Marshall – just the name strikes fear into opposing football teams!
Not really, I just wanted a dramatic opening. But Marshall isn’t a program to be taken lightly no matter what their current record is – which stands at 1-2 with big scoring losses to Akron (65-38) and then Louisville (59-28) both at home. Their singular win is against Morgan State also at home.
So Pitt will be their first away game of the season. In normal times we’d think that an opposing team would face a lot of screaming Pitt fans in Heinz Field but I wonder about that for this weekend. Pitt is also coming off two high scoring losses and there may not be all that many butts in the seats – especially given that the game starts at 7:30 pm.
Marshall’s Thundering Herd resides in Conference USA and while many Pitt fans may look down their noses at this it is my firm belief that Marshall shouldn’t be taken lightly. As a matter of fact while most of us looked at the beginning part of the schedule and saw three ‘big games’ I have been writing that there are four – because Marshall always seem to annually upset a team that didn’t take them seriously enough.
Last season they went 10-3 and beat a few teams that oddsmakers said they weren’t supposed to starting of with a convincing win against Big 10’s Purdue and ending with a bowl win against Conference USA’s UCONN. Ex-WVU DC Doc Holliday is the head coach there and has racked up an impressive record of 51-30.
On paper this should be an easy win… but personally I have no firm handle on what this Pitt team is all about this season. We seem to be great at the run with 250 yards per game and that is mainly because we are breaking big runs on jet sweeps every so often…but are only averaging 5.0 ypc which means we are getting stopped at or behind the LOS rather often.
We are scoring 36 ppg yet are giving up 32 and have a 2-2 record. In our two losses we have given up 82 total points and scored 77 – but still lost the games. Get that – we averaged 38.5 points and lost both games.
Here are the Marshall stats through their three games. Note that their scoring got a great bump from a 62-0 win over Morgan State. However in their two losses against the better teams they still scored an average of 33 points. They will move the ball on us and I think our pass defense, while it will be a bit better, will be tested all day and found wanting.
|Marshall Team Stats – Through games 09/29/2016|
|Team Passing Efficiency||32||153.25|
|Passing Yards Allowed||122||323.7|
|Team Passing Efficiency Defense||108||153.45|
The Herd has an excellent QB in SO Chase Litton. He’s an accurate passer who I think will light us up… especially if we shared our game film with the Marshall staff – BTW that is voluntary and some schools won’t do it (here is an interesting article about that).
Here are his career passing stats. Note that he was sacked only 16 time last season and threw 23 TDs to 8 INTs. He ended up with a seasonal
This season he is off to a gangbusters start also – but remember he played his first game against Morgan State. We need to get INTs against this kid – he threw three just last week (against 4 TDs). But he’s averaging 16.0 yards per completion with a 181.7 rating which puts him and that is pretty unnerving. He’d be ranked #7th nationally had he played in all their games.
Here is the official Marshall football program’s Twitter Account. It is interesting that they put more faith in our passing game than our OC Matt Canada does. Take a look at these:
Seems like they are either misinformed or are trying to lull the Panther kids to sleep. I had to laugh at that second one which is what every one of us Pitt fans have been saying for some time. I don’t know haw ‘great’ it is now but it’s still very good if we can keep the bigger programs from stealing kids right off our own campus.
Marshall’s run defense is suspect but I think Canada needs to start this next game with a normal run/pass mixture (60/40) just to get an idea of how we can play when the passing game is used at the beginning of the game and not just later in the 2nd half.
If Peterman can’t get some 1st downs with his arm (and not just on 3rd down plays) then put Stocker in sooner or later. After this match the ‘practice’ games are done and we have the ACC schedule in front of us.
Pat Narduzzi will use this Marshall game as an audition for his recruits especially if we get up but a 14+ margin in the 1st half. He is planning on doing that in the defensive backfield with FRs Coleman and possibly Hamlin anyway – and he was impressed with LB Saleem Brightwell’s game last week. So even with Mike Caprara’s return from injury I think he’ll be sat down after a while so that Brightwell can get more playing time.
As to the outcome of tomorrows game? Who knows? I don’t pretend to have a crystal Ball… actually I do pretend that, but I think this could be one of the surprise games of the year and not in a good way. I’ve gone with either my gut (PSU win – wrong) or my heart (OSU loss – wrong) and (NC loss – wrong) so I’m going back to my gut and saying we win a close game. But I’ll not be that suprised or shocked if it goes the other way:
Pitt – 35 Marshall – 31