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Herd football hits road for first time in 2017

Kyle Curley, Assistant Sports Editor

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Herd linebacker Chase Hancock of Daniels, West Virginia.

Marshall football travels for the first time this year as it heads to North Carolina State this Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. and will also be shown live on ESPN 3.

The Thundering Herd has never beaten NC State, having a 0-3 all-time series record versus the Wolfpack. The last time these two teams met each other on the field, NC State won 33-16 in 1995.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said the Herd’s game against NC State will be yet another challenge.

“They are an excellent football team,” Holliday said. “A lot of people have them picked to win their side of the ACC (Atlantic
Coast Conference).”

NC State’s top 30 ranked defense is no surprise to Holliday. Holliday spent four years at NC State as an associate head coach, and he said the Wolfpack’s defensive prowess has not changed a bit.

“If you look at them on tape, they should have been picked to win,” Holliday said. “That defensive front is as what is was when I was at NC State with Mario Williams and (John) McCargo and all those tremendous players. They have got the same kind of guys, they are NFL guys, same thing with the linebackers, and their secondary is very athletic.”

Marshall came away victorious in their season opener. However, the team knows they have room for improvement, especially starting quarterback Chase Litton.

“I didn’t perform the way I was supposed to perform for my team,” Litton said. “What they expect from me, what I expect from myself and what we all expect from each other is to be great. We talk about being our best all the time, and that wasn’t me that night.”

Litton continued his nation-leading streak of 22 games with a touchdown pass this past Saturday, after he capped off a 98-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Tyre Brady.

“We finished,” Litton said. “We started out behind the sticks early and it was third and nine, third and 10, and we finished. Tyre (Brady) came back on a comeback route and made a hell of a play, which got us 25 yards that we needed. We started clicking whether it was the run game early in that drive or that last touchdown play. It’s just execution and we have to finish.”

Litton also moved into the top 10 in career passing yardage at Marshall with 5,425 yards. Bernard Morris is next in line with 5,616 yards.

With veteran safety C.J. Reavis suspended for the first half of the game this Saturday, red shirt sophomore Malik Gant will be the next man up. Holliday said he does not think this will impact his defense greatly. Gant tallied three solo tackles out of four total and two pass breakups during last week’s game.

“Yes, Malik Gant will (play in place of Reavis),” Holliday said. “Malik Gant went in there and played 24 plays and had 29 production points. He is a guy we like a lot, and he will be fine.”

Safety Brandon Drayton totaled 12 tackles against Miami (Ohio). The red shirt freshman’s performance garnered praise from his head coach.

“The kid has great range; you talk about guys that have it,” Holliday said. “There are just good football players and he’s just a young guy. He is not very big, he’s long, he’s really long, and he’s athletic. He runs around and he makes some plays. If he keeps going and keeps working extremely hard, he’s going to be a really good player.”

Although NC State lost its season opener to South Carolina 35-28, the Wolfpack managed to dominate the stat lines. NC State totaled 504 offensive yards, 415 of them coming through the air. NC State quarterback Ryan Finley threw the ball 64 times, completing 45 of them for a 70.3 completion percentage.

“This week we have a big challenge,” Drayton said. “We know they like to throw the ball and at the back end. We have to be ready.”

NC State’s Johnathon Alston was a wide receiver last season, who has now turned his talents to the defensive side of the ball, in the form of a cornerback. Alston played his first college game at cornerback this past Saturday against the Gamecocks. He totaled three tackles, a sack and the game’s only interception.

“You can tell his ball skills,” Litton said. “He’s a football player. He’s a gamer. I know he will be ready to go Saturday, but we have to be ready to go Saturday for him.”

Some say NC State has the best defensive front in the NCAA. However, it is not just the defensive line that can derail an offensive drive, it’s also the linebacker core.

“People want to talk about their line, and they are the best in the country, but it is not just those four,” Litton said. “You know they have guys behind them that if the quarterback steps up, that linebacker is ready to come hit you in the mouth. They are ready to go. Their mic is ready to go. He is a big solid, thick guy. He can run north and south, but definitely east and west. That’s the difference between him and other linebackers we might play or that we have played.”

Kyle Curley can be contacted at [email protected]

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