No. 24 Appalachian St. resumes ‘rise to the top’ at Marshall

Marshall Sports
Countdown to the Big Game on WOWK
February 07 2021 06:00 pm

New Appalachian State football coach Shawn Clark applied a unique description of his team’s unstoppable running game in this unique 2020 season.

After last week’s 35-20 season-opening win over visiting Charlotte, the Mountaineers landed in the AP Top 25 poll. Clark and the Mountaineers try to keep cooking up wins Saturday at Marshall.

“We have the outside zone and the inside zone, and it’s kind of like making bread,” he said. “You just have to start caressing it a little bit, rubbing it here, rubbing it there. Put it in there, let it rise and that’s the beauty of it. We never got impatient with it.

“We just had that bread, kind of rubbed it a little bit here and there, and it rose right to the top.”

Most of the nation will get to see what’s in the works with Appalachian State on Saturday with the game shifted to a prime 3:30 p.m. ET slot on CBS.

Clark and the No. 24 Mountaineers will try to concoct some more tasty treats in a different kitchen Saturday when they visit Marshall in a non-conference matchup of former Southern Conference rivals.

The Mountaineers had 29 first downs and rushed for 308 yards against Charlotte. Then Clark spent part of the week diffusing a controversy following an inappropriate picture from his locker room making it to social media.

Clark said “it’s internal” when asked about any repercussions for this week’s game. The goals for Appalachian State remain sizeable. That was Clark’s message when he returned from church Sunday to see his team ranked in both major polls.

“It’s all good, but really it matters at the end of the season,” Clark said. “Our goal is to be 1-0, and I told them yesterday in our team meeting that the Charlotte game is gone, and we reached our goal about being 1-0. And we’ll go week by week. Again, playing Marshall, our goal is to be 1-0. We’ll keep it here in the present and let the future hold what it holds.”

Some think Appalachian State could earn the Group of Five’s automatic bid into a New Year’s Day bowl game. That would be a first for the Sun Belt Conference, a league the Mountaineers have dominated in recent years.

Winning the Sun Belt could mean more this year than ever. With the presence of No. 19 Louisiana and an Arkansas State team that bagged a big win last week at Kansas State, the conference is squarely on the radar.

But before Appalachian State can think about its conference, it has to knock off the Thundering Herd.

Marshall opened two weeks ago with a 59-0 blowout of overmatched FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky, getting 307 yards and four touchdowns from freshman quarterback Grant Wells.

He hit his first eight passes and finished 16 of 23, finding four different receivers for his scores. What’s more, the Thundering Herd defense permitted just seven first downs and 166 total yards.

Marshall starts five seniors on the offensive line and the Thundering Herd are all about speed at the skill positions.

While Eastern Kentucky didn’t exactly present staunch opposition, the victory was so complete in scope that coach Doc Holliday had a hard time finding any kind of flaw.

“We came out and executed extremely well,” he said. “I was excited about the way the guys played. I’ve got great confidence in Grant; he made tremendous throws and he took care of the football. That was huge.”

This could be a fascinating contrast in styles. Marshall is a passing team that can run when needed, while the Mountaineers are an old-fashioned run-first team that would prefer to throw when they want.

Quarterback Zac Thomas was 14 of 21 for 204 yards and a score against Charlotte, but it was the play of the tailbacks and offensive line that carried the day.

Marcus Williams and Camerun Peoples rushed for 117 and 102 yards, respectively, and Daetrich Harrington scored two fourth quarter touchdowns.

“Those are great running backs, but the offensive line did a great job,” Clark said. “The offensive line, they block for first downs, and the receivers block for touchdowns.”

Clark said Peoples’ status for Saturday is not yet determined, saying only that he’s “still being evaluated.” Peoples missed part of last season with a torn ACL.

–Field Level Media

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