Inside Marshall Sports

Prediction for the Pitt game

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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.

C-USA notebook for week of October 1

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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):
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

FCS Parade: WKU vs. Houston Baptist

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

Grades for Louisville

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


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


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


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


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.


This wasn’t Akron.

Chase Litton: In or out?

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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=””>@ESPN</a></p>&mdash; Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) <a href=”″>September 24, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//” 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=”″>September 24, 2016</a></blockquote>
<script async src=”//” 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

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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.


C-USA notebook for games of 9/24

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Hello, Herd fans!

Four conference games this week, and not a minute too soon. Nonconference play has not treated C-USA well.

The best and worst of last week:
Best 3 results
Middle Tennessee 41, Bowling Green 21: The Falcons may not be as good as advertised before losing to Ohio State by 67 and beating North Dakota by 1, but so what? Marshall fans know how tough a win it is to escape BG with a win. I’Tavius Mathers was named offensive player of the week for his 157 yards and 3 touchdowns, plus 1 receiving. DT Shaquille Huff (8 tackles, 2 for loss, sack, fumble recovery) was defensive player of week.
Western Kentucky 31, Miami (Ohio) 24: This was not a 1-score game — Miami scored with 1:17 left and didn’t recover the onside kick. Notable items: (a) Mike White was back, throwing for 268 yards and 2 TDs, and (b) ex-MU commit Quinton Baker rushed for 103 yards and a score. Nicarius Fant (48-yard punt returns) was the special teams player of the week.
Arizona State 32, Texas-San Antonio 28: UTSA gave up the last 20 points, but it looked more like the Roadrunners were overwhelmed in the trenches down the stretch. QB Dalton Sturm could only escape the pass rush so long. I’m impressed with that guy.

Worst 3 results
Akron 65, Marshall 38: Need I say more?
Florida 32, North Texas 0: Lean Green gains 53 total yards.
Eastern Michigan 37, Charlotte 19: Oh, it’s worse that that — the MAC doormats lead 34-6 after 3 quarters. Best news: the game lasted just 2 hours, 54 minutes.

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
Overall: 3-6

G-5 standings
American 3-0
Mountain West 7-4
MAC 6-7
Sun Belt 4-6
C-USA 3-6
Note: Army and Massachusetts are independents and are not factored in.

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)
Overall vs P-5: 1-14

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-Louisville not included):
Louisiana Tech at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m., ASN — Bulldogs were outgained by Texas Tech 666-572 last week, and the Blue Raiders have Brent Stockstill and the aforementioned Mathers. Let the good times roll!

Southern Miss at UTEP, 8 p.m., Campus Insiders — The Golden Eagles handed last week’s game to Troy with a kickoff return fumble and a botched punt snap, when it comes down to it. UTEP, in the words of coach Sean Kugler, got “kicked in the groin” by Army. Eagles should kneecap a West Division darkhorse, but nothing’s automatic in the desert.
ODDS: Southern Miss by 10. TAKE THE EAGLES

Vanderbilt at Western Kentucky, 4:30 p.m., CBS Sports — Commodores flicked aside Middle Tennessee in Nashville, and make the short trip to play before a charged-up Hilltopper crowd. If this game runs long, Marshall fans have to hit the Internet to watch opening kickoff.

UTSA at Old Dominion, 3:30 p.m., local in both markets — An interesting battle of teams with low expectations from the outside. As indicated, I’m impressed with Dalton Sturm and I think the Roadrunners will get through this long roadie nicely.

Central Florida at Florida International, 7 p.m., beIN Sports — Remember when FIU beat the Knights last year in Orlando and celebrated like it was the Super Bowl, only to see UCF then go 0-12? Neither scenario repeats this year.

Ball State at Florida Atlantic, 6 p.m., C-USA TV — Hey, Charlie Partridge, what was that mess in Manhattan? The Owls have had some injuries and shuffling on the offensive line, I see. When I see (or write) “shuffling” and “offensive line” in the same sentence, I think, “uh, oh.”
But I can’t pull the trigger on Ball State.
ODDS: Ball State by 3.5. TAKE THE OWLS.

North Texas at Rice, 6 p.m., C-USA-TV — I care because North Texas is on Marshall’s schedule.

Charlotte at Temple, noon, ESPN3 — I care because Charlotte is on Marshall’s schedule.

Last week vs. number: 2-10. Season: 10-17.

Grades for Akron game

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You’d think 560 total yards and 38 points would be worth something, but not really. There were 4 turnovers, 2 resulting in TDs, the running attack was ho-hum and the Herd did nothing to stop the bleeding in the second quarter. 2nd quarter drives: fumble, punt, punt, interception, punt, interception, end of half. Hell, I’m being generous with this one!


Take out the 3 “Beamer Ball” TDs and the Herd still gave up 44, and still made Thomas Woodson look like a Heisman finalist. What will Lamar Jackson do?


Penalty nullifies successful fake punt, blocked punt for TD and my “favorite,” Corey Neely’s unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a kickoff that wasn’t returned.


This one may be generous, too. As Litton will tell you, he can’t have 4 turnovers himself, and that’s what he did. Not sure 1st interception was his fault, but know 2nd one was. The 3rd one that went for a TD, I confess my attention was divided.


Anybody want to help out Chris Jackson on that island over there? Give him a life raft, a rope, a safety over the top, an actual zone defense or SOMETHING. Perhaps a tryout of Terry Richardson at the corner with George Davis at nickel might work; I don’t know. And … how about 2 practice periods on getting people lined up properly? Illegal formation fouls (too many in the backfield) are inexcusable. And there were character issues out there (see Neely penalty).


Don’t even try to tell me this was a nonconference game and “doesn’t count.” Just try to tell me this Marshall team isn’t beatable by any particular team on the schedule. Yes, I’m including Charlotte. I’m certainly including Louisville.


Hear ye! Hear ye! Akron game prediction

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Hello, Herd fans!
I hope you caught some of my stuff this week because I sure wrote a lot of it. Or so it seems.

This will be short. The trick is trying not to bring the 2014 game into this because (a) Akron is better in several ways and (b) there won’t be 30 combined penalties … I think.

Marshall will win this game because:

  • MU offense vs. Akron defense will get ugly. The Zips’ vaunted ends will find their way to Chase Litton a few times, but he is learning the art of checking down. When the front four is sealed off, Litton will thrive even against seven defenders, running for a first down and throwing to the tight ends. But the Herd may open all that up with a solid running game. (200 rushing yards, maybe?)
  • MU’s defense will give up some points, but play more than well enough: Thomas Woodson is no Lamar Jackson, but his mobility must be respected. But eventually, MU defenders will run him down. I am liking those four ends plus Damien Dozier a lot.
  • RB Warren Ball and WR Jerome Lane will get their longer gains, but the Herd shouldn’t give up major “chunk” plays that kill you.
  • MU will win the return game: JoJo Natson will not gain a yard on punt returns, as Kaare Vedvik will either kick it out of bounds or force fair catches. This is how the Herd has neutralized punt returners for 5 of Doc Holliday’s previous 6 years (2012 is the exception).

As of this writing, the Herd is a 17.5-point favorite. MARSHALL 45, AKRON 21

Conference USA notebook, 9/15

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14 games in the league this week, a lot to munch on. Here we go:

The best and worst of last week:
Best 3 results
There weren’t 3 good results, unless you really want to count Marshall’s 62-0 win over Morgan State or Southern Mississippi’s 56-0 whuppin’ of Savannah State. Savannah eked out 41 total yards.
Ugh. I’ll name a valiant effort in defeat, which is …
Colorado State 23, Texas-San Antonio 14: The Roadrunners lost momentum late in the second half, while up 17-14. First, they allowed a 45-yard pass, then committed TWO offsides penalties on missed field goals. The third try was good, allowing the Rams to lead 20-14. The Roadrunners failed to score on their last seven possessions.

Worst 3 results
Miami 38, Florida Atlantic 10: The Owls punted on their first seven possessions. Somehow, the Owls only fell behind 7-0 in that time, but eventually the roof caved in. Total yardage: Miami 474, FAU 214.
Alabama 38, Western Kentucky 10: It wasn’t really that the Hilltoppers struggled against the No. 1 team in the land, but it was losing QB Mike White. He is undergoing concussion protocol, but coach Jeff Brohm is optimistic he’ll play this week at Miami (Ohio).
White was knocked out by an after-the-whistle body slam by Crimson Tide linebacker late in the second quarter.
Appalachian State 31, Old Dominion 7: The Mountaineers outscored the Monarchs 80-7 in 2015 and 2016 meetings. ASU went up 17-0 after three possessions.
ODU’s Anthony Wilson was named C-USA’s player of the week after his 11 tackles and three sacks.

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, UTSA 14
Overall: 1-3

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)
Overall: 1-8

This week’s offerings, in order of interest (MU-Akron not included):
Middle Tennessee at Bowling Green, noon, ASN/ESPN3 — Both teams are the preseason favorites on their respective league’s East Division, so Conference USA’s TV-devastated pride is on the line.

Troy at Southern Miss, 7 p.m., beIN Sports — Amazingly, the Eagles scored their first shutout since 2009 and are 2-0 for the first time since that same year. Ito Smith and George Payne both rushed for 100-plus yards for the second straight game, and Allenzae Staggers was special teams player of the week for a 75-yard punt return.
Troy gave Clemson a major scare last week, but they still might be a mid-pack Sun Belt school. We’ll see
ODDS: Southern Miss by 10.5. EAGLES TO FINISH STRONG.

Louisiana Tech at Texas Tech, 7 p.m., Fox Sports Net — Trent Taylor was C-USA’s offensive player of the week after his 11 catches for 178 yards rung up South Carolina State. The Bulldogs will need him to double that — don’t laugh, it can happen — against a Red Raider team that scored 55 in regulation and still lost by 13.
The teams haven’t met since 1933. ODDS: Texas by 10.5. TAKE THE BULLDOGS.

WKU at MIami (Ohio), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3 — Hilltoppers coach Jeff Brohm is optimistic White will be available, but aren’t all coaches that way about their QB? I’d be more optimistic about blanking the RedHawks after those slugs were beaten 21-17 by Eastern Illinois.

Eastern Michigan at Charlotte, 6 p.m. C-USA TV — This is a tribute to my sick, twisted, bottom-dwelling humor. A long time ago at the Charleston Daily Mail, I wrote a college column and would pick the pillow fight that week, and the score always would be 3-2.
In that spirit … Odds: Eastern Michigan by 3. TAKE THE 49ERS, I GUESS.

Florida International at Massachusetts, 3:30 p.m., ASN — This game will indeed be played on campus at UMass’ 17,000-seat McGuirk Stadium.  Not sure how well the Minutemen draw, but 10,000 empties would make the Panthers feel right at home.
FIU QB Alex McGough was hurt twice last week against Maryland, but he is expected to make his 26th straight start. And how do the Minutemen function post-Frohnapfel? ODDS: FIU by 1. PANTHERS, I GUESS.

Army at Texas-El Paso, 7 p.m., ASN — Fun fact: Army’s quarterback is Ahmad Bradshaw, and he leads the team in passing with 4 of 9 for 66 yards. In two games.
UTEP’s Aaron Jones has 372 rushing yards, and should get 150 more here … but it won’t be enough. ODDS: Army by 3.5. GO ARMY.

Baylor at Rice, 8 p.m. Friday, ESPN — ODDS: Baylor by 31.5. TAKE THE BEARS.

ODU at North Carolina State, 6 p.m., ESPN3 — ODDS: N.C. State by 23.5. AGAIN, RIDE THE FAVORITES.

FAU at Kansas State, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net — ODDS: Kansas State by 25.5. CHANGING IT UP, TAKE THE OWLS.

Arizona State at UTSA, 9:30 p.m. Friday, ESPN2 — ODDS: ASU by 20.5. TAKE THE SUN DEVILS.

North Texas at Florida, 7:30 p.m., ESPNU — I guess it really is too early for a homecoming game in the SEC. ODDS: Florida by 36. OMG! TAKE THE GATORS.

Last week: 3-5. Season: 8-7.

Report card for Morgan State game

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I’ll nitpick on 2 of 11 on 3rd downs, 1 of 5 in the first half. The Herd did convert all 3 4th downs and roll up 418 1st-half yards.


Zero points, 2 defensive TDs, 222 total yards. Check.


Not a good day for Amareto Curraj. He missed an extra point, knocked 2 kickoffs out of bounds and missed a field goal, though the latter was not his fault. It was somebody’s fault, as the kick was partially blocked. Kaare Vedvik had a great debut as punter, starting with a 50-yarder into the wind, with no return.


Nitpicking for Garet Morrell’s debut, which wasn’t great. Litton’s 6-TD performance, even considering the competition, was fantastic. Great way to ease into the season.


Calling the fake punt was perfect; Morgan State was almost totally unprepared.


Herd was supposed to beat this team like a pinata, and it did.