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Mountaineers tame Thundering Herd 31-9

Evan Bates
App State defensive lineman matchup along the line of scrimmage against Marshall Nov. 4. The Mountaineer defense registered three total turnovers on the night.

App State welcomed Marshall to Kidd Brewer Stadium Saturday evening, defeating the Thundering Herd 31-9.

“What an electric atmosphere there at The Rock,” said head coach Shawn Clark. “Great win for us against a good Marshall football team.”

The Black and Gold offense started out slow, a trend Mountaineer fans have grown used to over the course of the season. Neither team found any traction in the opening quarter as both squads failed to score.

In the second quarter, Marshall struck first thanks to a 32-yard field goal after a seven-play, 59-yard drive. This was the last time the Thundering Herd scored in the quarter, as the Mountaineers dominated the rest of the quarter.

With 10:52 left in the quarter, junior quarterback Joey Aguilar found redshirt junior wide receiver Kaedin Robinson across the back of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown. The Black and Gold drove 75 yards in seven plays. 

The following possession sophomore outside linebacker Donovan Spellman picked off Marshall quarterback Cam Fancher, setting App State up inside the redzone. 

“I knew someone was behind me,” Spellman said. “If you do everything right all week, I feel like God will bless you.”

A few plays later, redshirt junior wide receiver Milan Tucker rushed in for a 3-yard touchdown on a reverse handoff.  

The App State defense stopped Marshall once again and forced a punt. The Mountaineers went nine plays for 74 yards resulting in Aguilar finding a wide-open redshirt sophomore wide receiver Michael Hetzel on blown coverage for a 16-yard receiving touchdown. 

“I actually had an option route and saw the safety in the middle of the field,” Hetzel said. “Peeped my eyes early, hope Joey saw me and he did.”

Junior quarterback Joey Aguilar looks downfield against Marshall Nov. 4. Only five FBS quarterbacks have thrown for more touchdowns than Aguilar this season. (Evan Bates)

The Black and Gold went into halftime leading Marshall 21-3. Aguilar completed 12/17 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 40 yards on six attempts. The Mountaineer defense limited the Thundering Herd to just 59 yards of total offense, while the App State offense produced 229 total yards. 

App State opened the second half with possession, but had their first drive result in a three-and-out. Marshall’s offense couldn’t respond and was forced to punt for the fourth time of the night.

The Mountaineers second drive of the half fared much better as they drove for 58 yards in eight plays, ending in a 29-yard receiving touchdown by sophomore wide receiver Makai Jackson. Aguilar’s third touchdown pass put the Black and Gold up 28-3 with seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. 

Marshall responded with their own seven-play, 80-yard drive ending in a 10-yard touchdown reception by Thundering Herd tight end Sean Sallis. They opted for a two-point conversion after an App State penalty moved the spot closer to the goaline. The Mountaineer defense came up with a stop to make it 28-9.

The next drive for the Black and Gold ended in a punt after going seven plays for 34 yards. 

Marshall took possession at their own 20-yard line and drove down the field. On 4th and 16, Fancher scrambled to his left and threw the ball up in the air. Redshirt sophomore safety Jordan Favors came down with the football, giving possession back to App State at their own 25-yard line. 

“He threw the ball up and I had to attack the ball,” Favors said.

The Mountaineers went into their four-minute offense and began running the ball extensively. Junior running back Maquel Haywood carried five times for 42 yards, including rushes of 13, 15 and 18 yards on the drive. The drive ended with a 31-yard field goal from junior kicker Michael Hughes, putting App State up 31-9. 

The Thundering Herd’s final drive ended with Favors’ coming down with his second interception of the quarter after Fancher threw it towards a receiver. 

The Black and Gold kneeled out the remaining time and secured the 31-9 victory. 

App State improves to 5-4 on the season and 3-2 in Sun Belt Conference play. The Mountaineers need to win one of their next three games in order to become bowl eligible.

“Rivalry games are the best games,” Aguilar said.

The California native totaled 226 passing yards, three touchdowns and 44 rushing yards on 10 attempts. 

Junior running back Nate Noel returned to action after playing limited snaps against Southern Miss. The Miami native rushed for 51 yards on 11 attempts and caught two passes for 18 yards. 

The App State defense limited Marshall to 106 rushing yards after allowing 301 to Southern Miss a week prior. Additionally, it marks the first time this season the Mountaineers limited an opponent under 10 points. 

“The big thing tonight is our defense,” Clark said. “Three turnovers, eliminated the run game made it one dimensional and that’s what you have to do to have a chance to win.”

The Black and Gold travel to Atlanta for a matchup with Georgia State Nov. 11. The game is set for 2 p.m. and can be streamed on ESPN+.

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About the Contributors
Ethan Smith
Ethan Smith, Sports Editor
Ethan Smith (he/him) is a senior journalism major, media studies minor. This is his third year writing for The Appalachian.
Evan Bates
Evan Bates, Photojournalist
Evan Bates (he/him) is a junior commercial photography major from Durham, NC. This is his second year with The Appalachian.
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