Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA rankings, 1/17

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A lot of big games, so a lot of movement … except for Middle Tennessee, which is going nowhere. If the Blue Raiders keep it up, they’ll get the Memphis treatment, where they are too good to even be listed with the rest of the wretched refuse. They’re not there, yet.

The usual reminder: All teams play Thursday-Saturday weekends, both home or both away. Exception: “Travel partners” Western Kentucky and Marshall, Old Dominion and Charlotte, and Texas-El Paso and Texas-San Antonio, who play a single game Saturday.

My rankings, with results and schedule (RPI as of Tuesday morning):

  1. Middle Tennessee (15-3, 5-0, 23 RPI), d. Marshall 69-57, d. WKU 91-76. Any questions? This week: at FIU, FAU.
  2. Alabama-Birmingham (11-7, 4-1, 125 RPI), d. WKU 72-54, d. Marshall 94-78. William Lee was player of the week after two dominant games; Denzell Watts and Deion Lavender are starting to answer the big question at point guard. This week: at FAU, FIU.
  3. Louisiana Tech (12-6, 4-1, 196 RPI), d. Charlotte 79-73, d. Old Dominion 75-63. Bulldogs shoot 60 percent in an impressive road sweep. This week: home vs. Rice, North Texas.
  4. Marshall (11-8, 4-2, 93 RPI), lost to MTSU 69-57, UAB 94-78. Road roughing-up shows need for Marshall to play with an “athletic basketball.” There will be no overpowering the top two teams. This week: WKU.
  5. Old Dominion (11-7, 4-2, 142 RPI), d. Southern Miss 54-50, lost to Louisiana Tech 75-63. After holding all teams to 48 percent or below, Monarchs allowed La Tech to shoot 57 percent — 67 percent in the second half. This week: at Charlotte.
  6. Rice (12-6, 2-3, 168 RPI), d. North Texas 101-79. Owls hit 101 for first time in a league game since joining Conference USA in 2005. They might top that on March 2 at the Henderson Center — and lose. This week: At La Tech, at Southern Miss.
  7. Texas-San Antonio (9-9, 4-1, 296 RPI), d. FAU 68-63, d. FIU 57-55. I’m not going to give a lot of credit for beating the “F” schools by a combined seven points, but where else do I put this surprise team? This week: at UTEP.
  8. Western Kentucky (9-10, 3-3, 214 RPI), lost to UAB 72-54, lost to MTSU 91-76. Falling behind by 27 and 19 points, Hilltoppers had the same type of trip Marshall suffered. This week: at Marshall.
  9. Charlotte (8-9, 2-4, 227 RPI), lost to Louisiana Tech 79-73, d. Southern Miss 82-66. 49ers fell behind by 23 against La Tech, rallied to within one and had a shot to tie. This week: home vs. Old Dominion.
  10. Southern Mississippi (5-12, 2-3, 338 RPI), lost to Old Dominion 54-50, lost to Charlotte 82-66. This week: home vs. North Texas, Rice.
  11. North Texas (6-11, 0-5, 292 RPI), lost to Rice 101-79. This week: at Southern Miss, at La Tech.
  12. Texas-El Paso (4-13, 2-3, 341 RPI), d. FIU 88-87 (2 OT), d. FAU 66-65 (OT). Buzzer-beating basket vs. FIU led SportCenter LA, but didn’t impress me much. This week: home vs. UTSA.
  13. Florida Atlantic (5-11, 1-4, 335 RPI), lost to UTSA 68-63, lost to UTEP 66-65 (OT). This week: home vs. UAB, MTSU.
  14. Florida International (4-14, 0-5, 347 of 351 RPI), lost to UTEP 88-87 (2 OT), lost to UTSA 57-55. This week: home vs. MTSU, UAB.

TV games — beIN Sports, UAB at Florida Atlantic, 8 p.m. Thursday. ASN: WKU at Marshall, 6 p.m. Saturday, Old Dominion at Charlotte, 8 p.m. Saturday.

Stat leaders

Top scorers: Elmore (MU) 20.1, Koulechov (Rice) 19.9, McGill (FIU) 18.8.

Rebounders: Kessens (FIU) 9.7, McCree (LT) 8.7, Taylor (Marshall) 8.44.

Assists: Artis (UTEP) 6.4, Elmore (MU) 6.1, Bracey (LT) 5.7.

Top scoring teams: Marshall 87.5, Rice 83.8, Charlotte 78.9.

Top shooting teams: Rice .486, Middle Tennessee .480, Louisiana Tech .480, Marshall .467.

Top 3-point % teams: Charlotte .397, Rice .393, Middle Tennessee .383, Marshall .380.

Offensive rebound %: Old Dominion .373 (MU 11th at .251)

Defensive rebound %: MTSU .763 (MU 14th, .658)

C-USA rankings 1/9

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All teams play Thursday-Saturday weekends, both home or both away. Exception: “Travel partners” North Texas and Rice play each other in a single game, Saturday.

My rankings, with results and schedule (RPI as of Monday morning):

  1. Middle Tennessee (13-3, 3-0, 19 RPI), d. Rice 80-77, North Texas 79-68. Raiders were down 11 with 3:01 left at Rice. This week: home vs. Marshall, WKU.
  2. Marshall (11-6, 4-0, 72 RPI), d. Old Dominion 90-86 (OT), d. Charlotte 110-93. Now we get to see what these guys can do as a road underdog. This week: at MTSU, UAB.
  3. Alabama-Birmingham (9-7, 2-1, 142 RPI), beat North Texas 54-52, Rice 88-81 (OT). William Lee’s game-winner avoided disaster at MT; Blazers needed OT after committing 3-shot-foul at the end of regulation. This week: home vs. WKU, Marshall.
  4. Old Dominion (10-6, 3-1, 115 RPI), lost to Marshall 90-86 (OT), d. WKU 79-67. Recovers from tough loss by outscoring Hilltoppers 44-21 over last 15 minutes. This week: home vs. La Tech, Southern Miss
  5. Louisiana Tech (10-6, 2-1, 265 RPI), d. UTEP 64-44, lost to UTSA 69-68. Booted 14-point second-half lead vs. UTSA, at home no less. This week: at Charlotte, ODU.
  6. Western Kentucky (10-8, 3-1, 229 RPI), d. Charlotte 82-80, lost to ODU 79-67. 6-game win streak shot down against Monarchs. This week: at UAB, MTSU.
  7. Rice (11-6, 1-3, 179 RPI), lost to MTSU 80-77, UAB 88-81 (OT). Two rough losses to top teams aren’t shameful, but Owls missed opportunities at home. This week: Home vs. North Texas.
  8. Charlotte (7-8, 1-3, 209 RPI), lost to WKU 82-80, Marshall 110-93. Victimized by late basket, then steamrolled by Herd offense. This week: at at La Tech, Southern Miss.
  9. Southern Mississippi (5-10, 2-1, 346 RPI), d. UTSA 77-59, UTEP 73-65. Suddenly, Doc Sadler’s bunch has cultivated confidence. his week: home at ODU, Charlotte.
  10. Texas-San Antonio (7-9, 2-1, 318 RPI), lost to Southern Miss 77-59, d. La Tech 69-68. Don’t know what to do with team now. Credited for physical presences at La Tech. This week: home vs. FAU, FIU.
  11. Florida Atlantic (5-9, 1-2, 301 RPI), d. FIU 73-64. his week, at UTSA, UTEP.
  12. North Texas (6-10, 0-4, 296 RPI), lost to UAB 54-52, MTSU 79-68. This week: at Rice.
  13. Florida International (4-12, 0-3, 340 RPI), lost to FAU 73-64. This week: at UTEP, UTSA.
  14. Texas-El Paso (2-13, 0-3, 350 of 351 RPI), lost to La Tech 64-44, Southern Miss 73-65. Looking down on Alabama A&M, but that’s it. Tim Floyd, you’re fired. This week: home vs. FIU, FAU.

TV games: beIN Sports: Marshall/MTSU, 8 p.m. Thursday. ASN (generally in local markets): La Tech, ODU 6 p.m. Saturday, La Tech/WKU 8 p.m. Saturday. ESPN 3: La Tech/Charlotte, 7 p.m. Thursday.

Stat leaders

Top scorers: Elmore (MU) 21.1, Koulechov (Rice) 19.6, Davis (Char) , Evans (Rice) 19.1.

Rebounders: Kessens (FIU) 10.1, McCree (LT) 9.0, Taylor (ODU) 8.6.

Assists: Artis (UTEP) 6.53, Elmore (MU) 6.47, Bracey (LT) 5.8.

Top scoring teams: Marshall 89.9, Rice 82.8, Charlotte 79.1.

Top shooting teams: Rice .483, Middle Tennessee .478, Marshall .477.

Top 3-point % teams: Charlotte .395, Marshall .393, Rice .389.

Offensive rebound %: Old Dominion .377 (MU 10th at .266)

Defensive rebound %: UTSA .760 (MU 13th at .660)

C-USA rankings, 1/3/17

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All teams play Thursday-Saturday weekends, both home or both away. Exception: “Travel partners” FIU, FAU play each other in a single game, Saturday.

My rankings, with results and schedule (RPI as of Tuesday morning):

  1. Middle Tennessee (11-3, 1-0, 23 RPI), d. UAB 60-49. This week: at Rice, North Texas. Reggie Upshaw scored 34 in wire-to-wire victory over Blazers, who shot just 35 percent and turned it over 16 times.
  2. Marshall (9-6, 2-0, 111 RPI), d. FIU 94-70, d. FAU 89-72. This week: home vs. ODU, Charlotte. An FIU/FAU road sweep does not a season make, but Herd did spank both pretty hard. And who else do I put No. 2?
  3. Louisiana Tech (9-5, 1-0, 249 RPI), d. Southern Miss 79-55. This week: home vs. UTEP, North Texas. Perhaps this team, which led just 25-18 at halftime before destroying Golden Eagles.
  4. Alabama-Birmingham (7-7, 0-1, 198 RPI), lost to MTSU 60-49. This week: at North Texas, Rice.
  5. Old Dominion (9-5, 2-0, 119 RPI), d. Rice 62-56, d. North Texas 55-48. If Marshall scores 75 on these guys, that’s as good as 100. Monarchs beat NT despite shooting 28 percent. This week: at Marshall, WKU
  6. Rice (11-4, 1-1, 184 RPI), lost to ODU 62-56, d. Charlotte 89-70. My “hunch” team rolled over 49ers as 4 players scored 16 and up. We’ll find out more about the Owls in a hurry. This week: home vs MTSU, UAB.
  7. Western Kentucky (8-7, 2-0, 227 RPI), d. FAU 69-54, d. FIU 69-66. Duplicated MU’s Florida sweep, but struggled at FIU. Panthers led for 22 minutes. This week: home vs. Charlotte, ODU.
  8. Charlotte (7-6, 1-1, 159 RPI), d. North Texas 101-76, lost 89-70 to Rice. Plays at Marshall on Saturday in possible 200-point game. This week: at WKU, Marshall.
  9. Texas-San Antonio (6-8, 1-0, 334 RPI), d. UTEP 67-55. With 22 pts off turnovers, led UTEP for 30 minutes. This week: at Southern Miss, La Tech.
  10. Florida International (4-11, 0-2, 340 RPI), lost to Marshall 94-70, lost to WKU 69-66. The dregs of C-USA society begin here. This week: at FAU, Saturday.
  11. North Texas (6-8, 0-2, 288 RPI), lost to Charlotte 101-76, lost to ODU 55-48. This week: home vs. MTSU, UAB.
  12. Texas-El Paso (2-11, 0-1, 347 RPI), lost to UTSA 67-55. The horror show continues in El Paso. This week: at La Tech, Southern Miss.
  13. Florida Atlantic (4-9, 0-2, 268 RPI), lost to WKU 69-54, lost to Marshall 89-72. This week, home vs. FIU, Saturday.
  14. Southern Mississippi (3-10, 0-1, 349 of 351 RPI), lost to La Tech 79-55. This week: home vs. UTSA, UTEP.

TV games: Campus Insiders, UTEP/La Tech 7:30 Thursday, WKU/UAB at 8 p.m. Saturday. beIN Sports: MTSU-Rice, 8 p.m. Thursday. FCS: Charlotte-WKU, 8 p.m. Thursday. ASN: FIU-FAU 2 p.m. Saturday, ODU-WKU 6 p.m. Saturday.

Stat leaders

Top scorers: Elmore (MU) 20.3, Davis (Char) 20.1,  McGill (FIU) 19.6, Koulechov (Rice) 18.2, Evans (Rice) 18.0

Rebounders: Kessens (FIU) 10.0, McCree (LT) 9.4, Taylor (ODU) 8.5.

Assists: Artis (UTEP) 7.2, Elmore (MU) 6.4, Bracey (LT) 5.6.

Top scoring teams: Marshall 88.5, Rice 83.3, La Tech 78.9.

Top shooting teams: Rice .486, La Tech .481, Middle Tennessee .480, Marshall .474.

Top 3-point % teams: Rice .393, Marshall .387, Charlotte .384

Offensive rebound %: Old Dominion .384 (MU 10th at .262)

Defensive rebound %: La Tech .770 (MU 143h at .660)

Conference USA hoop rankings

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After each weekend, I’ll rank the C-USA teams as I see them. By late February, those rankings will somewhat resemble the standings, so I will refocus on projected tournament pairings and NIT prospects. (I am going to assume the league gets one NCAA bid.)

Wednesday night, Marshall lost 112-106 to Pitt after falling behind 29, Western Kentucky downed RPI 259 Austin Peay 97-92 and Florida Atlantic lost to RPI 92 Florida Gulf Coast 75-62. I won’t adjust the rankings I put forth in my Monday column.

Those, rankings, with weekend schedule (RPI as of Thursday midday Eastern):

  1. Middle Tennessee (10-3, 6 RPI) home vs UAB (4 p.m. Sunday, Campus Insiders)
  2. Alabama-Birmingham (7-6, 194) at UAB (Sunday, see above)
  3. Marshall (7-6, 117) at FIU, FAU (Sat-Mon)
  4. Rice (130-3, 156) at ODU, Charlotte (Sat-Mon; Monday game 7 p.m. on ESPN3)
  5. Louisiana Tech (8-5, 258) at Southern Miss (Sun)
  6. Old Dominion (7-4, 91) home vs. Old Dominion (Thursday); vs. Rice, North Texas (Sat-Mon)
  7. Western Kentucky (6-7, 245) at FAU, FIU (Sat-Mon)
  8. Charlotte (6-5, 186) home vs North Texas, Rice (Sat-Mon; Monday game 7 p.m. on ESPN3)
  9. Florida Atlantic (4-7, 241) home vs WKU, Marshall (Sat-Mon)
  10. Texas-El Paso (2-9, 346) at New Mexico State (Friday); at UTSA (Sunday)
  11. Florida International (4-9, 324) home vs. Marshall, WKU (Sat-Mon)
  12. North Texas (6-6, 226) at Charlotte, ODU (Sat-Mon)
  13. Texas-San Antonio (4-8, 340) home vs. East Central (Thursday); home vs. UTEP (Sunday)
  14. Southern Mississippi (3-9, 348) home vs La Tech (Sun)

This will be re-ranked after the weekend’s games, with some overreacting moves (only half-joking).

Stat leaders

Top scorers: Elmore (MU) 20.8, Davis (Char) 19.9,  McGill (FIU) 19.3, Koulechov (Rice) 18.5, Browning (MU) 18.0, Williams (MT) 18.0

Rebounders: Kessens (FIU) 10.3, McCree (LT) 9.1, Johnson (WKU) 8.8.

Assists: Artis (UTEP) 7.5, Elmore (MU) 6.8, Bracey (LT) 5.8.

Top scoring teams: Marshall 88.1, Rice 85, La Tech 78.8.

Top shooting teams: Rice .494, La Tech .487, Middle Tennessee .483, Marshall .467.

Top 3-point % teams: Rice .399, Marshall .379, Middle Tennessee .373.

Offensive rebound %: ODU .383 (MU 10th at .257)

Defensive rebound %: La Tech .765 (MU 14th at .652)

I prefer those rebounding stats, as you can see. Tough to explain in a story, but a more effective analysis.



Herd notebook: Morrell pressed into service again

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HUNTINGTON — Garet Morrell’s numbers weren’t great and he led Marshall to a single touchdown in its 60-6 loss to Western Kentucky, but his teammates bragged on him afterward.

It was the second start on short notice for the 6-foot-3 freshman from Leesburg, Georgia, and it came against the second- or third-toughest team on the schedule, WKU. His first career start came against Louisville, then ranked third in the nation.

In both instances, he replaced Chase Litton. The sophomore had shoulder issues, coach Doc Holliday said after the game.

“Ah, man, a lot of respect for that guy,” receiver Josh Knight said of Morrell. “Tough. He’s a true freshman coming in … a lot of love for him. He fought for us.”

He threw 35 passes and completed 19, but only racked up 143 yards, with two interceptions. He had the game’s long play of 32 yards, a toss to Michael Clark on third-and-10 at the WKU 47.

His NCAA passer rating is a 86.61, mediocre at best.

The Herd scored its only touchdown on that drive, cutting the insurmountable lead to 48-6. Alas, the Hilltoppers picked up two points after returning a blocked extra point.

The play-calling was conservative, but not as much as it was in the Herd’s 59-24 loss to Louisville. But it didn’t help Morrell that he was sacked twice and hurried seven times.

The toughest thing the Hilltoppers threw at him?

“Really, the D-line,” Morrell said. “To be an efficient quarterback, you’ve got to have time in the pocket. I love my O-line, we’re going to get on it, they’re going to get on it [but] it’s hard to not have time and make plays happen.”

The drive that helped the Herd avoid its first shutout in 16 years covered 16 plays, 82 yards and took 8 minutes, 49 seconds, the latter an MU season high.

He finished the drive with a 4-yard pass to Ryan Yurachek, who caught his 16th career TD pass. Yurachek missed the Herd’s game last week against Florida International.

“Bum leg or not bum leg, I’ve got faith in him,” Morrell said. “He’s going to make a play.”

Morrell finishes the season 33 of 67 for 290 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. His passer rating is 96.36.


The Herd scored for the 207th consecutive game, but it came to the 1:57 mark of the third quarter. The streak dates back to an infamous 42-0 loss at Toledo on Oct. 14, 2000.

MU’s last close call came in a 16-6 loss in heavy rain at Central Florida in 2011. The Herd only scored on a defensive touchdown, a 12-yard fumble recovery by Rashad Jackson with 3:17 left in the third.

The season before, the Herd only scored on a blocked field goal return in the first quarter by Ahmed Shakoor in a 45-7 loss at Ohio State. The Herd lost 24-7 in 2009 and 27-3 in 2008 at West Virginia, but both scores came in the first half.

Other close calls: 31-3 at Miami in the 2007 season opener, 42-7 at Southern Mississippi in the 2006 finale, seven-point games at Kansas State and Tennessee earlier that season, three-point games at Texas-El Paso and Memphis in 2005, a 13-3 loss at Georgia in 2004 and the 45-6 loss at Miami (Ohio) in 2003.


  • No, Marshall did not have the biggest collapse in major-college football, as far as the win column is concerned. The Herd fell from 10-3 in 2015 to 3-9.
  • That “honor” belongs to Michigan State, which took a dive from 12-2 to 3-9.
  • The Herd had just one tackle for loss. Joe Massaquoi made that tackle, throwing Anthony Wales for a 3-yard loss to the Marshall 21-yard line.
  • That was rendered moot on the next play, when Mike White completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Taywan Taylor.
  • Kylen Towner’s 93-yard TD return of the opening kickoff was the first such return the Herd has given up since UCF’s Quincy McDuffie struck twice in 2012, a 54-17 Knights win.
  • Marshall’s losing home record drops it to 151-30 (.834), tentatively falling from first to third in the FBS. Houston (.857) and Georgia Southern (.837) entered Saturday’s play with higher percentages. Houston’s stadium is in its third year, Georgia Southern is in its 33rd.

WKU game prediction

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Hello, Herd fans!

Let’s put this season out of its misery.

Little by little, I have been dissecting what went wrong with this season. So far, we have a receiving situation not helped by the failed WR signings of 2015, we have defections and dismissals from the program, and we have injuries. The QB hasn’t been all that good, and the beat-up O-line can’t run-block. Defense struggles against the run, as well.

And here comes a team that is equipped to exploit every weakness. And the Hilltoppers will.

On to 2017!


Conference USA notebook

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Hello, Herd fans!
The East Division race comes down to Western Kentucky beating Marshall, with Old Dominion possibly picking up the pieces in case of an upset. Louisiana Tech plays Southern Mississippi on Friday, but the Bulldogs have clinched the West.

Southern Miss and two other teams are fighting for a bowl bid. If all three fail, only *4* of the 13 teams will be bowl-eligible.

With some format changes, here we go:

East: WKU 6-1, Old Dominion 6-1, Florida International 4-3, MTSU 4-3, Charlotte 3-4, Marshall 2-5, Florida Atlantic 2-5
West: La Tech 6-1 (clinched), Texas-San Antonio 4-3, Southern Miss 3-4, North Texas 3-4, Rice 2-6, Texas-El Paso 1-6

Bowl eligibility chart
Bowl tie-ins: New Mexico, Boca Raton, Bahamas, New Orleans, Hawaii, Heart of Dallas (6); secondary partnership with Independence Bowl
Eligible: WKU, ODU, MTSU, La. Tech (4)
Ineligible: Florida International, Marshall, FAU, Rice, UTEP, Charlotte.

Still fighting, with schedule
UTSA 5-6: Charlotte
Southern Miss 5-6: La Tech
North Texas 5-6: at UTEP

Notable stat leaders
Rushing yards: Aaron Jones, UTEP 1,472, I’Tavius Mathers, MTSU 1,291, Ito Smith, Southern Miss 1,194.
Passing yards: Ryan Higgins, La Tech 3,460, Mike White, WKU 3,373, Brent Stockstill, MTSU 2,801.
Pass efficiency: Mike White, WKU 179.5, Ryan Higgins, La Tech 177.2, David Washington, ODU 155.4.
Receptions: Trent Taylor, La Tech 103, Richie James, MTSU 93, Taywan Taylor, WKU 77.
Receiving yards: Richie James, MTSU 1,343, Trent Taylor, La Tech 1,343, Taywan Taylor, WKU 1,340.
Team scoring: Louisiana Tech 45.8, WKU 42.5, MTSU 36.7.
Team total yardage: Louisiana Tech 540.7, WKU 509.8, MTSU 493.7.

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-WKU not included):

FIU (4-7, 4-3) at Old Dominion (8-3, 6-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3: I’d almost give interim Ron Cooper coach-of-the-year honors for leading the Panthers to a 4-4 mark after the firing of Ron Turner. But that award belongs to the Monarchs’ Bobby Wilder.

Louisiana Tech (8-3, 6-1) at Southern Miss (5-6, 3-4), 4 p.m. Friday, ESPNews: The Golden Eagles’ missing a bowl game would be the biggest collapse story in C-USA, if not for Marshall.

Charlotte (4-7, 3-4) at UTSA (5-6, 4-3): 7 p.m., Campus Insiders: The Roadrunners’ Frank Wilson should get some coach-of-the-year love, too..

FAU (3-8, 2-5) at Middle Tennessee (7-4, 4-3), 5:30 p.m., beIN Sports: If the Owls win in what could be Charlie Partridge’s last game and Marshall loses, the Herd finishes in the East Division basement.

Rice (3-8) at Stanford (8-3), 8 p.m., Pac-12 Networks: Why?

Last week vs. line: 3-2 (including MU game). Season: 36-44.

Marshall-FIU notebook

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MIAMI — Once again, Marshall’s defense gave up a 100-yard rusher.

Make that twice again.

For the second time this season, the Thundering Herd gave up two 100-yard rushers, this time against Florida International in a 31-14 setback Saturday night at FIU Stadium.

Alex Gardner, who became FIU’s all-time leading rusher, was an obvious suspect, and he gained 119 yards on 14 carries. But No. 2 man Anthony Jones topped that total by 2 yards, rushing 17 times for 121 yards.

Florida Atlantic (Devin Singletary 111, Greg Howell 109) is the other team to run for a twin century against the Herd. Gardner and Jones became the ninth and 10th Herd foes to top 100. The Panthers ran for 259 yards, the sixth time an opponent has topped 250.

Both backs presented a combination of power and shiftiness, but one Herd defender said something was a little different about the scheme.

“They were trying to trap me, make the running back get outside of me,” said cornerback Rodney Allen. “It was pretty hard for me to get outside of him … It was pretty tough for us. It was something different, something we never saw on film.”


Like his teammates, quarterback Chase Litton thought the Herd turned a corner in the previous game, a 42-17 win over Middle Tennessee. But that turned into a case of one step forward, two steps back.

Litton went 29 of 42 for 301 yards, but all that was inflated by a pass-heavy fourth quarter. He went 14 of 19 for 152 yards in those final 15 minutes, throwing his second touchdown of the game.

That was a 24-yarder to Deon-Tay McManus, but the Herd still trailed 24-14 with 3:53 left. Back in the first quarter, Litton hit Emanuel Byrd from 17 yards to tie the game.

But Litton’s day was marred by three throws — two first-half interceptions and a critical incompletion on third-and-goal at the FIU 3. On that play, his lob to Josh Knight was caught, but Knight was well out of bounds.

Then Amareto Curraj’s 20-yard field goal was blocked, in part because of key injuries to the Herd’s protection unit. FIU seized the momentum and pulled away.

“We had a perfect play called,” Litton said. “It’s timing, you put it in the corner, I put in in the corner, I threw it too far. That’s 100 percent on me.
“That’s not on the field-goal unit. They shouldn’t have even been in that situation. They should have been kicking an extra point.”


With his season over north of the border, Rakeem Cato was back in his native Miami to take in the game. He made his appropriate rounds with the team before the game.

Cato’s Montreal Alouettes finished 7-11 and out of the Canadian Football League playoffs. He played 11 games hitting 67.4 percent of his passes for 1,403 yards and eight touchdowns with just two interceptions.

Litton was again appreciative for his early lessons from Cato, who was finishing his career as Litton joined the team for practice before the 2014 Boca Raton Bowl.

“He’s a legend here,” Litton said. “There’s a reason for that — he didn’t have a 3-8 football season, the way he got to work, the way he got the guys around him. I’ve got to do the same thing.”


* Litton’s early TD pass came after cornerback Rodney Allen intercepted his second pass of the quarter. Allen entered the game with 11 pass breakups, but those were his first two picks of the season.

* With the blocked field goal, Curraj is now 4 of 10 for the season. The Herd is 10 of 25 since Nick Smith began the 2015 season by making his first 12.

* MU did not lead at any point in Saturday’s game, the sixth time that has happened.

* Attrition brought on some odd positioning. Most notable was the emergency use of A.J. Addison at tight end, wearing No. 92 instead of his 74.
That was brought on by Ryan Yurachek not dressing, Kaleb Harris not making the trip and Byrd hobbling off during the game.

Defensive tackle Nyquan Harris also missed his second game in a row. Linebacker Davon Durant returned to action, playing some at defensive end.

* FIU tight end Jonnu Smith, thought to be out for the season, ended up playing and catching a pass. He was badly burned by boiling water during a domestic dispute with his pregnant girlfriend.

* The loss ended offensive line coach Alex Mirabal’s three-game winning streak over his old employer, two of them in his native Miami. Mirabal last lost at FIU Stadium when the Panthers lost to Louisiana-Monroe 23-17 in overtime in the 2012 season finale. Mario Cristobal was fired afterward, and Mirabal hooked up with the Herd.

Grades for FIU game

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Didn’t break the 300-yard mark until late in the game with the score already 24-7. 78 yards rushing, 75 by the 2 tailbacks. And then there was the burning of 13 minutes on 2 drives that did not result in a score.


Somehow kept the Herd in the game before those aforementioned 2 drives, but gave up 2 more 100-yard rushers.


That painful blocked field goal, plus kickoff returns weren’t good.


It’s tough to flunk a 301-yard performance, but this could have qualified.


So Anthony Anderson runs over a defender and gets inside the 1-yard line and what do you do? Put in a smaller back, of course. … And how ’bout those swing passes on 3rd-and-18?


One more week … I keep telling myself that … one more week.