Inside Marshall Sports

Prediction for Middle Tenn game

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Hello, Herd fans!

I bring you good tidings, for basketball season is upon us! Those who can should congregate at Cam Henderson Center to see the Hurryin’ Herd open the regular season against North Carolina Central.

Should you dare to come to the football game against Middle Tennessee State, just remember two things:

The Young Thundering Herd, which picked up the pieces 45 years ago.

Three bills.

The latter refers to the 300 yards I fear I’Tavius Mathers will gain against the run-challenged Herd defense. I do believe the last 300-yard rusher to riddle the Herd was Eastern Kentucky’s Markus Thomas in 1989 (alas, I traveled there as a paying customer).

Mathers may not get all 300 on the ground, though, as he is the Blue Raiders’ No. 2 pass-catcher. But he might go nuts, even more than did Old Dominion’s Ray Lawry last week.

The Herd defense may also suffer another 35 minutes on the field, thanks to the Herd offense. I have no further comment on the latter unit.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE 35, MARSHALL 14

Conference USA notebook for 11/12

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Hello, Herd fans!

This week, I’ll make a bowl eligibility chart of sorts. Of course, the Herd is out of it. But check it out.

Last week

Most notable

Texas-San Antonio 45, Middle Tennessee 25: 4 turnovers and the injury to the Blue Raiders’ Brent Stockstill were the big stories, but don’t overlook the Roadrunners’ 270 yards and 16 first downs rushing. That helped UTSA hog the ball for 37:50.

Is that a good omen for Marshall, one of the league’s lesser running attacks? We shall see.

LINE: La Tech by 22.5. TAKE THE BULLDOGS … THEY’RE PRETTY GOOD.

Charlotte 38, Southern Mississippi 27: Well, you can upgrade Marshall’s loss to the 49ers from “the most embarrassing in school history” to merely “painful.”

Southern Miss gave up some really long plays (72, 58 runs, 49 pass), just as it did against UTSA … and just as it didn’t do against Marshall. Charlotte’s Terrance Winchester was the defensive player of the week (2 int., 2 pass break-ups), and Juwan Foggie was the special teams POW for his blocked punt that led to a TD.

Louisiana Tech 45, North Texas 25: Carlos Henderson caught 5 TD passes for this second time this year, covering 52, 24, 10, and 9. His season line: 59 catches, 1,168 yards and 15 TDs. (And get this: Trent Taylor is higher in the first 2 categories — 98 for 1,318.)

Hold your nose

Florida Atlantic 42, Rice 25: Rice, you must be awful. FAU had 657 total yards, Jason Driskel passed for 317 and Devin Singletary ran for 252. Singletary was the other co-offensive POW.

Old Dominion 38, Marshall 14: No further comment needed.

Texas-El Paso 42, Houston Baptist 10: A cheap way to get Aaron Jones 228 rushing yards.

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 (Roadrunners led in 4th quarter)

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

Middle Tennessee 51, Missouri 45

Overall vs P-5: 2-18

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.

Still fighting, with schedule

UTSA 5-4: at La Tech, at Texas A&M, Charlotte

Southern Miss 5-4: at ODU, at North Texas, La Tech

Charlotte 4-5: Rice, MTSU, UTSA

North Texas 4-5: at WKU, Southern Miss, at UTEP

UTEP 3-6: at FAU, at Rice, North Texas

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

UTSA at Louisiana Tech, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3: Suddenly, this carries a “game of the year” feel. Think about it — if the Roadrunners pull the upset, they own tiebreakers against La Tech and Southern Miss.

LINE:

Southern Miss at Old Dominion, 3:30 p.m., ASN: Winner stays alive in their respective divisions. ODU gets another chance to look like a legit contender.

LINE: Off (status of USM QB Nick Mullens).

North Texas at WKU, 3:30 p.m., ESPN3: Over his last 5 games the Hilltoppers’ Mike White has completed 73.5 percent of his passes, averaged 338 yards and has a TD-Int ratio of 15-2. Marshall will have fun with him.

LINE: WKU by 28.5. BAD BEAT WAITING TO HAPPEN. TAKE NT.

Rice at Charlotte, 2 p.m., Campus Insiders: Did you have the 49ers clinching a .500 record in conference? Surrrrrrre you did.

LINE: Charlotte by 10.5, which probably is a program record. OWLS TO COVER.

UTEP at Florida Atlantic, 6 p.m.: The interesting thing about this game is Aaron Jones is leading the league in rushing, 1,168-1,145 over MTSU’s I’Tavius Mathers. Mathers plays Marshall. Rev it up, gentlemen.

LINE: FAU by 3. Really? TAKE THE MINERS.

Last week vs. line: 3-3 (including MU game). Season: 31-39.

Grades for Old Dominion game

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OFFENSE: F

Until the Herd finished with passes of 26 and 24 yards, it had 164 total yards, 8 first downs.

DEFENSE: F

Didn’t tackle well against Ray Lawry, who rushed for 209 yards. Defense made itself susceptible to easy throws downfield.

SPECIALS TEAMS: B-

Props to Kaare Vedvik for running for a first down on the fake punt. And where was this Brandon Rodgers guy hiding?

QUARTERBACKING: F

He had problems with receivers not being open, but he is simply not accurate when they are.

COACHING: F

ODU brutally outcoached MU, it seemed. And why do you burn Brandon Rodgers’ redshirt and then finally have him returning kickoffs in Week 9? Looks as if he should have been doing it earlier.

OVERALL: F

The only question left: Is this team worse than the 2007 Herd?

Prediction for ODU game

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Hello, Herd fans!

If you’re reading this, thanks for hanging in with me during this dreadful football season. You may start your arguments over which Marshall team is worse: 2007 or this one.

In game No. 3 in Norfolk, you can chalk up another struggling night for the offense. Try as Tony Pittman may, the Thundering Herd will again fail to have a 100-yard rusher. Chase Litton will average 6 yards a pass, if that much.

The Monarchs will have one 100-yard rusher and maybe two — that would be 9 this season, right? David Washington will have another turnover-free game, and the Herd will give up its usual 400-plus yard game.

But the Herd’s two tailbacks might combine for, say 140 yards, and the line will somehow keep Litton mostly upright, and he might actually remember Ryan Yurachek exists. Kaare Vedvik will have another good punting day, if not like that of last week. There may be a long kickoff return in there.

The Herd will hold down the big plays which have propelled the Monarchs and … wait for it … pull off the upset.

“Pull off the upset” over ODU? That’s just weird.

MARSHALL 27, ODU 24

Conference USA notebook for 11/5

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Hello, Herd fans!

I masterfully displayed by inability to pick Conference USA games against the spread, chucking 5 of the 6 games last week. (Hey to Louisiana Tech for saving me.)

A good Marshall note in a season lacking them: Kaare Vedvik was named the league’s special-teams player of the week for his 72-yard bomb and numerous time pinning Southern Mississippi deep in its end.

Last week

Most notable

Middle Tennessee 42, Florida International 35: The Panthers’ Alex McGough throws a “pick-6” with 1:22 left. How FIU is that?

MTSU’s Brent Stockstill threw for 296 yards, McGough for 307. Marshall gets those two back-to-back.

Old Dominion 31, Texas-El Paso 21: The Miners took a 13-10 lead midway through the third quarter, but the Monarchs scored the next 3 TDs in rapid-fire fashion to put the game away. Big plays included David Washington’s passes to Jonathan Duhart of 26 and 77 yards, plus Ray Lawry’s TD run of 40 yards.

Texas-San Antonio 31, North Texas 17: The Mean Green got 257 passing yards and an 80-yard TD run from Mason Fine, but also turned it over 4 times.

Hold your nose

Western Kentucky 52, Florida Atlantic 3: Charlie Partridge, you are sooooooooo fired! The Hilltoppers ran up 661 total yards, and the Owls didn’t convert a 3rd down until their final possession.

Southern Miss 24, Marshall 14: The Herd suffered more 3-and-outs than the Owls, 8-6.

Louisiana Tech 61, Rice 16: Tech’s Trent Taylor became the program’s all-time leader in career receptions, with his 284 topping the 280 by Troy Edwards. The Owls finally scored on a blocked PAT and return, making the score 54-2.

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 (Roadrunners led in 4th quarter)

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

Middle Tennessee 51, Missouri 45

Overall vs P-5: 2-18

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

FAU (1-7, 0-4) at Rice (1-7, 0-5), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3: LET’S GET IT ON! Who doesn’t love a world-class pillow fight? ESPN’s “Bottom 10” loves it, calling it the PFOC — Pillow Fight of the Century. As tens of Rice Students form their human tunnel and taunt the visitors over their average SAT scores, the over-under will be 6.5 turnovers.

Just remember these Owl mascots are different, as FAU’s is the burrowing owl, which is considered endangered in Canada and Mexico, and “of special concern” in Florida and most of the western USA.

That describes these two teams perfectly.

LINE: RICE by 4. SURELY, FAU ISN’T THAT DREADFUL. RIGHT?

UTSA (4-4, 3-2) at Middle Tennessee (6-2, 3-1), 2:30 p.m., ESPN3: I’Tavius Mathers now has 1,066 yards rushing, the first Blue Raider to rush for that many since 2002. D.J. Sanders was named defensive player of the week, as he was the guy who returned McGough’s errant pass 48 yards to beat the Panthers.

Stockstill was the league’s player of the week. The Raiders have has seven such honors over all 3 phases.

LINE: MTSU by 20.5. DON’T LIKE ROADPLODDERS ON THE ROAD.

Florida International (3-6, 3-2) at Western Kentucky (6-3, 4-1), 5:30 p.m., beIN Sports: I know the Panthers were shelled by Louisiana Tech a few weeks back, but they’re still playing spirited under interim coach Ron Cooper. Another WKU running back to worry about: Marquez Trigg, who rushed for 84 yards in the first half vs. FAU.

LINE: WKU by 29.5. HILLTOPPERS WIN HANDILY, BUT NOT BY THAT MUCH.

Louisiana Tech (6-3, 4-1) at North Texas (4-4, 2-2), 5:30 p.m., ESPN3: Southern Miss has 1 loss and UTSA and NT has 2, so the stakes aren’t small here. Tech finished with 735 total yards against Rice.

LINE: Tech by 20.5. BULLDOGS ARE ROLLING TOO HARD FOR THIS ONE.

Charlotte (3-5, 2-2) at Southern Miss (5-3, 3-1), 3:30 p.m. ASN: This has potential shutout written all over it.

LINE: Southern Miss by 19.5. TAKE THE GOLDEN EAGLES.

FCS parade: Houston Baptist at Texas-El Paso.

Last week vs. line: a yucky 1-5 (including MU game). Season: 28-36.

Grades for Southern Miss game

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OFFENSE: F

Was 2 minutes away from first single-digit game since 2011. Eight 3-and-outs, 1 of 13 on 3rd down … Ugly, ugly, ugly.

DEFENSE: B

I’m grudgingly deducting for 2 TDs in the 4th quarter. I saw the most swarming, motivated defense the Herd has exhibited all season.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-

A blocked field goal and a penalty on a return mars a bang-up punting performance.

QUARTERBACKING: D

Take away that last TD pass and Chase Litton was 19 of 33 for 122 yards with a bad fumble (albeit recovered). Yuck.

COACHING: C-

I’m giving *that* much credit to Chuck Heater. Otherwise, this would flunk.

OVERALL: D

Offense looks as hopeless as the Herd’s postseason prospects.

Hello, Herd fans!

Is it basketball season yet?

The overlap has begun, which is good and bad. Being from Charleston, I juggle the two sports until the end of November, longer in bowl years.

Sure looking like the end of November, doesn’t it?

But … I’ve seen crazier stuff happen from Conference USA football teams. The 2006 Rice team started 1-5 and won the next 6; the 2008 Southern Miss team lost 5 in a row to fall to 2-6, the won the last 5 including the bowl game.

You’re welcome for that ray of hope. Maybe it will survive this prediction.

First, Southern Miss is coming out of an off week, the first of 3 such MU opponents to be doing so. On top of that, the Golden Eagles are coming off two decisive losses, including a 55-32 thumping at Texas-San Antonio and a 45-10 loss to Louisiana State. (I hate “LSU” used on first reference.)

It has been a long 3 weeks for those guys. They should be a little upset. So should the Herd, for that matter.

The way I’m seeing it: The Eagles’ Ito Smith and others will be effective on the ground, and an improved offensive line will keep the Herd’s pass rush off of Nick Mullens. That will spell trouble — if Mullens gets his 2.5-3 seconds to properly scan his options, anybody’s pass defense is toast.

How does the Herd overcome all that? Turnovers — Southern Miss has 16 this season, with a minus-8 margin. If the Herd goes plus-2, the door should be open … or shut again by all those pesky penalties.

Home field doesn’t always mean much in this series, but I have to think the Eagles are foaming at the mouth for the chance to end their 2-game winning streak — and the 5-game skid against the Herd.

 SOUTHERN MISS 45, MARSHALL 21

Q&A with Jason Munz, Hattiesburg American

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The Southern Miss beat writer and I had a Q&A exchange, and here are some of his views on the Golden Eagles:

Q: Obviously, Southern Miss’ coaching change came amid much, much better circumstances than the one before. How has the team and the fan base treated the transition from Todd Monken to Jay Hopson?

A: Monken’s resignation came as a bit of a shock, especially given the timing. I think most people thought once some of the college football openings that made sense for Monken (Illinois, Virginia) were filled with other coaches, there was sort of a sigh of relief. Then, less than two weeks before Signing Day, the NFL comes calling. Nobody blamed Monken for leaving. The timing just wasn’t ideal. Given all that, the fan base and the team really took to Hopson pretty quickly. I’ve been saying it’s the smoothest transition I’ve ever seen.

Q: How welcomed was the Golden Eagles’ off week, and will we see a rested or rusty team come Saturday?

A: The team would be hard-pressed to look any more rusty than it did in the two weeks leading up to the bye. So I’m going to say the off week came at a very good time (post-LSU), and Southern Miss took advantage of some much needed time off to get ready for the stretch drive.

Q: Discuss the state of pass protection in front of Nick Mullens. Marshall has played him twice and has 8 sacks, a defensive TDs and a bunch of hits on him.

Marshall has certainly benefited from having a big, athletic defensive front in recent years. Couple that with the relative youth and inexperience (in 2013 and 2014), and we’ve seen what can happen. Southern Miss’ offensive front has done a better job this season of keeping Nick clean. Seniors Cameron Tom, Oliver Bates and Brandon Farmer, and redshirt junior Devin Farrior have had a lot to do with that. Lot of experience between those guys.

Q: What is the most pleasant surprise on this Southern Miss team?

Probably Allenzae Staggers at wide receiver. He’s a junior college transfer, and was probably the lesser heralded of the two (Isaiah Jones being the other) Southern Miss picked up during the offseason. The monster game against Rice (292 yards receiving and 3 TDs) obviously helped his numbers. But he’s been the most dependable receiver for USM this season. He’s sixth in C-USA in receiving yards per game and has scored five TDs.

Q: Finally, what the heck happened at UT-San Antonio (55-32 loss)?

You name it! First and foremost, Southern Miss was not prepared for what the Roadrunners threw at them. Second, Mullens missed a series at a pretty critical juncture in the game – and he wasn’t the same when he was put back into the game. But, the defense simply didn’t show up in San Antonio. No sugarcoating that one.

 

Conference USA notebook for 10/29

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Hello, Herd fans!

There was some separating of the pretenders and contenders in the league last week. Old Dominion was exposed by Western Kentucky, Texas-San Antonio lost in a 5-overtime game and Florida International was brought back to Earth. Away we go …

Last week

Most notable

Middle Tennessee 51, Missouri 45: RB I’Tavius Mathers continues to be the real deal, as he ran for 215 yards and a TD in this 4-hour bout. He also added 8 receptions for 48 yards, and he was named offensive player of the week for the 3rd time. With 5 100-yard efforts in a row, he now leads the league with 940.

K Canon Rooker went 3 for 3 on field goals and 6 for 6 on extra points to be named special teams player of the week.

Western Kentucky 59, Old Dominion 24: The Hilltoppers scored 31 points in the 2nd quarter, a high in their FBS era that staked them to a 52-14 halftime lead. Mike White was a filthy 28 of 32 for 378 yards and 4 TDs, a passer rating of 221.7. That’ll work.

North Texas 35, Army 18: Army had punished Rice and UTEP, so the Mean Green looks a little better than the cellar-dweller it was made out to be. NT forced 7 turnovers and Eric Jenkins was named defensive player of the week with 2 interceptions (one brought back for a TD), 2 pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Jeffrey Wilson ran for 160 yards.

Hold your nose

Louisiana Tech 44, FIU 24: The Bulldogs have won 11 straight C-USA games in October, as Trent Taylor caught 11 passes for 156 yards and a TD. Carlos Henderson returned a kickoff 92 yards for another score. Crushing blow: Xavier Woods picking off Alex McGough and returning it 45 yards to the FIU 1. That resulted in a 34-17 lead.

FIU doesn’t have the greatest QB legacy — McGough, a junior, is now the school leader in career TD passes with 43.

UTEP 52, UTSA 49, 5 OT: OK, this was a thriller, but the Roadrunners really lost in the 4th overtime — they recovered a UTEP fumble, but missed a 42-yard field goal that would have won it. Tough, tough loss for a West Division darkhorse.

Rice 65, Prairie View 44: Rice led 42-7, so don’t read much into this. Still, there’s no such thing as a good game involving a down Rice team and Prairie View, especially with 21 penalties and 7 touchbacks.

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 (Roadrunners led in 4th quarter)

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

Middle Tennessee 51, Missouri 45

Overall vs P-5: 2-18

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

Middle Tennessee (5-2, 2-1) at FIU (3-5, 3-1): Yeah, the Panthers are still tied for first. Is it me, or do these guys always play at home, at that lovely (cough, cough) stadium?

LINE: MTSU by 17. PANTHERS GO DOWN HARD.

Old Dominion (4-3, 2-1) at UTEP (2-5, 1-3): The Monarchs take the league’s longest possible journey, 1,988 miles by road. RB Jeremy Cox has rushed for 10 TDs scoring in all 6 games he has played.

LINE: ODU by 4. JOURNEY TOO LONG FOR THE MONARCHS.

North Texas (4-3, 2-1) at UTSA (3-4, 2-2): Time to see what the Mean Green is really made of in this battle of darkhorses. After this, NT plays Louisiana Tech, WKU and Southern Miss.

LINE: UTSA by 3.5. MEAN GREEN IN A MILD  UPSET.

WKU (5-3, 3-1) at Florida Atlantic (1-6, 0-3): The Owls have the chance to become the league’s first bowl-ineligible team.

LINE: WKU by 21.5. FAU HAS A WAY OF MAKING IT CLOSE(R).

Rice (1-6, 0-4) at Louisiana Tech (5-3, 3-1): These Owls just happen to start later, so they likely will be the 2nd bowl-ineligible team. This could get very, very ugly.

LINE: La Tech by 28. NOT ENOUGH POINTS FOR THE DOGS

Last week vs. line: 3-3 (including MU game). Season: 27-31.

Grades for Charlotte game

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OFFENSE: F

Five possessions in the second half, five trips to the Charlotte end, zero points. all I need to know.

DEFENSE: D

Can’t flunk them. Giving up the 16-play, 80-yard go-ahead TD drive was tough to watch, and the unit gave up 263 1st-half yards, yes, but it also had a few three-and-outs. Ultimately offense and special teams lost it.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

Hyleck Foster had a 52-yard kickoff return, Keion Davis nearly fumbled a kick into the end zone from the 10 and Amareto Curraj missed a game-tying attempt. The placekicker position needs to be reexamined.

QUARTERBACKING: C

Can’t flunk Chase Litton, either. You can do worse than 32 of 46 for 262 yards, and he was victimized by 2 big-time drops.

COACHING: F

Watching the defense botch the Jason Smith “Is he in or is he out?” substitution was enough for me. And what was up with Raylen Elzey in the game on a critical down?

OVERALL: F

Charlotte is better than it was a year ago, but you have to beat those guys. And the Herd went from being in the thick of the division race to facing a bowl-less season.