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Who is Marshall University’s all-time biggest rival in football?

West Virginia University?

Nah. Schools have to play each other to be actual rivals.

Western Kentucky and/or Florida Atlantic? Yes, those two Conference USA schools are probably the biggest current rivals. But all-time?

It has to be Appalachian State. You know, those “other” Mountaineers located in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina.

Remember those days in the Southern Conference? Marshall vs. App State was the very definition of the word “rivalry.” It all began in 1977 with a 28-20 victory for Appalachian State in Boone. Next, there was a 28-7 loss by Marshall in Huntington in 1978, a 45-7 shellacking by Appy State in ’79 in Boone and a 23-6 Herd defeat in Huntington in 1980.

But, then, after four consecutive losses it happened.

Marshall broke through with a 17-10 win over Appalachian State in Boone and — bingo — the intensity exploded into a legitimate rivalry.

The Thundering Herd and Mountaineers went toe-to-toe for 20 consecutive seasons. Twenty! But the series ended after Marshall lambasted App State, 50-17, in Joan C. Edwards Stadium in 2002.

So, how can MU vs. App State still be the all-time biggest rivalry? Easy. It’s because the series has been revived. Marshall is scheduled to play at App State on Sept. 25, 2021 in Kidd Brewer Stadium at Boone. Then, the Mountaineers return the game in 2022 with a game on Sept. 17 in Huntington. And guess who can’t wait.

Shawn Clark. The former George Washington High School star was an All-American offensive lineman at Appalachian State and, now, Clark is the Mountaineers’ first-year head coach. At the mere mention of Marshall, Clark gets revved up.

“I am so excited,” said Clark, during a recent interview. “I hope we get a chance to have that on an annual basis. I think it’s great for both fan bases. It’s four, four and a half hours from Huntington. Our fans travel very well to Huntington and their fans travel very well to Boone.

“You look back in the Southern Conference and those games were the biggest crowds. I hope we can get back to doing that on an annual basis. I hope we can play more regional games.”

In these budget-tightening days of travel expenses, regional contests like MU vs. App State are perfect matchups.

“If we go to Texas or Louisiana, our fans don’t travel as well,” said Clark. “But when we play Charlotte ... we set the record at Charlotte for a home game. The all-time record. They came here and we set the record in Boone. Why wouldn’t you want to play Marshall and a fan base that can travel. It’s a great rivalry for college football. And I think college football needs that right now.”

He’s right. Besides that, Clark has first-hand knowledge when it comes to the Marshall-App State rivalry. He played against the Herd.

“I remember that game in ’94 here in late October,” recalled Clark. “I can remember we played in the rain and fog and we beat Marshall.”

The game was played in a steady downpour and No. 24 App State upset top-ranked (I-AA poll) Marshall 24-14.

“Then,” continued Clark, “we went there in ’95 and we won 10-3.”

The No. 2-ranked Mountaineers edged No. 3 Marshall 10-3 thanks to a late touchdown run by then-App State quarterback Scott Satterfield.

“I remember the fan bases and how awesome they were,” reminisced Clark. “As a player, you thrive on that.”

It’s time to thrive again.

Nobody knows what is going to happen with the 2020 season. But we do know what’s going to happen in 2021. Marshall and Appalachian State are going to play football … again.

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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