The Marshall Football team dominated the Navy Midshipmen in all three phases of the game on Saturday afternoon, in route to a 49-7 victory season opening win. Charles Huff is the first year Marshall head coach to win the first game on the road.
“It was a good day for us”, Huff said. “There is a lot of work to do, there are some spots we need to get cleaned up, but overall, I am proud of how we performed.”
Redshirt freshman running back Rasheen Ali scored on a two-yard run to finish a 9 play 75-yard drive a little over two minutes and 30 seconds into the game. That opening drive set the tone for Marshall’s offense the rest of the way and helped Marshall take a 21-0 lead at the half. Six of Marshall’s seven touchdowns came on the ground, with Ali running 59 yards and four touchdowns and redshirt junior Sheldon Evans ran for two touchdowns. The passing attack propelled the Thundering Herd’s offense down the field. Quarterback Grant Wells threw for 333 yards and averaged 17 yards per pass.
“He was really good today,” Huff said. “Once Grant gets in a rhythm he gets better, and I think we saw that today.”
Redshirt sophomore Talik Keaton led the team in receiving yards with 100 on five receptions. Redshirt sophomore Corey Gammage had a career in receptions (7) and receiving yards (94).
Navy had no answer for Marshall’s defense. The Midshipmen did not score on any of its six first half drives. The first half stops included a pair of special teams plays. Defensive lineman TJ Johnson blocked a field goal and safety Naquan Renalds blocked a punt. Finally, the Midshipmen broke the shutout using a 14 play 82-yard drive, that Sophomore Quarterback Xavier Arline capped off with a quarterback sneak from a yard out to make it 28-7 early in the fourth quarter. The Herd would pile on three more touchdowns late following Navy’s only score of the game.
Defensively, Marshall got stellar performances from several players. Linebacker Abraham Beauplan recorded 13 tackles, Linebacker Eli Neal had 11 tackles and a career best three sacks and Defensive end Sam Burton made nine tackles to go along with a sack and a half. “We stayed disciplined and let the play come to us,”, Burton said. “We did that and everything else fell into place.”
As a unit, the Herd defense had 13 tackles for loss, nine sacks and two interceptions. “The defense kind of played off our tempo,” Huff said. “When you start seeing points go up on the board, defensively you get a little bit more energy.”
Huff commends Marshall’s fan base for his team getting off to a great start, with the team playing in front of the opposing fans. “When we ran out of that tunnel, it felt like a home game,” Huff said. “It really calmed our guys down. The power of the Thundering Herd nation was on display.
The 42-point win for the Thundering Herd was its largest in program history, in a season opener against an FBS team. Marshall returns to the field Saturday evening when it welcomes NC Central for a 6:30 p.m. kick off.