— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall doesn’t get many chances to make a national statement, but it gets an opportunity Saturday when the Herd takes on 8th-ranked Notre Dame in a 2:30 p.m. that airs on NBC.
The trip to Notre Dame Stadium, one of college football’s most iconic venues, has been circled on the calendars of Marshall fans for about three years, but Herd head coach Charles Huff says his group is trying not to put extra emphasis on the contest.
“It’s a huge game for our fans, but we approach this like any other game,” Huff said. “We have to throw our best pitch and see if it’s good enough. Hopefully it is and we’ll make strides to help us the rest of the season.”
First-year Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman is seeking his first victory as head coach after the Irish opened with a 21-10 loss at Ohio State last Saturday. Freeman also guided ND in last season’s Fiesta Bowl, which amounted to a 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State.
Marshall took care of business in its opening game last week, pounding Norfolk State of the FCS, 55-3, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Herd piled up 612 total yards against the Spartans and had two 100-yard rushers — Ethan Payne (113 yards and two touchdowns) and Khalan Laborn (102 yards and two touchdowns). Quarterback Henry Colombi threw for 205 yards, a touchdown and an interception in his Marshall debut.
The Marshall defense limited Norfolk State to five first downs and 114 total yards.
Ohio State’s improved defense held the Irish offense to 253 yards and 12 first downs, while shutting out the Irish during the second half in Columbus. First-year starting quarterback Tyler Buchner threw for 177 yards, but Notre Dame could only net 76 yards on the ground, led by Chris Tyree’s 28 yards.
Freeman is wary of a Marshall team that could present problems.
“They’re a good opponent, they’ll be motivated and it will be a challenge for us to get over the Ohio State loss,” Freeman said. “We have to prepare in the right way.”
Notre Dame has won 10 consecutive home openers dating back to 2012 and a victory over the Herd would set the record for consecutive home-opening victories at 94-year-old Notre Dame Stadium.
The Irish are 109-18-4 all-time in home openers, including 75-15-2 at Notre Dame Stadium.
This is Marshall’s first matchup against a Top 10 opponent since 2016 when quarterback Lamar Jackson led then-No. 3 Louisville to a 59-28 win at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Marshall is 1-9 all-time games against Top 10 opponents, the lone victory coming back in 2003 at then-No. 6 Kansas State.
Saturday marks the first meeting between the Herd and Irish.
TIES BETWEEN THE TWO SCHOOLS: Notre Dame tight ends coach Gerad Parker is a former Marshall assistant, serving as the Herd’s wide receivers coach under Doc Holliday in 2011 and 2012. Parker also was an assistant at West Virginia as recently as last season. Parker’s sister, Alicia Parker Webb, is the Associate Director of Development for Endowments and Major Gifts for Marshall’s Big Green Scholarship Foundation Former Marshall offensive lineman Trevor Mendelson is on the Notre Dame coaching staff, serving as a Senior Offensive Analyst. Mendelson payed for Marshall from 2011-2014 and was a starter for the 2014 Conference USA championship team.