Marshall (4-0) at Old Dominion (3-2) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Foreman Field (19,818) — Norfolk, Virginia. Television:
FSN. Home Record: Marshall 2-0, Old Dominion 2-1. Away Record: Marshall 2-0,
Old Dominion 1-1. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Old Dominion 0-0. Conference
Record: Marshall 0-0, Old Dominion 1-1. Series Record: First meeting.

GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd are rested and refreshed after a bye
last weekend, and are set to travel to Virginia to take on the Old Dominion
Monarchs in a Conference USA matchup at Foreman Field.

Marshall is a perfect 4-0 to start the season after easily skating through
non-conference play. The Herd, as was expected prior to the start of the 2014
campaign, are extremely strong on offense, and they’ve shown that by scoring
at least 42 points in each of the team’s first four contests.

Old Dominion’s first official season at the FBS level is off to a promising
start, although the Monarchs are coming off a 41-28 loss at the hands of
Middle Tennessee last weekend. It was the first home loss for ODU this season,
and the team will now have to bounce back against Marshall.

This is the first time these new Conference USA rivals will face each other.
Both are very offensive-driven programs with two of the better quarterbacks in
the league, so this first meeting should provide fireworks.

The last time the Thundering Herd took the field, they absolutely manhandled
the Akron Zips (who just beat Pittsburgh last Saturday), 48-17, thanks to 210
yards and a touchdown attributed to quarterback Rakeem Cato, who also scored
two rushing touchdowns in the win. As a whole, the Herd rushed for 284 yards
in the contest with five touchdowns on the ground. Both Remi Watson and Devon
Johnson went over 100 yards – Watson with a team-best 124 and Johnson with
103. As a unit, Marshall is averaging 286 rushing ypg, led by Johnson’s 482
yards and five touchdowns.

Cato has sustained success over the past three seasons, and is expected to
continue his dominance this season. So far, Cato has thrown for 1,163 yards
and 10 touchdowns with just two interceptions through four games. He averages
290.8 passing ypg and 43.8 rushing ypg (he has four rushing scores as well).

Cato’s two most frequent targets are Tommy Shuler (17 receptions) and Davonte
Allen (14 receptions). Freshman Angelo Jean-Louis has been as good as
advertised too, averaging 29.2 ypc. The three make up eight of Cato’s 10
touchdown connections this season.

Marshall’s four non-conference matchups this season were pretty light this
season, and it showed in the team’s results. The closest finish so far is a
42-27 Herd victory over Miami-Ohio in the season opener. Needless to say,
Marshall’s defensive statistics are reflective of the team’s schedule. The
Herd enter the matchup against ODU allowing just 16.2 ppg and 328.2 total
offensive ypg to opponents.

In four games, the Herd have forced nine turnovers (five interceptions and
four fumbles), led by two interceptions apiece from Taj Letman and A.J.
Leggett. Darryl Roberts tops the squad with 26 tackles so far, adding six pass
breakups and a half-tackle for loss to his line. Marshall kept Akron’s third-
down offense at bay a few weeks ago, limiting the Zips to 2-of-13 on third-
down tries. On the year, opponents have just a 25 percent success rate on
third down against the Herd.

Old Dominion fell behind to Middle Tennessee, 24-7, by the end of the first
half last weekend, and just simply couldn’t catch up in the second half. The
Monarchs are averaging 33 ppg and 454.6 total offensive ypg, which on paper
should contend with almost any team. ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke has had
some spectacular games this season, and some very unspectacular ones as well.
Two weeks ago, he threw for five touchdowns and 430 yards in a win over Rice.
Last weekend, he passed for 362 yards, four touchdowns and had three
interceptions. The offense is averaging 313.6 passing ypg through five games

Heinicke’s top targets were in action in the loss to Middle Tennessee last
Friday. Zach Pascal caught a team-high eight passes for 110 yards, while
Antonio Vaughan hauled in seven receptions for 105 yards and three touchdowns
in the losing effort. Pascal leads the team, averaging 87.8 receiving ypg, and
Vaughan has a team-best seven touchdown receptions through the first five

The running game has taken a bit of a back seat in the last few weeks for ODU.
Gerard Johnson still leads the team with 354 yards on the ground, while
freshman Ray Lawry enters this weekend’s game with a team-high four touchdown
runs. Against the Blue Raiders, Old Dominion gained just 41 yards via the
ground game.

As is usually the case for Old Dominion, an offensive battle ensues and it’s a
race to see which team can score more. Defense hasn’t been a strong point for
the Monarchs, who surrendered 539 total offensive yards to Middle Tennessee,
including 280 rushing. Opponents are averaging 32 ppg and 438.2 offensive ypg
so far. ODU’s defense has given up 11 rushing touchdowns through five games.

Linebacker Martez Simpson registered 11 tackles to lead the team, and added a
half-tackle for loss and a quarterback hurry in the loss to Middle Tennessee.
He and season leader Fellonte Misher (38 tackles) will be extremely busy
trying to contain Cato and the Marshall run game. Misher is the only ODU
player to have an interception through five weeks of the 2014 season.

Expect this game to be another offensive shootout, which is characteristic of
these two programs. But when it comes down to the defensive side of the
football, Marshall has proven that it is able to shut down opponents and force
turnovers. If Heinicke is forced to make mistakes (which he does about every
other game), the Herd shouldn’t have much of an issue in this one. This is
possibly the best quarterback battle Conference USA will see this year.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 45, Old Dominion 34