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Marshall beats No. 23 App State in a matchup of old SoCon rivals

Marshall beats No. 23 App State in a matchup of old SoCon rivals

Appalachian State UNC Charlotte Football

Appalachian State head coach Shawn Clark stands with his team prior to an NCAA football game on Saturday, Sept. 12, 2020, at Kidd Brewer Stadium in Boone, N.C. The App State Mountaineers defeated the UNCC 49ers, 35-20. (Allison Lee Isley, Winston-Salem Journal) 091320-wsj-spt-appstate

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. — In a matchup of old Southern Conference rivals, Marshall proved victorious on Saturday.

The Thundering Herd beat No. 23 Appalachian State 17-7, their first win over a ranked opponent at home since 1976.

Marshall delivered a brutal blow in the third quarter, converting on a 67-yard pass down the middle. It set up a 12-yard rushing touchdown by quarterback Grant Wells, who was 11-of-25 passing on the day with 163 yards. 

Marshall outgained App State 379-364 in total yards. That included a 120-yard margin in the run game, where the Mountaineers mustered 96 yards.

App State’s chance at a score before the half ended in a redemptive moment for Marshall cornerback Steven Gilmore. While covering Mountaineers wide receiver Thomas Hennigan, Gilmore was called twice for pass interference. The second drew the ire of Marshall coach Doc Holliday, who was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after.

Three plays later, Gilmore jumped a Zac Thomas pass to pick it off. That play allowed Marshall to preserve a three-point lead heading into halftime.

Marshall opened with an 11-play, 85-yard drive in which it leaned on explosive runs. Brenden Knox, Marshall’s running back and Conference USA’s preseason offensive player of the year, ran for 21 yards on the Thundering Herd’s first play. He would end the drive with a 2-yard score and the first touchdown of the game.

Knox had 138 yards rushing and one touchdown. 

The Mountaineers got two highlight-quality catches from Jalen Virgil and Hennigan during the first quarter.

Virgil got his first touchdown of the season, grabbing an over-the-shoulder ball from Thomas while falling out of the left side of the end zone. That score tied the game, 7-7. Hennigan had a 36-yard snag running near the right sideline. He grabbed the ball one handed while battling with a defender.

App State now turns its attention toward next week's game with Campbell, the Mountaineers’ last non-conference game before Sun Belt play.

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@EthanJoyceWSJ

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