HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s script has stayed the same over the course of a five-game winning streak.
Strong defensive performances, along with a commitment to the running game, has been a major part of the success. Middle Tennessee’s touchdown in last Saturday’s game was the first Marshall had allowed in the first half since Sept. 9 against N.C. State.
“Anytime we have been really good, it was because of a great defense,” coach Doc Holliday said. “We were No. 1 in the league for three straight years in total defense, and we are back to being that defense right now.”
On the offensive side, the Herd have averaged 179 rushing yards over their past five games, a far cry from the team that settled for 59 rushing yards in the season opener versus Miami (Ohio).
The emergence of running back Tyler King has played a role in that turnaround.
King maintained his spot atop the depth chart last week and delivered a 129-yard, two-touchdown performance that also got him a spot on ESPN’s top plays for hurdling a Middle Tennessee defender.
Holliday praised the sophomore running back, saying he is just getting started.
“He is just starting to get his feet wet and get more comfortable,” Holliday said. “He is getting better every week, developmentally, that is what you want your young players to do. The more he plays, the better he gets, the better he sees things on the field.”
King said he takes influence from modern-day backs like the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Le’veon Bell, who is known for his patient running style, but all-time he says there is only two players he wants to model his style after.
“My favorite running back was Chris Johnson in his prime,” King said. “Him and Ladainian Tomlinson, those are my two favorites.”
King’s hurdle over the defender resembled a move pulled by “LT”.
“I got a lot of feedback on that hurdle, that play was crazy,” King said. “I don’t know how I did it—I was just running. I didn’t know whether to make a move or put my shoulder down. It just happened.”
Marshall (6-1, 3-0) hosts Conference USA East Division foe FIU (4-2, 2-1) on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
End of a streak
Quarterback Chase Litton’s streak of 27 straight games with a passing touchdown, the nation’s second-longest behind Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, came to an end against Middle Tennessee. It was the first time Marshall had won without the help of the passing game since 2011.
Tight end Ryan Yuracheck said that Litton’s reaction shows the whole team’s recommitment to bigger goals.
“It says a lot about our quarterback that he wasn’t worried about his streak, he was worried about beating Middle Tennessee,” Yuracheck said. “It says a lot about our football team as well, just how unselfish every individual on this team is right now, and that is the reason we are winning games.”
Litton himself said he would have only been happy with the one thing they got.
“We won the game, it’s that simple,” Litton said. “We all want the same thing and that is to win the game— I’ll go the rest of the season without throwing a touchdown if we win every single game— I am excited for us and what this team can be, not what we are yet, but what we can be.”
Litton said only one thing gets you remembered in football.
“(Personal achievements) don’t get you a trophy, it’ll get you remembered by you and your family, but that isn’t something you can look back on and be happy with,” Litton said. “You talk about championships and winning football games and that’s how you get remembered.”
A chance of thunder?
With temps in the low 50s and rain expected, it could turn out to be a cold, wet day at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The gloomy forecast may introduce at least one Herd player to new elements they have never played in before.
“I don’t know about the slicks in the wet. I have never really played in any rainy games, or cold weather,” said King. “It is going to be a challenge, but I’ll get the job done.”
Litton said after nearly three years at Marshall, it is business as usual for him.
“It rained my whole freshman year, we can just move it to the indoor,” Litton said with a laugh. “I did it my first four games in college, you can treat that as adversity, but who cares? It is cold for them and raining for them.”
Litton said they just need to capitalize, something they have been able to do much of the season.
“We can’t think about the weather, we have to think about what is happening on the next play,” Litton said.
Notes from the Herd
Artis Johnson’s pick-six against Middle Tennessee was not only the first touchdown of his career, but also the first interception. … King’s 129 yards were the most since Devon Johnson rushed for 170 in 2015. … Marshall moved up to second in the nation in sacks allowed. … Marshall received one vote in the AP’s top 25 rankings.
— By Troy Alexander