Chuck Landon: Herd needs another trend-setting win
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — One streak down, one to go.
Doc Holliday is going to hate to hear this, but he’s going to have to grin and bear it.
Marshall finally ended its ponderous 0-for-Texas football streak last Saturday with a 54-51 double-overtime win over Rice in Houston, breaking an 0-for-8 skein.
Now, this Saturday the Herd can end an 0-for-Big Ten streak when Marshall takes on Purdue at 3:15 p.m. in Ross-Ade Stadium.
The current streak stands at 0-4 in the Big Ten’s favor.
So, can the Herd break two streaks in two weeks?
But the 0-for-Big Ten streak might be even tougher than 0-for-Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth and El Paso. That’s because Marshall hasn’t even been competitive against Big Ten opponents recently.
Remember when Marshall opened the 2010 season against No. 2 ranked Ohio State in the Horseshoe? It was ugly. Marshall’s Andre Snipes-Booker fumbled away the opening kickoff and the Buckeyes led, 14-0, after running only seven plays.
The Herd lost, 42-7, in Holliday’s head coaching debut without even scoring an offensive touchdown. MU’s only score came on Ahmed Shakoor 61-yard return of a blocked field goal.
Ohio State amassed 529 yards total offense and held Marshall to 44 yards rushing.
Then, there was Marshall’s visit to Wisconsin in 2008. The Badgers spotted the Herd a 14-0 lead, then scored 51 unanswered points. Wisconsin rolled up 487 yards total offense on 158 yards rushing and 329 yards passing, while Marshall managed 314 yards on 239 yards passing but only 75 yards rushing.
Besides the anemic running attack, quarterbacks Mark Cann and Brian Anderson combined to throw three interceptions.
That was a pair of drubbings.
But Marshall’s previous two forays into Big Ten country were competitive. In 2004, the Herd had Ohio State on the ropes until the Buckeyes staggered away with a 24-21 decision on a last-second 52-yard field goal.
This time the Herd mounted a potent running attack as Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 77 yards and Earl Charles added 72 yards and a touchdown. And to complete the turnaround, the Buckeyes managed only 79 yards rushing.
Then, there’s Marshall first-ever Big Ten matchup. The Herd played Michigan State on Sept. 9, 2000, in East Lansing, Mich. Besides a 10-10 deadlock at halftime, Marshall actually trailed only 20-17 with 8:33 remaining after sophomore quarterback Byron Leftwich tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to David Foye.
Michigan State eventually pulled away, 34-24, but Marshall gave a competitive account of itself. Again, the problem was the ground game. The Herd rushed for only 51 yards.
That has been the key ingredient in Marshall’s 0-for-Big Ten streak. The Herd has gotten pounded on the ground for 184.5 yards per game, while being held to only 80.0 rushing yards.
The total offense numbers are one-sided as well with the Big Ten averaging 463.0 yards to Marshall’s 270.3. Only the passing statistics are fairly competitive with Marshall averaging 190.3 yards to the Big Ten’s 278.5 yards.
The end result?
Big Ten teams’ average winning margin against Marshall is a whopping 37.8 points to 16.5. That’s three touchdowns.
So, can Marshall, as a 15.5-point underdog, even those statistics and break the 0-for-Big Ten streak against Purdue?
I doubt it.
It looks like more of the same with a Purdue running attack overwhelming Marshall’s holey rush defense. Then, defensively, look for the Boilermakers’ impressive front four to stuff the Herd’s lightweight running backs.
Purdue will win, 37-17.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.