Inside Marshall Sports

Grades for North Texas game

OFFENSE: F

The run got stuffed. The 2 tailbacks, Keion Davis and Anthony Anderson, combined for 40 yards on 20 carries. Chase Litton hit the deck 5 times, making the run total a 13 net. All the offensive problems started here, against a team that was giving up 224 yards per game.

DEFENSE: D

For 42 minutes, this unit more or less played well enough to win. That assessment ended with Jeffrey Wilson’s 72-yard run.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

Lowest I’ve ever graded a unit that had a kick return TD. Missed 2 FGs, roughed the punter and gave up a horrifying fake field goal.

QUARTERBACKING: D

Probably could have made better use of Michael Clark, even though he caught 8 for 122. At times, it didn’t look like Chase and his receivers were playing in the same game.

COACHING: F

I have no basis to improve this mark.

OVERALL: F

Can this team win five of the next seven to go to a bowl? You tell me.

 

Marshall-North Texas prediction

Hello, Herd fans!

Is it time to go to Texas? Hadn’t been there in four years, right?

No, three. I had to be reminded that Marshall was sent to Rice for the 2013 Conference USA championship game (“we can extend the BCS formula”), which the Herd lost. I had successfully drummed that entire trip out of my memory.

Thanks a lot, Grant Traylor.

Anyway, the Herd hasn’t done well in Texas, and will now play in the sixth different Lone Star venue. This Apogee Stadium venue looks pretty cool, and I hear rumors these guys are a respectable draw by modern-day C-USA standards.

As for the game, I look for Marshall to run for 200-plus yards, but suffer a turnover or two (courtesy of Kishawn McClain), and maybe have to settle for a field goal or three in the red zone.

Defensively, the Herd’s problems aren’t going away, and mobile QB Nelson Fine will strike early. The Mean Green is a good candidate to take a 7-0 lead after Marshall wins the toss and defers. NT may lead at halftime, so brace yourselves.

MU’s halftime adjustments should be spot-on, though, and clamp down on Fine & Co. MU’s offense will be solid and balanced, though not spectacular.

This will be win No. 2 in Texas, but you’d better keep provisions on hand for all four quarters. This won’t be automatic.

MARSHALL 30, NORTH TEXAS 24

C-USA notebook for games of 10/6-8

Hello, Herd fans!

Thursday night is important for the Herd, as far as the East Division race goes. That’s when Western Kentucky goes to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. The Hilltoppers are on a 13-game winning streak
So who reading this thought WKU was not a worthy candidate for C-USA expansion? I’ll skip the way-too-easy Florida International joke this time.

The notable and not so notable results last week:

Notable

Old Dominion 52, Charlotte 17: Beating Charlotte is not worth brownie points, but the Monarchs weren’t expected to beat up on anybody. The 17 points against is a program-best in C-USA play.

Florida International 33, Florida Atlantic 31: All hail Ron Cooper! In his first game as the Panthers’ Austin Taylor kicked a 32-yard field goal with 12:14 left to take the lead. More impressive: The Panthers killed the final 6 minutes, converting a third-and-11 along the way.

FIU LB Anthony Wint is the C-USA defensive player of the week for making 12 tackles and forcing a key third-quarter fumble. FAU’s Charlie Partridge is 11th on one of my favorite dark-humor web sites, Coaches Hot Seat.

Southern Mississippi 44, Rice 28: This game produced some silly stats as Allenzae Staggers caught TD passes of 75, 81 and 93 yards from Nick Mullens. He caught 6 passes for 292 yards, and Mullens threw for 591. That’s five-nine-one.
As you might guess, Staggers was a player of the week.

Hold your nose

Middle Tennessee 30, North Texas 13: Both teams scored a very late TD, so this game was a yawner by G-5 standards. NT (I still refuse to use “UNT”) ran for a net 5 yards.

Mean Green punter Eric Keena averaged 51.6 yards on eight punts, downing four kicks inside the MTSU 20. He deserved the special teams honor.
WKU 50, Houston Baptist 3: Yawn.

Non-conference report

C-USA vs. G-5

Southern Methodist 34, North Texas 21

Texas-El Paso 38, New Mexico State 22

Appalachian State 31, Old Dominion 7

Colorado State 23, Texas-San Antonio 14

Akron 65, Marshall 38

Middle Tennessee 41, Bowling Green 21

Western Kentucky 31, Miami (Ohio) 24

Eastern Michigan 37, Charlotte 19

Troy 37, Southern Miss 31

Temple 48, Charlotte 20

Ball State 31, FAU 27

UCF 53, FIU 14

Overall: 3-9

G-5 standings

American 10-1

Mountain West 8-8

MAC 9-10

Sun Belt 7-9

C-USA 3-9

Note: Army and Massachusetts are independents and are not factored in. C-USA is 0-3 vs. those teams.

C-USA best results vs. P-5

Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35

Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20 (Tech had ball with lead in 4th quarter)

Arizona 32, UTSA 28 (led in 4th quarter)

Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30 (WKU went for 2 and the win)

Note: Marshall cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 3 points in the 4th quarter, but never got the ball back with a chance to tie or go ahead. Therefore, that game is not listed here.

Overall vs P-5: 1-17

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

WKU (3-2, 1-0) at Louisiana Tech (2-3, 1-1), 8 p.m. Thursday (CBS Sports Network): In the Skip Holtz long-winded poor-mouth file, he told the world his team is 121st in the nation in giving up plays over 20 yards. That’s not a good omen in this game.

LINE: WKU by 2.5. TAKE THE TOPPERS, LAY THE POINTS.

Southern Miss (4-1, 2-0) at Texas-San Antonio (1-3, 0-1), noon (American Sports Network): Last call for UTSA’s darkhorse hopes comes two weeks after the Roadrunners ran into a ditch at Old Dominion. Southern Miss gained 702 total yards against what we now know to be a horrific Rice defense.

LINE: Southern Miss by 16.5. TOO MUCH IN THIS GAME; TAKE UTSA

FIU (1-4, 1-0) at Texas-El Paso (1-4, 0-2): An East Division co-leader (no, really) against a Miner team that has proved itself not ready for the limelight, having been outscored 169-35 over the last 4 games. The last 2 games came against Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech, so that kills UTEP’s darkhorse hopes.

LINE: UTEP by 5. MINERS WILL SEND PANTHERS BACK TO REALITY.

Massachusetts (1-4) at Old Dominion (3-2), 8 p.m. Friday: After this week, the vagabond Minutemen play their third C-USA team, Louisiana Tech, at Foxboro. This is a nonconference game, but respresents another proving ground for QB David Washington and the upstart Monarchs. Note time change due to Hurricane Matthew.

LINE: ODU by 7. OK, MONARCHS, KEEP US INTERESTED.

Charlotte (1-4, 0-1) at FAU (1-4, 0-1), noon Sunday: Somebody has to emerge from this 1-1. I guess that will be the Owls. Note time change due to Hurricane Matthew.

LINE: FAU by 14. SURELY, OWLS WON’T BLOW (BAD HURRICANE PUN) THIS ONE … RIGHT?

Last week vs. number: 3-2. Season: 17-23.

The NCAA rule on medical redshirting

From what I gather from below, Willie Johnson will be eligible for a medical redshirt as long as the NCAA rounds up from 3.9 games. The number in question is 30 percent of the max number of games (12), plus conference championship whether MU makes it or not … Read on:

12.8.4 Hardship Waiver. A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the con- ference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of “hardship.” Hardship is de ned as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions:

  1. (a)   The incapacitating injury or illness occurs in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition at any two- year or four-year collegiate institutions or occurs after the rst day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;
  2. (b)   The injury or illness occurs prior to the rst competition of the second half of the playing season that con- cludes with the NCAA championship in that sport (see Bylaw 12.8.4.3.4) and results in incapacity to com- pete for the remainder of that playing season;
  3. (c)  In team sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests or dates of competition (whichever is applicable to that sport) or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the institution’s scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in his or her sport. Only scheduled or completed competition against outside participants during the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship, or, if so designated, during the o cial NCAA championship playing season in that sport (e.g., spring baseball, fall soccer), shall be countable under this limitation in calculating both the number of contests or dates of competition in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition during that season in the sport. Dates of competition that are exempted (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition shall count toward the number of contests or dates in which the student-athlete has participated and the number of scheduled or completed contests or dates of competition in the season, except for scrimmages and exhibition contests that are speci cally identi ed as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regulations. Scrimmages and exhibition contests that are not exempted from the maximum permissible number of contests or dates of competition may be excluded from the calculation only if they are identi ed as such in the sport’s Bylaw 17 playing and practice season regula- tions; and
  4. (d)  In individual sports, the injury or illness occurs when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three dates of competition or 30 percent (whichever number is greater) of the maximum permissible number of dates of competition as set forth in Bylaw 17 plus one date for a conference championship (e.g., gymnas-tics: 13+1=14, wrestling: 16+1=17), regardless of whether the team participates in the conference champion- ship, provided the institution is a member of a conference and the conference holds a championship event in the applicable sport. Dates of competition that are exempted per Bylaw 17 (e.g., alumni contests, foreign team in the United States) from the maximum permissible number of dates of competition do not count toward the number of dates in which the student-athlete has participated.

Grades for Pitt game

OFFENSE: C-

First 4 possessions of 2nd half: 37 plays, 280 yards, 4 TDs. So what about the first half?

DEFENSE: D

The 2nd half was better, but not as much as you might think. The Panthers had only 3 offensive possessions, scoring 10 points and setting up a long field goal that was faked. Pitt was kept from advancing into MU territory just once in 9 possessions

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

Between the prettiest onside kick I’ve seen in a long time and Davon Durant destroying a fake field goal, I don’t see much problem — except for the grisly kick-catching interference foul.

QUARTERBACKING: C

Welcome back Chase Litton, who went 20 of 32 for 240 yards and 2 scores, both beauties. First-half sack was tough to stomach, his 2-point pass to Ryan Yurachek was not a good pass at all, and Litton gave up another late “pick-6.”

COACHING: C-

MU’s defense was not ready for Pitt’s run-based offense, which is more creative than is given credit. But there had to be a good halftime adjustment or 2 at the half.

OVERALL: C-

This team should be mad as hell, but confident after the 2nd half. Must stop shaky starts, beginning at North Texas.

Prediction for the Pitt game

Hello, Herd fans!

Another week, another “Power 5” opponent. Conference USA hasn’t done very well against the so-called “haves” of college football, losing 16 of 17.
I don’t see that changing today when Marshall plays Pitt at Heinz Field, though the Thundering Herd has a lot better chance than it had against Louisville. As mentioned, the Panthers have an outside shot to win the ACC’s Mediocre Division, thought they’ve already lost a game to North Carolina.

Here are some items I look for at 7:30 p.m. Saturday:

  • Welcome back, Chase Litton. Now, go throw for 350 or more: He’ll have to, for reasons stated below. He’ll have to duck out of the pocket a few times, and will need good blocking from the running back more than ever.
  • Litton can do it. Pitt’s three opposing FBS starting QBs are 85-127-1, 1,325 yards with 8 TDs … Passer rating 173.8.
  • Pitt will outrush the Herd 250-100, if the Herd is lucky: Pitt is big and nasty in the trenches on both sides, and are going to push the Herd back quite often. James Conner is the real deal, even at 80 percent
  • Pitt had a 281-18 rushing lead over North Carolina: And lost. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi had never seen that in all his years, and I’ve never head of such a result in all mine. That wouldn’t happen again Saturday.

    Marshall has to get in a track meet to win this one, passing to set up the run. But I’m not sold on the defense’s ability to slow down any P-5 team.
    PITTSBURGH 51, MARSHALL 31

C-USA notebook for week of October 1

Hello, Herd fans!

Come Nov. 21, the Herd will be facing an interim head coach for the second year in a row. After getting slobberknocked by Central Florida, Florida International fired Ron Turner. Ron Cooper, once a head coach at Eastern Michigan, Louisville and Alabama A&M, takes over.

The notable and not so notable results last week (complete with multiple violations of newspaper style):
Highlights
Middle Tennessee 38, Louisiana Tech 34: I’Tavius Mathers owns the C-USA offensive player of the week honor, winning it twice in a row with a 163-yard, 3-TD effort. Brett Stockstill went 27 of 46 for 356 yards and 2 TDs, including a 23-yard game-winner with 2:36 left.
A 27-7 lead is not safe against the Blue Raiders.
Southern Mississippi 34, Texas-El Paso 7: The Golden Eagles took a 24-7 halftime lead, then threw the car into neutral and let it coast. A 100-yard Curtis Mikell interception return make it 31-7.
Taking away Aaron Jones’ 68-yard TD run early, the Eagles yielded just 190 total yards.
Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30: The result didn’t do any favors for the league’s record vs. P-5 schools, but Jeff Brohm gets kudos for going for 2 for the win in overtime. That’s never a wrong call.

Lowest lights
UCF 53, FIU 14: The now-departed Ron Turner earned his firing for benching Alex McGough, but he deserves it more for failing to build an offensive line worth a darn. Five sacks, 2.4 yards per rush, 189 total yards is no way to live.
Ball State 31, Florida Atlantic 27: Owls lost another offensive linemen for the season, and waited through 4 lightning delays before losing with 2:03 left.
Temple 48, Charlotte 20: 49ers led for 50 seconds early, their first lead over an FBS team in 6 games. Temple then led 31-7 at the half.

Non-conference report
C-USA vs. G-5
Southern Methodist 34, North Texas 21
Texas-El Paso 38, New Mexico State 22
Appalachian State 31, Old Dominion 7
Colorado State 23, Texas-San Antonio 14
Akron 65, Marshall 38
Middle Tennessee 41, Bowling Green 21
Western Kentucky 31, Miami (Ohio) 24
Eastern Michigan 37, Charlotte 19
Troy 37, Southern Miss 31
Temple 48, Charlotte 20
Ball State 31, FAU 27
UCF 53, FIU 14
Overall: 3-9

G-5 standings
American 10-0
Mountain West 7-7
MAC 9-10
Sun Belt 6-9
C-USA 3-9
Note: Army and Massachusetts are independents and are not factored in. C-USA is 0-3 vs. those teams.

C-USA best results vs. P-5
Southern Miss 44, Kentucky 35
Arkansas 21, Louisiana Tech 20 (Tech had ball with lead in 4th quarter)
Indiana 34, Florida International 13 (near-miss by loosest definition; FIU had ball in Indiana territory down by 7 in 4th quarter)
Arizona 32, UTSA 28 (led in 4th quarter)
Vanderbilt 31, Western Kentucky 30
Overall vs P-5: 1-16

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

Middle Tennessee (3-1, 1-0) at North Texas, 7 p.m., Campus Insiders: A battle of division leads. You heard me — that Mean Green and its band of 63 scholarship players are tied for the West lead after beating Rice in overtime. That involved a rally from 17-0.
This will be a good comparison for Marshall, who visits Denton next week. Stockstill passes for 300 and Mathers runs for 150 … again.
LINE: MTSU by 15.5. BLUE RAIDERS SHALL ROMP.

Rice (0-4, 0-2) at Southern Miss (3-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.: You bail out on the Owls at your own peril, but they are still making youthful mistakes, including 3 turnovers in 4 possessions after taking a 17-0 lead vs. North Texas. Eagles will bring no relief.
LINE: Southern Miss by 24. TAKE THE EAGLES GOING AWAY.

Old Dominion (2-2, 1-0) at Charlotte (1-3, 0-0), 6 p.m., C-USA TV: Last year, the Monarchs needed a TD pass with 2:18 left to eke out a win. We could lecture about the Monarchs needing a more convincing victory, but a win in any method brings them to 2-0 in league.
LINE: ODU by 8.5. TAKE THE MONARCHS.

FAU (1-3, 0-0) at FIU (0-4, 0-0), 7 p.m., beIN Sports: They call this Shula Bowl XV; I’ll call it the Futility Bowl. But the winner is 1-0 in the league.
LINE: FAU by 7. PANTHERS, STRANGELY ENOUGH.

UTEP (1-3, 0-1) at Louisiana Tech (1-3, 0-1), 7 p.m., ASN: Tech coach Skip Holtz is laying down a challenge to his defense to simply keep up. The Miners were supposed to be some smashmouth outfit, but is getting their entire faces smashed.
LINE: LA. TECH BY 18.5. UTEP IN A HUNCH PICK.

FCS Parade: WKU vs. Houston Baptist

Last week vs. number: 4-4. Season: 14-21.

Grades for Louisville

OFFENSE: D

I’m giving credit for the 4 tailbacks combining for 175 yards. 2 turnovers still not good, and neither is 207 yards.

DEFENSE: F

You have to do it. You can’t excuse 690 total yards, 479 by the QB, even if that QB wins the Heisman.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

All hail Kaare Vedvik for running for a 1st down on a fake punt! The Norwegian Nightmare!

QUARTERBACKING: C

Mercy ruling here. Garet Morrell went from a high school game to one of the best defenses in America.

COACHING: C

I’m trying to figure out if they were coddling Morrell too much, or if they were being smart. I’m not at all sure.

OVERALL: D

This wasn’t Akron.

Chase Litton: In or out?

Here’s what we know for sure, for sure:

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy reported just before noon that Chase Litton will be out for tonight’s game against Louisville. Phil Steele reported that Litton likely will be out.

I have been asked repeatedly if Litton is sitting out under concussion protocol. I generally cannot confirm medical conditions (HIPAA regs, etc.).

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Marshall starting QB Chase Litton (concussion) will not play tonight vs. Louisville, source told <a href=”https://twitter.com/espn”>@ESPN</a></p>&mdash; Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) <a href=”https://twitter.com/McMurphyESPN/status/779700684040069121″>September 24, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Marshall will likely be without starting QB Chase Litton for tonights game. It looks like true frosh Garet Morrell (PS#117) will start.</p>&mdash; Phil Steele (@philsteele042) <a href=”https://twitter.com/philsteele042/status/779694330726477825″>September 24, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

From what I can gather, I can believe Litton is out, but I’m stopping short of 100 percent. I have requested a confirmation from Marshall officials, but have yet to receive an answer.

MU coach Doc Holliday does not talk about injuries, only discussing those that involve long-term or out-for-season prognoses.

I will be watching the “Herd Walk” and any movements after that, but I expect Litton to be with the team no matter what.

Louisville game prediction

If you win the coin toss, just take the stinkin’ ball.

That’s the only advice I have for Marshall coach Doc Holliday.

Holliday prefers to defer the option upon winning the toss. Most other teams opt to receive, so Marshall almost always kicks off to begin the game.
Several times, that has proved to be great strategy, as the Thundering Herd stays even or leads its opponent at halftime, receives to start the second half and pulls away from there.

That didn’t apply last year against Western Kentucky. MU won the toss, deferred and WKU’s Brandon Doughty promptly threw passes of 27, 13 and 35 to score first. It took awhile for the Hilltoppers to drop the bomb on the Herd but then again, they never trailed.

I wouldn’t want to see the Cardinals get the ball first. If they do, the worst scenario becomes possible: Big play for first TD, MU three-and-out, Lamar Jackson carves up the Herd on a shorter drive. 14-0, 9:30 left in the first quarter, maybe more.

Enough of that ugliness.

Let’s focus on the positive here for a second. MU struck a good home-and-home deal with a consistently good program and ended up welcoming the No. 3 team in the land. The game likely will be sold out, maybe by the time you read this. With an 8 p.m. start, look for a festive atmosphere, at least to start.

Marshall will improve in a number of areas from the Akron debacle, but it may not show up in this game. The Cardinals have a Heisman Trophy candidate and four immediate NFL prospects on defense, and that’s that.

The longer the Herd can stick around until the roof caves in, the better. But really, style points will be the order of the day for this Marshall team.
Keep this in mind: When it’s time for Louisville to pull the starters, it will. The Cards go to Clemson next week.

LOUISVILLE 55, MARSHALL 21