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Chuck Landon: Marshall must beat team from Athens

Sep. 10, 2013 @ 07:20 AM

Marshall has something to prove.

To whom?

Ohio University's football program. The Bobcats' fans. The Thundering Herd's fans. And, mostly, Marshall's coaches and players have something to prove to themselves.

Namely, that the nearby rival from Athens, Ohio, can't continue to embarrass Marshall season after season.

All those aspects are on the line when Marshall visits Ohio at 8 p.m. Saturday in what is expected to be a sold-out Peden Stadium.

That's because the Bobcats have accomplished the unthinkable during the last two seasons. First, Ohio pummeled a very unprepared Marshall team, 44-7, in 2011 at home. But, then, the Bobcats turned the trick again in 2012, defeating the Herd, 27-24, in Edwards Stadium.

Two in a row.

Know how long it had been since Ohio won consecutive games against Marshall in this long series? Thirty-two years. It hadn't happened since the 1979 and '80 seasons.

But here's a more important question. How long has it been since Ohio defeated Marshall in three straight seasons? That hasn't happened since 1973-74-75.

That's the humiliation Marshall needs to avoid on Saturday.

How does the Herd accomplish that?

Here's a check list.

Establish a running attack.

Marshall's ground game has been non-existent against Ohio. In fact, the Herd hasn't scored a rushing touchdown in the last two games of the series. How anemic was MU's running attack against Ohio last season? So bad, while riding in an elevator with MU star quarterback Rakeem Cato on Monday, I asked if he knew who was Marshall's leading rusher in that game.

After Cato guessed Kevin Grooms, I pointed at the answer. It was Cato with a mere 32 yards on six carries.

Find a way to stop Tyler Tettleton.

The Herd has had no answer for Ohio's star quarterback. He hasn't been intercepted. He hasn't been sacked. He hasn't been contained.

In two games, Tettleton has completed 40 of 64 passes for 485 yards and six touchdowns, while also rushing for 88 yards and a TD on 16 attempts.

He has accounted for seven touchdowns, while Marshall as a team has scored four.

Cut down on turnovers.

Talk about self-inflicted wounds. MU has committed an astonishing nine turnovers in the two losses, including five interceptions and four lost fumbles. That's a recipe for defeat. Particularly since Ohio has committed only three turnovers.

Stop Ohio's grinding, ground game.

Ever seen a "Bobcat" machine move earth? Ohio has lived up to that nickname against MU. Ohio has averaged a whopping 53.5 rushing attempts in the two games, averaging 235 yards and keeping Marshall's offense off the field.

Ohio has had a 100-yard rusher in each of the last two games. Ryan Boykin had 130 yards and a TD on 25 carries in 2011 and Beau Blankenship rumbled for 102 yards on 30 carries in '12.

Visit the end zone more often.

Forget the lone touchdown in 2011. Even last season when MU had one of the most high-scoring offenses in the nation, the Herd managed only three touchdowns and just 24 points.

That's nearly 17 points below Marshall's scoring average of 40.9 points.

So, will MU prove it's no longer the same football program that has lost consecutive games to Ohio?

It had better.

The entire season hinges on it.

How will the Herd handle its first road game of the 2013 season?

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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