The Parthenon

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Column: Deferring not a bad plan for Marshall football

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It’s a long way up from the bottom of the barrel, and that’s where the Marshall football team finds itself with a 2-5 record on the season.

It has been years since the Herd have been Conference- USA bottom-feeders and in that time, Doc Holliday has largely stuck to his guns, not needing to change much, his high-octane offenses putting up points in bunches. But, things change and this season, the Thundering Herd lack a potent offense, meaning changes need to be made and made quickly.

One area the Herd don’t need a change? The coin toss.

Deferring has been a point of contention as of late. Marshall has won the toss and deferred to the away team in five straight games. The result? Marshall has gone on to give up the opening score of those games each time, losing four of said games.

As fans and media personalities continue to pile on when it comes to Doc’s decision making, the coach has to be second-guessing if his opening strategy needs a tune-up. But Holliday should do like he always does and stick to his guns.

Here’s why.

Five times this season Marshall has failed to put points up on its opening drive. Only against Morgan State and FAU have the Herd scored the first time it had the ball, but it’s hard to even count the game against Morgan State since the Bears are an FCS school. So, essentially Marshall has accomplished the feat only once this season. Meaning that the Herd are letting perennial bottom-dwellers like Charlotte and North Texas get the better of them while MU possess the ball.

Marshall ranks 11th out of 13 C-USA teams in 3rd down conversions. The Herd are only converting 34 percent on the season, only 35 first downs on 103 attempts. Just getting a first down in general has been a thorn in the side of the offense. The Big Green are 7th in conference on total first down conversions, only moving the sticks roughly 21 percent of the time. Compare that to 2014, when the Herd led C-USA in total first downs and 3rd down conversions, averaging 26 per game and converting over half of their attempts, respectively.

The point is, this is not your Marshall offense of old. The offense isn’t prolific or dynamic. Their running game has disappeared, something that is the fault of both the running backs and the offensive line. They lack a truly dominant receiver, although Josh Knight is starting to come into his own. While quarterback Chase Litton has thrown a touchdown pass in every game of his college game of his career so far, the passing game has seemed lethargic at times, failing to execute the big play that Herd fans are so accustomed to seeing out of this team. At times it seems as if there is a total lack of chemistry between the signal-caller and his wide-outs. Most importantly, their confidence is absolutely shot and their body language screams it. It makes no sense for the Herd to willingly take the ball first if the offense doesn’t have faith in their ability to score.

Sure, changes need to be made. Marshall is teetering on the edge and is on the verge of not making a bowl game for the first time since 2012. It’s not just the offense’s problem. Has the defense been atrocious? Yes, and they will have to answer for it. But Marshall doesn’t need to stop relying on their defense to start the game, because even if they go to the offense to start, chances are, results are going to be the same.

Jacob Griffith can be contacted at [email protected]

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