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Marshall running back Brenden Knox (20) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown as the Herd takes on Eastern Kentucky during an NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington.

Herd makes few mistakes in opening win over EKU

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON — None of Marshall’s players or coaches really knew what to expect when the team took the field on Saturday afternoon for the 2020 season opener.

As different as the year had been with all the distractions, it was expected that there would be a few hiccups.

There was a slight surprise on Saturday, though. There weren’t any hiccups.

Marshall played a clean opener with the offense racking up over 600 yards and the defense pitching a shutout in a 59-0 win over Eastern Kentucky in front of a limited but vocal crowd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

“We were trying to get everybody locked in, and I feel like we did just that,” Marshall defensive back Nazeeh Johnson said. “We came out locked in from the first drive — kickoff.”

Not only did Marshall put up impressive statistical numbers — 282 yards rushing, 345 yards passing, zero points allowed — but there were finer details that made Marshall head coach Doc Holliday happy as well.

Marshall did not turn the ball over on the afternoon, was not forced to punt in the win, and the Herd had just two penalties in the game.

That is a recipe for success, as Holliday spoke of after the win.

“You’re always concerned a little bit with how your team would come out because you haven’t played for so long, but I thought our kids came out and executed extremely well,” Holliday said. “Grant Wells, as a young quarterback, you want him to take care of the football, and we did that.”

Wells was at the center of the Herd’s offensive success, completing his first seven passes and establishing a rhythm that continued throughout his time on the field.

The day ended with a 307-yard passing performance in just over one half of action while moving the football around to get the Herd’s weapons involved.

“I don’t know if I quite imagined that it would turn out like this, but I’m just happy that all this preparation we’ve been going through since May has paid off,” Wells said.

One of the biggest takeaways for Holliday from Saturday may have been the cohesion of his team.

Offensive players saluting defensive performances, defensive guys praising the offense for the continued success that they’ve seen from preseason that translated to the game and a lot of good feelings following one of the Herd’s most convincing wins in recent history.

Johnson, who snagged the game’s lone turnover with a first-quarter interception, summed up the general feeling moving forward.

“It’s a new year and I really like these guys this year,” Johnson said.

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