HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — A win worthy of some national attention.
The Marshall football team scored 10 unanswered points after the first quarter and picked up the program’s first-ever win over a Top 25 team at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday afternoon with a convincing 17-7 victory over No. 23 Appalachian State in a nationally televised non-conference matchup in Cabell County.
The Thundering Herd (2-0) never trailed and used both stingy defense and a powerful rushing attack to get through the full 60 minutes unscathed. The hosts churned out 216 of their 379 yards of total offense on the ground while also limiting a vaunted Mountaineer run game to just 96 yards by day’s end.
MU — which is now 2-0 in nationally televised games this fall — snapped a 16-game losing skid against ranked opponents, with the last win coming in a 27-20 decision over No. 6 Kansas State back on Sept. 20, 2003.
Marshall has now won three straight against ASU, with the last matchup previously happening in 2002. The Mountaineers (1-1) still lead the all-time series by a 14-9 overall margin.
The win also vaulted the Thundering Herd into the Top 25 in the latest AP-poll, with the Green and White earning the 25 spot. Marshall last appeared in the Top 25 in 2014, the same year that that MU last captured the Conference USA championship.
“What a great football game that was. I’m really proud of our guys,” said 11th-year Marshall head coach Doc Holliday afterwards. “I’m so proud of our team to get this win. We have a chance to be special. Nothing changed my mind about that today. We went out and defeated a top 25 team. People will maybe step up and notice that we have a pretty good football team.”
Marshall wasted little time establishing momentum as the hosts took the opening kickoff and marched 51 yards in seven plays. Brenden Knox bullied his way into the end zone on a 2-yard run with 12:29 remaining in the opening stanza for a 7-0 lead.
The Gold and Black, however, countered with a scoring drive of their own on their first possession, marching 85 yards in 11 plays. Jalen Virgil hauled in an 11-yard fade pass from Zac Thomas along the sideline with 7:11 left in the opener, tying things up at 7-all.
Marshall — which ended up finishing plus-1 in turnover differential — made the first mistake of the game on its ensuing drive as a deflected pass worked its way to Ryan Huff with 3:41 remaining in the first period.
Five consecutive drives that resulted in punts followed, allowing Marshall to retain possession at its own 20 with 8:36 left in the half.
The Herd strung together a 14-play, 68-yard drive that resulted in a 10-7 halftime lead as Shane Ciucci converted a 29-yard field goal at the 2:28 mark of the second frame.
After three consecutive punts to start the second half, MU took over on downs at its own 21 with 5:18 left in the third.
Marshall used a quick strike format for their final scoring drive as Grant Wells hit Xavier Gaines on a 67-yard pass, then Wells ran untouched over the final 12 yards for a 17-7 edge with 4:44 remaining in the third period.
Nazeeh Johnson recovered an ASU fumble at the Marshall 20 with 14:16 left in regulation, which thwarted one Mountaineer comeback bid. The guests also missed a 30-yard field goal with 2:54 left in the game.
The hosts claimed a 379-364 edge in total yards of offense, but Appalachian State did earn a 26-22 edge in first downs. Marshall also held the ball for 31:59 of 60 minutes and went 7-of-15 on third down, compared to 4-of-13 by the Mountaineers.
Knox — who amassed over 100 rushing yards by halftime — led MU with 138 yards on 28 carries, followed by Wells with 43 yards on six totes. Wells also completed 11-of-25 passes for 163 yards and threw one interception.
Broc Thompson led the Marshall wideouts with three catches for 37 yards, with Gaines also adding two grabs for 68 yards.
Tavante Beckett led the Herd defense with 16 tackles. Steven Gilmore also recorded an interception just before halftime.
Camerun People led the ASU rushing attack with 57 yards on 12 carries. Thomas completed 22-of-38 passes for 268 yards, including one touchdown and one interception.
Thomas Hennigan led the ASU wideouts with five catches for 88 yards. Trey Cobb made 14 tackles for the Mountaineers in the setback.
Marshall now has a pair of consecutive bye weeks before returning to action on Oct. 10 when it travels to Bowling Green for its Conference USA opener against Western Kentucky.
© 2020 Ohio Valley Publishing, all rights reserved.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.