Four takeaways from App State football’s week 2 loss at Marshall

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Moss Brennan

Two Mountaineers combine for a tackle in the 17-7 loss at Marshall Sept. 19.

Cameron Burnett, Reporter

Turnovers cost the Mountaineers

Last week against Charlotte, the Mountaineers turned the ball over three times and the trend continued against Marshall. Senior quarterback Zac Thomas had an interception late in the first half and senior tight end Mike Evans had a fumble in the fourth quarter. 

“We got beat in all three phases,” head coach Shawn Clark said. “And if you turn the ball over in college football, you’re going to lose.”

The ‘three phases’ in football refer to offense, defense and special teams.

Evans’ fumble came on a fourth down play in which he caught a 41-yard pass and lost the football while being tackled just six yards from a touchdown. In a game where the Mountaineers never held a lead, turnovers proved costly, both of which occurring in Marshall territory. 

After the fumble, Marshall led a 13-play drive in which the team chewed 7:38 off the game clock in the 4th quarter, leaving App State with little time to make a comeback.

In 2019, the Mountaineers only had nine turnovers over the whole season. Through two games in 2020, they already have five. Taking care of the football will need to be a focal point for this team, which has become well-known for ball security.

App State’s run game looked out of character

After a great performance from all three backs last week, the Mountaineers only ran the ball for 96 yards, averaging 2.9 yards per carry. 

Fifth-year senior running back Marcus Williams Jr. didn’t play, which could have impacted the success of the unit, which missed its vocal leader and captain.

Marshall’s base defense of 4 linemen and 3 linebackers caused issues for App State’s rushing attack and stayed stout from start to finish.

“Marshall played really good defense. They were in the holes, they were in the gaps, and they shut us down,” senior center Noah Hannon said. “We gotta go back and look at the film and see where we could have done better, and what would’ve opened up some of those holes.”

The Mountaineers will have the opportunity to get back on track running the ball next week against Campbell, a team that has allowed an average of 236.5 rushing yards through two games.

Special teams inconsistencies loom large

Offense and defense had their respective successes and struggles, but in a tight game, special teams plays can mean the difference between a win and a loss.

The Mountaineers averaged only 16.8 yards per kick return, putting the offense in the negative to start most of their drives. Meanwhile, Marshall averaged 21 yards per return.

The bright spot for the special teams unit was senior punter Xavier Subotsch, who had a busy day with six punts that averaged 41 net yards, giving the defense better field position to get a stop and get the ball back to the offense.

“Even when we were down ten, I believe, we drive the ball down and attempt the field goal. If we do that, we’re down seven with all three timeouts,” Clark said.

Late in the 4th quarter, the Mountaineers drove down the field but missed a 26-yard field goal that would’ve made it a one-possession game and given App State a fighting chance with 2:54 to play and all three timeouts remaining.

On Monday after the Charlotte game, App State spent all practice working on special teams. This is a phase of the game that will continue to be a focal point for the coaching staff.

App State gets a necessary wake-up call

The Mountaineers are accustomed to winning, achieving a record of 54-12 over the last five years in the Sun Belt. After a tough road loss, the team is faced with the challenge of coming back from it.

“We’re gonna see what kind of team we have. We’re gonna see where our character is and how bad we want to be a great football program,” Clark said. “I think our guys are still hungry, they’re very hungry to win and we know how to win.”

Last year, the Mountaineers suffered a tough loss against Georgia Southern but turned around and went undefeated for the rest of the season, winning the Sun Belt championship and the New Orleans Bowl.

“All of our goals are in front of us to win a conference and we’ll come back against Campbell and get back on the right track,” Clark said.

App State will look to have the same resilience after a loss, starting next week against Campbell.