Start Time: 3:30 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 19
Location: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, West Virginia
TV: American Sports Network (WVAH-TV)
Records: Marshall 1-1, Norfolk State 0-2. First meeting between the two programs.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: No line.
Marshall Outlook: The Marshall Thundering Herd are not the scoring machine of 2014, but still have All-CUSA running back Devon Johnson (32/259/2TD) in the backfield. Marshall is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and 206.5 yards on the ground per game through two games. The passing game has been a bit of a struggle with Michael Birdsong (39-69/340/2TD) at quarterback. Birdsong has proven to find a connection with Hyleck Foster (10/48/0TD) and Ryan Yurachek (7/48/1TD), as the duo have caught 17 of the 39 total completions. Best case scenario in this game is to jump out to an early lead and get some playing time for backups. It has already been established that we will see more than one quarterback for Marshall in this game no matter what.
The Marshall defense has not been bad by any stretch, but are not the dominant group that took the field in 2014. Part of that has to do with offensive woes and the feeling that the defense must carry the team to wins. Even so, the defense is giving up 26.0 points per game and 419.5 yards per game. Those numbers may seem high, but the defense has faced 174 total plays and has given up only 4.8 total yards per play. Tiquan Lang (26 tkl, 2 INT) has continued his stellar play with Evan McKelvey (23 tkl, 1.5 tfl) and Corey Tindal (19 tkl) forming the trio of top tacklers. Gary Thompson (16 tkl, 3.5 tfl, 2 sacks) leads the way tackles for loss for a defense that has 10 tackles for loss and only four sacks on the season.
Norfolk State Outlook: Norfolk State has not started the 2014 season in the best of fashion with back-to-back games versus FBS opponents.
Offensively, the Spartans have scored only 11.5 points per game on the season with only 231 total yards per game. Norfolk State has only 100 total rushing yards, led by quarterback Greg Hankerson (15/52/0TD). Gerard Johnson (21/30/0TD) is the leading running back with the entire team only averaging 2.2 yards per carry. While still struggling, Hankerson (34-64/362/2TD) has been more effective in the air with 181 yards per game in the air. DeAndre Sangster (6/101/1TD) and Quinta Funderburk (6/92/0TD) are the top aerial artists with 193 of the 362 total receiving yards on the season.
The Spartans have been poor on defense as well versus Rutgets and Old Dominion in giving up 43.5 points per game, 499.5 yards per game, and 5.9 yards per carry on the season. Opponents are averaging 7.0 yards per play and 10.0 yards per pass attempt versus Norfolk State. Overall pass defense does not look as bad due to the fact that they cannot stop the run game to the tune of 314.5 yards per game. Deon King (33 tkl) has more than doubled the next closest player, Brandon Walker (16 tkl) in total tackles. The Spartan defense has only seven tackles for loss and no sacks on the season.
Prediction: After a tough start to the season that included games versus Purdue and Ohio, Marshall gets a much needed game versus the 0-2 Spartans. Devon Johnson should have a field day running the football, and Marshall should be able to take care of some of their offensive woes in this game. Expect Marshall to put up an impressive number on the scoreboard and cruise to a big win.