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No. 23 App State's O-line struggles to find its push against Marshall

No. 23 App State's O-line struggles to find its push against Marshall

HUNTINGTON, W. Va. — Just after Marshall handled No. 23 Appalachian State, 17-7, on Saturday, Noah Hannon leveled a relatable fact.

Nobody likes to lose.

The result with the Thundering Herd was only App State’s fourth loss since the start of the 2018. But it left the Mountaineers with plenty to review.

"I think any time that you lose, you’ve got to learn,” said Hannon, Appalachian’s fourth-year starting center said. “First of all. Nobody likes losing, as you guys know.

“I don’t really care to lose. That’s why I came here.”

When App State gets back to Boone and starts its diagnosis, one of the focal points will be the lack of push generated by an offensive line with a history of plowing ahead.

App State produced 96 rushing yards against the Herd. In the last five previous seasons, the Mountaineers failed to pass the 100-yard rushing mark only once — last year’s win against South Carolina. App State had 97 in a 20-15 victory where they registered 202 total.

Against Marshall, App State had 10 rush attempts that went longer than five yards. Two of those were runs by Zac Thomas during the fourth quarter, while Marshall tried to nurse its 10-point lead.

It was a stark difference from a week ago. The Mountaineers exploded for 300-plus yards on the ground against Charlotte, featuring a three-headed attack of Marcus Williams Jr., Daetrich Harrington and Cam Peoples. All three scored in the 35-20 win.

Williams Jr. didn’t play against Marshall. Peoples and Harrington combined for 87 yards. But Marshall forced the Mountaineers to the air by putting extra players in the box.

“When that happens you have to be able to throw the football,” App State coach Shawn Clark said. “And someone other than Thomas Hennigan has got to make a play on our team”

That struggle to run was exacerbated by turnovers. Mountaineers quarterback Zac Thomas threw an interception just before halftime after Marshall cornerback Steven Gilmore jumped the pass. It killed a chance to take the lead before starting with possession in the second half.

Then on a fourth-and-short in Marshall territory in the fourth quarter, a successful call that allowed tight end Mike Evans to slip into the open field for a catch-and-run of 41 yards. It was wiped away by Marshall’s Brandon Drayton, who poked the ball free so the Herd could hop on the fumble in the end zone.

App State had three turnovers against Charlotte, making Saturday’s more bothersome for Clark.

“If we score a touchdown we’re down three with momentum on our side,” Clark said. “And we go from momentum on your side to here we go another turnover.

“We have to get that corrected and in a hurry.”

Clark now has the first loss of his head coaching career out of the way. And while the loss, coming in a nationally televised setting on CBS, was frustrating, the coach pointed toward perspective: it doesn’t affect App State’s ultimate goal of winning the Sun Belt Conference for a fifth straight year.

It does, however, give a reminder of what it takes to get there. Hannon said now, it’s time to put these struggles to go use.

“It’s our job as a team to one, stay together right here and keep pushing forward,” Hannon said. “I mean, this is game two. So we’ve got a lot of football left to play, and we’re going to play a lot of good football.

“I 100 percent am confident of what we’ve got in that locker room, and we’re going to keep.”



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