— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — For a coach whose team had just won the game by a lopsided score, first-year Marshall coach Charles Huff sounded a bit apologetic at times during his postgame address to the media.
The Thundering Herd got past a slow start, put up 24 points in the second period and cruised past North Carolina Central, 44-10, to run its home-opener win streak to 11.
Still expect the intensity level at practice this week to skyrocket.
“I appreciate all the fans, the alumni, the students and I also apologize for the product we put on the field today. That is not Marshall football,” Huff said. “Don’t look at the results, it’s not about the results. It’s about how we play. So if we can continue to get better, play better, the results will take care of themselves. That’s on me. I take full responsibility. I thank you guys, you did your part. It will be better next week. I promise you that.”
“Our discipline is way off but it goes back to our preparation,” Huff continued. “We practiced exactly how we played. We practiced like we were playing an opponent that was quote, unquote below us level wise as for what division they were in. I saw it all week, I talked about it all week, but obviously I didn’t get it changed. I think our guys learned from it. I think, in the locker room, they know. It opens their eyes to it. Some positives definitely, but there’s a lot to get cleaned up for sure.”
Marshall (2-0) takes on East Carolina on Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Game time is 6:30 p.m. Members of the 1971 Young Thundering Herd will be in town for the weekend to celebrate the school’s 50th year of football since the plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970.
Against NC Central, Herd quarterback Grant Wells ran for one score and threw three TD passes in the first half as the Herd opened a 30-7 lead. It created a buzz among the 24,521 home fans who saw Marshall roll up 703 yards in total offense, run 101 plays in its fast-pace attack and rack up 39 first downs to nine for the Eagles.
“It’s not about the yards, it’s not about the scores. It’s about how we play and the way we played today we’re not going to win many games,” Huff said. “That’s just flat out. I’ve got to be a better coach. We’ve got to play better. You can look at the yards and that’s rat poison. You can look at 700 yards, 2-0, look at what the media tweets and if you don’t look at how you play, you’re going to have some issues.
“Now don’t get me wrong, I’m excited about the win. I have high expectations for this football team, individually each player and how we play is the most important to me ultimately. Things that will help us close the gap. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we’re going to be in the same situation. We’ll be talking about what could have, what should have. I think our guys see that. Hopefully we come back and have a better week of practice.”
Wells completed 34-of-48 passes for 347 yards before he departed in the third period. Knowledge McDaniel, who came off the bench, led in rushing in 67 yards and scored one TD. Corey Gammage added seven catches. Running back Rasheen Ali caught nine passes, second-most by a running back in school history. He had never caught a ball before Saturday.
At the start, though, the Herd offense got called for an illegal formation and false start and Wells bobbled a snap on the first series. Huff said the blame has to be passed around.
“I mean the entire offense started the same exact way. Grant Wells just happens to be the guy who catches the ball from center,” Huff said. “When you start like that offensively, Joe Montana can’t fix it. So don’t put it on Grant Wells, put it on coach Huff. That start was on coach Huff. We could’ve had Dan Marino back there. If we started like that as an offense, you’d be sitting here saying Dan Marino’s not a Hall of Famer. You guys would write that story.
“It’s an indication of when you prepare all week in practice, when you come out and execute things can get rolling. There’s going to be mistakes. That’s what we play the game of football for. A lot of things that happened today were self-imposed.”
Marshall’s defense has allowed 17 points in two games.
NC Central, a MEAC school, got off just 60 plays and generated 164 total yards.
“The defense did good job of adapting back to what we’re going to do for the rest of the season,” Huff said. “Obviously in a smaller sample size because you can’t teach it all or put it all in in one week.”
To Huff, there’s one word that’s creating issues — potential.
“I’m not happy with anything on offense other than the fact we won. So write that,” Huff said. “I’m not happy with the run game, not happy with the pass game, not happy with the way we stretch, not happy with the way we hydrate, not happy with the way we go to dinner.
“Why? Because we have so much potential. That’s the most dangerous word in America. We have so much potential that if we take advantage of our opportunities to prepare we can be really, really good. I’m not worried about stats. We’re going to get the ball in the hands of guys who make plays. What we have to do is be a lot more consistent in our performance. We got a chance to play a lot of guys on both sides of the ball which is going to help us down the road.”
East Carolina comes in 0-2 with losses to Appalachian State and South Carolina. The Herd visits Appalachian State on September 23.