Marshall football team’s performance through first three games of the season

More stories from Bradley Heltzel

The Marshall University football team’s 45-7 win against Norfolk State University Saturday marked the first quarter of the Herd’s 2015 season with the team having played three of its 12 total games.
With 25 percent of the schedule complete, it’s an optimal juncture to examine which aspects of the team have invoked a jocund tone from Herd nation and which have inspired the bandying of whatever alcoholic beverage presides in the area.
Although the Herd offense has fluctuated from a blurred image of the Rakeem Cato era to a severely transmogrified version on a series-by-series basis, the defense has been consistently effective, particularly in pass coverage, where it has not only stalled opponents but also displayed its own playmaking capabilities.
The defense has allowed an average of 172.3 pass yards per game, ranking 31st in the country and top in the conference. In addition, the team’s six interceptions is tied for seventh nationally.
Corey Tindal has been the Herd’s top cover man this season, repeatedly leaving receivers empty handed while totaling four pass break-ups. Taj Letman has patrolled the deep middle as the team’s high safety, confiscating three interceptions in the process, which is tied for second in the country. And then there was that thing Tiquan Lang did in the team’s opener against Purdue, when he had two pick-sixes to go along with 17 tackles.
Another reputable component for the Herd this season has been the performance of the team’s kicking specialists. Punter Tyler Williams has regularly approached the stratosphere level of the earth’s atmosphere on his towering punts as his 45.3 yard average is in the top 25 nationally, highlighted by a 65-yard bomb against Norfolk State Saturday.
Kickoff specialist Amoreto Curraji showcased his own big leg this season with 12 of his 19 kickoffs resulting in touchbacks, while placekicker Nick Smith fortified a position that was a major question mark throughout the offseason. Smith has not missed a kick all season, going 4-4 on field goals and 12-12 on extra points.
Smith and the aforementioned Tindal have been two members of a host of new starters that have played well for the Herd thus far in 2015. Linebacker Evan McKelvey has responded from the season-ending leg injury he suffered in 2014 to lead the team in tackles this season with 29, showcasing his range in the process. McKelvey’s linebacker comrade, Raheim Husky also deserves praise after leading the team with 10 tackles and two tackles for loss last week versus Norfolk State.
Offensively, center Michael Selby and right guard Jordan Dowrey have effectively filled the voids left by their predecessors along the line, prying open the A-gap on multiple breakaway runs by running back Devon Johnson.
The encouraging facets of the team, however, have been belied by liabilities, such as penalties and turnovers, likely eliciting head coach Doc Holliday to scour WebMD for treatment options relating to high blood pressure.
Marshall’s nine turnovers are tied for the fifth most in the FBS as the team has thrown four interceptions and lost five fumbles. The Herd has also seen its fair share of yellow laundry litter the field this season, committing 27 penalties for 264 yards, tied for ninth and seventh in the nation, respectively.
The vast accumulation of penalties have placed the Herd behind in the down-and-distance throughout the season thus far, and its stagnant passing attack hasn’t been able to atone for such mistakes.
The Herd’s passing game at least managed to endorse the ideology that receivers are indeed occupants of the team’s roster against Norfolk State Saturday after the receivers group totaled just 189 yards and no touchdowns in the first two games. Quarterback Chase Litton was more zealous in terms of throwing downfield and outside the numbers against Norfolk State than Michael Birdsong had been in his two starts, but the fact that Norfolk State is an FCS team cannot be overlooked when forming future expectations for the team’s aerial attack.
Marshall will begin the remaining three-quarters of its schedule at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Bradley Heltzel can be contacted at [email protected].