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Marshall football to face Virginia Tech in Blacksburg

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Marshall football to face Virginia Tech in Blacksburg

Junior wide receiver Obi Obialo celebrates a touchdown reception in Marshall’s game against Middle Tennessee. Obialo is one of Marshall’s most productive receivers.

Junior wide receiver Obi Obialo celebrates a touchdown reception in Marshall’s game against Middle Tennessee. Obialo is one of Marshall’s most productive receivers.

Richard Crank

Junior wide receiver Obi Obialo celebrates a touchdown reception in Marshall’s game against Middle Tennessee. Obialo is one of Marshall’s most productive receivers.

Richard Crank

Richard Crank

Junior wide receiver Obi Obialo celebrates a touchdown reception in Marshall’s game against Middle Tennessee. Obialo is one of Marshall’s most productive receivers.

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The Marshall University football team (8-3) looks to add one more win to their regular season record as the Herd travels to Blacksburg, Virginia, to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies (5-6) Saturday at noon at Lane Stadium.

“Offensively they will be a handful, and on defense they are going to force you to throw the ball and make some plays,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “We are anxious to play and see what our guys can do.”

The matchup was originally not on either team’s schedule, but due to canceled contests Sept. 15, both teams were given the opportunity to play a 12th game. While Marshall is already bowl eligible, the Hokies have a chance to become eligible with a win Saturday.

It will be the 13th meeting between the two teams, with Virginia Tech winning the last eight. The last time the two teams met, Virginia Tech won 29-21 in triple overtime at Lane Stadium in 2013. Throughout the series Marshall has never scored more than 21 points on the Hokies defense.

Virginia Tech’s defense has only three returning starters and has seen 11 different players make their first career start this season. Sophomore linebacker Rayshard Ashby leads the Hokies with 85 total tackles and ranks fourth in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) with 8.5 tackles per game.

Ashby has help on defense with redshirt senior defensive lineman Ricky Walker, who registered seven tackles, two tackles for a loss and a forced fumble during last week’s win over the University of Virginia.

On offense, the Hokies are starting redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Willis, who has played the last eight games in place of an injured redshirt sophomore Josh Jackson. Willis has completed 57.4 percent of his passes while throwing for 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions giving him a 130.9 pass efficiency rating. He also ranks fifth in the ACC in passing yards per game (218.5).

Willis has several weapons, starting with redshirt sophomore Damon Hazelton who is averaging 67.7 receiving yards per game. Hazelton is a transfer from Ball State, and his eight touchdown catches are tied for most in the ACC.  At running back, senior Steven Peoples is the Hokies’ leading rusher with 682 yards and five touchdowns.

For the Herd, the defense has not allowed a 100-yard individual rusher this season. Junior linebacker Omari Cobb is one of eight players in college football with at least 50 tackles, four sacks, one interception, and a defensive touchdown. Cobb acknowledged that the added game is a great opportunity for the team.

“It’s another game and another opportunity for us to go out there and compete for another win,” Cobb said. “It’s exciting that we get another game back in the regular season.”

Marshall’s defense ranks sixth in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 100.5 yards per game. Redshirt junior safety Malik Gant has nine tackles for loss and two interceptions. Gant is tied for sixth nationally in tackles for a loss by a defensive back.

On offense for the Herd, redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green has thrown a touchdown pass in eight consecutive games. Green has thrown for 2018 yards and fourteen touchdowns so far this season, with nine interceptions.

Green has help from redshirt senior wide receiver Tyre Brady who had five receptions for 45 yards and two touchdowns during last week’s win over FIU. Brady has 890 total receiving yards and nine touchdowns this season. Freshman running back Brenden Knox made his first career start versus the Panthers, where he totaled 109 rushing yards, making it his third consecutive game leading the team in rushing yards.

A Marshall win would be the first against Virginia Tech since 1940 and would prevent the Hokies from becoming bowl eligible, snapping a 25-year streak for the Hokies.

Morgan Griffith can be contacted at [email protected]

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