Inside Marshall Sports

Marshall-Charlotte prediction

Hello, Herd fans!

It is time to begin Marshall’s 13th league season in Conference USA with the Thundering Herd’s second trip to Charlotte. In 2015, the Herd strung up the 49ers 31-3 at the half, then won 34-10 after a very blah second half.

Last year, a veteran 49ers squad came to Huntington and gave Herd fans indigestion, stealing a 27-24 win at Edwards Stadium. There is the starting point of this prediction.

The Herd will have some trouble with QB Hasaan Klugh, who scored the go-ahead TD last year, and blossoming RB Benny LeMay, maybe to the point of giving up 100 yards to each. If it’s just 100 and not much more, that’s fine.

Why? Because I have no faith in Charlotte’s passing attack. Watch to see if the 49ers pick up any third downs with 7 or more yards to go.

Expect more wrinkles in Greg Adkins’ second game as offensive coordinator, but I’m not sure it matters. The 49ers hit Florida International with surprises in the first half, then went to sleep after halftime and lost by a point.

The 49ers lost a LOT of players on both sides, and it will show in this game. So will Marshall’s much-improved athletic ability, plus the return of MLB Juwon Young. I can’t think of a better game to make his Herd debut, and I don’t think rust will be much of a factor.

I look for a repeat of the 2015 game. Just remember, if your guys lead by 28 at the half, it doesn’t mean they win by 56.

MARSHALL, 45-14

As Marshall takes its first steps on the Conference USA comeback trail, the rest of the East Division is loaded with standings-shifting games. On the other side, we will see if Texas-San Antonio is all that.

Looking at the games, in order of (my) interest:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (2-3, 1-0) at OLD DOMINION (2-2, 0-0), 6 p.m.
TV: Stadium

Lane Kiffin may have settled on a starting quarterback in Jason Driskel, who went 22 of 29 for 187 yards and a TD in the Owls’ 38-20 win over Middle Tennessee. But the big story is Devin “Motor” Singletary, who scored four touchdowns and has 492 rushing yards through five games.

Note about ODU: Special teams are playing well, leading the league with a 27.1 kickoff return average, 9.8 on punt returns and eight punts inside the 20-yard line. The Herd gets the Monarchs next week, so this is a good flip-over game during commercials.

LINE: FAU by 4.5. OLD DOMINION, AT LEAST TO BEAT SPREAD

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (3-1, 2-0) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2-3, 0-1), 3 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

Yes, that’s FIU atop the East Division, with a legitimate chance to knock the Blue Raiders to 0-2. And the Raiders are still very much without QB Brent Stockstill (maybe out for season) and WR Richie James.

But I’m not sure if a six-point win over Rice and a one-point win over Charlotte are positive or negative omens. The 49ers took a 26-7 lead and gained 504 total yards, one of their best-ever performances.

Meanwhile, MTSU trailed nearly all of a 38-20 loss at Florida Atlantic. John Urzua threw for 359 yards, but that only meant that the Raiders abandoned the run game. They were gashed for 252 rushing yards and allowed Devin Singletary to score four touchdowns.

The Blue Raiders will not abandon the run this time.

LINE: MTSU by 10. MTSU

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (2-2, 0-1) at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (3-0, 0-0), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium on Facebook, local TV in San Antonio

If Marshall becomes a contender for the East Division title, it has to go through these West teams in the last two weeks to pull it off.

By quirk of scheduling, the teams also played last year in the Alamodome, and the Roadrunners plowed through the Golden Eagles 55-32. After a 45-28 loss last week to North Texas, Southern Miss doesn’t look to be contender material.

The Roadrunners lead the league in most of the defensive categories, but the sample size is still the smallest — wins over Baylor, Southern and Texas State. It’s a shame their game against Houston was canceled, but it’s been a tough hurricane season.

LINE: UTSA by 13.5. SOUTHERN MISS TO BEAT SPREAD, AT LEAST

LOUISIANA TECH (3-2, 2-0) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (2-2, 0-1), 4 p.m.
TV: CUSA TV

In its Year of the Comeback, UAB’s 46-43 loss to North Texas may be even more impressive than at first glance, as the Mean Green appears to be a contender. But the Bulldogs have given up 55 points over the last three games, so they may have fixed issues on that side of the ball.

Tech’s J’Mar Smith is second in C-USA in passing yardage, 264.0 per game.

LINE: La Tech by 12. LA TECH

WKU (2-2, 0-1 in C-USA) at UTEP (0-5, 0-1 in C-USA), 8 p.m.
TV: CUSA TV.

Yes, Mike Price is back on the UTEP sideline, holding down the fort for the next seven games after Sean Kugler threw in the towel. Price was in the fifth year of his retirement, so he is rested and ready. Don’t know if he’s tanned, though there’s plenty of sun in that part of the world.

WKU’s defense has allowed 74 points (excluding defensive TDs) in four games, the lowest in its 11-year FBS era.

LINE: WKU by 19. EL PASO BEATS SPREAD, SOMEHOW

ARMY (3-2) at RICE (1-4), 6:30 p.m.
TV: beIN Sports

I’ve run out of words and interest.

LINE: Army by 13.5. ARMY

Last week: 2-4
Season: 22-20

Standings
East: FIU 2-0, FAU 1-0, Marshall 0-0, Old Dominion 0-0, WKU 0-1, MTSU 0-1, Charlotte 0-1.

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

Stat leaders
Rushing yards: Jeffery Wilson, NT, 666; Devon Singletary, FAU, 492; Benny LeMay, Charlotte, 450.
Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 1,442; J’Mar Smith 1,320; White, WKU, 1,047; Litton, Marshall, 1,014.
Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (51-67-0, 659, 6 TDs); Mason Fine, NT (102-163-4, 1,442, 11 TDs, rating 154.3); A.J. Erdely, UAB (50-94-1, 743, 6 TDs). Marshall: Litton 7th (90-150-3, 1,014, 8 TDs).
Receptions: Teddy Veal, La Tech, 30; Ty Lee, MTSU, 28; Jalen Guyton, NT, 24; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 23; Marcel Williams, Marshall, 22.
Receiving yards: Jalen Guyton, NT, 444; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 407; Teddy Veal, La Tech, 331.
Team total offense: North Texas 510.8, UTSA 482.0, Southern Miss 447.5. (Marshall 8th, 366.2).
Team total defense: UTSA 207.0, Southern Miss 316.0, MTSU 348.2. (Marshall 6th, 380.5).

Prediction for Herd-Cincinnati game

This is a brutally tough game to call. For me, anyway.

Cincinnati is in a superior conference, but is finding its way under a new coach. Marshall may be a game ahead of schedule on the comeback trail.

Neither team is going great guns on offense. Yeah, Cincinnati QB Hayden Moore threw for 381 last week, but played exactly one series when he wasn’t behind — the first series. After that, the Bearcats trailed the entire game and couldn’t run for squat, anyway.

Marshall’s offensive troubles have continued, though Tyler King has offered a ray of hope. Tyre Brady has offered another ray of hope, as have a few others.

But I don’t see a lot of scoring. Marshall’s defense has shown grit in adverse circumstances, and earned its shutout two weeks ago. Of Kent State, I know, I know.

All I really know about Cincinnati’s defense is (a) it held Miami (Ohio) under 300 total yards and (b) its pride was wounded last week at Navy.

The intangibles: The Bearcats are happy to be home after three tough roadies. The Herd is on the verge of a 3-1 start, equaling the win total from the entire 2016 season — and it’s still September!

Sounds great, but I need to see if this MU team can stand prosperity. In the meantime …

CINCINNATI 23, MARSHALL 14

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (2-2, 0-0) at FLORIDA ATLANTIC (1-3, 0-0), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium

Last year, the teams tangled in Murfreesboro in the final week, and the Blue Raiders won a 77-56 defensive slugfest. The Owls rolled up 589 yards and still was outgained by 168.

MTSU has won the last nine meetings between these former Sun Belt rivals, but with QB Brent Stockstill doubtful and WR Richie James questionable, the Blue Raiders could struggle against a defense that has to be better than that of Bowling Green.

Meanwhile in Boca Raton, Kiffin has tweeted a cut-out of himself holding a bottle of Coca-Cola and an FAU helmet. Anyone who likes, replies or retweets gets a chance to win it.

Kiffin said — and I’m not sure he was joking — he wants to win and send it to former boss Nick Saban.

Back to the field: The Owls like to run and the Blue Raiders will curtail that — at least better than they did last year.

Line: FAU by 3. Huh? MIDDLE TENNESSEE

NORTH TEXAS (2-2, 1-0) at SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (2-1, 0-0), 7 p.m.
TV: CUSA TV

The Mean Green has the league’s top scoring offense (37.8) and the Golden Eagles are tied for the top scoring defense (13.7). Both had bad FCS teams to skew the numbers, though NT did win a 46-43 shootout over Alabama-Birmingham.

Both teams have 200-yard rushers this season — Jeffery Wilson for NT and Ito Smith for USM — but only one will top 100.

Line: Southern Miss by 9. SOUTHERN MISS

SOUTH ALABAMA (1-3) at LOUISIANA TECH (2-2), 7 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

Former Marshall fourth-string QB Cole Garvin is expected to return from injury for South Alabama, which fired its offensive coordinator on Monday. Don’t raise your expectations against a Tech defense that might be pretty good for once — the Bulldogs beat Western Kentucky 23-22 and lost to South Carolina 17-16.

Line: Louisiana Tech by 14. LOUISIANA TECH

CHARLOTTE (0-4, 0-0) at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (2-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.
TV: BeIN Sports

How can the 49ers beat the spread when they can’t score? That’s 211 total yards against Georgia … State.

Brad Lambert is No. 11 in coacheshotseat.com.

Line: FIU by 12.5 FIU

RICE (1-3) at PITTSBURGH (1-3), noon
Television: ACC RSN/Fox Sports Southwest

The Owls have gained 490 yards — over the last two games, vs. Houston and FIU. David Bailiff is No. 17.

Line: Pitt by 20.5 PITT

UTEP (0-4) at ARMY (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
Television: CBS Sports Network

The Miners’ Sean Kugler is No. 12, and that may be too low.

Line: Army by 24. ARMY

Last week: 5-5
Season: 20-16

LEAGUE LEADERS
Rushing: 1. Jeffrey Wilson, NT, 518; Jalen Rhodes, UTSA, 338; Ito Smith, USM 333. Marshall: 21. Keion Davis 105.
Passing (rating): 1. Dalton Sturm, UTSA, 188.3 (76.1%, 659 yds, 6 TD, 0 int), Mason Fine, NT 156.2 (63.4%, 1,072 yds, 9/3) .Marshall: 10. Chase Litton 122.2 (59.5%, 781 yds, 4/3).
Receiving (receptions): 1. Teddy Veal, LT,  25; 2. Nicarius Fant, WKU, 21; 3. Lucky Jackson WKU, 20; 3. Ty Lee (MT) 20. Marshall: 4. Tyre Brady, 19.
Receiving (yards): 1. Tyre Brady, MU, 373; 2. DeAndre McNeal, FAU, 298; 3. R. Bonnette, LT, 279.

Team total offense: 1. North Texas 503.5; 2. UTSA 482.0; 3. Southern Miss 458.3. Marshall: 7th, 366.3.
Team total defense: 1. UTSA 207.0; 2. Southern Miss, 241.3; 3. MTSU 325.5. Marshall: 6th, 391.0

Conference USA notebook for 9/22

We have the game between unfortunate hurricane victima Florida International and Rice, with the University of Alabama at Birmingham playing its first league game since 2014 at North Texas. FIU has two league games in a row, taking on Charlotte on Sept. 30.

This is an uninspired slate. But we forge ahead, with games listed in order of (my) interest, with picks against the spread.

LOUISIANA TECH (2-1) at SOUTH CAROLINA (2-1), 3:30 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson was named defensive player of the week after two critical sacks in the 23-22 win over Western Kentucky. The second forced a punt and led to Tech’s winning field goal by Jonathan Barnes.

The Bulldogs were worn out by Mississippi State a few weeks back, but I expect a better effort against the Gamecocks. This is a tricky line.

Line: South Carolina by 9.5. SOUTH CAROLINA

OLD DOMINION (2-1) at (16) VIRGINIA TECH (3-0), 2 p.m.

TV: ACC Network+/ESPN3

These teams are schedule to meet eight times over the next 13 years. The Monarchs will compete at some point, but probably not this year, and not with 17-year-old QB Steven Williams.

I’d tune in just to hear Dave Weekley and John Gregory, a nice pairing all Herd fans know.

Line: Virginia Tech by 28. OLD DOMINION, but not outright

BALL STATE (2-1) at WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-2), 7 p.m.

TV: Stadium

A good chance to scout the two-time C-USA champs, who are faring better on defense than offense — 1,073 total yards in 3 games and 53 points (after removing a pick-6).

Ball State defensive coordinator David Elson was WKU’s head coach from 2003-09, posting a 39-44 record and guiding WKU through the transition to the FBS. He faces a long evening in Bowling Green.

Line: WKU by 7.5. WKU, LOCK OF THE WEEK

FIU (1-1, 0-0) at RICE (1-2, 1-0), 7 p.m.

TV: Stadium on Facebook

After getting blasted 61-17 at Central Florida, the Panthers have had a home game moved to Birmingham and a game at Indiana scrubbed by Irma. Rice was dominated by Houston last week, but I am mindful of what the Owls did to Texas-El Paso the game before.

FIU Alex McGough has a 328-yard game, but that was against Alcorn State. He is a veteran, but Panthers will struggle on the road.

Line: Rice by 2. RICE

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (1-2) at BUFFALO (1-2), 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

The Owls ran for 439 yards last week … against Bethune-Cookman. But I have to resurrect my disrespect for the Bulls from Marshall’s MAC days.

Line: Buffalo by 3. FAU

BOWLING GREEN (0-3) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-2), 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

The Blue Raiders rushing game has struggled to get going in three games this season, averaging 63 yards per game, but will be facing a Bowling Green defense currently ranked 118th in the country in rushing defense (244 yards per game allowed) and 127th in total defense (554.3 total yards per game allowed). That includes 520 total yards racked up by South Dakota.

The Raiders might miss both QB Brent Stockstill and WR Richie James. I don’t care.

Line: MTSU by 7. MTSU

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (2-0) at TEXAS STATE (1-2), 7 p.m.

TV: KMYS-TV (San Antonio)/ESPN3

Dalton Sturm is 34 of 42 passing, an 81 percent rate that is 2nd in the nation. He’ll keep that up against a team that beat Houston Baptist by 9.

Line: UTSA by 13.5. UTSA

UAB (2-1, 0-0) at NORTH TEXAS (1-2, 0-0)

TV: beIN Sports

The Mean Green’s Mason Fine is averaging 271 passing yards, and the team trailed Iowa just 17-14 into the fourth quarter. The home team will win, but Blazers may prove feisty.

Line: North Texas by 13. UAB, but not outright

TEXAS-EL PASO (0-3) at NEW MEXICO STATE (1-2), 8 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

These teams, separated by about 50 miles each other and hundreds of miles from the rest of the planet, are playing for the 95th time. The Miners have won the last eight, but the Aggies will end that string.

If you missed it, endangered UTEP coach Sean Kugler canned offensive coordinator Brent Pease earlier this week, and Brian Natkin takes over.

Line: New Mexico State by 20. UTEP, but not outright

GEORGIA STATE (0-2) at CHARLOTTE (0-3), 6 p.m.

TV: WCCB-TV/CUSA TV

Charlotte just lost to North Carolina A&T; Georgia State has lost to Tennessee State. What a pillow fight!

Line: Pick ‘em. GEORGIA STATE

Last week: 5-4
Season: 15-11

Marshall-Kent State notebook

HUNTINGTON — Apparently, Tyler King made an substantial impact on his Marshall teammates before he actually made his college debut.

Just ask one of the leaders of the Thundering Herd, quarterback Chase Litton.

“You guys weren’t in there for halftime when we’re all sitting there, we’re quiet and we need the juice and Tyler King stepped up,” Litton said after the Thundering Herd’s 21-0 win Saturday over Kent State. “He hadn’t played a snap the whole first half, and he comes in loud, he was vocal and he said, ‘You cannot be sit here and be accepting of this. This isn’t Marshall football.’”

King, who has recovered from an infection that put him out of practice a few weeks, finally appeared the the backfield in Marshall’s first possession of the second half. His first two carries were nothing special, going for 1 and zero yards. He also caught a pass for 8.

At the end of three quarters, the Herd had just 39 yards on 19 carries, continuing the struggles in that category. But King’s first two carries went for 21 and 15 yards, and the Herd was in business.

That possession didn’t end in a score, but the next one did. King had a small part in that 62-yard drive, carrying for 8 yards on a second-and-10.

On the Herd’s last possession, it was all King, carrying for 7, 6, 8, 4, 1, 5 and 29 yards. The last carry put the Herd up 21-0 with 1:08 left, and gave King 101 yards on 14 carries.

King, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound native of Fort Meade, Florida, sat out last year as a nonqualifier and has entered the program as enthusiastic as anyone.

“Being away from football for a whole year, and to come out and have a game like that, I really appreciated the whole coaching staff, the strength and conditioning [staff], Marshall University for giving me this opportunity,” he said. “So this is my second chance — I believed in them, they believed in me, we’re coming together as a team.”

********

When Chase Litton threw 5 yards to Marcel Williams for a touchdown late in the first half, it extended his streak with a TD pass to 24 games. But that wasn’t the important thing.

Marshall took a 7-0 lead in an otherwise poor offensive half.

“It was a grind-it-out game, and we didn’t play great. But to get that ball in the end zone at the end of the half was huge.
Ryan Yurachek caught four passes for 24 yards, extending his streak of games with at least one reception to 32.

********

Marshall will use the upcoming open week to get healthier. Nowhere will that be more important than on the offensive line which missed the starting left side.

Left tackle Sandley Jean-Felix was out, and left guard Jordan Dowrey missed his first game, in a technical sense. But Dowrey left in Marshall’s first possession last week at North Carolina State, so redshirt freshman Alex Mollette has played essentially two whole games.

A.J. Addison replaced Jean-Felix in the starting lineup, sharing duties with another redshirt freshman, Will Ulmer. With Tarik Adams the starting right tackle, that meant the Herd had three freshmen on the line at times.

Levi Brown, himself just a sophomore, gave the youngsters a thumbs-up. Marshall had trouble running, but gave up no sacks and allowed Litton time to throw.

“We’ve confidence in all three of them,” Brown said. “Being able to play that many snaps is good. No really bad mess-ups by any of the three freshmen. The only penalty we had was Mollette for holding, and I had a false start, which happens sometimes.”

Briefly

  • Marshall was 9 of 17 on third downs, improving its season mark to 22 of 45, 48.9 percent. “Seventeen is too many,” Litton said. “We’re putting ourselves in situations where it’s making it tougher on us, making it tougher on our staff to call plays.”
  • Then there is the baffling delay of at least eight minutes, in which officials convened among themselves and with both head coaches (one at a time, of course). At the conclusion, both sides were called for a face-masking personal foul, and the penalties offset. Holliday said the officials did a fine job overall, but, “I’m still trying to figure out what the hell that was all about.”
  • King became Marshall’s first 100-yard rusher of the year, and the first since Anthony Anderson ran for 109 last November against Middle Tennessee. That was Marshall’s only 100-yard effort of that season.
  • Trey Rodriguez had a strange day of punt returning. He gained 20 yards on one runback, but he lost it all back on the other four attempts. Each time, he was tackled as he ran backwards in an attempt to reverse field.
  • The telecast production was produced by Marshall, airing on Stadium in this market and streaming on CUSA.TV. The latter drew complaints on social media, as the feed froze right before Litton’s TD throw to Williams.
  • The game time for Marshall’s Sept. 30 game at Cincinnati has not been set. That should happen Monday.

Grades for Kent State game

OFFENSE: C-

For one glorious quarter — the fourth — the Herd ran the ball! That’s the only thing that fishes this grade out of D-or F-dom. Entering the fourth quarter, the Herd rushed for 39 yards on 19 carries against a weak defense. Final tally: 33 for 158, with Tyler King gaining 101 of the 139 in the quarter. Big ups to Tyler King in his college debut. Final note: Zero sacks.

DEFENSE: A

Stoned one drive at its 9-yard line and stopped others at the 25, 15 and 29. One big interception near the goal line and *7* sacks. Held a run-heavy offense to 142 yards rushing on 44 carries, a 3.2 average. And scored a goose egg — automatic “A.”

SPECIAL TEAMS: D

I’ll give Kaare Vedvik credit for his 42.8-yard average on six kicks, with a long of 54. He considered a fake off the rugby punt and beware — he’s athletic enough to do it. Then there is Trey Rodriguez — 5 punt returns, zero yards, long of 20. Digest that one.

QUARTERBACKING: C-

Litton raised this grade his 14-yard scoring run that made it 14-0, but he should have hit Marcel Williams wide open down the middle. 23 of 43 for 223 yards, a TD and a pick (good play by a well-regarded CB). A 100.7 NCAA passer rating with excellent pass protection is unacceptable.

COACHING: C

This is 100 percent an nod to Chuck Heater, who had to prepare his team to face an unusual offense that requires patience to defend. Let’s see how the coaches bring along Tyler King, who looks as if he will become the ace of the running back room. And finally, it’s time for Hyleck Foster on punt returns … please.

OVERALL: C

We must remind ourselves that this is Kent State, a team that might go 4-8 if lucky, and will do worse if QB Nick Holley doesn’t come back from the injury he suffered on the first possession here. Then again, a 3-touchdown win wasn’t that surprising. Go into the bye week, get a couple of linemen back and prepare for Cincy.

 

 

Conference USA notebook, 9/14

This weekend, Florida International’s game at Indiana has been “deferred to a future date,” for good reason. As you know, Miami is still cleaning up from Hurricane Irma, and here’s something you may not know: Special-needs residents of the Florida Keys are being sheltered at FIU.

Most of the Keys (for you who may know the area, below Mile Marker 73) remain closed as of this writing.

With that, here’s your weekend, in order of (my) interest, with picks against the spread:

LOUISIANA TECH (1-1, 0-0 in C-USA) at WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-1, 0-0 in C-USA), 7 p.m.
Television: Stadium

This is a rematch of last year’s C-USA championship game, won 58-44 by WKU, and it is a battle of teams picked by league coaches to win their divisions again.

It is also a battle of teams who had crappy nights against “Power 5” teams — Tech lost to Mississippi State 57-21 and WKU lost 20-7 to Illinois. The teams combined for 559 total yards — barely more than the 523 total yards WKU averaged in the 2016 season.
The Hilltoppers were held to a net 6 yards rushing and the Bulldogs averaged just 3.9 yards per play.

I don’t know that to think now. Perhaps the Hilltoppers are still playing good defense, but was Illinois’ offense a good barometer of that?

Line: WKU by 7. WKU

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-1) at MINNESOTA (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: Big Ten Network

Give the Blue Raiders credit for one of the most optimal schedules among C-USA teams: Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Minnesota and Bowling Green. Challenging but not murderous, and no stinkin’ FCS teams.

The Raiders won 30-23 last week at Syracuse, holding the Orange to 308 total yards and registering six sacks. Vandy won the opener easily, but managed a middle-of-the-road 367 total yards.

So is this defense really improved under first-year defensive coordinator Scott Shafer? Perhaps, and the Golden Gophers will provide another barometer. My faith in the Raiders is semi-restored, and this line seems large.

Line: Minnesota by 10. MTSU

NORTH CAROLINA (0-2) at OLD DOMINION (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: Stadium

Timeout here! East Carolina lobbied, pleaded, begged hard for decades to get the Tar Heels to visit Greenville, and then UNC turns around and visits that dungeon of a football stadium to face a ninth-year program. Sheesh!

The Tar Heels have given up 82 points a game, which can happen if you play California and Louisville. They are allowing more yards per play (7.53) and have carried leads into the fourth quarter, only to be outscored by a combined 34-13.

But ODU hasn’t looked impressive so far, beating Albany 31-17 and Massachusetts 17-7. Quarterback seems to be a problem, as the team’s passing efficiency rating ranks 102nd despite that soft schedule. Worse yet, WR Jonathan Duhart, a preseason all-conference pick, is out for the year with a broken foot.

RB Ray Lawry, who missed last week with hamstring issues, may return.

Line: North Carolina by 10. NORTH CAROLINA

RICE (1-1) at HOUSTON (1-0), 8 p.m.
Television: ESPN3

After all that city has been through, it’s just great to see this game played. Just don’t pour too much water in the Bayou Bucket.

Rice is coming off a 31-14 win at Texas-El Paso, in which the Owls outmuscled the Miners for 306 yards rushing. Houston finally got to play and was rewarded handsomely with a 19-16 win at Arizona.

The Cougars will take a 30-11 series lead, and do so by a bunch.

Line: Houston by 22.5. HOUSTON

SOUTHERN MISS (1-1) at LOUISIANA-MONROE (0-1), 7 p.m.
Television: ESPN3

The Golden Eagles regained their footing in a 45-0 pushover against Southern, and catches the Warhawks coming off a hurricane-related cancellation.

Kwadra Griggs made his first start for the Eagles, going 15 of 23 for 209 yards and a pair of TDs, and the running game got moving again. A word about ULM: The 37-29 loss at Memphis wasn’t that close, as the Warhawks scored late.

Line: Southern Miss by 6.5. SOUTHERN MISS

COASTAL CAROLINA (1-0) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (1-1), 1 p.m.
Television: Raycom/WBRC-TV/CUSA TV

The Blazers outgained Ball State 504-377 but two fumbles led to touchdowns as the Cardinals rolled 51-31.

The euphoria of football’s return is wearing off at Legion Field.

Line: Coastal Carolina by 1.5. COASTAL CAROLINA

NORTH TEXAS (1-1) at IOWA (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: ESPN2

Mason Fine, who gave Marshall trouble last year, went 32 of 47 for 424 yards and three TDs against Southern Methodist, but the Mean Green still got thumped 54-32.

Line: Iowa by 21.5. IOWA

ARIZONA (1-1) at TEXAS-EL PASO (0-2), 10:15 p.m. Friday
Television: ESPN

Sean Kugler is 12th in the coacheshotseat.com and that my be too low. Netting 26 yards rushing against Rice is not what Kugler envisioned when he came to El Paso.

Line: Arizona by 22.5. ARIZONA

FBS on FCS Crime (maybe)
NORTH CAROLINA A&T at CHARLOTTE (0-2), 6 p.m.
Television: WCCB-TV/CUSA TV

BETHUNE-COOKMAN at FLORIDA ATLANTIC (0-2), 6:30 p.m.
Television: beIN Sports

SOUTHERN at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (1-0 in C-USA), 7 p.m.
Television: KCWX-TV/CUSA TV

Last week vs. spread: 5-5
Season: 10-7

Herd-N.C. State notebook

RALEIGH, N.C. — Tyre Brady’s status was in doubt the entire week, at least as far as his coaches and medical staff were concerned.
But for Brady, there was no doubt. The Miami transfer was not going to miss a game against an Atlantic Coast Conference opponent, and he wasn’t going to let his teammates down.
As far as he is concerned, there was no set day or time when he was cleared to play.
“I was like, I’ve got to be there for my team. I can’t let them down,” Brady said. “They depend on me, they need me, so I’m going to be there for them.”
He played Saturday against North Carolina State, and he caught 11 passes for 248 yards with one touchdown, a 75-yarder. The yardage is the most in a single game against a major-college opponent (Division I-A, FBS), and is tied for the fourth-most in program history.
The others tied or higher: Troy Brown (248 vs. Virginia Military Institute, 1991), Andre Motley (262 vs. Tennessee-Chattanooga, 1990), Josh Davis (264 vs. Appalachian State, 2002) and Randy Moss (288 vs. Delaware, 1996).
He may never reach that single-game yardage — chances are he will receive more attention from the Herd’s next 10 opponents. But the chemistry between him and quarterback Chase Litton is undeniable.
“That’s Tyre. Now we just have a camera on him,” Litton said. “We see it every day in practice, we saw it in the way he carries himself, and we got to see it tonight.”

*****

Safety Malik Gant made his first collegiate start, and he made something of it. By all accounts, there were mistakes made against a veteran N.C. State team, and he’ll have a full video study back in Huntington.
But he was active. Very active, to the tune of 17 tackles, easily a team high.
He had to clean up on a few longer gains, but he held the Wolfpack to short gains on several plays. For instance, he had two tackles on a three-and-out possession.

******

So what happened on the flea-flicker play, when N.C. State’s Ryan Finley hit Jaylen Samuels for a 39-yard score? After the usual handoff, lateral and throw back to the quarterback, of course.
Samuels was wide open down the right sideline and was able to use his size and speed to cover the yards after catch. Herd defenders were irritated that they were caught off guard.
“We ran the flea-flicker multiple times this week [in scout-team work],” said defensive tackle Ryan Bee. “We slipped up mentally, and we’ve got to work on that going into next week.”

*****

With tackles Nyquan Harris and Channing Hames out, Aaron Dopson received his first college start.
Three reserve linemen played substantial snaps — AJ Addison at left tackle, Alex Mollette at left guard and Will Ulmer at right tackle.
Mollette replaced Jordan Dowrey, who went down on the third snap of the game and did not return. Addison subbed several series for Sandley Jean-Felix, who struggled to block Wolfpack star Bradley Chubb. Ulmer spelled Tarik Adams at times.
“We went into that game wanting to play three more offensive linemen,” said Herd coach Doc Holliday. “We wanted to play Mollette, wanted to play Ulmer, wanted to play Addison. We’re going to need them before the year’s out.”
Damien Dozier returned at defensive end after dressing but not playing last week. That allowed Ty Tyler to move inside for more snaps at tackle.
In the backfield, Anthony Anderson started his second career game, lined up in a two-back set with Trey Rodriguez.
And finally, Robert LeFevre received his first college game action, taking over on kickoffs. He survived knocking his first out of bounds and receiving the obligatory “greeting” from Holliday. (Holliday took it easy on him, putting his arm around him after a short talk.)

Grades for N.C. State game

OFFENSE: C-

Ran for 101 yards, but 53 came on one play. The 2 penalties on that long, fruitless drive were tough to swallow, and the personal foul helped keep a touchdown out of play … how would a 30-27 deficit early in the 4th quarter play? Zero points in a half has to drag this grade down, but you cannot ignore the 20 points and 296 total yards in the other half. Another big positive: Chase Litton was sacked just once.

DEFENSE: D

Honestly, holding the Wolfpack under 500 total yards was not expected. Not by me, anyway. Give the Herd credit for not giving up the run, but Ryan Finley had his way the last 2 drives of the first half and the first drive of the second.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

I hate hate hate penalties on returns, and a back-side penalty that wipes out a kickoff return … Ugh! The bad snap that helped Kaare Vedvik miss a critical field goal didn’t help. Got to flunk this unit.

QUARTERBACKING: B

I’ll overlook that awful interception he threw late in the game because the issue was settled. He threw a few big-time balls to Mr. Brady, but missed some others badly. The grade may be high, but I’d take 26 of 43 for 350 every week and take my chances.

COACHING: C

I try not to nitpick on every stinkin’ play call, but one has me beside myself. If I’m up 10-3 on a P-5 school with a brawny defensive line and have 3rd-and-10 from the defense’s 30-yard line, that ball is NOT getting handed off. Otherwise, credit the coaches for having these guys ready to get after it.

OVERALL: C-

The highest possible grade for a losing effort is a C, and I’ve never given that. The second half was aggravating, but when I project this effort to what I see to the next 10 games … Hmmmmmmm. That Tyre Brady can play.