Photo: Chris Tiley, AP

The Marshall Thundering Herd are now halfway through their 2015 season, sitting proud at 6-1, 3-0 in C-USA play. Let’s take a look at how they got there.

MARSHALL vs. PURDUE (W)

Photo: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary: With a Big Ten team visiting Huntington, WV for the first time, Marshall got out to a hot start. On the first play from scrimmage, Herd Safety Tiquan Lang intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown. He would later seal the game with another pick-six. Although Marshall put up 41 points, the offense lacked the groove that most fans were used to. QB Michael Birdsong had his first start as a Marshall player. He had a solid game, going 23-of-36 for 234 yards, 2 TD’s, and one interception. Without the two defensive touchdowns, however, the Herd would have fallen short. Out of Marshall’s first six games, this was probably the worst showing from the defense, even with the four interceptions. They allowed 31 points to a Purdue offense that was, and probably still is, struggling to find its identity. In their defense (pun intended), they were kept on the field a lot throughout the game. Regardless, the Herd still sent a Power Five school home with a loss that day. Full Recap: LINK

Final Score: Marshall 41, Purdue 31

MARSHALL at OHIO (L)

Photo: Mark Zerof, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary: When I predicted the score for this one I think I forgot that Cato was no longer running the offense… Birdsong struggled greatly and didn’t connect with any outside receivers until the end of the fourth quarter. In fact, he barely surpassed the 100 yards mark through the air. The offense was unable to move the ball down the field or capitalize on any turnovers. If I had to summarize this one for the offense I would only have to use two words: Penalties and Three-and-Outs. On the other hand, the defense remained mostly stout. Ohio scored 44 points against Idaho the previous week and only managed 14 against the Herd D until the last minutes of the fourth quarter. Ohio is 5-1 and averaging over 35 points per game, with their only loss coming to Minnesota by three. This loss doesn’t look nearly as bad as it did four weeks ago. Full Recap: LINK

Final Score: Ohio 21, Marshall 10

MARSHALL vs. NORFOLK ST. (W)

Photo: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary: Quarterback Chase Litton got his first collegiate start against the Spartans of Norfolk State. He would put down one of the best starts in Marshall QB history. Litton went 24-of-31 for 270 yards, 4 TD’s, and no interceptions. The offense was still slow at times, but it was definitely starting to click again. Sure the opponent wasn’t Alabama or anyone like that, but Litton’s throws were consistently accurate all game long. The Herd defense only allowed seven points on 191 yards of total offense. Not a bad day for Huntington if you ask me. Full Recap: LINK

Final Score: Marshall 45, Norfolk St 7

MARSHALL at KENT STATE (W, 2OT)

Photo: Chuck Crow, The Plain Dealer

Game Summary: Coming off of a record-breaking performance against Norfolk State, Chase Litton had his first test against an FBS foe. It definitely wasn’t as easy and pretty as the week before, but he still found a way to win in double overtime. On a crucial fourth and goal trailing 29-22 in the first overtime, Litton rolled to the left to escape pressure and threw the ball across his body, finding Davonte Allen at the side of the end-zone for a touchdown. That’s not something you’d usually see from a true freshman quarterback. Outside of that, however, the Herd only went 4-of-17 on third down conversions. The offensive line gave up five sacks and allowed for just 89 yards on the ground during regulation. Defensively, Marshall held Kent State to 22 points before overtime took place. The Golden Flashes had a lot of big plays, but the Marshall defense came up big in the end. Kent State probably could have won the game in the fourth quarter had the defense not held them to a game-tying field goal. The Herd also came up with a huge 4th-down stop in the second overtime that gave them the win.

Final Score: Marshall 36, Kent State 29

MARSHALL vs OLD DOMINION (W)

Photo: Sholten Singer, AP

Game Summary: The weather for this game was absolutely nasty. Because of that, the offense wasn’t as flashy and productive as it probably could have been. The Herd averaged only 4.3 yards per play, with the longest one being a 31 yard pass from Litton to Yuracheck. There’s not much offense to talk about in this one, so I’ll hop right to the defense. One word for this one: outstanding. The Herd defense allowed 117 yards and zero points in the first three quarters. That zero points looks even better when you look at what all the defense was up against. On the opening kickoff, Marshall fumbled the football on their own side of the field, giving ODU great field position. No points came from that turnover. Marshall Punter Tyler Williams also had a punt partially blocked later on in the game, again leading to no points by the Monarchs. The Herd D also came up with 4 turnovers before the final quarter even began. Old Dominion didn’t come up with their only score until 2:53 remained in the game.

Final Score: Marshall 27, ODU 7 (C’mon..it poured the  rain)

MARSHALL vs SOUTHERN MISS (W)

Photo: Ben Queen, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary: In my opinion this was probably the best game Marshall has played so far this season. They faced the 9th ranked passing offense in the country and held them to ten points. Southern Miss QB Nick Mullens was held to 50% passing completion on 58 passes and a QBR rating of just 29.7. The ten points scored by the Golden Eagles all came in the first half. Marshall’s defense came up with five turnovers in this one (four fumbles, one interception), and the offense only gave up one themselves. Southern Miss out-gained the Herd 439-277 in total yards. Sounds like a bend but don’t break mentality if you ask me. Marshall just took advantage of great field position throughout the game, created turnovers, and found a way to beat a Southern Miss team that nearly upset Nebraska earlier in the season.

Final Score: Marshall 31, Southern Miss 10

MARSHALL at FAU (W)

Photo: Reinhold Matay, USA TODAY Sports

Game Summary: The second play from scrimmage looked identical to what Devon Johnson did to FAU a year ago in Huntington. He took the hand-off right up the middle for 75 yards and a touchdown. That happened four times last year, but unfortunately for the Herd, Johnson was hurt on his third carry and never came back. Backup running back Remi Watson was set to carry the load, doing a fine job until he was also taken to the locker room with an injury. That brought the Herd all the way down to their third and fourth string. Tony Pittman would have seen a lot of playing time today, but he didn’t even make the trip to Boca Raton. Instead, slot receiver Hyleck Foster took the duty at tailback. He ran for 122 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries (keeping in mind he hadn’t taken a snap as running back in his time at Marshall before this). Chase Litton made a costly mistake early when he tried to force a pass to the sideline as he was hit. The ball was intercepted and returned 95 yards for a pick-six in favor of the Owls. The Herd had the chance to go up 23-3 at the time, but instead the score was brought to 16-10. The Marshall defense played a great game aside from allowing a few big plays. They held FAU to just ten points and even forced a safety early in the game. The safety, however, wouldn’t have happened without the great punt by Tyler Williams that was downed at the 2-yard line. Solid win for the Herd on the road.

Final Score: Marshall 33, FAU 17

Where does Marshall stand looking forward?

Offensively I think Marshall is starting to click and find their identity. The depth they are showing at running back is, to say the least, amazing. Devon Johnson, Remi Watson, Tony Pittman, Keon Davis, AND Hyleck Foster. That’s five-deep when everyone is healthy and good to go. Freshman QB Chase Litton has settled into the offense a little better now. He is undefeated as a starter, leading the Herd to 5-0. Marshall is potentially undefeated on the season if Litton plays against Ohio instead of Birdsong, but that conversation can be for another day.

Defensively Marshall remains one of the best in the nation. They show it week after week. DC Chuck Heater has shown that he can prepare his squad for whatever offense they face. The avg. points allowed by the Herd this season sits at 16.4 PPG. That’s including things like pick-sixes, overtime, and garbage time. You take those factors out? Marshall’s D looks even better. Evan McKelvey returned this season after missing almost all of last year, and he has made a massive impact on that side of the football. Even with the loss of their top safety A.J. Leggett, Marshall’s defense has managed to remain strong without breaking, something they can hopefully do as the season comes to an end.

The best part of the 2015 Marshall Football team has without a doubt been the special teams. Tyler Williams continues to make his case as one of the elite punters in the nation, averaging nearly 45 yards per punt. Over 20 of his punts have landed successfully inside the 20 yard line, something he can boast as #1 in the country. Not only does he have long punts, he has high ones too. That gives the coverage time to get there and make the tackle or force the fair catch. The net average (punt and return) for Tyler Williams is still over 40 yards per punt. Deandre Reaves has only broken out for one kick return, but I promise he will have more as the year goes on, especially since he’s returning both kickoffs and punts. Kicker Nick Smith is perfect on the season with extra points and field goals. A lot of times people will forget about the importance of special teams, but special teams has the Herd sitting at 6-1 instead of maybe 4-3.

Important Games Left on the Schedule

Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky – If Marshall loses again this year, it will be away against one of these two teams. I don’t see them losing both. The game against Western Kentucky will almost definitely be the deciding factor on who plays in the conference championship game for the East division.

Marshall’s next game is Oct. 24 at home against North Texas in their homecoming game.

 

 

Casey covers Marshall Thundering Herd Football for MFST. Follow him on twitter @wxmozz

Casey MosrieAnalysisConference USAFootballNCAAFNews and UpdatesRecent Posts#Purdue,chase litton,College Football,conference usa,footlball,kent state,Marshall,Marshall football,NCAA Football,ohioThe Marshall Thundering Herd are now halfway through their 2015 season, sitting proud at 6-1, 3-0 in C-USA play. Let's take a look at how they got there. MARSHALL vs. PURDUE (W) Game Summary: With a Big Ten team visiting Huntington, WV for the first time, Marshall got out to a hot...Why go anywhere else for sports and entertainment?