Five points to ponder
1. How will Marshall react after a disappointing loss to Ohio?
In season’s past, there would’ve been a likelihood that the Herd could have a massive hangover in the following contest due to the team’s youth and inability to get over the loss quickly. However, this is a different Marshall team when it comes to leadership. With many seniors and experienced juniors serving as leaders, it shouldn’t be as daunting to put last week aside. Besides, Virginia Tech is a strong opponent and Marshall’s entire focus will have to be on the Hokies to earn a tough win in Blacksburg.
2. In terms of Marshall’s offense, how will the Herd attack Virginia Tech?
Upon watching the Virginia Tech-East Carolina matchup, the Hokies did a terrific job of getting pressure on ECU quarterback Shane Carden early and the end result was Carden throwing off his back foot for the rest of the game. He ended up with three interceptions and was also sacked for a critical safety late in the game. Marshall will look to establish the run like it always has, but the passing game will consist of short, quick throws that don’t allow the defense to get Rakeem Cato out of rhythm.
3. What will be the key to the game for the Herd defense?
The Herd has a big problem on its hands this week. As in, 6-foot-6, 254 pounds worth of problem. Logan Thomas is one of the top quarterbacks in the nation and just because he hasn’t been asked to run much this year under new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler, that doesn’t mean he won’t. I’d especially look for him to take off with more prevalence this weekend, considering the Hokies struggled mightily in the rushing attack against East Carolina. Marshall has to gang-tackle Thomas and force the Hokies to be one-dimensional.
4. Who is a Marshall player that could lead a potential upset of Virginia Tech?
Of course, the onus will fall on what Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato does, but one player that is a matchup problem for the Hokies is Marshall speedster receiver Devon Smith. Last week, Smith was targeted five times by Cato, catching four passes that went for gains of 10, 43, 24 and 11. With Virginia Tech likely to bring pressure, Cato will look to get the ball out quickly and Smith could find himself in space against the Hokies’ defensive backs. That could be a distinct advantage.
5. Ultimately, what will decide the game?
Turnovers. Much like last week. Marshall’s offense will gain yardage. The thing Virginia Tech does so well is force miscues. Virginia Tech’s offense isn’t strong enough to stay with the Herd, as long as Marshall isn’t turning the ball over and allowing a short-field for the Hokies. That’s something that didn’t happen last week, and it’s the reason Marshall came away with a loss. Virginia Tech is exponentially better than Ohio’s defense, too, so the Herd needed to grow up a lot in a week to get the job done.
— Grant Traylor
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