in long yard to gain scenarios. I trust the App State offense to find the end zone enough times against this Marshall secondary, who is susceptible to balls over the top.

The First Pick

Turds: 24

Mountaineers 30

App State Football vs Marshall

Appalachian State (2-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) vs Marshall (2-1, 0-0 CUSA)

Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 7:30pm EST

TV/Video: ESPN

Radio: 97.3 FM North Wilkesboro, 96.5 FM/1450 AM Boone, 1320 AM Greensboro, 107.7FM/1450 AM Hendersonville, Varsity Network App

Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, NC

Capacity: 30,000

Surface: Field Turf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 73.52

Marshall: 70.10

Home: 3.00

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 6.42 points

Line: App State -7.5

Series: App State leads 14-9

Last Meeting: App State 7, Marshall 17, September 19, 2020, Huntington, WV

For those who were looking for normalcy in Boone this past weekend, you got it, and then some. It was a busy weekend in the High Country. The eighth-largest crowd in Kidd Brewer Stadium history was treated to a big win over a former foe. It was a great day, but it was not perfect. Several adjustments will be made between games. There were fumbles on and off the field, and although the game day experience might not exactly be like riding a bike, the opportunity to jump back on does exist. That’s the beauty of it all. If everything was always perfect, it would get boring pretty quickly. We didn’t drive to the mountains for boring. We drive to see what we have yet to discover. We hike the same trails to relive an experience, and see it for the first time all over again. A lot of supporters will be doing the exact same thing on Thursday. Most App State students were but a twinkle in their parents eyes the last time Marshall played in Boone, and others have been waiting for this moment for a quarter century. Let us all appreciate it.

If this past weekend helped you relive the memories of the SoCon yesteryear, enjoy the the more vintage and seasoned brand of Marshall this weekend. Elon and Marshall did not cross paths in the Southern Conference, but those schools membership tells a great story about App State’s history in the last 30 years. Marshall left the SoCon in 1996, and became members of the Mid-American conference for eight years. Elon joined the SoCon in 2003. Those two moves along with others got people around App State thinking about FBS, or as it was referred to then, Division I. Marshall joined Conference USA in 2005, about the same time of App State’s resurgence in I-AA/FCS football. The Marshall games in the late 1980’s and 1990’s were intense battles. App State missed those games, and Georgia Southern helped bridge that gap, that Elon and other small private schools could not provide. Marshall went on to great success, winning I-AA titles, which was what they needed to move to FBS. App State’s playoff success in the 2000s stoked the desire to play teams like Marshall again. Last year, App and Marshall scheduled a series to work around the pandemic. This week’s game is the first leg of a separate home and home agreement that was announced in June 2015, and will be completed next year in Huntington.

Last season’s scheduling of the Marshall game was a win on paper, but was not exactly what a coaching staff wants at the last minute. You prep all offseason for the first few games, and then poof, Wake Forest and Wisconsin are gone, insert Conference USA. It did not help that App State had to deal with pandemic issues leading up to the game, and were trying to discover their identity with limited practice times and groupings. Long story short, it was not our best showing, and Marshall stuck to their game plan, and won an old-fashioned game. The Herd took that momentum and won five more games, to start the season 7-0, and then things went south. Marshall lost their last three games, getting shutout by Rice, stymied by UAB 22-13, and falling flat in their 17-10 Camellia Bowl loss to Buffalo. In all three games, Marshall was dominated in time of possession. This season, Marshall has soundly defeated two teams in Navy and NC Central. Navy has scored ten points combined in two games this season. NC Central has scored forty-three points in their two wins over Alcorn State and Winston-Salem State. And then, there is the debacle of last Saturday night. East Carolina scored 21 unanswered fourth quarter points to steal a win on the road from the Thundering Herd.

Seems that Marshall success has gone the way of its sophomore quarterback Grant Wells. The Mountain State native has already thrown for 1,110 yards in 2021, and has eclipsed 300 yards passing in every game, a feat he accomplished just twice last season. However, Wells is streaky, and when he is up, so is Marshall, and likewise when he has a rough game. He threw 18 touchdown passes in ten games last year, and half of those touchdown passes came in two games, against Eastern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. On the the other hand, seven of his nine interceptions last season came in two games, in which Marshall was shutout by Rice, and narrowly won 20-9 over Florida Atlantic. Wells’ touchdown/interception ratio might be leveling out in 2021, with four touchdown passes and five interceptions, but that includes interceptions in each game. Thursday comes down to which version of Grant Wells shows up for Marshall.

App State was somewhat accused of sleepwalking on Saturday, but in the end, Elon never threatened the Mountaineers at all. Sure, Elon was annoying with 14 first downs, which is actually a pretty good number for a defense, but it felt like a lot more. Meanwhile, the Phoenix did not want to succumb to the ground game, and limited the Mountaineers to 187 yards rushing. That forced App State to probably throw the ball a handful of times more than they wanted. Chase Brice put up his largest yardage total (293) of the young season, which lead to big games from Corey Sutton and Malik Williams. Both eclipsed 120 yards receiving on the day, with Williams catching the 50-yard touchdown pass from Brice. Camerun Peoples was limited to eleven carries, which could be a signal that he might have a larger workload this week with the quick turnaround. Nate Noel finished with 73 yards on seventeen carries. The best stat line was produced by the defensive side of the ball. D’Marco Jackson turned in a thirteen tackle, three sack and 4.5 tackle for loss performance that had not occurred in college football in quite some time.

From 1977 through 1996, App State and Marshall played every single season, including twice in 1987. Throughout the 23 games series, neither team has played more than two games in a row in its home turf. Neither team has won more than four games in a row against each other. App had a four game winning streak to start the series, and Marshall currently holds a three game winning streak. It’s a real life cliché. Throw out the records. It has been a while since App State last beat the Herd in Boone. Twenty-seven long years. That night in 1994 was glorious. Scott Satterfield ran the option and pitched it to Chip Hooks repeatedly. Johnny Smith pulled down an interception and took it in for the go-ahead score, that would provide the final margin. Students could not control their excitement as attempts to remove the goal posts began before time expired. Only Jerry Moore could get everything organized long enough for the final seconds to tick away. And once again, the lights will be on at Kidd Brewer for one of the best Group of Five matchups of the weekend. This matchup was one that App State has circled. The Herd knocked App State out of the Top 25 last year and have not sniffed it since. Players and coaches might not care about that, but the fans do. We remember that painful feeling. Marshall has an offense that has the ability to score a lot of points. They have one speed, and that’s go. They like to move the ball up and down the field. The problem is the Herd’s defense. East Carolina blistered them for 561 yards. A very bad Navy team still managed 398 yards. How has Marshall surrendered all these yards without letting everyone score? It doesn’t help that Marshall has thrown six interceptions as a team, and has fumbled seven times, while losing three of them to inferior opponents. That also goes back to that time of possession battle that mentioned earlier. It’s a trend that dates back to last season. If Marshall turns the ball over three times, which is their average this season, it will be a long night in Boone. Mind you, they have been turning the ball over to teams that are clearly not as powerful as App State is on defense. Which leads to another interesting stat. Marshall has allowed just two sacks all season, while App State has nine defensively. It all comes down to how App defends Wells, and he has just been too streaky in his last several games to expect Marshall to come out on top.

The First Pick

Blundering Bessies 21

Mountaineers 31

#23 Appalachian Football @ Marshall

Appalachian State (1-0) @ Marshall (1-0)

Saturday, September 19th, 2020 3:30pm EST

TV/Video: CBS

Radio: Boone/Blowing Rock: WATA 1450 AM & 96.5 FM; North Wilkesboro/Hickory/Charlotte WKBC 97.3 FM; Asheville WZGM 1350 AM; Hendersonville WHKP 107.7 FM & 1450 AM; Charlotte/Gastonia WCGC 1270 AM; Charlotte/Rock Hill WAVO 1150 AM; Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point WSJS 101.5 FM & 600 AM

Joan C. Edwards Stadium

Capacity: 38,277

Surface: Astroturf

Jeff Sagarin Ratings

App State: 74.47

Marshall: 68.60

Home: 2.32

App State is favored by the Sagarin ratings by 3.55 points

Line: App State -4.5

Series: App State leads 14-8

Last Meeting: Marshall 50, App State 17, Huntington, WV August 31, 2002

WxCrum Forecast:  Sunshine and lower 70’s

After months of preparation and anticipation, we all finally got to watch our favorite team on the gridiron. Most importantly, it was an escape from reality even if the situation did not feel exactly normal. And although it was not a perfectly played game, the result was and that afternoon was good enough. Now the focus shifts from a new rival to an old one. Nearly two decades have passed since the last time these former SoCon rivals have played. Since then, there have been twelve conference championships won between the two schools, eleven of those by App State. The schools have combined for fifteen bowl games in the same amount of time, with thirteen wins. If there is one thing these two schools and fan bases value, its winning. Anything less is intolerable. Marshall is coached by a man who has spent all but seven years of his life in the state of West Virginia. Likewise, App State is also coached by man who hails from the Mountain State, who gets a chance to coach his alma mater in front of family and friends and against his own college rival. With so many story lines heading into this matchup, you almost forget, there is a game to be played and viewed by millions of households. That’s right, even if your television still has a dial, or your home an outhouse, you can watch this game on CBS. Never has their been a better time for the Appalachian brand to be shown to a national audience.

Last weekend, Marshall was off, having a game previously scheduled with East Carolina postponed. So after stampeding Eastern Kentucky by the score of 59-0, the Herd got to rest and watch App State and Charlotte. Marshall is scheduled to host Charlotte in November, but likely had their eyes more focused on the Mountaineers. Marshall is 3-2 all time against Charlotte, but lost to the Niners in 2019. The Herd may have a pretty good bead on the Mountaineers considering all the similar opponents App State and Marshall have played over the years. In fact, this will be the Mountaineers third straight Conference USA opponent dating back to the New Orleans Bowl. The last time App State lost to a Conference USA opponent was in 2014 by one point to Southern Miss. The Mountaineers are 26-13 all time against current CUSA members. Eight of those losses were to Marshall.

App State fans like to crow about having the most successful Division I transition in history. Not many programs can argue with that reasoning. Except Marshall. Since moving up to FBS in 1997, Marshall is 12-3 in bowl games. Marshall also won five MAC championships in their first six seasons in the conference, but can only lay claim to one CUSA title since their last MAC title in 2002. Interesting enough, that was the last time App State and Marshall played. After the major transition success under Coach Bob Pruett, who won a school record 94 games from 1996-2004, Marshall missed on a hire in Mark Snyder. The Herd won just 22 games under Snyder, with never more than six wins in a season. Snyder resigned before the 2009 Little Caesars Bowl where they defeated rival Ohio. That brings us to present day Marshall coach Doc Holliday, who is in his eleventh year at Marshall, sporting a 78-50 record. Holliday is 6-1 in bowl games, his first blemish coming in 2019 to UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl.

The Herd was absolutely dominant in their opening game. Quarterback Grant Wells is all the rage as he threw for 307 yards and four touchdowns in his debut on just twenty-three attempts. His backup Luke Zban was also 6/6 for 38 yards and one touchdown. Together they completed twenty-two passes to thirteen receivers. Marshall knew going in they could get a lot of players some game action. Eastern Kentucky was simply no match. In all, eight players had rushing attempts, most notably, Brenden Knox, the 2019 CUSA Player of the Year. Knox carried 18 times for 85 yards and a touchdown against Eastern Kentucky. Last year he had 1,387 yards and eleven touchdowns. Charlotte was one of five teams in 2019 that held Knox under 100 yards. In 2018, Knox saw his first significant game action of his freshman season against Charlotte and carried for 116 yards. The point, Charlotte doesn’t like to get beat by the running game, and Marshall has one. Besides Knox, Knowledge McDaniel ran 14 times for 93 yards. Grant Wells also added 44 yards on the ground.

It might have been sloppy at times, but the Mountaineers got it done last Saturday in convincing fashion over an undermanned opponent. Outside a couple correctable mistakes that led to Charlotte points, it was a really solid performance considering circumstances that were outside of anyone’s control. Zac Thomas was easily the most consistent offensive threat on the field for App State. Thomas completed two thirds of passes for just a little over two-hundred yards and averaged 9.7 yards per attempt. His interception was the product of a fourth down attempt deep in the opponents territory, which was inconsequential. Thomas was also steady on the ground, rushing for thirty-two yards, keeping the Niners guessing after chasing down the three-headed running back rotation. Marcus Williams Jr, Camerun Peoples and Daetrich Harrington accounted for 279 yards rushing on 42 combined attempts, which comes to 6.6 yard per carry average. The Mountaineers will take day in and day out.

Each week during an opposing coaches teleconference with media, questions are asked about what happened in the previous game, and what to expect in the upcoming game. It’s a familiar script. Doc Holliday was asked a lot of questions about Appy, …. errr….. App State. At one point he seemed annoyed by all the Mountaineer love by that he tried to change to subject back to his team. That’s the kind of attitude that App State fans can expect this weekend in Huntington, on and off the field. Just twenty-two games old, and eighteen years apart, this is still a historic rivalry. However, just about every single player on the field that will clash on Saturday was yet to attend a kindergarten class the last time these two foes played. It must be difficult for a coach to try and get their student-athletes up for a game where one of the main battle cries is, “This is a big deal to our fans”. That statement means more to some schools than others. This will be Marshall’s second home game of the season, with the previous game having fans in attendance. Appalachian has not had that luxury. Many times over its been said that App State fans feed off their team, and the team in turn feeds off its fans. However many black and gold faithful decide to make the trip to Huntington, it will be a hungry bunch that was robbed of a game day experience last weekend. In a reduced capacity stadium, they should represent well. Maybe having someone behind you will help in this game, which is projected to be a battle, just like most of them have been in the past between these two schools. Something will have to give on Saturday. Marshall put a lot points on the board, and gave up very little against Eastern Kentucky, but the Colonels are not App State. Marshall has a veteran team, but they still have a freshman quarterback, who will have two weeks between games. Business is about to pick up and the Mountaineers will be ready to answer that call.

The First Pick

Blundering Turds 24

Mountaineers 34