Offense — 2 stars
Better. A work in progress. The 12 second-half passing yards is disconcerting, as is the 16 points scored (only 14 on offense) … that figured tied a game best for the month of October. That’s right, four consecutive games of 16 points or fewer. But the running game got going and the offense scored when it needed to, so.
Defense — 4 stars
Can’t be too upset here. The UTEP offense isn’t as scary as the 2009 version, but this is still a commendable effort. The running game was bottled up, including Donald Buckram. This is the first time Marshall has held the opposition to fewer than 100 yards rushing this season. The big plays were limited again this week, with no play gaining more than 23 yards (29 was the long against ECU). And the Donald Brown interception on the 2-point conversion changed everything.
Special teams — 2 stars
It gets an extra star based on the opening game return of Andre Booker and the final return by Tron Martinez. Both set up Brian Anderson with a shorter-than-normal field to work with. The Herd scored on both drives. But inconsistency in the kicking game is troubling.
Coaching — 4 stars
The game was not sexy. The score was not lopsided. But a win is a win, and Doc Holliday showed he was willing to go with a true freshman at running back over the more experienced sophomores, and he stuck with Brian Anderson the entire game while not giving in to the temptation to stick in Eddie Sullivan. The defensive staff deserves kudos for stifling UTEP. Holliday also did the correct thing by taking the points off the board and going for the win with under two minutes to play.
Offensive blue-chipper – Tron Martinez. Easy. He had 117 yards and the go-ahead touchdown in his first career start. He carried the ball 24 times and played on all four special teams units. And he put a charge into this team with his play.
Defensive blue-chipper – Donald Brown. Easy. His unofficial interception on the 2-point conversion turned the tide of this game one final time when the Herd needed it the most.
Unheralded star – Brian Anderson. He didn’t make mistakes and picked up a couple first downs with his legs. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but he managed the game and got his team into position to win the game.
Up next: on the road against UAB, a team that just put 50 on Southern Miss … in Hattiesburg. Yikes.