BOONE, N.C. — Marshall’s football team experienced a bit of deja vu on Thursday night.
For the second time in five days, the Thundering Herd led by at least two scores heading to the fourth quarter, only to see its lead erased as Appalachian State earned a 31-30 comeback win over the Herd in front of 28,377 raucous fans Thursday night at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Appalachian State’s Chandler Staton hit the decisive 45-yard field goal with 5:45 left after Marshall missed an opportunity to force the Mountaineers into needing a touchdown when Shane Ciucci missed a 33-yarder with 10:18 left.
It was another disappointment in a week full of them for Marshall, which has been outscored 31-0 in the fourth quarters of its last two games.
“We’ll lick our wounds,” Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “Hats off to App State. We’re resilient and we’ll be back. We’ve got a good football team and we are not shaken, not wavered. We lost a football game to a good football team. It’s not a failure. It’s a learning experience.”
This time it was App State’s ball control that wore down the Herd defense.
App State (3-1) dominated in time of possession over the last three quarters and Marshall’s defense wore down against the rushing attack of the Mountaineers, who saw Nate Noel rush for 187 yards on 20 carries. In all, App State finished with 567 yards of offense against the Herd.
Marshall (2-2) took a 30-21 lead with 4:16 left in the third quarter after an 8-yard run by running back Rasheen Ali, who also had a 97-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
That lead held until the fourth quarter, but App State’s Chase Brice connected with Corey Sutton on passes of 37 yards and 24 yards for a score to pull the Mountaineers within 30-28.
The Herd had a chance to extend the lead after driving to the App State 15-yard line, but Ciucci -- who was in for Andrew Sanders after Sanders missed a critical kick last week -- pushed a 33-yarder right to keep the Mountaineers within a field goal.
“Field goal has been an issue for us, it’s been an issue in practice,” Huff said. “We’ve got to get it cleaned up. That’s an opportunity to put points on the board.”
It was the final mistake in a game full of them for the Herd.
App State took a 21-20 lead into halftime after Marshall committed four pass interference penalties -- three inside the red zone -- that extended App State drives, which turned into touchdown runs for Camerun Peoples.
Peoples finished with three touchdown runs, all in the first half, with two coming directly after pass interference calls.
Peoples’ final touchdown came with just four seconds left in the first half after Marshall was called for pass interference in the end zone, which gave the Mountaineers the slim lead.
Marshall also had an offensive penalty in the red zone in the first half that pushed the Herd into a long-yardage situation and turned a potential touchdown into a field goal -- one of two the Herd had in the first half from Ciucci.
MU quarterback Grant Wells finished 18 of 33 for 270 yards and one touchdown, that coming on a 56-yard strike to Xavier Gaines that gave Marshall a 13-7 lead with 12:36 left in the second quarter. Gaines finished with five catches for 104 yards.
After that score, however, Marshall’s defense was on the field for 41 of the next 47 offensive snaps, which led to a tough situation when the Herd needed a stop down the stretch.
Prior to Gaines’ score, Peoples’ second touchdown capped a 15-play, 75-yard drive with a pass interference call on Micah Abraham -- his second of the drive -- prolonging the drive on third-and-goal.
Following the score, however, Marshall took the lead right back when Rasheen Ali faked a reverse to Cory McCoy and returned the kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown.
The play gave Marshall the lead back, but also meant the Herd defense went back on the field, which led to the lengthy stretch of the defense being on the field.
Huff was unsure if that impacted his defense in the fourth quarter as App State used its rushing attack to wear down the Herd.
“It didn’t appear that way in the moment,” Huff said. “But I could be wrong.”
Marshall’s defense bowed up to start the second half, forcing a pair of turnovers on the Mountaineers’ first two drives while also getting a turnover on downs, which led to 10 points and the 30-21 lead following a 46-yard field goal by Ciucci and Ali’s touchdown run.
“This is a resilient community, a resilient university,” Huff said. “That’s who we are. That was a good opportunity for the defense to go out and force two turnovers. I think we might have gotten 10 points off of that, I think. Obviously, we’d have loved to get two touchdowns out of that.”
App State quarterback Chase Brice finished 24 of 39 for 283 yards with Sutton catching 10 passes for 127 yards and Thomas Hennigan catching nine passes for 123 yards.
Marshall returns to action on Oct. 2 when the Herd opens Conference USA action at Middle Tennessee.