HUNTINGTON — There have been times this season where Marshall quarterback Grant Wells has struggled with consistency and ball security.
Such was the case again on Saturday when Marshall did not score a touchdown in more than 59 minutes against Old Dominion’s defense.
Wells finished 30 of 46 for 299 yards with two touchdowns — his last two throws — and two interceptions.
When asked about Wells’ performance in Saturday’s 20-13 come-from-behind overtime win, however, Marshall head coach Charles Huff did not flinch in speaking of his quarterback from Charleston.
There wasn’t much talk of Wells’ mistakes; instead, Huff focused on Wells’ demeanor.
“The kid is going to battle,” Huff said. “Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. Tom Brady makes mistakes. Roger Staubach made some mistakes. But I’m going to back him. I’ve got his back.”
For stability purposes, such revelations can often be coachspeak, but an on-field gesture following the win showed Huff’s genuine nature in reference to Wells.
As Huff finished his on-field interview and gave way to Wells to speak with television crews, Huff stopped his signal-caller to congratulate him. WCHS-TV’s C.J. Harvey caught audio of Huff’s exchange with Wells.
“I’m proud of you,” Huff said to Wells. “That’s why I love you, man. Way to be tough.”
Wells said those words from his coach mean everything as he takes the field and leads the offense.
“It certainly puts a lot of confidence in me as a quarterback and leader of this offense that I have some guy like that who will be with me, no matter what,” Wells said. “I can’t really put into words what that means.”
It was, indeed, a tough day for Wells early as he took some shots from the Old Dominion defense and had to settle for many underneath throws.
However, it was also a game which could signal a turning point for Wells as he found a way to get it done late for the Herd.
“I think we did a really good job of staying in it, staying mentally ready and believing in each other,” Wells said.
In the three-game losing streak, Marshall’s offense struggled in late-game losses with East Carolina, Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee, even though Wells nearly led the Herd back in the loss to the Blue Raiders, too.
This time, Wells completed the comeback mission, and his best three throws of the contest were his final three, which led to the Marshall win.
With Marshall trailing 13-6 and hope waning, Wells bought time and uncorked a deep ball that speedy receiver Willie Johnson worked across field for, giving the Herd a 52-yard score that tied the game up with 33 seconds left.
After Old Dominion elected to go on defense first, Wells’ first pass in overtime was true as he rolled to his right and sent a seed to Shadeed Ahmed for a 22-yard touchdown right at the pylon that proved to be the game-winner.
“It was a great play call by the coaches,” Ahmed said. “Seeing how they’d been playing the whole game and just saving that for the end of the game was great. Great blocking, great throw by Grant. Everything just worked out perfect.”
While his last two passes resulted in touchdowns, it may have been a third-down completion prior to the touchdown pass to Johnson that was his best effort of the game.
On a third-and-9, Old Dominion brought a blitz and running back Rasheen Ali sold out to pick up a free defender. Ali’s block allowed Wells to step up in the pocket and past another blitzer before he stepped into a throw that Ahmed caught on the sidelines for a 14-yard gain and a key first down on the ODU side of the field.
“We’d been working scrambling drills throughout practice and it felt good that Grant seen me open and executed, just like we were at practice,” Ahmed said.
Huff said the throw showed the level of mental toughness Wells has, no matter the situation.
“I love that kid. I got his back,” Huff said. “He’s our quarterback and I’m going to ride with him. You saw what he could do today. That’s what happens, man. Great players step up in big-time moments.”