HUNTINGTON — Last week, Marshall’s season got off to a hot start as the Thundering Herd went on the road and defeated Navy, 49-7.
This week, the Herd prepares for the first home game of the Charles Huff era against FCS member NC Central in a 6:30 p.m. matchup at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The hope for Huff is that Marshall continues its string of success while improving on its consistency and eliminating mistakes against the Eagles.
“Things didn’t go perfect in the game from a coaching perspective — a lot of things we’ve got to get cleaned up — but I think it was a really good start,” Huff said.
Part of Marshall’s strong start was the way the Herd took advantage of its early possessions to put Navy at a disadvantage.
On the first play from scrimmage, Marshall set the tone with a 47-yard pass from Grant Wells to Talik Keaton and the Herd was off and running from there.
“Start fast,” Keaton said. “That’s what our coaches preach every day.”
Less than two minutes, later, Marshall running back Rasheen Ali was in the end zone for the first of two first-quarter touchdowns that produced a 14-0 lead.
“I thought we did really well with the tempo and got the defense on their heels,” Wells said of the Navy win. “That was one of our keys to the game.”
With North Carolina Central being an opponent from a lower division, the one thing that could hinder the Herd is letting the Eagles build confidence early.
Therefore, the goal for Saturday is to again start fast and set the tone early in the game while making NC Central play from behind.
N.C. Central won’t be intimidated in that scenario, however, so Marshall cannot afford to let down if a lead is established.
The Eagles trailed 7-0 early as Alcorn State scored on its first drive and also trailed 14-13 after three quarters before making the necessary plays down the stretch to earn the win.
One of the biggest plays came from cornerback Brandon Codrington, who also serves as the return specialist for NC Central.
After NC Central got a field goal to take the lead, Codrington turned a defensive stop into points when he fielded a punt and returned it 77 yards for a score to put the Eagles up two scores.
Special teams were a vital part of each team’s success last week. While NC Central got Codrington’s punt return, Marshall had a blocked field goal and a blocked punt — the first time they’ve achieved both in the same game since a road win at FIU in 2018.
NC Central quarterback Davius Richard is also a dual threat for the Eagles, who can keep plays alive and gain yardage in different ways — a contrast from Navy, who was one-dimensional last week.
Richard finished the win over Alcorn State 16 of 25 for 184 yards while rushing for 64 yards.
NC Central’s offense was balanced, as well, finishing with 207 yards rushing and 184 through the air.
Marshall’s defense did a good job of swarming to the football against Navy while getting to the quarterback on obvious passing downs.
The Herd’s nine sacks were the most ever by a Navy opponent and places the Herd tied for No. 1 in FBS with Missouri after one week.
If the Herd is to again force passing scenarios for NC Central, it will need to win the battle of first and second down, which means limiting Richard and running backs Jordan Freeman and Isaiah Totten.
In addition to the aggressive tempos for the Herd on the field, the atmosphere surrounding Joan C. Edwards Stadium should also be more electric than in years past.
Marshall is closing off 20th Street — known as Thunder Street on game-days — for street vendors, live music and an increased tailgate experience.
It is advised for fans to plan properly for travel as 20th Street between 3rd and 5th Avenues will be closed off four hours before kickoff.
There will also be fireworks and pyrotechnics included during the game, as well as a live deejay — DJ Herd That — who will take care of in-game music.