FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,227) — Huntington, West
Virginia. Television: FSN. Home Record: Middle Tennessee 3-0, Marshall 2-0.
Away Record: Middle Tennessee 1-2, Marshall 3-0. Neutral Record: Middle
Tennessee 0-0, Marshall 0-0. Conference Record: Middle Tennessee 3-0, Marshall
1-0. Series Record: Marshall leads 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Coming off a resounding win over Old Dominion last Saturday, the
Marshall Thundering Herd will be looking to maintain their perfect record as
they head back home to take on the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a
Conference USA showdown at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Middle Tennessee has won two games in a row, and is coming off a 37-31 victory
over fellow C-USA competitor Southern Miss. The Raiders are an offense-driven
team, having scored at least 37 points in each of their four wins this season.
Marshall has been tearing through opponents this season, scoring at least 42
points in every game the team has played. The Herd are coming off their
largest offensive output of the year against ODU, notching a 56-14 win on the
road against one of the newest C-USA additions.
These two squads have only met three times on the football field before, with
Marshall holding the slim 2-1 advantage in the all-time series. The two
programs met last season in Murfreesboro, where Marshall was downed by the
Blue Raiders, 51-49.
Middle Tennessee leapt ahead of Southern Miss last weekend by outscoring the
Golden Eagles 10-3 in the first quarter and 24-12 by the time the first half
had ended. Quarterback Austin Grammer had a solid game under center, passing
for 332 yards and a pair of touchdowns to go with an interception. This
season, Middle Tennessee is averaging a strong 267.3 passing ypg and 38.3 ppg
through six contests, but only has a 7-5 touchdown to interception ratio.
The running game is where the Blue Raiders especially excel, racking up 224.7
rushing ypg and 20 ground scores in six games played. Reggie Whatley topped
the team last weekend with 100 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while
Shane Tucker scored on two of his five handoffs. Jordan Parker led Middle
Tennessee with 14 carries.
Tucker has proven to be a viable weapon in the receiving game as well. He
caught a team-high six passes in the win over Southern Miss, and recorded 78
yards to go with it. Devin Clarke had four receptions for 106 yards and a
touchdown to lead his squad. Middle Tennessee is averaging an impressive 492
total offensive ypg.
Defensively, the Blue Raiders aren’t exceptionally strong, but have key
playmakers that can step up if called upon. In six games, Middle Tennessee is
allowing opponents to score 30.7 ppg and accumulate 453 total offensive ypg.
But the Raiders’ defense has forced eight interceptions and recovered four
fumbles, and has made it difficult for opposing quarterbacks by notching 12
Linebacker T.T. Barber is the team’s leader in tackles with 45 this season,
adding a team high-tying four tackles for loss to his stat line. He also has a
forced fumble, two quarterback hurries and an interception. Safety Kevin Byard
has been a ball hawk through six games, registering a team-best four
interceptions in that span. He also has three pass breakups, a forced fumble
and is second on the team with 32 stops. Linebacker Leighton Gasque has a
team-high four sacks this season.
Marshall’s offense absolutely dismantled Old Dominion right from the start.
The Herd owned a 28-7 lead by the time the first 15 minutes had ticked off the
clock. And typically quarterback Rakeem Cato is at the center of a Marshall
offense that ranks fourth in the nation in scoring (47.6 ppg) and first in
total offense (595.6 ypg), but it was the team’s run game that dominated last
The Thundering Herd lived up to their name, rumbling for 354 yards on the
ground with a whopping five touchdowns, led by Devon Johnson’s 198 yards and
three scores. Remi Watson wasn’t all that far behind, registering 102 yards
and a pair of scores in the lopsided win. The team netted 50 carries in the
contest, and only possessed the ball for roughly two and a half minutes longer
than Old Dominion.
Even though Cato took a back seat to the run game against Old Dominion, it
doesn’t mean his performance was completely overlooked. The senior notched 198
passing yards and two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions, which
doubled his season total to four. In five games, Cato has thrown for 1,361
yards and 12 touchdowns, owning a 60.4 completion percentage.
The thought of last season’s game against Middle Tennessee likely still
lingers in the Thundering Herd’s minds after allowing 51 points on the road.
This season is a different story for a much more experienced group of players,
who collectively have helped Marshall average 15.8 ppg allowed and a mere
319.8 total ypg surrendered to opponents. While Marshall has scored 18
touchdowns on the ground, the Herd’s defense has shut down opposing run games
and held them to two rushing scores this season.
The defense needed to be on point last weekend against Taylor Heinicke and an
upbeat Old Dominion offense, and it was just that. The Herd held Heinicke to
85 passing yards with one touchdown and an interception, and kept a powerful
ODU offense to 286 total yards. Defensive back Darryl Roberts has the team’s
only interception, which was his first this season. Through five games, he
leads the Marshall defense with 30 tackles and eight pass breakups. Linemen
Arnold Blackmon and Joe Massaquoi (two sacks each to lead the team) will be
the busy ones against a run-heavy Middle Tennessee team.
Naturally Marshall will be seeking to avenge last season’s loss and keep the
team’s perfect record going, and Middle Tennessee will be trying to show
everyone that it can be one of the top teams in the conference. The Blue
Raiders are atop the Conference USA standings with a perfect 3-0 league mark
so far, but Marshall is the lone unbeaten team in the conference. The Herd
will get a boost playing at Joan Edwards Stadium, and will utilize a strong
offensive showcase with a stifling defense against the Blue Raiders. It’s
Marshall’s game to lose.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 45, Middle Tennessee 30