Inside Marshall Sports

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.

Conference USA notebook

Before going into this, keep in mind the Alcorn State-Florida International game, such as it is, is being played/was played Friday night in Birmingham. Kudos to UAB for putting up FIU’s athletic teams on short notice.

In the cruelest of coincidences, FIU opens its Conference USA season Sept. 23 with … Rice.

Here’s your weekend, in order of (my) interest, with picks against the point spread:

MISSISSIPPI STATE (1-0) at LOUISIANA TECH (1-0), 7 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

Don’t look now, but Skip Holtz’s Bulldogs are 15-1 in their last 16 games, and they have one of their biggest games ever in Joe Aillet Stadium. MSU came to Ruston in 2008, and the then-WAC member Tech won 22-24.

Tech survived a scare from Northwestern State, with two turnovers allowing the FCS school to tie the game at 24 early in the fourth quarter. But with QB J’Mar Smith leading the way, Tech scored the next four TDs to win 52-24.

Smith went 18 of 35 for 276 yards and rushed for 72 more. He find things a little tougher this time around.

Line: Mississippi State by 9.5. MISSISSIPPI STATE.

WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-0) at ILLINOIS (1-0), 8 p.m.

TV: Big Ten Network

I’m not getting worked up about the Hilltoppers beating Eastern Kentucky by just 31-17. Looks like the Tops took a 17-0 lead and got complacent, while the Colonels pounded some Red Bull at halftime. It happens.

The Fighting Illini are 24-4 in August/September home games since 2007.  Actually, that’s lousy for a Big Ten program.

Line: WKU by 7. WKU.

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (0-0) at BAYLOR (0-1), 8 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Networks

This is the Roadrunners’ season opener after their game against Houston was washed out by Harvey. This ultimately will do UTSA in, I am afraid.

Interesting note: Former Arizona QB Anu Solomon, who beat UTSA in two tough games, now starts for Baylor.

Line: Baylor by 16.5. BAYLOR.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (0-1) at SYRACUSE (1-0), 3:30 p.m.

TV: ACC Network/ESPN3

If I must. The Blue Raiders came up smaller than small last week in a 28-6 loss to Vanderbilt. Brent Stockstill and Co. ended its first two possessions with an interception and a turnover on downs on the Vandy side of the field, and things went downhill form there.

Stockstill hit the deck five times, so there’s improvement needed on the pass-blocking front. I’m not sold on anybody who plays Central Connecticut State, though, and I’m going in on the Blue Raiders again.

I guess.

Line: Syracuse by 10. MTSU.

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (1-0) at BALL STATE (0-1), 3 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

This game gets the “yuck” tag any other year, but you want to see just where the Blazers are against one of the MAC’s doormats. I’m countin’ on ya, Blazers.

Line: Ball State by 14. UAB.

OLD DOMINION (1-0) at MASSACHUSETTS (0-2), 3:30 p.m.

TV: none

This game gets the “yuck” tag any other year, but you want to see just where the Blazers are against one of the MAC’s doormats. I’m countin’ on ya, Blazers.

I want to see where the younger Monarchs are against a team that just loss to Coastal Carolina (hail to Mickey Matthews). Ray Lawry has 39 career rushing TDs, and will pick up a few more.

Line: ODU by 4. ODU.

NORTH TEXAS (1-0) at SOUTHERN METHODIST (1-0), 7 p.m.

TV: ESPN3

Ah, the Metroplex battle between the free-spending private school and the large-enrollment state school. The Mean Green racked up a school-record 668 total yards last week, which could only mean it played Lamar.

SMU roughed up Stephen F. Austin, so this is a de facto opener.

Line: SMU by 13.5. SMU.

RICE (0-1) at TEXAS-EL PASO (0-1), 8 p.m.

TV: CUSA TV

Coming off an open week, the Owls made it back to campus and what they discovered wasn’t pretty — 12 players lost everything, 26 vehicles were flooded.

The Owls are road-tripping to Australia, but this is 750 miles in that direction. UTEP has a brawny offensive line, if nothing else.

LINE: UTEP by 1.5. UTEP.

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (0-1) at WISCONSIN (1-0), noon

TV: Big Ten Network

If you’re going to evacuate from Irma, I recommend Madison, Wisconsin. The Owls are going to need some cheese and brews after this one.

Line: Wisconsin by 32. WISCONSIN.

CHARLOTTE (0-1) at (19) KANSAS STATE (1-0), noon

TV: Fox Sports Networks

No. 2 evacuation destination: Manhattan, Kansas. Aggieville is a pretty neat place.

Line: Kansas State by 35. KANSAS STATE.

FBS on FCS crime:

SOUTHERN (1-0) at SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (0-1), 7 p.m.


TV: Stadium on Facebook

Last week: 5-2

Season: 5-2

Hello Herd fans!

It’s off to Raleigh this weekend, and I’m afraid the good feeling over beating Miami (Ohio) will abate.

This won’t be overanalyzed. N.C. State isn’t Alabama, but should enjoy an advantage of some degree in every category, except maybe special teams. And intangibles fall the Wolfpack’s way — these guys should be mad as hell and really dialed in after booting one last week to an inferior South Carolina team.

It should still be interesting to see which Herd players rise to the challenge. A good start, as outlined in my game story for Saturday morning, could make this more competitive than the betting line (24) indicates.

But for those who are so inclined, stay away from that line and bet something else …

N.C. STATE 34, MARSHALL 10

Notebook from Miami game

HUNTINGTON — He missed an open receiver here and there Saturday night in Marshall’s 31-26 win over Miami (Ohio), but quarterback Chase Litton was especially upset over his interception late in the first half.

After Omari Cobb recovered a fumble and returned it 12 yards to the Miami 41-yard line, Litton threw an incompletion then hit three straight for 6, 4 and 11 yards. From the Miami 20, he threw another incompletion, then he went for a touchdown.

That could have given the Thundering Herd a nice 28-13 lead, but Miami’s Joshua Allen out jumped the smaller Nick Mathews to pick it off. Miami took a knee and went to the locker room down 21-13.

“The turnover before the half is something a freshman would do,” Litton said. “Threw a 50-50 ball in a situation where I shouldn’t have done it. I missed Trey [Rodriguez] on the wheel route. I’ve got to improve for this team.

“We’re happy as hell for this win, the way the defense played, the way the special teams played, but we’ve the best D-line in the country [at North Carolina State] and we’re going into their house next week; we’ve got some big-time games ahead of us.
“If we’re going to improve, I’ve got to improve.”

He finished 20 of 30 for 208 yards and a touchdown, a 22-yarder to Tyre Brady in the second quarter. His long was 49 yards to Willie Johnson, and his NCAA passer rating was a lukewarm 129.24.

Johnson led in receiving with seven catches for 88 yards. His 49-yarder put Marshall on the Miami 5, setting up a short field goal that gave the Herd a critical two-score lead, 31-20 with 11:31 left.

On the other hand, Johnson’s fumble set up a Miami touchdown, one that gave the RedHawks their only lead at 10-7. Heath Harding returned that fumble 35 yards to the Marshall 3.

“He made a good play; he hit the ball out,” Johnson said. “I didn’t think it was a fumble, but when I saw it on replay, I knew it was a fumble. I just put it in the past and didn’t let it affect my game.”

********

Cornerback Chris Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown in the third quarter, but he credits a fellow defensive back for delivering the victory.

Later in the third quarter, safety C.J. Reavis was ejected for a targeting foul, and was ejected. Malik Gant, a sophomore with six career tackles, entered and played the rest of the game, or most of it, alongside Brandon Drayton.

Miami had the ball at the 50, first and 5, when Gus Ragland threw down the sideline for James Gardner. The pass connected, but Gant knocked it away.

“I don’t know if a lot of people realize this,” Jackson said, “but at the end of the game, when [No.] 81 caught the ball, Malik came and hit him, and he dropped it when Malik hit him. So Malik really made a play to win the game.”

Marshall will need more of Gant next week. Barring a successful appeal, Reavis will have to sit out the first half next week at N.C. State.

“We’ll see it. If we don’t feel if it’s a good call, we’ll call Gerald [Austin, Conference USA supervisor of officials],” Holliday said. “He’ll evaluate it and he’ll tell us what it is.

Drayton led the Herd with 12 tackles.

********

Marshall’s defense gave up 429 total yards, but that might be misleading. The Herd gave up 5.0 yards per game, or 4.99 if rounded to the next decimal point. The Herd gave up fewer than 5 yards per play just twice last year, against Middle Tennessee and Morgan State. MU yielded 131 rushing yards, a number it bested just twice last years, against the same two teams.

Litton’s career yardage increased to 5,425, raising him into Marshall’s all-time top 10. His TD pass was his 48th, and he remains seventh. Ryan Yurachek caught only one pass for 8 yards, but it extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 29.

Grades for Miami game

OFFENSE: C

Didn’t come close to running for 100 yards (again), turned it over twice and managed just one offensive touchdown (albeit on an impressive 98-yard drive) and a field goal. Saw something out of Willie Johnson (despite a fumble) and Tyree Brady, and then there’s this: only one sack given up. Litton wasn’t hassled that much.

DEFENSE: B+

Gave up 429 total yards, but that came on 86 plays. Shoot, when you score three “Beamerball” touchdowns, you might not have the ball as often, right? Gave up three fourth-down conversions that led to TDs, but held the RedHawks to two field goals, one of 27 yards — those are victories for your defense in college football. And then there is the defensive touchdown.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

Perhaps I should overlook Keion Davis stepping out on the 2 and throw a “plus” on this. 2 kickoff return TDs, huge punts, great kickoffs and kickoff coverage, one no-doubt field goal. What more do you want?

QUARTERBACKING: C+

Chase Litton himself is questioning that interception he threw in the end zone near the end of the first half. Otherwise, he was efficient at times, generally unspectacular.

COACHING: A

I am awarding this to the strength program, folks. And then there’s this: Doc. Opted. To. Receive. The. Opening. Kickoff.

OVERALL: B

This won’t fly next week at North Carolina State, but that wasn’t the concern. This was a must, must, must-win opener and the Herd pulled it off. Much to work on, for sure.

Marshall-Miami game prediction

Hello, Herd fans!

As game day FINALLY approaches, I can tell you who is going to play for this team, something of which I was uncertain last December. I cannot tell you how well this team will play, though.

Elsewhere in this blog list, I called for an unconventional 6-6, with some strange results.

I am surprised that Marshall is a 2.5-point favorite. I figured Miami would be a 4- to 7-point favorite. Hmmmmmmm …

Afew things about this Miami team keep coming back to me. A comparison of QB Gus Ragland to Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton is disturbing — as you’ll recall, Tettleton terrorized the Thundering Herd at times.

Another disturbing item is Miami’s experience. Oh, boy, this team is loaded with guys who have really taken their lumps, finally learned how to win and kind of like it. By comparison, Marshall is pretty young and some are 3-9 in a green jersey.

This Marshall team is faster all round the field. Kaare Vedvik is the answer to field-goal woes, I think. The running back committee may be narrowed, to the Herd’s benefit. Trey Rodriguez can scoot.

Chase Litton? His experience at the Manning Passing Academy has to help, but let’s see if he has “it” again, because he surely lost “it” at times last year.

You could say this is a battle of Miami’s experience vs. Marshall’s talent, but I’m not signing off on the latter just yet. After last year’s disaster, I have to see something tangible against another team.

Some consider this a must-win, and they will be grumbling …

MIAMI 31, MARSHALL 24