Game Day Preview: State of the App vs. Marshall

Palmer Noyce


BOONE, North Carolina — Heroes Day turned into a history-making night at sold-out Kidd Brewer Stadium.

App State (4-4, 2-2 Sun Belt) will follow up its 48-38 home win against Southern Miss with another home game against Marshall, which has followed a 4-0 start with four straight losses. Picked up by the NFL Network and set as a 6:00 p.m. game, this is believed to be the first Saturday night home game played in Boone during the months of November or December.

Instead of the standard 2:30 p.m. start time for the home game in November, the Mountaineers will play under the lights in a nationally televised game against a longtime rival. They last played a Saturday night home game in 2014, their first year as a member of the FBS.

App State picked up a comeback win last weekend, and the Thundering Herd (4-4, 1-3) is trying to bounce back from a difficult stretch following an undefeated September. He improved to 3-0 with a 24-17 home win against Virginia Tech and won 41-35 despite allowing 339 rushing yards to ODU, which had four touchdown runs of over 65 yards before falling with 48-41 at NC State.

Since then, Marshall has lost back-to-back Sun Belt games to Georgia State (41-24 loss), James Madison (down 6-2 late in the third quarter of a 20-9 loss) and Coastal Carolina (34-6 loss).

The Mountaineers and Thundering Herd have dealt with injuries on the back end this season, at quarterback Joey Aguilar replaced Ryan Burger in the first half of the beginning of 2023 and Nate Noel was limited to two runs of work over the previous three games.

Aguilar leads the Sun Belt and is tied for seventh nationally with 20 touchdown passes through eight games, and Kanye Roberts rushed for 109 yards in each of the last two games.

Despite struggling to stop ODU’s running game, Marshall’s defense held NC State, JMU and Coastal Carolina to less than 150 yards. Those opponents had more success through the air, with NC State throwing four touchdown passes and Coastal Carolina backup quarterback Jarrett Guest throwing three.

App State’s freshman defense struggled for most of the Southern Miss game, but made two stops in the fourth quarter that helped the Mountaineers close out the game 20-0. Marshall managed just a pair of field goals against Coastal after using a safety and a kickoff for a touchdown to score nine JMU points.

Cam Fancher, an elusive left-handed quarterback who performed well in a 28-21 home win against App State last season, took eight sacks against a physical JMU defense and threw two interceptions against Coastal before being relieved by redshirt freshman Cole Pennington , the son of 1990 star QB Chad Pennington. Pennington committed three turnovers in his relief stint.

In the running game, the talented Rasheen Ali returned from JMU’s layoff to gain 52 yards on 12 carries against Coastal. He has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, with five multi-touchdown games, as the Thundering Herd prepares to face an App State defense that is currently allowing 206.6 rushing yards per game.

It will be the first league matchup in Boone between App State and Marshall since 1996 — both were members of the FCS-level Southern Conference from 1977-96 and were in different leagues until the Thundering Herd joined the Sun Belt before the 2022 season.

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