Gameday, Part VII — I thought I heard something about a record …

October 18, 2014 by Derek Redd

We’re here in the corner of FIU Stadium gearing up for tonight’s tilt between the Panthers and visiting Thundering Herd. There’s a good chance that there could be more Marshall fans than there will be FIU fans tonight, considering the amount of South Floridians on the roster. Rakeem Cato’s family likely will be here in full force, as he tries to break the major college record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass. Today would be his 39th and would break his tie with current Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson.

Here are some folks that won’t be here today, as they weren’t on the travel roster: OL Blake Brooks (leg), DE Gary Thompson (leg), LB Evan McKelvey (knee, out for season) and RB Brandon Byrd. Tony Pittman is here today. Also, safety Tiquan Lang will wear No. 31 in honor of McKelvey today.

The only way I see this stays close is if FIU’s defense keeps up its pace in sacks and turnovers, or if too many flags fly in Marshall’s direction. Those haven’t been kind to MU lately, though it hasn’t hurt … yet.

That’s it for now. Why not stick around right here and hang out with my live in-game feed, where you can see all of my (ahem) “brilliant” analysis. (And pay no attention to the face on the top of that feed. You all know I’m much more good looking.) (Hi, boss!)

Otherwise …

Happy Let’s Watch Cato Go for a National Record Day, y’all.

Live Blog Marshall vs. FIU

Bowl Projection Roundup, Round 4

October 16, 2014 by Derek Redd

Here’s where the experts put the Herd this bowl season …

Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com) — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Iowa; Go5 Pick — Oklahoma vs. East Carolina in Fiesta Bowl

Brett McMurphy (ESPN.com) — Boca Raton Bowl vs. Central Michigan; Go5 Pick — TCU vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Mark Schlabach (ESPN.com) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Northern Illinois; Go5 Pick — Georgia vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Phil Steele — Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame

USA Today — Hawaii Bowl vs. Nevada; Go5 Pick — Georgia vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Jason Kirk (SBNation) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Toledo; Go5 Pick — Georgia vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Mike Huguenin (NFL.com) — Peach Bowl vs. Ole Miss

College Football News — New Mexico Bowl vs. Utah State; Go5 Pick — East Carolina vs. Auburn in  Fiesta Bowl

Bill Bender (SportingNews.com) — Peach Bowl vs. Georgia

The Herd lost one expert in the Go5 pick crowd. College Football News now has Marshall headed out to Albuquerque. When USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton was healthy, I told folks that Cato vs. Keeton game could be the most-watched minor bowl of the season. With Keeton hurt, the luster is pretty much gone.

AP Voter Roundup, Week 8

October 16, 2014 by Derek Redd

The Herd finally cracked the top 25 this week. What was the before picture? Check out last week’s lineup below:

Chris Murray, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal — 21st

Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News — 18th

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press — 20th

Adam Sparks, Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) — 22nd

John Silver, Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer — 19th

Scott Wolf, L.A. Daily News — 24th

Chuck McGill, Charleston Daily Mail — 19th

Doug Doughty, Roanoke (Va.) Times — 24th

Ed Johnson, Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal — 18th

Ed Johnson, Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal — 22nd

Michael Lev, Orange County Register Lev — 18th

Logan Lowery, NE Miss. Daily Journal —18th

Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com — 22nd

Sam Werner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — 24th

Steve Sipple, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal— 24th

Bill Rabinowitz, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch — 25th

Brett McMurphy, ESPN — 25th

Garland Gillen, WVUE-TV FOX 8, New Orleans — 25th

John Shinn, Norman (Okla.) Transcript — 25th

Pete DiPrimio Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel — 25th

And now for the crew that got Marshall back into the rankings for the first time since the 2002 season:

Chris Murray, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal — 20th

Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News — 18th

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press — 19th

Adam Sparks, Daily News Journal (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) — 17th

John Silver, Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer — 19th

Scott Wolf, L.A. Daily News — 25th

Chuck McGill, Charleston Daily Mail — 18th

Doug Doughty, Roanoke (Va.) Times — 19th

Ed Johnson, Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal — 18th

Michael Lev, Orange County Register Lev — 17th

Logan Lowery, NE Miss. Daily Journal —17th

Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com — 20th

Sam Werner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — 21st

Steve Sipple, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal— 24th

Bill Rabinowitz, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch — 23rd

Brett McMurphy, ESPN — 23rd

Garland Gillen, WVUE-TV FOX 8, New Orleans — 21st

John Shinn, Norman (Okla.) Transcript — 25th

Pete DiPrimio Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel — 24th

Bob Asmussen, Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette — 20th

Tom Murphy, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (Little Rock, Ark.) — 20th

Steve Batterson, Quad City Times — 21st

Adam Jude, Seattle Times — 22nd

Iliana Limon Romero, Orlando Sentinel — 22nd

Nick Baumgardner, MLive.com — 22nd

Gary Horowitz, Statesman Journal — 24th

Mike Sorensen, Deseret News (Salt Lake City, Utah) — 24th

Daniel Berk, Arizona Daily Star (Tuscson, Ariz.) — 25th

Jimmy Burch, Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram — 25th

Kellis Robinett, Wichita (Kan.) Eagle — 25th

Ken Medlin, WRAL-TV (Raleigh, N.C.) — 25th

Rob Long, WJFK (Washington, D.C.) — 25th

Robert Cessna, Bryan-College Station (Texas) Eagle — 25th

Ross Dellenger, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.) — 25th

Scott Nulph, Laramie Boomerang — 25th

Tim Griffin, San Antonio (Texas) Express-News — 25th

Plenty of new voters this week, a number that should only rise as long as Marshall keeps winning.

Conference USA in Review, Week 7

October 13, 2014 by Derek Redd

This week’s non-conference record: 1-0

Overall non-conference record: 23-25

This week’s non-conference record vs. FBS teams: 1-0

Overall non-conference record vs. FBS teams: 16-23

This week’s record vs. Power 5 teams: 0-0

Overall record vs. Power 5 teams: 0-20

C-USA in the Polls: AP — Marshall (25) ; Coaches — Marshall (24)

Trending Up

Craig Wilkins and Deon-Tay McManus — One is a senior who had transitioned from starter to backup. The other is a freshman who was a backup tight end a month ago. The duo has given the Herd deep threats it sorely needed now that Angelo Jean-Louis and Davonte Allen both are injured (more on that below). McManus caught passes of 39 and 29 yards, the 29-yarder for a touchdown, in beating Middle Tennessee. Wilkins caught a pair of touchdowns among his five receptions for 77 yards. With the return dates for Allen and Jean-Louis unknown, Marshall needs Wilkins and McManus to keep it up.

UAB defense — The Blazers forced five turnovers, scoring on three of them, to beat North Texas, 56-21. In jumping to a 28-0 lead, UAB got its first two scores on a fumble return and an interception return for a touchdown.

Trending Down

Marshall’s injury woes — Jean-Louis left the Middle Tennessee game with a rib injury. OL Blake Brooks played one down in that game and had to be helped off the field with a leg injury. The Herd already was without Allen (upper body) and LB Evan McKelvey (knee) and has lost McKelvey for the season. That Marshall still won Saturday’s game by 25 is a testament to its depth, but how many more injuries can the Herd withstand?

FIU offense — When you can’t outscore one of the worst offenses in college football — UTSA’s is 112th in scoring — you know it’s a bad day. The Panthers mustered just 259 yards of total offense and averaged just 2.5 yards per carry. Not the numbers you want to see when Marshall’s defense is coming to town Saturday.

Middle Tennessee’s trash talking acumen — Apparently there were some grenades lobbed from Murfreesboro, Tenn., in the days preceding the Marshall game. The jawing continued into pregame warmups and the game itself.  Here’s how well it worked: Marshall led that game by as many as 32, despite having 101 yards in penalties, 30 of those coming on taunting flags.

Redd’s C-USA Title Game Prediction He’s Guaranteed to Get Wrong: Louisiana Tech at Marshall

Gameday, Part VI — This time, it’s personal

October 11, 2014 by Derek Redd

Don’t just take my word for it. Take it from the guy tearing up the CFL.

Methinks a few folks are still sore over last season’s 51-49 Middle Tennessee win, where the Blue Raiders scored the winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.

Let’s talk injuries. WR Davonte Allen was seen leaning against the wall behind the end zone and not in uniform. Scratch him from today. Ditto for DE Gary Thompson, who was wearing an Erector set on his leg. You can count LB Evan McKelvey out for the season with a right knee injury. That’s a shame, considering he missed most of 2012 with a torn left ACL. D.J. Hunter will wear McKelvey’s No. 31 in his honor. Blake Brooks was in uniform warming up in the end zone, but that doesn’t mean he’ll go (I think Sebastian Johansson spent at least one game in uniform as a casual observer).

(And let me take this time once again to say Conference USA needs uniform injury reports from all coaches. Playing guessing games and piecemealing this stuff together is tiresome and unnecessary. It’s simple: If they’re out for the season, it’s announced on Monday. Everyone else is put on a list Thursday for Saturday games and Wednesday for Thursday games. It worked in the ACC when I covered Florida State, and it would work just fine here.)

Marshall players seemed pretty excited for today’s game, hoping that Middle might be the first team they’ve played in a while that’s been able to take a punch. T.T. Barber told me earlier this week that the MT defense’s mission was to “play violent,” so, as the great wrestling announcer Jim Ross would say, we could be in for a slobberknocker.

That should be it from here. You can now follow me during the game in one of two ways. As always, I’m in the Twitter-verse. But, if you don’t want to sift through the rest of your timeline, you can get all the tweets from both me and Daily Mail sports editor Chuck McGill below. Otherwise …

Live Blog Marshall vs. Middle Tennessee, battle of unbeatens

Happy Homecoming Game Day, y’all.

Numberosity — Middle Tennessee Week

October 10, 2014 by Derek Redd

This blog post is rated “R” for “Run, run, run.”

Might be some of that goin’ on this week …

299.6 — Marshall’s rushing yards per game, best in C-USA and ninth-best in the FBS.

224.7 — Middle Tennessee’s rushing yards per game, second in C-USA and 25th in the FBS.

239 — Yards MT rushed for in a 37-31 win over Southern Miss last week.

354 — Yards Marshall rushed for in a 56-14 win over Old Dominion last week.

1,033 — Yards gained between both teams in last season’s MT-Marshall clash.

100 — Points scored between both teams, a 51-49 Blue Raiders win.

0 — Seconds left in the game when MT quarterback Logan Kilgore found Tavarres Jefferson for the game-winning touchdown.

0 — Percent chance of that happening this season, because Kilgore and Jefferson both have graduated.

258.5 — Passing yards per game of MT’s new quarterback Austin Grammer.

43.7 — Grammer’s rushing yards per game, third-best on the team. He also has five touchdown runs.

85 — Passing yards Marshall gave up to ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke, the active leader in Division I career passing yards, with more than 13,000. It was the first time he threw for less than 100 yards in a college game.

15.8 — Marshall’s points allowed per game, the best average in C-USA and 12th best in the FBS.

30.7 — MT’s points allowed per game, the seventh-best average in C-USA and 90th best in the FBS.

47.6 — Marshall’s scoring average, best in C-USA and fourth in the FBS.

And finally …

100 — Percent of folks that are feeling better now that Marshall’s green jerseys look like this …

Hey, it doesn't look like Satan's checkerboard anymore!

Hey, it doesn’t look like Satan’s checkerboard anymore!

The sportswriters thank you, and the spotters in the press box are now building a statue in your honor.

Bowl Projection Roundup, Round 3

October 9, 2014 by Derek Redd

A little bit of movement in terms of bowl projections, as you can see …

Jerry Palm (CBSSports.com) — Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. Iowa; Go5 Pick — Arizona vs. East Carolina in Fiesta Bowl

Brett McMurphy (ESPN.com) — Boca Raton Bowl vs. Northern Illinois; Go5 Pick — Michigan State vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Mark Schlabach (ESPN.com) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Bowling Green; Go5 Pick — Ole Miss vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Phil Steele — Fiesta Bowl vs. Notre Dame

USA Today — Hawaii Bowl vs. Nevada; Go5 Pick — Georgia vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Jason Kirk (SBNation) — Bahamas Bowl vs. Toledo; Go5 Pick — Alabama vs. East Carolina in Peach Bowl

Mike Huguenin (NFL.com) — Peach Bowl vs. Ole Miss

College Football News — Fiesta Bowl vs. Mississippi State

Bill Bender (SportingNews.com) — Peach Bowl vs. Georgia

A couple folks switched destinations for the Herd, sending them into the desert for the Fiesta Bowl. Some of the opponents have changed, too, with Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Mississippi State entering the mix.

AP Voter Roundup, Week 7

October 8, 2014 by Derek Redd

The Herd is right on the cusp of cracking the AP Top 25. Marshall picked up 78 points in the last poll, which put them at 27th. Here’s last week’s voter group:

Chris Murray, Reno (Nev.) Gazette-Journal — 22nd

Donald Heath, Savannah Morning News — 19th

Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press — 20th

John Silver, Manchester (Conn.) Journal Inquirer — 23rd

Scott Wolf, L.A. Daily News — 25th

Chuck McGill, Charleston Daily Mail — 20th

Doug Doughty, Roanoke (Va.) Times — 25th

Ed Johnson, Albuquerque (N.M.) Journal — 21st

Adam Sparks, The Tennesseean (Nashville, Tenn.) — 25th

Rob Long, WJFK, 105.7 FM (Washington, D.C.) — 24th

Jon Wilner, San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News — 25th

Michael Lev, Orange County Register — 23rd

And now here’s this week’s:

Murray — 21st

Heath — 18th

Sharp — 20th

Silver — 19th

Wolf — 24th

McGill — 19th

Doughty — 24th

Johnson — 18th

Sparks — 22nd

Lev — 18th

Logan Lowery, NE Miss. Daily Journal —18th

Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com — 22nd

Sam Werner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — 24th

Steve Sipple, Lincoln (Neb.) Journal— 24th

Bill Rabinowitz, Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch — 25th

Brett McMurphy, ESPN — 25th

Garland Gillen, WVUE-TV FOX 8, New Orleans — 25th

John Shinn, Norman (Okla.) Transcript — 25th

Pete DiPrimio Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel — 25th

The Herd lost two voters, Wilner (again) and Long, but gained nine more, including Lowery, who was one of four voters to rank the Herd 18th.

Conference USA in Review, Week 6

October 7, 2014 by Derek Redd

This week’s non-conference record: 1-2

Overall non-conference record: 22-25

This week’s non-conference record vs. FBS teams: 1-2

Overall non-conference record vs. FBS teams: 15-23

This week’s record vs. Power 5 teams: 0-1

Overall record vs. Power 5 teams: 0-20

C-USA in the Polls: AP — Marshall (ARV) ; Coaches — Marshall (ARV)

Trending Up

Richard Leonard — At 3-3, FIU is one win away from matching its combined win total for 2012 and 2013, and Leonard is a major part of that. The senior corner has won conference defensive player of the week honors in back-to-back weeks, this time getting it with a 100-yard fumble return for a touchdown in a win over Florida Atlantic. This guy leads a Panthers defense that will keep the team in plenty of games this year.

Deon-Tay McManus — The Marshall tight end-turned-receiver helped alleviate the problem of the Herd missing the injured Davonte Allen with a five-catch, 55-yard, one-touchdown debut at the outside wideout spot. Marshall needs McManus to enhance the depth at that position, and at 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, he’ll be a match-up nightmare.

Jordan Howard — The sophomore UAB running back is returning to form after his 183-yard, two-touchdown performance in a win over Western Kentucky. It was his second straight 100-yard game after gaining just 11 yards versus Alabama A&M. The match-up between the 6-1, 228-pound Howard and Marshall’s 6-1, 243-pound tailback Devon Johnson at Legion Field later this season will be one where a pair of tanks chew up turfl.

Trending Down

UTEP — The promise shown in a 2-1 start to the year went down the drain after the Miners’ 55-3 loss to Louisiana Tech. UTEP mustered a measly 224 yards of total offense and committed five turnovers. It was the second straight game that the Miners allowed at least 55 points.

UTSA — Remember when everyone warned C-USA teams about the Roadrunners after their thumping of Houston to open the season? UTSA hasn’t won since and mustered just nine points against New Mexico in a 21-9 loss. If the Roadrunners want to turn things around, they need to start moving the football. They’re ranked 97th in the FBS in passing yards, 109th in rushing yards and 106th in points scored.

Western Kentucky defense — The Hilltoppers have no problem scoring points. They just can’t stop a soul. WKU is 118th in the FBS in scoring defense, allowing 38.4 points per game. They allowed 42 to UAB and haven’t allowed fewer than 27 in any game this year.

Redd’s C-USA Title Game Prediction He’s Guaranteed to Get Wrong — Louisiana Tech at Marshall

Gameday, Part V — Old School meets New School in Norfolk

October 4, 2014 by Derek Redd

I’m looking live from the confines of a … shall we say “throwback” … press box at S.B. Ballard Stadium at Old Dominion. It’s pretty cozy in here and you had to climb through the stands to enter, but the atmosphere should be great, especially for Conference USA standards. We’ve watched college football in some caverns on this beat, and Ballard is  much more intimate of a setting, and they’ve announced a sell-out, so this should be pretty entertaining.

The big news from this morning is that receiver Davonte Allen, who injured himself against Akron, is not on the dress list today. Now, when I asked Tuesday whether everyone who was banged up would be available, I was told “I believe so.” So let this be the start of my campaign for uniform injury reports in C-USA, like they do (or at least did when I was there) in the ACC. On Thursday, they send out a list of probables, questionables, doubtfuls and outs. If they still want to play games with that list, fine, but it saves us the waste of breath trying to drag injury information out of coaches.

Also, Justin Hunt is on the sideline in shorts and no pads. That puts a lot of pressure on Angelo Jean-Louis, Craig Wilkins and maybe Josh Knight, and is probably the reason why Deon-Tay McManus did a bit of work at wideout. The pressure really should be on Wilkins, who lost his starting job to Jean-Louis on the season’s first depth chart.

When I watched ODU and Middle Tennessee both teams relied heavily on the pass. And as good as Taylor Heinicke is, going one-dimensional against Marshall’s defense is a pretty bad idea. I’m curious how much more Marshall will rely on the run this week, considering Allen and Hunt are out. As I’ve stated elsewhere, Marshall can run really well and ODU isn’t very good at stopping it. This might be a week where Marshall can favor the run more and get away with it. Right now, the Herd’s pass yardage-to-run yardage ratio is nearly 1:1.

That should be it from here (y’know, barring another surprise DNP-INJ). If there is, find me in the Twitter-verse. Otherwise …

Live Blog Marshall vs Old Dominion

Happy First Day of the Conference Schedule, y’all.