By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON – One of the silver linings to come out of the COVID-19 impacted 2020 football season, has been unexpected and even unlikely matchups. Marshall will play one of those games this weekend with old rival Appalachian State making its first visit to Huntington in almost 20 years.
Marshall and Appalachian State are scheduled to kickoff Saturday at 3:30 in the nationally televised game on CBS.
The 23rd ranked Mountaineers opened their season last week at home with a 35-20 win over Conference USA member Charlotte.
Marshall and Appalachian State were already scheduled to play a home-and-home series, starting next year in Boone, North Carolina. Both teams needed a game this season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Appalachian State was originally scheduled to play BYU this weekend but that game was nixed due to issues with COVID-19 within the Cougars football program.
Marshall and Appalachian State officials were able quickly work out a deal, adding two games to the contract, starting with this week’s contest.
Marshall and Appalachian State are old rivals, dating back to their days in the Southern Conference. Both schools have also done well since moving to the FBS level.
Appalachian State leads the all-time series 14-8, but Marshall has won the last two meetings, including a 50-17 thrashing of the Mountaineers in Huntington on August 31, 2002. The Mountaineers were still playing at the FCS level at the time.
Marshall last faced a ranked opponent just over a year ago, a 14-7 road loss to then-#24 Boise State.
Saturday’s game is a homecoming for Appalachian State’s new head coach, Charleston, WV native Shawn Clark. Clark, a George Washington High alum, was a standout offensive linemen for the Mountaineers from 1994-1998.
There is another link between the two schools as ASU’s offensive coordinator is one of Marshall’s top all-time quarterbacks, Tony Peterson. Peterson played in the late 1980s when Marshall made it the NCAA 1-AA title game in 1987, losing to Northeast Louisiana (now Louisiana Monroe) in Pocatello, Idaho.
There are two other coaches who are West Virginia natives besides Clark on the ASU staff, Mark DeBastiani from Arthurdale and Brian Haines from Williamstown.
Scouting App State
Marshall’s defense knows it must slow Appalachian State’s potent running attack if the Herd is to win on Saturday.
The Mountaineers ran for 308 yards against Charlotte. Marcus Williams picked up 117 yards on 14 carries in the contest, Cameroon Peoples added 102 yards on 13 carries and Daetrich Harrington had 60 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
Those numbers impressed Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday. He was especially impressed with Appalachian State’s offensive line and its ability to sustain blocks in order to open up running lanes.
“They do a great job with the outside stretch play and they are so well-coached,” Holliday said. “They do a great job of cutting off the back side of that, and those backs do a great job of stretching it and finding that crease and going north-south.
“Any time you rush for over 300 yards, that’s a heck of a day.”
The Herd also can’t ignore the Mountaineers’ veteran quarterback, Zac Thomas, the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year, who is dangerous as both a runner and passer. He passed for 204 yards and a touchdown and ran for 32 yards against Charlotte.