— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — With an unwanted break this weekend due to the Hurricane Florence-inspired cancellation of its game at South Carolina, Marshall’s football team gets a chance to work on some areas needing improvement prior to next week’s non-conference home game with N.C. State.
The Wolfpack is also getting this weekend off after its home game with West Virginia was cancelled.
Areas getting attention late this week from the Herd coaching staff:
1. Special teams
Marshall is 2-0 despite some major special team headaches in the wins over Miami (Ohio) and Eastern Kentucky.
Tyler King mishandled a kickoff at Miami which put the Herd in bad field position as it tried to defend its late lead. Two punts were touched by up-men last week vs. EKU, leading to turnovers. New punter Robert LeFevre’s efforts have been uneven, including getting a punt blocked last week.
Head Coach Doc Holliday preaches the need for solid special teams and don’t be surprised if he and his staff make some personnel changes in that unit prior to next week’s game.
2. Running game
Marshall was able to pile up over 170 yards on the ground in week 1 at Miami and tailbacks Keion Davis and Tyler King had a similar number of carries.
Last week, Eastern Kentucky played to stop the run and MU’s runners were held to just over 70 yards of rushing.
Another run game problem has been holding penalties committed by the offensive line at inopportune times.
To have a chance to upset NC State next week, Marshall will need big nights by both Davis and King and fewer line mistakes. A solid run game is needed to take some of the pressure off of redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green and the need to win games solely with his arm.
3. Consistency on defense
No one could quibble with Marshall’s defensive effort last week vs. Eastern Kentucky as the Colonels picked up less than 50 yards through the air and their running game was nothing special.
The effort was much different than the one at Miami when the Herd defense was torched for more than 300 yards by senior Redhawks quarterback Gus Ragland. First-year defensive coordinator Adam Fuller would like to see a repeat performance by his unit similar to the one exhibited against EKU, but that will be asking a lot against a high-powered NC State offense, which is led by senior quarterback Ryan Finley.
One hope for Marshall’s ‘D’ is that senior preseason all-conference lineman Ryan Bee will be back in action against the Wolfpack after being injured in preseason and missing the first two games.
NOTES: Marshall’s football team isn’t alone in losing a game to Hurricane Florence. The women’s golf team was to have played in a tournament at East Carolina University, but Greenville, N.C., is expected to be hard-hit by the hurricane. The Herd’s cross country team’s meet at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., was cancelled and Marshall was able to enter another meet taking place this weekend at Indiana State University … Old Dominion (0-3) and Charlotte (2-1) got the Conference USA football weekend started Thursday afternoon in a game expedited to avoid the hurricane, with Charlotte picking up a 28-25 win.