By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON – Marshall had a extra week to enjoy its season opening 59-0 win over Eastern Kentucky and now is hoping it can keep its existing schedule together for the rest of the fall.
As of now, Marshall is down to nine games, after word early last week that Rice had halted football practices due to the high COVID-19 rate in the Houston, Texas area. The Owls don’t plan to resume workouts for another two weeks.
That means that Rice wouldn’t have enough practices under its belt before scheduled Conference USA games at Marshall on October 3rd and against UAB on October 10th. Those games are now listed as “postponed,” with no word on if they’ll be rescheduled.
Some national reports this week indicated that Conference USA might match up UAB and Marshall in a November 7th in Huntington in what would be a showdown game between two of the league’s top teams. Both teams have open dates on the 7th.
Marshall still hasn’t been able to reschedule its road game at East Carolina, a game that was supposed to have been played this past week in Greenville, North Carolina but was postponed due to high COVID-19 numbers on the ECU campus and throughout North Carolina.
With the early open week, Marshall Head Coach Doc Holliday gave his team a few days off after the EKU win.
Marshall did not return to practice until Wednesday afternoon last week, although positional meetings did continue on Monday and Tuesday.
Two key factors stand out after the win over the Colonels—Marshall suffered no major injuries, meaning the Herd should be at full strength for the Appalachian State game.
It was no surprise that Marshall’s senior linebacker, Tavante Beckett, was a top tackler for the Herd against Eastern Kentucky with eight stops, but he was tied for team’s tackling lead in the contest with a newcomer, Memphis, Tennessee sophomore Eli Neal, who was making his first career start.
Neal looks to join Beckett as key figures in strengthening a Marshall defense that struggled at times in 2019. He saw action in all 13 Marshall games last year, mostly on special teams. He recorded twelve tackles in limited action.
Neal and his teammates are excited by starting the season with a shutout, but he knows that there’s plenty to work on before the high-powered Appalachian State offense arrives in Huntington.
“Even though we did have a great game on Saturday, we’ve still got small things to fix coming up for the following week,” Neal said. “We are going full steam ahead.”