Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Kick Off: November 18th, 6 pm CT
TV: CW35 (San Antonio), click here for Tri-state viewing options
Stream: Stadium (Facebook)
Live Stats: Side Arm Sports
Audio: The Bull 93.3 FM
Betting Odds: Pick em, O/U 45
Series History: Marshall won the lone meeting 34-10 in 2013.
Team Records: Marshall (7-3), UTSA (5-4)
While the Thundering Herd won’t be playing in the conference championship this year, 2017 has still been a big success for a team that suffered a strange downturn last season. Marshall has already won four more games in 2017 than they did in 2016 and could build on that number this week against a shaky UTSA team.
Junior quarterback Chase Litton is having another strong season in green as he’s passed for 2,356 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. Litton has been quick to get the ball out of his hands this year as he’s only taken six sacks thus far. The only real knock on Litton is his knack for being carless with the ball as he’s thrown 10 picks this year.
Litton’s impressive numbers have been boosted by the infusion of Miami transfer Tyre Brady into the offense. The 6’3” target has been targeted on 28% of the Herd’s passes and has turned those targets into 777 yards and seven touchdowns.
Marshall’s run game hasn’t been as explosive as their pass game but they’re still improved over last season. Freshman running back Tyler King and junior Keion Davis make for a good lightning-and-thunder combination, ensuring that Marshall doesn’t miss anticipated starter Trey Rodriguez, who quit the team just a few weeks into the season.
The Herd’s offense is sound but they’ve really made their money on the defensive side of the ball. Marshall’s elite linebacker talent has the Herd ranked in the top 25 in practically every advanced statistic that tracks a defense’s ability to stop the run.
Chase Hancock leads the way at the linebacker position with 62 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and six pass break ups. Hancock is surrounded by talent at his position including former five star talent Jaquan Yulee and Miami transfer Juwon Young. Defensive end Ryan Bee (6’7”, 280 pounds) is also a major factor in Marshall’s dominance against the run.
Even when opponents run away from the front seven they’ll be greeted by defensive backs that are strong against the run. Safety Malik Gant has made 12 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage this year. Viriginia Tech transfer CJ Reavis and cornerback Rodney Allen are both quite talented as well. Given UTSA’s repeated futility on offense it’s hard to picture the Roadrunners finding much traction against this stout defense.
What is there left to say about UTSA’s inability to put points on the board? The Roadrunners entered a two game slide last week after putting up just 19 points on UAB, following a seven point performance against FIU. UTSA needs an offensive break out and they need it yesterday.
A slice of good news comes with the return of two valuable players. Guard Juan Perez-Isidoro returned to practice this week and will provide much needed depth and experience to an offensive line that has been forced to shift linemen around all season long.
Star linebacker Josiah Tauaefa should also return to action after suffering a knee injury against Rice four weeks ago. While UTSA’s defense still played well without Tauaefa, his presence and pursuit was certainly missed on several plays during each game he was forced to miss.
Aside from the guys returning from injury, the Roadrunners should also have a morale boost considering this week’s game falls on senior day. UTSA fans should turn out for one last glimpse of defensive end Marcus Davenport as he starts to gain momentum as a first or second day selection in the NFL Draft this year.
UTSA fans will also send off several seniors that enjoyed strong careers at UTSA such as Nates Gaines, Kerry Thomas, Marcos Curry, Kyle McKinney, Reed Darragh, and Josh Stewart. The Roadrunner faithful will also say their goodbyes to quarterback Dalton Sturm. Given UTSA’s inability to run the ball behind their offensive line, the fans and team might be relying on Sturm to pull more Sportscenter Top Ten heroics to find the end zone and get the Roadrunners to a second bowl game in Sturm’s second and last season as the starting quarterback.
I see this game being closer than it should be given the Roadrunners’ poor play over the past few weeks and the Herds’ winning start to the season. UTSA should flash a spirited performance in a gritty and hard-hitting game but I just can’t see the Roadrunners picking up enough yardage on early downs to keep Sturm from facing endless third-and-long situations. He’ll convert his fair share and keep UTSA in the fight but I think Marshall escapes in the end.
Marshall 24 UTSA 17