NCF Nation: Darius Marshall

Three keys: Little Caesars Bowl

December, 26, 2009
12/26/09
12:00
PM ET
Marshall (6-6)

1. Run the ball: Marshall star running back Darius Marshall missed the last two games with a high ankle sprain, but should be back to 100 percent for the Little Caesars Bowl. Marshall is the team’s best running back, and going against a running defense that has been suspect at times, Marshall might be the spark the Thundering Herd need in this game.

2. Ignore coaching rumors: Marshall is playing this game with a lame-duck coaching staff, but it needs to focus on sending those coaches out on a high note. New head coach Doc Holliday has not yet said whether he’ll retain any of the current members of the coaching staff, so this could be an audition.

3. Contain Scott: Ohio quarterback Theo Scott has used the past couple of weeks to heal and should be healthy in this game. He has the ability to break contain and make plays with his feet, which could wreak havoc on a Herd defense that hasn’t been great against mobile quarterbacks. Marshall needs to spy Scott and force him to pass.

Ohio (9-4)

1. Comfy surroundings: One of the major advantages for the Bobcats in this game is that they played in this venue in the Mid-American Conference championship game a couple of weeks ago and won’t be awestruck by the size of it. Ohio didn’t win that game, but it seemed to get more comfortable as the game progressed.

2. Use Brazill: One of the most dangerous players on the field today will be receiver LaVon Brazill, who is not only the team’s second-leading receiver, but the best punt returner. Brazill already has three punt returns for touchdowns. He was banged-up in the MAC championship game, but said he’s ready to go. He should find success against a Marshall team that already has given up a punt return for a touchdown this season.

3. Watch the pass: While Marshall is better known for its running game, it does have a couple of receivers who could give Ohio fits in this game. Antavious Wilson and Aaron Dobson both have come on late this season and could prove troublesome. The Bobcats have been good against the pass most of this season and will need to draw on that today.
Marshall running back Darius Marshall told the coaching staff he feels good and will be evaluated during warmups on Saturday to see if he can play against SMU.

Marshall suffered a left ankle injury during last week’s 27-20 loss to Southern Miss and was used sparingly in practice this week.

Marshall is the team’s leading running back and really their best source of offense now that tight end Cody Slate has been lost for the season after suffering a torn ACL against Southern Miss. Both players watched the fourth quarter of that game on crutches from the sidelines.

Redshirt freshman Martin Ward is expected to see playing time against SMU. He’s played sparingly all season, but is considered to be a talented running back. He's had 34 carries for 125 yards so far this season.

This game has implications for both teams. SMU is currently in first place in Conference USA’s West Division and needs to win out to claim the title. Marshall still needs a win for bowl eligibility and likely needs to win its remaining two games to earn a bowl berth.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

1. Familiar foes: Missouri and Utah never met when current Wyoming coach Dave Christensen was the offensive coordinator, but Christensen used to spend a lot of time in Utah trading offensive plays with his good friend and former Utah offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. With the exception of some personnel tweaks, Utah’s offense hasn’t changed much.

2. A scary Halloween: Halloween has not been kind to Navy. The Midshipmen are 1-12-1 all-time on the holiday and the last win came against NC State in 1914. In all fairness, the Mids haven’t played a Halloween game since 1931 when they tied West Virginia Wesleyan 0-0.

3. It’s all about karma: During last year’s Troy-Louisiana-Monroe game, Troy suffered a safety, turned the ball over twice and missed three field goals, including the game-winning try that went off the crossbar. The loss to the Warhawks was the Trojans' only defeat in conference. The Trojans have to feel like they’re due some good karma this week.

4. Hungry like the Wolfe: UNLV might not be having a good season, but receiver Ryan Wolfe continues on a record-setting pace. Against New Mexico last week, Wolfe became the nation’s active leader in receptions with 270. He ranks 15th all-time, and if he notches just two catches against TCU this weekend, he’ll move into 13th all-time.

5. I’m Bear Woods: According to Troy media relations guru Ricky Hazel, mop sales have gone up in the Troy, Ala., area this week. Several fans visiting Movie Gallery Stadium for the contest between Troy and ULM have decided to dress up as Troy linebacker Bear Woods for Halloween. You'll have to see his picture to get the reference.

6. Ready for our close up: Marshall coach Mark Snyder called Sunday’s ESPN televised game against Central Florida “huge,” not only because it’s a big game for Conference USA, but also because both teams are the only football game on that night, which should help recruiting and the exposure of players such as running back Darius Marshall and tight end Cody Slate, who are up for national awards.

7. The race for the BCS: Both Boise State and TCU have games against subpar opponents this weekend who have combined for a 4-10 record this season. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous. Both teams have had their moments and could present a challenge if either the Frogs or Broncos don’t show up.

8. Keeping the faith: Idaho coach Robb Akey said he’d learn a lot about his team this week by the way they respond after a 70-45 shellacking by Nevada last week. Akey said the day after the game his team wasn’t moping and was anxious to get back in the win column. Not good news for a struggling Louisiana Tech team.

9. Rocky’s return: San Diego State defensive coordinator Rocky Long will meet his former team, New Mexico, for the first time this weekend and it’s a different team than the one he left. The Lobos are 0-7 and their coach, Mike Locksley, is back for his first game since being suspended. Both SDSU coach Brady Hoke and Locksley said this game wasn’t about Long, but who knows if the players will see it that way.

10. Keeping the streak alive: Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews has rushed for at least 100 yards in every game this season, and he’ll have a chance to make it eight consecutive games against a Utah State rushing defense that is one of the worst in the country. The Aggies allow 197.43 yards per game and 10 of their 27 touchdowns allowed have come on the ground.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett


For such a small state, West Virginia has a surprising surplus of superstar running backs.

 
 AP Photo/Jeff Gentner
 Noel Devine hasn't had as many long cutback runs as in seasons past, but he's just as dangerous as ever.
Two of the top three runners in the FBS -- West Virginia's Noel Devine and Marshall's Darius Marshall -- will go head-to-head in Saturday's Friends of Coal Bowl. Maybe they should call it the Fans of Handoffs Bowl this year.

"If you like the I-formation or the spread formation, you'll see (No.) 5 Darius Marshall and (No. 7) Noel Devine big in this game plan for both these universities," Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart said.

Both Devine and Marshall are averaging exactly 6.64 yards per carry this season. Marshall has run for 737 yards -- just four behind national leader Ryan Mathews of Fresno State -- for an average of 147.4 per game. Devine has 631 rushing yards for an average of 126.2 per game, which ranks third nationally.

Devine was named the Big East Player of the Week for his performance against Syracuse, even though his 91 yards rushing was his second-lowest total of the season. That was probably a make-up call by the league office, which inexplicably overlooked him the week before, when he had a career-best 220 rushing yards on just 22 carries against Colorado.

The junior has always had explosive speed, but this year he's being more patient in following his blocking instead of trying to do everything on his own. The giant cutback runs that marked his game the first two years have become a rare sight. But he's been just as dangerous as ever, breaking off a 71-yard run at Auburn and a 77-yard score in the Colorado game.

"From the standpoint of starting and stopping, I don't think I've ever seen anyone like him ever, with the exception of maybe Reggie [Bush]," Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. "He's very smooth, he's low to the ground and has tremendous vision. Every time he gets the ball in his hands, he can take it to the end zone. He keeps a lot of defenses up late at night."

At a listed 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Marshall has two inches and about 15 pounds on Devine. The junior crushed Memphis for 203 yards and three touchdowns and rumbled for 186 yards against Bowling Green. He's on pace to smash his sophomore total of 1,095 rushing yards.

"They are both small, but really good in their own ways," Thundering Herd coach Mark Snyder told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Noel is faster, but Darius has closed the gap there. Also, Noel can put his foot in the ground and go sideways. He can cut like nobody else in the country. Darius is a bit more physical.

"Darius is more of an upright runner. Noel gets lower to the ground. He just squirts out of there.''

Stewart agreed with Snyder's assessment and added that both players are good blockers and "team energizers." He predicted that both will play in the NFL for a long time.

"They'll both be household names," Stewart said.

They already are in West Virginia, a small state that's uncommonly blessed with two great running backs.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson


Marshall running back Darius Marshall is the nation’s leading rusher, but beyond him, the Marshall offense has been ineffectual.

The Thundering Herd rank 112th in the country in passing offense with just 158.60 yards per game. That poor passing game helped contribute to last week’s crucial 21-17 loss to East Carolina, and coach Mark Snyder knows that he’ll have to get his passing game going if his team wants to have a chance at the Conference USA East title.

“It starts with protection,” Snyder said during his weekly news conference. “You want to stay ahead of the chains. You would like to throw the ball when you want to throw the ball, not when you have to throw the ball, and that is what I mean by staying in front of the chains.”

In the first half of last week’s game against East Carolina, Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson was 3-of-9 for just 10 yards. He finished the day 16-of-31 for 127 yards. Part of that was East Carolina’s pass defense, which played its best game against the pass since facing Appalachian State at the beginning of the season. But it was also a breakdown in Marshall’s protection. The Pirates had a sack and were credited with seven quarterback hurries.

With the exception of throwing for 316 yards in the season opener, Marshall hasn’t thrown for more than 127 yards this season.

Marshall might have better luck this week against a Tulane pass defense that is holding opponents to 194.75 yards per game. The Thundering Herd also should be able to run the ball against the Green Wave’s porous rushing defense. It’s allowed at least 200 yards in three of its four games this season. Army had 196 last week. The Green Wave have allowed 10 touchdowns on the ground as opposed to just four through the air.

It’s likely that Tulane will concentrate its efforts on stopping the running game, giving Anderson an opportunity to get the passing game some confidence.

Big Ten picks for Week 2

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
11:11
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

My editors don't know it yet, but this will be my last blog post for ESPN.com. I'm taking the fiancée, moving to Vegas and setting up shop. C'mon, did you see last week's picks? Sure, there were only three or four true toss-up games, one of which I got woefully wrong. But a 9-1 record with five near-perfect score predictions tells me I'm in the wrong line of work. In all seriousness, I highly doubt I'll have another week like that all season, so please don't mortgage your house on what you read below. However, this should be another Saturday to pad the season record before things get much tougher in Week 3.

Here we go:

Ohio State 45, Ohio 7 -- No Beanie, no problem for the Buckeyes, who have the chance to showcase their creativity on offense before the USC game. Running backs Dan "Boom" Herron, Mo Wells and Brandon Saine have big games as the Buckeyes roll. Ohio has some speed threats in wideout Taylor Price and return man Donte Harden, but the Buckeyes defense stands tall again.

Wisconsin 40, Marshall 13 -- Quarterback Allan Evridge and the Badgers should iron out the kinks in the red zone against the Thundering Herd. Evridge will find a healthy Travis Beckum for the first of many touchdown passes this season. Like Akron, Marshall could present some first-half trouble with with Dariuses (Marshall and Passmore), but ultimately the Badgers will be too strong.

Illinois 52, Eastern Illinois 3 -- There are several factors working against the Panthers. Illinois unveils its renovated stadium and welcomes back the program's greatest living players to Champaign. The team wears Dick Butkus-era throwback jerseys. And the Illini are ticked off after the Missouri loss. The Illinois defense forces at least three turnovers and Juice Williams continues to surge.

Michigan State 42, Eastern Michigan 14 -- Expect a big day for Spartans senior Javon Ringer, both at running back and kickoff returner. Quarterback Brian Hoyer finds his rhythm and another wide receiver follows Mark Dell's performance with a big game. Eagles quarterback Andy Schmitt and tailback Terrence Blevins test a still-iffy Spartans defense, but Michigan State pulls away in the third quarter.

Michigan 27, Miami (Ohio) 6 -- The Wolverines offense won't look quite as bad with Steven Threet most likely at the helm, and a running back -- don't know which one -- steps up big against Miami. Linebacker Obi Ezeh and the Michigan defense builds off the second-half performance against Utah and shuts down a turnover-prone RedHawks offense.

Iowa 44, Florida International 10 -- I won't make the same mistake twice after doubting the Hawkeyes' offense last week. Iowa's run game continues to prosper behind Shonn Greene, and junior quarterback Jake Christensen finally cements himself as the clear-cut starter with a strong performance. Aside from return man T.Y. Hilton, FIU doesn't have much to scare the Hawkeyes.

Purdue 41, Northern Colorado 0 -- Given what's coming up next, the Boilers need a strong start and get one from quarterback Curtis Painter and running back Kory Sheets. At least three receivers catch touchdown passes as coach Joe Tiller samples what he has besides Greg Orton. Purdue's improved secondary will shut down a Northern Colorado team that averaged just 11.3 points a game last fall and is picked last in its league.

Penn State 38, Oregon State 30 -- The Beavers secondary looks strong, but will it matter if the front seven can't stop the run? If Stanford racked up 210 yards against Oregon State, just think what Penn State will do with Evan Royster, Stephfon Green and mobile quarterback Daryll Clark, who will be on the move much more this week. Quarterback Lyle Moevao presents some problems for Penn State's secondary, but the Lions pull through at home.

Indiana 45, Murray State 10 -- Quarterback Kellen Lewis breaks another long run or two, but the Hoosiers get more help from their running backs against a Murray State team that was tied with Lambuth early in the second half of last week's victory. Hoosiers defensive end Greg Middleton picks up two or three sacks as the walk down easy street continues.

Northwestern 30, Duke 21 -- Several factors could hurt Northwestern: the weather, an improved Duke team, mobile quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and the emotions after last season's embarrassing loss in Evanston. Here's another factor: running back Tyrell Sutton, who missed last year's game with an ankle injury. Sutton will be the best player on the field Saturday night and help Northwestern escape with a win.

Bowling Green 38, Minnesota 34 -- There's still too many problems on the Gophers defense, and Falcons quarterback Tyler Sheehan will capitalize in a big way. I could see a mini-letdown for Bowling Green after the Pitt win, but the Falcons are hosting their first Big Ten opponent since 1966 and should prevail. Gophers quarterback Adam Weber ha
s another big game, but it's not enough.

Bye: None

Season record: 9-1

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