After convincing win at North Texas, Marshall hopes to make most of open week

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — There are plenty of positive vibes this week in the Shewey Building at Joan C. Edwards Stadium after Marshall’s convincing 49-21 win at North Texas last Friday.

The Herd (4-3, 2-1) bolted to a 42-7 halftime lead over the Mean Green and were never threatened in the Conference USA contest. The win was Marshall’s second straight after the Herd suffered through a three-game losing streak.

After playing for seven straight weeks, the Herd welcomes its bye week, but plenty of work needs accomplished to prepare for the final five weeks of the regular season.

First-year Herd head coach Charles Huff saw a much cleaner performance on both sides of the ball pay off. Marshall was flagged five times for 30 yards compared to the Mean Green’s 17 penalties for 161 yards.

“I thought for the first time it hit home, we were able to control or manage our discipline,” Huff said. “We weren’t perfect by any means, still a lot to clean up. But from a penalty perspective, I think we had five penalties and they had 17. So that’s a huge difference and it created a lot of positive opportunities for us in the game. It allowed us to control the field position battle.”

Huff was also pleased with the play of his team’s defense at North Texas. Herd defenders put the clamps on the North Texas passing game, as the Mean Green only picked up 134 passing yards. Explosive North Texas tailback DeAndre Torrey rushed for touchdowns of 75 and 51 yards, but the game was well in hand by that point.

“Are we perfect? No, not at all,” Huff said. “There were still a couple opportunities in there where our gap control was not consistent. Those long runs spit out but if you look at the game as a whole, I think, especially when we had our first-teamers in there, they were starting to play really consistent, starting to play really sound, starting to make teams actually have to drive down the field. Still a lot to clean up when we put some of our second stringers and younger guys in there in the second half.”

Marshall’s offense hit on all cylinders its last time out as the Herd picked up 477 yards and redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells scored three touchdowns on the ground and threw for two others on the way to a 323-yard passing performance.

Wells got the ball into the hands of eight different receivers. He set a new Marshall record with 19 consecutive completions, though he also threw his 10th interception this season.

Freshman running back Rasheen Ali had another strong game, picking up 109 rushing yards and scoring twice.

“Offensively, we kind of got back to our confident ways,” Huff said. “Coach Huff took his please don’t fumble, please don’t throw an interception glasses off and allowed our offense to flow and trusted our players. Put a lot on them to make the corrections from the issues we had in the past. It starts with our running game, I know, everyone gets excited when we get in tempo throwing the ball — yes that’s what we do. But you have to be able to run the ball effectively in order to get the ball down the field and into the intermediate range.”

The Herd are back in action October 30 with a 3:30 home game against struggling Florida International, which marks the start of five straight weeks of C-USA games.

Marshall has other home contests with defending Conference USA champion UAB (November 13) and rival Western Kentucky (November 27). Remaining C-USA road games are at Florida Atlantic (November 6) and Charlotte (November 20).

As a result of the loss at Middle Tennessee to open the league schedule, Marshall will likely need to win at least four of the remaining five games to have a chance to repeat as Conference USA East Division champion.

Huff is still hoping to see more consistency from his team, which has separate two-game win streaks sandwiched around its three-game skid. He’s hopeful the team’s 20-13 come-from-behind overtime win over Old Dominion on October 9 was a turning point in the season.

“If we can learn from the way we felt in those three games that we didn’t get the results we wanted,” Huff said, “and if we can remember the feeling we had in the locker room versus ODU, versus North Texas, hopefully that will propel us to do the things we need to do throughout the week to get the results we want.

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