Herd to face Colonels in first football game of 2020

The Marshall University football team is just one of a few programs kicking off the 2020 college football season this weekend a little differently.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it forced many college football teams to cancel, postpone and reschedule their seasons.

The Herd will be facing the Eastern Kentucky University Colonels Saturday, Sept. 5 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Because of the constant changes and to assure the health and safety for all fans, players, coaches, personnel and media, face masks and social distancing of six feet will be required throughout the stadium. There will also be reduced capacity.

For the Herd, redshirt freshman Grant Wells has been named the starting quarterback. The Charleston, West Virginia native is the first in-state quarterback to start for Marshall since Mark Zban on Sept. 16, 1995 against Georgia Southern.

“It was a really long process. I had to battle all through camp,” Wells said. “I’m ready to play finally. It’s been a while since I’ve actually played a game that meant something. I’m stoked. I’m ready to get out there and start playing. I’ve tried to get mentally prepared throughout all camp and even last year, I was ready to play. Certainly, this year, I’ve been getting mentally prepared to go out there and show Marshall fans what all we’ve been practicing for.”

Herd head coach Doc Holliday announced this week’s captains are Sheldon Evans, Alex Mollette, Tavante Beckett and Nazeeh Johnson.

“We’re excited to get ready to go tee things up this Saturday against an Eastern Kentucky team that came in here a couple years ago,” Holliday said. “They got a lot of good players. It’ll be a challenge for us. Our team is excited and looking forward to (it).”

Marshall is finished 8-5 overall and lost to Central Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl in 2019. Five of the Herd’s players were all named to first teams (offense- offensive lineman Cain Madden, defense- linebacker Tavante Beckett and defensive back Nazeeh Johnson, and special teams-punt returner Talik Keaton) Conference USA Preseason Football Awards. Redshirt junior running back Brenden Knox was named the 2020 C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. 

Eastern Kentucky is coming off a 7-5 season in 2019 and now have a new head coach, Walt Wells. Seven of EKU’s players were named to the Phil Steele Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference Team. Running back Alonzo Booth and offensive lineman Tucker Schroeder were named first team.

Marshall leads the all-time series against the Colonels 11-8-1. The last time the two teams met was in 2018 when the Herd won 32-16 in Huntington.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET and will be aired live on ESPN Saturday.

Taylor Huddleston can be contacted at [email protected].