HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Thundering Herd will be playing at home for the first time in 28 days, hoping to continue the momentum they built on the road.
Marshall (4-1, 1-0 C-USA) puts a three-game winning streak on the line Saturday against Old Dominion (2-3, 0-1).
“You get back real late (playing on the road), then you have to get up the next day and work out and all that,” defensive lineman Blake Keller said. “Now we will be back in front of our home crowd, even though our fans traveled extremely well to the away games, which was good to see. It’s definitely just a lot better feeling playing at home.
Senior tight end Ryan Yuracheck, who has 21 catches and three touchdowns so far, is experiencing his last homecoming game.
“We haven’t been home in a month and we are excited to be back,” Yuracheck said. “We expect a great crowd Saturday and are ready to get back and playing in the Joan.”
The Herd has beaten Cincinnati 38-21 and UNC-Charlotte 14-3 on the road since last winning at home over Kent State 21-0 on Sept. 16.
The hype surrounding the return of Juwon Young was rewarded early against UNC-Charlotte when the middle linebacker got to the quarterback on the game’s first series.
Young went on to finish with four tackles, a half-sack, a pass breakup, and three quarterback hurries.
“I am happy to be back, amped up and ready to play. I sat out a year-and-a-half and I am just ready to get back to it,” Young said. “I am a fast player and I want to make plays.”
After impressing teammates with his weight room numbers, Young wowed them on the field by disruptive plays and occasionally drawing double-teams that freed up other defenders.
Young roomed with receiver Tyre Brady while they were at Miami and knew he had ground to make up when it comes to impact plays like Brady generated in his first five games (29 receptions for 494 and four touchdowns).
“When I got here Tyre was one of the first people to call me, so I never felt out of place,” Young said. “The team really just took me in and was cool to me.”
Brady had seen Young’s intensity before.
“He flips a switch as soon as you line up on the other side of the ball,” Brady said. “He’s a great person off the field, but once you’re on the field you don’t want to be the guy he has to tackle.”
Young spent much of his time on the Herd’s scout team last year, using his athleticism to play linebacker, defensive end and even cornerback.
When asked if he ever got the chance to cover his long-time friend, Young laughingly replied: “Tyre don’t want none.”
Rise and shine
Marshall is preparing for its first afternoon kickoff time of the season.
“We adjust our schedule and meeting times based on what time we play. It doesn’t change our Friday nights, just our pregame,” Holliday said.
“I like 2:30, we have been playing at night so long it’ll be a little different for us,” he said. “I would play them all at noon if it was up to me — get up and go play so we can watch everyone else play after.”
Quarterback Chase Litton said whatever makes him teammates happy he prefers.
“A couple guys are happy about, some don’t care,” he said. “Whether it is noon or night we have to go out there and play our best football.”
Getting the ground game going
Marshall had its most successful rushing performance last week against Charlotte behind Keion Davis’ 122 rushing yards and Tyler King adding another 70.
Old Dominion gave up 453 total rushing yards to FAU last week and missed a whopping 39 tackles.
“We have to get the run game going early. We just saw FAU rush the ball 69 times against this team,” center Levi Brown said. “To be able to run the ball that many times, they were doing something right. We look forward to trying to establish the run early, but we still want to remain balanced like we have for the past five games.”
That balance has helped Marshall to a strong start, with its only loss coming at No. 20 N.C. State.
“When you have that type of balanced offense, something we haven’t seen here in a while, that is very good for the Herd,” Litton said. “When you have that consistency with running the ball, especially in the fourth quarter, you can really gut check teams late.”
—By Troy Alexander