Herd faces second road test at La Tech
By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON – Marshall showed no rust last Saturday night in a dominating 38-14 road win at Western Kentucky, taking a 28-0 lead into the locker room at halftime and going deep into the bench in the second half.
The Herd (4-0, 1-0) hopes to continue the road magic this week as it makes its longest trip this season, facing off against Louisiana Tech Saturday evening in Ruston, Louisiana.
The Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0) beat UTEP 31-17 at home last week. They’ve won eight straight at Joe Aillet Stadium.
Last week’s win over WKU was proof that redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells is ready for any challenge, home or away. Wells came out throwing on the game’s first play, hitting Broc Thompson on a 30-yard completion. One play later, Brenden Knox scampered for 45 yards for the first of his three touchdown runs. Knox ran for 107 yards in the game on the same day he turned 22. The three touchdown runs were a career-best for Knox.
Wells threw for 162 yards in the contest, completing over 75 percent of his throws. Thompson had a career-high 94 receiving yards against the Hilltoppers.
Marshall’s defense is making things easy for Wells and the Herd offense. Marshall is allowing just seven points per game, tied with Air Force for best in the country.
Marshall’s defense has also not given up over 100 rushing yards in a game this season.
Herd Senior Linebacker Tavante Beckett had another special night against WKU with three fumble recoveries, one of which he returned 38 yards for a touchdown. For his effort, Beckett won his 2nd Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week honor. The three fumble recoveries tied a single-game school record.
This week’s challenge will be tougher than last week’s at WKU as Louisiana Tech has gotten off to a hot start in Conference USA with wins over Southern Miss and UTEP. The Bulldogs only loss came in non-conference play, a 45-14 loss at nationally-ranked BYU on October 2nd.
Louisiana Tech is led on offense by graduate transfer quarterback Luke Anthony, who has ten touchdown passes in the Bulldogs six games. That touchdown total is ranked fifth nationally. Anthony’s top targets are sophomores Wayne Toussant and Smoke Harris along with junior Griffin Hebert
Senior running back Israel Tucker is a threat as both a runner and receiver. He had two touchdown catches in last week’s UTEP victory.
Defensively, the Bulldogs, like Marshall, take pride in creating turnovers. They’ve forced a turnover in 34 of their last 36 games and recorded interceptions in eight of their last nine contests.
Top performers on defense are freshman linebacker Tyler Grubbs, who leads the Bulldogs with 42 tackles this season, and junior defensive end Milton Williams, who has picked up 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in his last ten games.
Saturday’s game kicks off at 6pm EDT and will be shown nationally by CBS Sports Network.
Marshall added some future offensive line depth this past weekend as former Huntington High all-state offensive lineman Billy Ross announced he’s leaving North Carolina and coming home to play for the Thundering Herd. Ross will be eligible next season and should have two years of eligibility remaining.
He says the decision to trade Carolina Blue for Kelly Green and White wasn’t difficult.
“When I entered the transfer portal, they (Marshall) hit me up within five minutes of me being in there,” Ross said. “When I knew I was transferring, I just knew I was going there. As soon as they called, I gave them my work that it was where I’d go.
Ross started 11 games for UNC in 2018 and saw action in nine more games last season as a reserve.