After a commanding victory over the Navy Midshipmen, the Thundering Herd looks to return to Joan C. Edwards Stadium to take on the NC Central Eagles this Saturday. Both teams enter the contest with a 1-0 record.
For NC Central, this will be their first full season of football since the pandemic. 644 days passed between the conclusion of the 2019 season and the beginning of this season with no contests played by the Eagles in 2020. NC Central closed the drought with a win over Alcorn State 23-14, drawing 1 million viewers on ESPN for the FCS school. They are projected to finish third in the MEAC.
Marshall, of course, enters the contest following a 42-point win over Navy, the largest margin of victory in a home opener in Thundering Herd History since joining the FBS. Despite having 9 players who started their first game for the Herd last Saturday, the Herd took a commanding lead early and did not let up. The Herd is still the favorite to repeat as winners of the CUSA East division.
Entering this contest, experience may be the storyline for both teams. Marshall, a team with nearly a dozen brand new faces, is also filling big shoes. The loss of Darius Hodge, Tavante Beckett, Josh Ball, and Brenden Knox to the NFL forces the Herd to fill those star-player roles. However, it seems that there may be players ready to do so. Eli Neal, now reigning Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week, recorded 3 sacks and 11 tackles against Navy, showcasing his prowess as a defensive force. Offensively, Rasheen Ali recorded 4 rushing touchdowns against the Midshipmen, showing that the holes may already be filled.
As for NC Central, most of its team returns. The team has 24 players who have already earned their undergraduate degrees, including 10 graduate transfers. The Eagles are experienced. Redshirt Senior running back Isaiah Totten ranks seventh on NC Central’s career rushing list and looks to potentially break the record this season. He needs less than 900 yards to do so.
An interesting player to look out for for the Eagles is sophomore running back Latrell “Mookie” Collier. A former standout recruit in West Virginia, Collier transferred from Marshall to NC Central following his freshman year. Collier led the Eagles with 3 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns in 2019, standing out as a dual threat. Prior to his time at Marshall, Collier was a Kennedy Award winner, given to the most outstanding player in West Virginia.
This is the first meeting between NC Central and Marshall, a chance for both coaches to set the trend for future matchups. For Marshall, Head coach Charles Huff looks to continue a dominant opening campaign in his first season with the Herd. For NC Central, the tides are slowly shifting as head coach Trei Oliver enters his second season at the helm and his 22nd season coaching collegiately.
Kickoff is set for 6:30 P.M. in Huntington, with both teams aiming to take a commanding 2-0 record to start their season.