Inside Marshall Sports

Overnight notebook, WKU game

HUNTINGTON — When Marshall scored its sixth non-offensive touchdown of the season Saturday night, it proved to be the winning score in the 30-23 win over Western Kentucky.

The man who scored on a 45-yard interception return was someone you wouldn’t have guessed before the season started, redshirt freshman safety Nazeeh Johnson. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound resident of Martinsburg is still a walk-on, though that status doesn’t figure to last forever.

Johnson simply jumped an “out” route, a routine-looking pass by WKU’s Mike White. Bear in mind that White is a 10,000-yard passer who still has a low interception rate — seven in 418 attempts.

With Marshall ahead 20-10, White had started a scoring drive, passing for a first down and facing a second-and-5 on the WKU 41-yard line. Instead of moving across midfield, Marshall led 27-10 with 1:37 left in the third quarter.

As they say in the running back room, Johnson was emphasizing ball security on his way to the end zone. In plain English, he was protecting that ball as much as he could.

“I broke my hand, so I’ve only got four [healthy] fingers on that hand,” he said.

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After being outscored 33-0 in points off turnovers the last two games, Marshall outscored WKU 10-0.

The Herd’s lone turnover came on a Chase Litton interception in the end zone, and proved harmless. That gave WKU the ball on the 20, and Johnson’s interception came four plays later.

And right after Johnson’s touchdown, the Herd forced the second turnover on special teams, when returner Jachour Pearson coughed up the ball. Chase Hancock recovered, but it was Jaquan Yulee who forced the fumble.

While Yulee continues to toil as a second-string linebacker, he is asserting himself on special teams.

“He’s always causing fumbles, knocking people out,” Hancock said of Yulee. “Double teams are coming at him, he’s holding his own in there, and it makes me excited about his future.”

Pearson, by the way, was taking returns in place of the injured Kylen Towner, who returned the opening kickoff for a TD in WKU’s 60-6 win over the Herd last year.

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It was a very good day for special teams, with Kaare Vedvik’s three field goals, good kickoff coverage and Keion Davis averaging 30 yards on four runbacks. His last runback was perhaps the most critical — after WKU scored to cut the Herd’s lead to 30-23 with 3:02 left.

The Herd prepared for an onside kick, but the Hilltoppers opted to kick it deep and try to induce a three-and-out. Davis took the kick at the MU 4, curiously tiptoed a few steps before shooting through a crease and gaining 39 yards.

That set the stage for the Herd to run out the clock.

“I didn’t know what the hell he was doing on that last one,” Holliday joked. “It turned out OK. We had that ‘hands team’ in there and they’re supposed to get hats on the right guy; I thought Keion was going to take a knee. I was about ready to choke him.

“I look up and the ball was up at the 50. It was one of those deals where, ‘What they hell are you … oh yeah, that’s great!”

As for Vedvik, he had one of the rarest triples for a kicking specialist: He hit three field goals, topped 40 yards per punt (43.3) and incurred a personal foul penalty for a late hit.

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MU and WKU has played some chippy games since the Hilltoppers joined Conference USA in 2014, even fighting before their first league game that year. Ryan Yurachek got caught up in the emotions late in the game, as the Herd was killing the clock.

He picked up the team’s second of three first downs on the game-ending drive. He caught a Chase Litton passed and advanced down the right sidelines, going 30 yards to the WKU 9.

But he was flagged for a throat-slashing gesture, which pushed the ball back to the 24. The Herd did get a fresh set of downs, but might have scored a late TD otherwise.

“They got me with the throat-slash,” Yurachek said. “I wasn’t doing the throat-slash, I was just kind of doing the ‘game over’ move. Kind of looked throat-slash-esque. Emotional game, that’s for sure.”

Litton said, “As soon as I saw it, I was like, ‘man,’ and put my head down. But we got the first down; look at the glass half full. ‘Chek, obviously, won’t get a ‘plus’ for that play, but great re-enactment.”

Of wrestling’s “Undertaker,” apparently.

“We were watching WWE last night, and he got excited,” Litton said.

Grades for WKU game

OFFENSE: B

It didn’t look great, did it? Only 334 total yards, 2 red-zone trips that fizzled into FGs, less than 3 yards per carry, even *2* sacks. But that opening drive in the 2nd half and that game-killing drive at the end, with 3 first downs, those were biggies, big enough to elevate this grade. Also: Herd went 7 of 16 on 3rd downs, the 13th game in which it outperformed the other offense in that category.

DEFENSE: A-

They followed the recipe for defeating 2016 player of the year Mike White: Kill the run, put pressure on him, get some 3-and-outs and get a big turnover. That’s 34 yards rushing, 3 sacks, 4 3-and-outs and one “pick-6.” White made the home folks nervous in the 4th quarter and threw for 334 yards, but both were expected. All in all, a very good performance.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-

I’m deducting for the illegal block penalty, even though it was wiped out by an offsetting foul by WKU. Otherwise, this unit had a great day, with Keion Davis averaging 30 yards per kickoff return, the kickoff coverage doing a great job and Kaare Vedvik hitting 3 field goals. LATE CHANGE: Upon remembering Kaare Vedvik committed a late hit, I raised the grade from B+. All hail kickers who commit manly fouls!

QUARTERBACKING: B

Chase Litton threw one interception in the end zone on an off-target throw, but that had the effect of a punt. Otherwise, he was efficient despite losing 2 of his best pass-catchers.

COACHING: B-

I’m scratching my head over the 3 runs and a 4th-down pass on a series with 6:00 to go and maybe some other play calls, but I’m not questioning a lot else. After 2 disappointing losses, this was a game that could have gone south, and these guys get credit for a good week of preparation.

OVERALL: B

Win No. 7, first C-USA win over Western Kentucky, an effort worthy of the “75.”

 

Marshall-WKU game prediction

Marshall should defeat Western Kentucky. Should be somewhat close, yet there should be no doubt.

The Thundering Herd should stop the run, make Mike White throw on every down and clock him multiple times. Make White’s 350 yards mean squat, in other words.

The Herd should run well, have a 100-yard rusher or two, and should pass efficiently. The protection will be there, as it has all year, as WKU’s pass rush isn’t knocking down doors.

This time, the Hilltoppers are legitimate underdogs. They have injury problems. Jeff Brohm isn’t walking into the Shewey Building visitors’ locker room on this evening — he’s trying to coax Purdue into beating Northwestern.

But somehow, everything can go awry. Another interception or three? Fumbles in the red zone? White sitting in the pocket, throwing for 500?

After watching three games of this rivalry, I see dominance. I see one side owning the other.

I’ve said it before: WKU-Herd has the strange look and feel of Furman-Herd back in the day. And after last year’s 60-6 catastrophe, I vowed to myself I would pick the Hilltoppers until Marshall does something about it.

Sorry, Herd fans, but I’m sticking to that vow …

WESTERN KENTUCKY 28, MARSHALL 27

Conference USA notebook, 11/9

We are still careening toward a Florida Atlantic-North Texas rematch in the Conference USA championship game, but pump your brakes on the Lane Kiffin worship. That’s all I’m saying.

The schedule, in (my) order of interest:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (6-3, 5-0) at LOUISIANA TECH (4-5, 2-3), 3:30 pm.
TV: Stadium

Let’s go over La Tech’s hard-luck season: The Bulldogs had a field goal blocked by UAB, squandered a late lead and lost in overtime to Southern Miss, and gave up the winning TD with 6:04 left against North Texas (I know, Jonathan Barnes missed a late field goal, but it was 53 yards). Early in the season, the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina on last-minute Hail Mary and field goal.

In other words, this could have been a battle of division leaders and perhaps a preview of the C-USA championship.

On paper, Devin Singletary should run for 300,000 yards and the Owls should pick off J’Mar Smith a few times. But this game will test the Owls’ focus — they’ve got a huge game with rival Florida International, but that happens next week.

If you want to call this a “trap” game, you can, but I see a desperate and still-capable La Tech team fighting for its bowl life. That fight will be exhibited here.

LINE: FAU by 5.5 LA TECH

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (6-3, 4-2) at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (5-3, 2-3)
TV: Local markets, both cities

The Roadrunners, who host Marshall on Nov. 18, have three shots to land in a bowl, and none are gimmes. And nothing is a gimme against the upstart Blazers.

Getting skunked for 46 minutes against FIU doesn’t inspire confidence, as the grumpier faction of Herd fans can attest. Before the Roadrunners’ only scoring drive, which began in the third quarter and finished a minute into the fourth, they gained only 109 total yards.

UAB is the real deal, and it’s starting to drop hammers on people. The 52-21 beatdown of Rice wasn’t necessarily impressive, but the 30-12 win over Southern Mississippi two weeks ago was. Spencer Brown has passed the 1,000-yard mark rushing, A.J. Erdley is the third-most efficient QB and the Blazers have caught the imagination of their city. Who am I to get in the way?

LINE: UTSA by 8. UAB, PROBABLY OUTRIGHT

OLD DOMINION (3-6, 1-4) at FIU (6-2, 4-1)
TV: CUSA TV

Would you laugh if I told you ODU dominated in a 6-0 win over Charlotte? It’s almost true — the 49ers missed a field goal and did little else. But it’s time for the Panthers to put the Monarchs out of their bowl-eligibility misery.

LINE: FIU by 9.5 FIU

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (4-5, 2-3) at CHARLOTTE (1-8, 1-4)
TV: ESPN3

If the Blue Raiders win this one and beat Old Dominion in the finale, it won’t matter that much what they do in the middle against Western Kentucky — they’re going bowling. It was good to see Brent Stockstill back last week, even if he struggled to go 13 of 30 against Texas-El Paso.

LINE: MTSU by 13. MTSU

UTEP (0-9, 0-5) at NORTH TEXAS (6-3, 5-1)
TV: ESPN3

Miners’ “roadblocks” to an 0-12 season: North Texas, La Tech and UAB. Good luck.

LINE: North Texas by 22.5 NORTH TEXAS

Last week: 3-4

Season: 38-31

Standings

East: Marshall, FAU 5-0, FIU 4-1, Marshall, WKU 3-2, MTSU 2-3, ODU, Charlotte 1-4.

West: North Texas 5-1, UAB 4-2, Southern Miss 3-2, UTSA, Louisiana Tech 2-3, Rice 1-4, UTEP 0-5.

Bowl eligible: Marshall (6-2), FAU (6-3), FIU (6-2), North Texas (6-3), UAB (6-3). On verge: Southern Miss (5-4), UTSA (5-3), WKU (5-4).

Eliminated: UTEP, Charlotte, Rice. On verge: Old Dominion (3-6).

Stat leaders

Rushing yards: Devin Singletary, FAU, 1,256; Spencer Brown, UAB, 1,049; Jeffery Wilson, NT, 999. (Marshall: Tyler King 5th, 560.)

Passing yards: Mike White, WKU, 2,652; Mason Fine, NT, 2,591; Chase Litton, Marshall, 2,166.

Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (134206–2, 1,668 yds, 14 TDs, rating 153.5); Mason Fine, NT (200-316-9, 2,591 yds, 18 TDs, rating 145.3); A.J. Erdley, UAB (144-236-2, 1,692 yds, 12 TDs, rating 136.3). (Marshall: Chase Litton 6th, 130.8.)

Receptions: Teddy Veal, La Tech, 56; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 55; Korey Robinson, Southern Miss, 51. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams, 10th, 40; Ryan Yurachek, 11th, 35.)

Receiving yards: Thomas Owens, FIU, 800; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 776; Jalen Guyton, NT, 729. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams 10th, 496; Ryan Yurachek 20th, 329.)

Team total offense: North Texas 476.7, FAU 468.0, Southern Miss 420.9. (Marshall 8th, 388.0)

Team total defense: Southern Miss 318.0, Marshall 328.7, UTSA 329.4.

Scoring offense: FAU 38.4, North Texas 35.9, UAB 32.9. (Marshall 5th, 28.0)

Scoring defense: Marshall 19.0, Southern Miss 21.6, UTSA 21.9.

Marshall football overnight notebook

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Marshall entered its game Friday night against Florida Atlantic without giving up 100 or more yards to an individual rusher this season.

Devin Singletary put an emphatic stop to that.

The 5-foot-9, 200-pound sophomore rushed 28 times for 203 yards in the Owls’ 30-25 victory, becoming the first player in almost exactly a year to run that wild over the Thundering Herd. Old Dominion’s Ray Lawry riddled the Herd on Nov. 5, 2016, gaining  209 yards on 27 attempts.

Singletary scored on rushing touchdown, a 13-yarder. He had a long run of 66 yards, the longest play against the Herd this year. He also burned Marshall through the air, catching a 60-yard lob from Kamrin Solomon on a double pass play that broke a 16-all tie.

Marshall players tipped their figurative hats Singletary’s way.

“He’s a tremendous back and probably one of the best we’ve seen all year,” said defensive tackle Ryan Bee. “We had to gang-tackle him, and for the most part we did. He’s a great back.”

ingletary now has 1,256 rushing yards in nine games with 19 touchdowns, both leading Conference USA by a large margin.

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Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Kendal Briles reached deep into the trick bags several times. The double pass was the most notable example.

“That was a well-drawn-up play,” Bee said. “We had never seen that before. Just kind of caught us off guard.”
But Kiffin took the intentional safety to a new level late in the game. He wanted to make certain Marshall wasn’t going to get the ball back with any time to mount a rally.

The Owls took over at their 43-yard line with 2:30 left after intercepting Chase Litton for the fourth time. The Herd had used its timeouts, but FAU needed to creatively stretch the clock.

On first down, Jason Driskel backed up 5 yards before taking a knee. On the next play, Driskel backed up 9, and then he lost 5 on third down. With fourth-and-29 on their 24, the Owls called timeout before lining up in punt formation.

They surely did not punt. Instead, they ran the ball backwards and out of the end zone, giving Marshall two inconsequential points with only 8 seconds left.

FAU then squibbed the free kick, with Eric Gates picking the ball up for the Herd at the Owls’ 48. He might have wanted to hit the deck to stop the clock, but decided to start the lateral brigade. The game of hot-potato ended when Marcel Williams inadvertently threw the ball forward, prompting a penalty at that spot.

The 43-yard “undrive” gave Marshall the consolation prize of a 381-353 advantage in total yardage.

Briefly
* Marshall did not score in the first quarter for the first time on the road.

* Hyleck Foster lost 5 yards on a punt return in a series of bad decisions — he caught the ball on the MU 9, was tackled at the 4 and the Herd committed an illegal block in the back along the way.

The Herd was 127th in the FBS on punt returns entering the game, gaining just 26 yards on 16 attempts. With that 5-yard loss, the average fell from 1.63 to 1.24.

* Brandon Drayton started for the first time in four games, playing the nickel back on the opening snap. As expected, Alex Mollette started at right guard, where he is replacing the indefinitely suspended Nate Devers.

Left tackle Sandley Jean-Felix missed his fourth straight game.

Grades for FAU game

OFFENSE: D

Did not run the ball well, 41 tries for 128 yards, 3.1 per carry. Marcel Williams, Tyre Brady combined for 12 catches and 204 yards, and they could have had more.

DEFENSE: D

I had bragged about this team’s tackling for most of this season, but these guys struggled with bringing down Conference USA’s top back.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Kaare Vedvik executes a perfect onside kick, Ryan Yurachek picks up a first down on a fake punt … And then there was the missed extra point and 31-yard FG and another punt returner thrown for a loss (with a penalty on the play, to boot). What a weird niht here.

QUARTERBACKING: F

I saw one of the best passes I’ve seen out of Chase Litton, rolling out left and throwing across his body to a sliding Ryan Yurachek in the end zone — and in the rain. There were some sweet passes, but you can’t drum those 4 picks out of your mind.

COACHING: D

The double pass is in everybody’s playbook, and Kiffin & Co. set it up perfectly. Defense should not have been so baffled.

OVERALL: D

Florida Atlantic is pretty dang good, but is not invincible. Another missed opportunity for the Herd.

Prediction for Herd-FAU game

Hello, Herd fans!

I could go into this and follow the script, which is this: FAU line blows away MU’s defensive front, Devin Singletary runs for 225, the Herd commits 3 more turnovers and the game is out of hand shortly after halftime. FAU 51, Herd 30.

But that’s lazy, and I smell something possible here. Hardly a slam dunk, not a 50-50 chance, but quite possible.

I look back at FAU’s last game before conference play, an inexplicable 34-31 loss to Buffalo, think about Marshall’s game, and a formula for an upset hits me.

First, Marshall must go back to playing turnover-free football. Hard to do against a ball-hawking secondary, and Tyler King must redouble his ball security efforts, but is it doable? Yes.

The Herd must convert its first downs, and FAU’s defense is *not* good in that category. Can the Herd run on that bunch behind a three-freshman line? I think so.

Combine that, and the Herd can do something that’s very necessary in this one — hog the ball. We’re talking 37 minutes plus, keeping the defense fresh and keeping Devin Singletary off the field. Is it doable? I think so.

Is Marshall really as bad as it looked last week in the loss to Florida International? If it is, it will finish 6-6, no questions asked. It’s better than that, especially on the road.

Yes, this is a road team. Strangely enough, I see that continuing.

You folks should know I’m hardly a homer, but work with me here. FAU isn’t going to win all 8 conference games, and that bubble just might burst Friday night.

The irrational gut hunch …

HERD 38, FAU 31

 

Conference USA notebook, 10/31

OK, commish Judy McLeod, dust off your speech about how strong Conference USA is this year. Realistically, eight of 14 teams can go bowling, and the league will seize unfilled spots in other bowls. There’s a dark side, though: CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm projected Marshall to play Central Michigan in the usually Big Ten-vs.-ACC Quick Lane Bowl.

That’s in Detroit. That thought may make me throw myself in the Atlantic Ocean this weekend, never to return.

The somewhat strange schedule, in (my) order of interest:

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (5-3) at TENNESSEE, 7:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network

The Golden Eagles were held to 81 yards rushing by UAB, and still has quarterback issues after all these weeks. Maybe Jay Hopson can sort out the Keon Howard vs. Kwandra Griggs dilemma before the season finale at Marshall.

But with the Butch Jones Death Watch at the edge of the cliff, it would be awesome to see the Golden Eagles give the final push. I think they’ll do it.

LINE: Tennessee by 5.5. SOUTHERN MISS, PROBABLY OUTRIGHT

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (5-2, 2-2) at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (5-2, 3-1), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium

As much as I like the Roadrunners, they have a Marshall-like problem with their resume. Of their five victories, only one has come against a team with a winning record, and that’s Southern. The four FBS victims are a combined 2-29.

Yeee-ouch!

But their two losses are to Southern Miss and North Texas, both in game that went to the final minute. If this team has the character I think it does, it will turn that into a positive against an FIU team that might take a step back after two really good wins.

Besides, QB Dalton Sturm (2 picks all season) won’t turn it over. At all.

LINE: UTSA by 4. UTSA

NORTH TEXAS (5-3, 4-1) at LOUISIANA TECH (4-4, 2-2), 3:30 p.m.
TV: Stadium via Facebook

In full desperation mode, the Bulldogs didn’t inspire confidence by needing a touchdown with a minute left to beat Rice. (The score was 42-28, thanks to a late “pick-six” return.)

Meanwhile, the Mean Green was in full hangover mode last week after its 69-31 pummeling by Florida Atlantic, struggling with Old Dominion at home. The defense woke up in the fourth quarter, making three fourth-and-1 stops to secure a 45-38 victory.

The Bulldogs’ offense is a weeeee little better than that of the Monarchs. I smell a possible 90-point game here.

LINE: La Tech by 3.5. LA TECH

WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-3) at VANDERBILT, noon
TV: ESPNU

What, the Commodores are applying to enter Conference USA? Well, they do occupy the geographical middle ground in the “100 Miles of Hate.”

Vandy held Middle Tennessee (with Brent Stockstill), to 215 total yards, but we know that’s not as impressive as it would be to limit WKU that low. Surely, the Hilltoppers can do better than that.

Then again, as their fourth-quarter performance against Florida Atlantic showed, these Hilltoppers are tough bunch to figure.

LINE: Vanderbilt by 11.5. WKU TO COVER

RICE (1-7, 1-3) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (5-3, 3-2), 3 p.m.
TV: CUSA.tv

The best nickname I have seen for UAB: “College football’s favorite zombies.” This once-dead program has two near-gimme shots to clinch bowl eligibility, this one and the season finale against UTEP.

And apparently, Spencer Brown is all that and more. He has 615 rushing yards in his last four games.

LINE: UAB by 11.5. RICE TO COVER, SOMEHOW

CHARLOTTE (1-7, 1-3) at OLD DOMINION (2-6, 0-4), 3:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

The Monarchs don’t have UTEP on the schedule, so the 49ers and Rice (in two weeks) will have to do for their shot at a conference win.

LINE: ODU by 8.5. CHARLOTTE TO COVER

TEXAS-EL PASO (0-8, 0-4) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (3-5, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.
TV: beIN Sports

You think MTSU’s crowd for Marshall was small? A November night game against UTEP is cruel and unusual punishment.

Brent Stockstill is having an MRI this week, and his dad/coach is holding onto hope he can come and rescue the season. My hunch: He can’t come back the rest of the season, and the Blue Raiders are falling short of six wins.

But this week, the Raiders will get win No. 4 with anybody behind center.

LINE: MTSU by 18. MTSU

Last week: 4-1
Season: 35-27

Standings

East: Marshall, FAU 4-0, FIU, Marshall 3-1, WKU 3-2, MTSU, Charlotte 1-3, Old Dominion 0-4.
West: North Texas 4-1, UAB, Southern Miss 3-2, UTSA, Louisiana Tech 2-2, Rice 1-3, UTEP 0-4.
Bowl eligible: Marshall (6-2). On verge: Southern Miss (5-2), WKU (5-2), FAU (5-3), FIU (5-2), North Texas (5-3), UAB (5-3), UTSA (5-2)
Eliminated: UTEP, Charlotte, Rice. On verge: Old Dominion (2-6).

Stat leaders

Rushing yards: Devin Singletary, FAU, 1,053; Spencer Brown, UAB, 909; Jeffery Wilson, NT, 834. (Marshall: Keion Davis 8th, 518.)
Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 2,388; Mike White, WKU, 2,328; J’Mar Smith 1,960; Chase Litton, Marshall, 1,913.
Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (121-185-2, 1,563 yds, 13 TDs, rating 157.4); Mason Fine, NT (178-280-8, 2,388 yds, 17 TDs, rating 149.5); Mike White, WKU (214-327-6, 2,328 yds, 14 TDs, rating 135.7). (Marshall: Chase Litton 5th, 134.8.)
Receptions: Teddy Veal, La Tech, 50; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 47; Korey Robinson, Southern Miss, 43. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams, 8th, 36; Ryan Yurachek, 11th, 32.)
Receiving yards: Thomas Owens, FIU, 728; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 694; Jalen Guyton, NT, 692. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams 13th, 374; Ryan Yurachek 20th, 307.)
Team total offense: North Texas 484.4, FAU 482.4, UTSA 449.3. (Marshall 9th, 388.9)
Team total defense: UTSA 294.7, Marshall 325.6, Southern Miss 331.5.
Scoring offense: FAU 39.5, North Texas 37.4, UTSA 31.1. (Marshall 6th, 28.4)
Scoring defense: UTSA 17.4, Marshall 17.6, Southern Miss 21.3.

Marshall football: Grades for FIU game

OFFENSE: D

I was teetering on flunking this unit, but I’ll address the 3 turnovers in a bit. Gained 505 total yards, but 316 came after the Herd was down 35-7. No sacks given up, but that’s no consolation.

DEFENSE: D

Gave up 224 yards rushing, allowed Alex McGough a 245 passer rating in the first half. Missed most tackles of the season by far.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

I am betting the specialists don’t practice in the rain enough. Don’t recall the Herd dropping a good snap outright for a long time.

QUARTERBACKING: F

3 turnovers render a 33-of-52, 363-yard game moot.

COACHING: F

FIU used its extra week to out-prepare the Herd.

OVERALL: F

Blew an opportunity to take/maintain share of Conference USA East lead. A loss as ugly as the weather.

Marshall-FIU game prediction

So, I ask you, will the weather Saturday give Marshall an advantage?

Let’s get to practical matters first.

Marshall players say they’re not on a revenge tour, but it’s uncertain if that’s the case or if they’re coached to say it. One thing I know for certain: The second half of their 31-14 loss at Florida International was among the most embarrassing, and they have something to prove Saturday.

Looking at if offensively, the Herd line will have problems with FIU defenders, especially if linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams return for injuries after a week off. Against Tulane, the Panthers switched to a 4-2-5 to fit the personnel and held the Green Wave to 10 points. I dare anybody to play a 4-2-5 against the Herd on a down other than third-and-long.

I have expected somebody to rush for 100 yards against Marshall defense by now, but it hasn’t happened. I’ve long been sold on Ryan Bee at tackle, and I’m becoming sold on Channing Hames at the other tackle. The linebacking corps appears to be the best I’ve seen in the Doc Holliday era, and there have been some good combos and great individuals. They should get to Alex McGough, who was benched last year and had rough games vs. MU in 2014 and 2015.

Now let’s get to the weather. FIU will land in Charleston or Huntington on Friday and be greeted by splendid West Virginia fall weather. When the ball is kicked off Saturday, the Panthers will be greeted by crappy West Virginia fall weather, maybe 30 degrees colder than what they have played in this season.

If Alex Gardner gets his 100 yards rushing, he’ll earn it. If Alex McGough gets his 200 passing yards, he’ll earn it. Marshall doesn’t allow sacks and doesn’t turn the ball over often, and I expect both factors to continue.

With another 200-yard rushing day, Marshall will chalk up another workmanlike victory, as FIU wants to go home by the 4th quarter. See if this score looks familiar …

MARSHALL 31, FIU 14