HUNTINGTON — With many players returning from the 2017 team, it wasn’t hard for Marshall University football players to remember what happened to the Thundering Herd last season against Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida.Marshall turned the ball over four times and the Owls won, 30-25, in a game that knocked the Herd out of contention for a Conference USA East Division title.
Three of those four turnovers were interceptions by FAU safety Jalen Young, who will once again be on the field when the Herd (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) and Owls (3-3, 1-1) line up at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Huntington.
“You take away those four turnovers in that particular game and we probably had a chance to win,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said.
One of the major issues for the Herd in 2018 has been turnovers, which has been a focal point of the Marshall coaching staff all week.
Marshall has committed 15 turnovers through six games this season — an average of 2.5 per game. That gives the opposition additional possessions while taking potential points off the field for the Herd.
“We were coming off of three weeks in a row where we committed 11 turnovers,” Marshall offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey said. “When you
brea k that down, that’s a chance at 77 points there that aren’t on the board and hurt us. It put our defense in a bad situation as well.”
Turnovers not only flip the field, but give the opposition additional possessions, which gives them a chance to wear down the Herd defense that has performed well under the adverse conditions following turnovers throughout the year.
Considering Florida Atlantic’s offense is based largely off the strength of a rushing attack that grinds on the opposition those additional snaps from turnovers become additionally demanding on a defense, which means the emphasis for the Herd offense to eliminate mistakes is that much more important to having success Saturday.
The Herd offense scored 42 at Old Dominion and 35 against Miami (Ohio) when the team turned the ball over one time or fewer.
Last week, Marshall eclipsed the 500-yard plateau against Old Dominion while establishing balance in both the run and the pass en route to a 42-20 win that proved to be its best offensive performance of the season.
Holliday said last week’s effor t br i ngs momentum and the Herd needs to have another clean performance if it is to emerge victorious.
“I think this time last week, we were talking about the one thing we have to do is eliminate turnovers,” Holliday said.
“That was one thing we did at the ODU game. I think we were plus-one in that game, as far as turnover margin is concerned. Playing a team like FAU, we better be plus in the turnover margin or you probably aren’t going to have a shot to win.”
Marshall’s turnover issues have trumped the fact that the defense is among the upper echelon of FBS in creating turnovers.
Ma rsha ll has forced 1 2 turnovers this season — an average of two per game. That figure ranks 25th nationally.
The defense’s ability to offset Marshall’s turnover issues has helped the Herd stay in the win column and in the C-USA East Division race.
As the Herd gets set for its toughest conference test to date, Holliday and Cramsey’s goal is for the Herd to not fumble or throw away its hopes of a division title.
FAU (3-3, 1-1) AT MARSHALL (4-2, 2-1)
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington
TV: Stadium on Facebook
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM
Source: The Associated Press