The Thundering Herd finally gets a break this season and, frankly, it could use one. Marshall stumbled to the midway point of 2012 with a 2-4 record and players and fans alike feel those numbers should be better. Some points to ponder as Marshall heads into its bye week …
1) The offense’s bye-week project — ball security. Of all the great numbers Marshall’s offense has posted this season, there’s one that should upset its stomach: 12. That’s how many turnovers the Herd has lost in its first six games, six fumbles and six interceptions.
And it’s not just that Marshall is giving the ball back to its opponent. In the last two games, the opponent is taking points along with it. The Herd followed two pick-sixes against Purdue with a fumble returned for a touchdown in the loss to Tulsa. As we’ve already mentioned in this blog, forcing any defense into short-field situations us bad. Doing it to Marshall’s defense is really bad.
2) The defense’s bye-week project — figuring out how to stop the run. If a Conference USA coach told you he was going to almost completely abandon the run in a conference game, you’d schedule him for a CAT scan. Yet that’ s what Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship did, putting his quarterback on a milk carton for most of the contest.
And it worked.
Tulsa called for a run on three out of every four offensive plays, and the Golden Hurricane gouged Marshall for 250 yards. That’s a pretty startling number, until you realize that’s just the third-highest rushing total the Herd has allowed in its first six games. Rice gained 301 and West Virginia gained 331. I know this is “Conference NBA,” but anyone who doesn’t try to run the ball on Marshall the rest of the season is the one who needs a CAT scan.
3) With all that said, Marshall still has a very good chance at qualifying for a bowl. The combined record of Marshall’s final six opponents is 10-21. Only one of those six teams, UCF has a winning record at 3-2. Three of those six have either 1 or zero wins. Four of those six opponents are 86th or worse in the FBS in scoring defense. If Marshall’s defense is at least adequate in the second half of the season, the Herd should pick up at least the four wins in the last six games it needs to reach the magical six-win plateau necessary for bowl eligibility.