— By Bill Cornwell
Kansas, East Carolina, San Jose State, Temple and UTEP are the five FBS teams that lost to FCS teams in week one of the 2018 season.
Marshall hopes to not join that group on Saturday as the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky come to Huntington for the Herd’s home opener. Kickoff is set for 6:30 pm at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Marshall won its opener at Miami (Ohio) last week 35-28 in redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green’s first game. The Colonels also won in week 1, a 49-23 victory over Morehead State.
Here are three things to look for as the Herd and Colonels hit the gridiron:
1. Can Isaiah Green put two straight solid performances together?
Green clearly showed last week why he won the starting quarterback battle. He was steady in his leadership, threw two touchdowns and no interceptions, made timely runs and had an ability to change plays when needed. No doubt, an EKU defense that features FBS transfers will try to pressure Green much as Miami did last week, but Green has a chance to take another step in his early development.
2. The Marshall defense must improve its overall performance
The Herd’s defensive performance was a bit uneven in the Miami win. MU’s stoppers were hot early, but gave up big yardage for much of the game as quarterback Gus Ragland and the veteran Redhawks offense warmed up.
One area of concern for defensive coordinator Adam Fuller is repeated breakdowns by linebackers and defensive backs when the Redhawks used play-action passes. Marshall will probably go another week without lineman Ryan Bee, but it’s an opportunity for more growth from Bee’s replacement, fellow senior Malik Thompson.
One Marshall benefit is that there are plenty of guys on the bench itching to play if the performance of the starters doesn’t improve.
3. Will Marshall coach Doc Holliday get to go deep into his bench?
When FBS teams host FCS squads, most of the contests end in blowouts — hence that the contests are “paycheck games” for the FCS schools.
If Marshall can get out to a big lead against the Colonels, Holliday may get a chance to put in a lot of back-ups on both sides of the football. There are plenty of highly-touted second teamers on the Herd sideline and Saturday may be their chance to impress, but Holliday says the youngsters and other less experienced players will only get on the field if he and his assistants believe that they’re ready to perform.
One benefit of going deep on the bench would be saving the starters for big upcoming challenges starting next week at SEC member South Carolina and in two weeks at home against North Carolina State of the ACC.
NOTES: This is the first meeting between the Herd and Colonels since the 1992 NCAA I-AA playoffs, when Marshall beat Eastern 40-0 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium … Marshall leads the all-time series with EKU 10-8-1 … Both schools have a national championship pedigree, as Marshall and Eastern Kentucky have won two NCAA I-AA titles over the years … Marshall’s titles came in 1992 under coach Jim Donnan and 1996 under coach Bob Pruett, while Eastern’s came in 1972 and 1982 under legendary coach Roy Kidd, who won 315 games in his career and is in the College Football Hall of Fame … Saturday is Marshall Athletic Hall of Fame Day as nine new inductees join the Hall. They are: Garland Barnhart, football/track and field (1950-54), Kelly-Anne Billingy, volleyball (2004-07), Josh Davis, football (2001-04), Dewey Klein, football (1988-91), Milla Kuurto, women’s swimming and diving (2002-06), Dave Piepenbrink, baseball (1987-90), Sikeetha Shepard-Hall, women’s basketball/track and field (2002-06), Erica West, women’s track and field (1987-90) and Jessica Williams Sweat, softball (2003-06) … It’s also Band Day at the Joan.