HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — On a five-game winning streak, Marshall encounters an FIU team off to the best start in program history.
The Golden Panthers (4-2, 2-1) are coming off a 23-10 win over Tulane, while the Herd (6-1, 3-0) looks to stay unbeaten in Conference USA.
Marshall is protecting the quarterback and taking care of the ball. The Herd is tied for third in the nation with only three sacks allowed, and they have thrown only three interceptions, 11th-fewest in the FBS.
Offensive lineman Nate Devers said the rejuvenation of the run game is partly responsible for the efficiency.
“That is partly a testament to (quarterback) Chase Litton knowing when to get rid of the ball, but it also is a testament to that improved running game,” Devers said. “That takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback.
“If we are getting to third-and-short, he is not going to have to do drop-back protection every time, which takes away the chance of guys getting to him. That is really helping us pass protect because they don’t know when we are going to pass and when we are not.”
FIU (4-2, 2-1) at (Marshall (6-1, 3-0)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., Saturday in Huntington, W.Va. (FCBK)
When the Herd has the ball: FIU has allowed opponents to rush for 175 yards a game and Marshall is coming off its best rushing performance of the season, 198 yards against Middle Tennessee.
While Tyler King and Keion Davis will get the bulk of the carries, all will be well in Herd land if Marshall ends the game with Anthony Anderson taking carries out of the backfield.
“He puts the nail in the coffin when he is that fresh back coming in,” Litton said. “He gets his shot late in the game.”
The rotation features a variety of running styles.
“Anthony is more of a power back, Tyler is real shifty, and Keion is that combination of both,” Devers said. “In any situation we have a guy who can step up.”
Fermin Silva is a threat off the FIU defensive line. The 6-foot-2, 234-pound lineman leads the team in sacks (2) as well as tackles for loss (9).
Cornerback Brad Muhammad has two interceptions and four pass breakups, while linebacker Treyvon Williams leads FIU in tackles with 39.
When FIU has the ball: Coach Doc Holliday said Marshall must expect a veteran team at home on Saturday, one that can capitalize on mistakes quickly if given the chance.
Quarterback Alex McGough has thrown for 1,336 yards this season at a 60-percent completion rate, albeit with six interceptions and only five touchdowns.
“They have 15 starters that are seniors. They have a lot of guys back,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “McGough has been a four-year starter for them and their tailback Gardner is also the leading rusher in the history of the school.”
Senior receiver Thomas Owens is the primary target with 33 catches for 614 yards and three touchdowns.
The Herd defense is led by linebacker Chase Hancock with 60 total tackles.
Defensive lineman Channing Hames, in his third game back from a camp injury, has three sacks, four tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
Wildcard: The Herd seeks to avenge another 2016 loss Saturday at the Joan. Last year FIU beat Marshall for the first time in the two program’s short five-game history 31-14.
Line: Marshall by 17
— By Troy Alexander