Marshall Shows Heart, Beats Purdue Late
When Marshall took the field on Sunday afternoon, they did so against the first Big Ten team to ever play in Huntington. The game also took place in front of the first sellout crowd at Marshall since WVU came in 2011. Last year, Purdue went 3-9, but Coach Darrell Hazell has a much improved squad compared to the 2014 campaign. The offense, especially the running aspect of it, was very effective until the 4th quarter. Marshall didn’t have an answer for RB D.J. Knox, who ran for 102 yards on the day, even though it seemed like a lot more. Turnovers were a huge problem for both teams, making the game very sloppy to watch. Purdue QB Austin Appleby threw four interceptions, two of them being pick-sixes by Herd Safety Tiquan Lang that would essentially doom the Boilermakers. He did, however, complete 31 of his 48 passes for 270 yards, which isn’t too bad for what was a very uncertain offense. On the other side of things, Marshall quarterback Michael Birdsong went 23 of 36 for 234 yards, 2 TD’s, and 1 INT. Devon Johnson didn’t get the ball near as much as everyone expected him to. He had 89 yards on just 11 carries, giving him a nice game if you don’t look at a huge fumble that he gave up in the second half. Add all of that up and you have a 41-31 victory for the Thundering Herd.
How the Herd played: Overall I think Marshall did a great job of pulling off the comeback victory. From the perspective of a Marshall fan and student, that may have been one of the best games ever played in that stadium. I haven’t heard it that loud in a very long time. I also haven’t heard it that quiet at some points in a game in a long time. Purdue did a great job of taking the crowd out of the game throughout the day. After the game, Coach Doc Holliday said this: ““I thought our team showed a lot of heart, came out in the second half and played extremely well. I thought our strength program and the way we practice, the way we handle our strength program, was the reason we won the football game.” I couldn’t agree more. The Herd had the entire stadium into that game in the second half because we could see the heart and determination. The players showed great composure and brought that one home.
Offense: When Birdsong came out, nobody knew what to expect other than the fact that he was not Rakeem Cato. His first few throws didn’t seem very good, but as the game progressed he improved. Marshall will miss the agility of Cato, but one thing that Birdsong can offer that Cato can’t? Size. He wasn’t afraid of contact at all, and at one point broke out a 50 yard run on a read-option. One thing about Birdsong that concerns me is his lack of vision. He would look at one receiver and throw it to that one receiver. His interception came because he literally never took his eyes off of his target. It was too easy for the DB. If he can learn to check down and look around the field, the Herd will be golden this season. In the running game, Rockhead was only given 11 carries. This was a surprise to me because most of us expected him to get a lot of carries so that Birdsong didn’t have too much pressure. Another surprise was his unforced fumble on what would’ve been a 48 yard gain on a very critical drive. The receivers came in huge towards the end of the game and only had a few dropped passes all day. The worst part of offensive play came from the O-Line. It seemed like Johnson couldn’t break free at all, and Birdsong was sacked multiple times.
Defense: From start to finish, literally, the Herd defense was a huge part of the win. The first play was a pick-six, and that alone probably kept Marshall in the game. There is still much room for improvement though. The Herd D-Line seemed to be outplayed by Purdue’s, which I guess is understandable given the size of the Big Ten. Nonetheless, if Marshall wants to win a big bowl game, they’ll have to find a way around the size of the opposing team. The play from the secondary, aside from about two big passes, was amazing to say the least. Tiquan Lang, Taj Letman, and Keith Baxter all had an interception. Lang himself had two INT’s and 17 tackles. Holliday had some comments on his performance as well: “Tiquan Lang’s a tremendous player. He’s just got it. We talk a lot of times the it factor…He’s not extremely big. He’s not fast, but he’s a hell of a football player.” The Purdue running game seemed like too much for Marshall’s linebackers as well. The loss of Neville Hewitt and company at Linebacker was noticable on Sunday, and it’s going to be up to Chuck Heater to fix things before the Ohio game this weekend.
Special Teams: Kicker Justin Haig graduated last year, and Nick Smith won the starting position. He went 2 for 2 on field goals and 5 for 5 on extra points. Not too shabby if you ask me. The first four kickoffs for Marshall were touchbacks, and Punter Tyler Williams had himself a day as well. I really can’t think of anything that needs improvement for special teams. The Herd did a great job covering returns and blocking for the kickers.
If you’re interested, here’s a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the game:
Herd fans everywhere had high expectations for this season, and the first play from scrimmage resulted in a Marshall touchdown. No, not the usual Cato to Shuler combo, but a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by Tiquan Lang. Appleby didn’t see Lang undercutting the route, and it resulted in a pick-six seven seconds into the 2015 season. That may just be the fastest touchdown ever scored. Kickoff returns don’t even happen in seven seconds. 7-0 MARSHALL.
The following drive, Purdue showcased their improved O-Line, creating huge holes for Knox and giving Appleby plenty of time to throw the ball. The Boilermakers answered the pick-six, making it 7-7.
The next score came on a pass from Birdsong to Rockhead, which kept the streak of Herd passing touchdowns alive if you’re still keeping count after Cato left. 14-7 MARSHALL.
Purdue would go three-and-out on the ensuing drive, which led to a 42-yard field goal by Nick Smith. It was his first collegiate field goal as a starter for the Herd. 17-7 MARSHALL.
Four plays later, Appleby lobbed the ball down the field for DeAngelo Yancy, who made a great catch that was worthy of a 50 yard gain. Two plays later Danny Anthrop was in the endzone on a 9 yard completion. 17-14 MARSHALL.
Marshall was well into Purdue territory and about to make it another two-score game when Birdsong had the ball stripped as he was trying to throw. The Boilermakeres took the ball down the field, with a very balanced attack, and scored on a QB sneak. 21-17 PURDUE.
That score came with 7:59 remaining in the first half, and it would be the last. A series of back and forth punting ensued, and the half ended with Marshall kneeling the ball as usual.
Marshall got the ball to start the second half, and they made the most of it. Birdsong threw to WR Deon-tay McManus twice for 35 yards on the drive, with the second completion putting the Herd at the Purdue 22. Four plays later Birdsong would hit Ryan Yurachek on a 1 yard pass. 24-21 MARSHALL.
I don’t know what went on in the Purdue huddle during halftime, but I think they decided to run the ball as much as they could in the third quarter. Right after the Marshall TD, Knox ran the ball six times in one drive. On the same drive, RB Markell Jones got one shot in which he ran for a 36-yard touchdown. Herd fans, including myself, were very worried that the Defensive Line wouldn’t be able to hold up. 28-24 PURDUE.
Marshall took the ball into Purdue territory and chose to kick a 32-yard field goal instead of going for it on 4th and 3, something that was done a lot last year. 28-27 PURDUE.
No more scoring happened in the third, but both teams did trade interceptions before the quarter ended. Purdue kicker Paul Griggs also missed a 44 yard field goal that would have extended the lead to four. Oh, and Devon Johnson may have casually dropped the ball after a 48 yard gain. Not something you’ll see every game, or every season for that matter. It was recovered by Purdue.
The Herd’s defense struggled for the majority of the game, but it went clutch in the fourth quarter. Purdue’s only score came on a 22 yard field goal with 10:18 remaining. 31-27 PURDUE.
It seemed as if Marshall was going to lose this one. The offense couldn’t find a rhythm early in the fourth, and the defense certainly didn’t look too great before that. To everyone’s surprise, the Herd locked down and pulled this one out. On the last offensive touchdown scoring drive, Davonte Allen had three catches for 42 yards. The drive was finished with a 6 yard TD run from Devon Johnson, redeeming him of his fumble. 34-31 MARSHALL.
With 1:35 left, the Boilermakers were moving the ball down the field when Appleby’s pass was again intercepted by Safety Tiquan Lang. Lang returned the ball 55 yards for a touchdown, sealing the win for the Herd.
FINAL: 41-31 MARSHALL. Close to my twitter prediction of 41-27 that I made the day prior;)
Some game highlights courtesy of Fox Sports: Click Here
Casey covers the Marshall Thundering Herd for MFST. You can follow him on twitter @wxmozzhttps://www.myfantasysportstalk.com/marshall-shows-heart-beats-purdue-late/https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/AR-150909653.jpgimageVersionSoftCropArticlePictures.jpg?fit=1024%2C685&ssl=1https://i1.wp.com/www.myfantasysportstalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/AR-150909653.jpgimageVersionSoftCropArticlePictures.jpg?resize=150%2C150&ssl=1AnalysisBig TenConference USAFootballNCAAFRecent PostsDevon Johnson,Marshall football,Marshall university football,marshall vs purdue,Michael Birdsong,purdue footballWhen Marshall took the field on Sunday afternoon, they did so against the first Big Ten team to ever play in Huntington. The game also took place in front of the first sellout crowd at Marshall since WVU came in 2011. Last year, Purdue went 3-9, but Coach Darrell...Casey MosrieCasey Mosriecaseymosrie@gmail.comContributorI attend Marshall University and follow college football and basketball.MyFantasySportsTalk