BOONE, NC — Heroes Day has evolved into a history-making night at sold-out Kidd Brewer Stadium.
App State (4-4, 2-2 Sun Belt) will follow its 48-38 home win against Southern Miss with another home game against Marshall, which has followed a 4-0 start with four consecutive losses. Picked up by NFL Network and set as a 6 pm game, it’s believed to be the first Saturday night home game played in Boone during the months of November or December.
Instead of the standard 2:30 pm kickoff time for a November home game, the Mountaineers will play under the lights in a nationally televised showdown against a longtime rival. They last played a Saturday night home game of any kind in 2014, their first year as an FBS member.
App State picked up a bounce-back victory last weekend, and the Thundering Herd (4-4, 1-3) is looking to emerge from a rough stretch that followed its unbeaten September. It improved to 3-0 with a 24-17 home win against Virginia Tech and won 41-35 despite allowing 339 rushing yards to ODU, which had four touchdown runs of 65-plus yards, before falling 48-41 at NC State.
Since then, Marshall has lost consecutive Sun Belt matchups with Georgia State (41-24 defeat), James Madison (trailed 6-2 late in the third quarter of a 20-9 loss) and Coastal Carolina (lost 34-6).
The Mountaineers and Thundering Herd have both dealt with backfield injuries this season, as quarterback Joey Aguilar replaced Ryan Burger in the first half of the 2023 opener and Nate Noel was limited to two series of work over the previous three games.
Aguilar leads the Sun Belt and is tied for seventh place nationally with 20 touchdown passes through eight games, and Kanye Roberts has rushed for 109 yards in each of the last two games.
Despite the struggles to stop ODU’s run game, Marshall’s defense held NC State, JMU and Coastal Carolina to less than 150 rushing yards. Those opponents had more success through the air, with NC State throwing four touchdown passes and Coastal Carolina backup quarterback Jarrett Guest putting up three.
App State’s new-look defense struggled for a majority of the Southern Miss game but made a pair of fourth-quarter stops that contributed to the Mountaineers closing the game on a 20-0 run. Marshall managed only a pair of field goals against Coastal after using a safety and a kickoff return for a touchdown to score nine points at JMU.
Cam Fancher, an elusive left-handed quarterback who performed well in the 28-21 home win against App State last season, absorbed eight sacks against a physical JMU defense and threw two interceptions against Coastal before being relieved by redshirt freshman Cole Pennington, the son of 1990s star QB Chad Pennington. Pennington committed three turnovers in his relief stint.
In the run game, the talented Rasheen Ali returned from missing the JMU game to gain 52 yards on 12 carries against Coastal. He has 11 rushing touchdowns this season, with five multi-touchdown games, as the Thundering Herd prepares to face an App State defense that currently allows 206.6 rushing yards per game.
This will be the first league game in Boone between App State and Marshall since 1996 — they were both FCS-level Southern Conference members from 1977-96 and were in different leagues until the Thundering Herd joined the Sun Belt before the 2022 season.