Eli Neal named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week

Playing an integral role in dominating Louisiana Tech’s ground attack, sophomore linebacker Eli Neal was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week, the conference announced Monday.

It is the third time this season that a Marshall player has earned the honor. Fellow linebacker Tavante Beckett has won the award the other two times, but this time it was Neal, who keeps the award within the Marshall linebacking core.

Neal recorded seven total tackles (three solo) with one tackle for loss and his first career interception. Neal exhibited his ability to read the defense, fly downhill and stuff running plays.

His interception, which came on Louisiana Tech’s first offensive play, was key to setting up Marshall’s first touchdown of the game.

After the Thundering Herd offense failed to convert a fourth down, the Bulldogs took over, but it did not last long. Just as Louisiana quarterback Luke Anthony was letting the ball fly, defensive end Darius Hodge hit his arm, disrupting the trajectory of the ball and allowing Neal to pick it off.

Another key play made by Neal came at the end of the first half. With four seconds until halftime, Louisiana Tech had the ball on the one-yard line with the chance of making the score 14-10.

The Bulldogs called an inside run and Neal’s gap came free. He made first contact with the running back while defensive tackle Jamare Edwards stuffed the ball carrier before he could cross the goal line. With both Neal and Edwards’ effort, Marshall kept it a 14-3 game.

Although Neal was an individual standout, he was also an exemplification of the bigger picture – Marshall’s defensive dominance in the run game.

The Thundering Herd defense held the Bulldogs to a total of seven rushing yards at 0.3 yards per carry.

On the season, Marshall is giving up only 68.5 rushing yards per game, which is good for third best in the country behind Georgia and Pittsburgh.