Marshall finished 9-4 and won its seventh consecutive bowl game

Updated 2 weeks ago Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone

By Chuck McGill

HerdZone.com

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – As the calendar year came to a close, it is time to look back at the 2018 football season.

Marshall protected its place as college football's winningest bowl program, by percentage, and extended the nation's longest bowl winning streak to seven games. Six of those wins have come under Doc Holliday, who now has the most bowl wins by a coach in program history.

The Thundering Herd won four of its last five games to finish 9-4, the 20th time in school history a team has won as many games. It has happened six times since the turn of the century, four in the last six seasons.

Before the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla win against South Florida before Christmas, Marshall reached win No. 8 on the season. Five times in the last six years, the Herd has won at least eight games. Other programs that can boast the same: Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Georgia, Houston, Iowa, LSU, Louisville, Memphis, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Southern Cal, Stanford, Texas A&M, Washington and Wisconsin.

Here's a rundown of other numbers and nuggets to know from 2018:

LEADERS

Redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Green had one of the best statistical seasons by a Marshall QB in his first collegiate action. Green completed 187 passes on 330 attempts for 2,459 yards, 15 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The Georgia native, who was the Conference USA Co-Freshman of the Year, ranks third in program history for completions by a freshman QB, third in attempts, second in passing yards and tied for second in passing touchdowns.

Green had his nine-game streak with at least one passing touchdown snapped in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, but he navigated the game turnover-free, rushed for his first career touchdown and led the Thundering Herd to a 38-20 win against USF to finish 7-2 as a starter in his first season. The only two losses, by the way, were to ACC programs NC State and Virginia Tech.

Green is the fourth different QB to lead the team in passing in Doc Holliday's nine seasons, joining Brian Anderson, Rakeem Cato and Chase Litton. Green also shares another list with Cato and Litton: average yards per play by a freshman. Green is the ninth freshman to lead the team in average yards per play, and his average is the best all-time (6.8). No. 2 on that list is Litton (6.1), followed by Cato (5.8) and Chad Pennington (5.5). Green also averaged 245.9 yards per game passing, which is a school record.

At running back, sophomore Tyler King led the team in rushing yards once again with 655. King is the fourth player in program history to lead the team in rushing in his freshman and sophomore seasons, joining Darius Marshall, Franklin "Butchie" Wallace and Ron Lear. King was not the only star in the backfield, though.

Senior Keion Davis ran his way to the Gasparilla Bowl MVP honors (94 rushing yards, two touchdowns). Senior Anthony Anderson led the team in rushing touchdowns (nine). And freshman Brenden Knox, who did not receive a carry until the ninth game of the season, led all of college football in rushing yards in December (297) even though he missed the second half of the bowl game with an injury.

Davis finished with 2,014 career rushing yards, passing Llow Turner on the penultimate carry of his career – a 52-yard run that sealed the game and MVP honors for the senior from Georgia. Turner ran for exactly 2,000 rushing yards in his career, and Davis finishes his career No. 15 on the program's all-time rushing yards list.

Knox emerged too late in the season to make the C-USA all-conference freshman team, but ranked ninth in college football among freshmen in rushing yards (578) while only receiving a carry in five games. Knox averaged 115.6 yards per game in the final five games, which would have ranked No. 8 nationally for the entire season, but his rushing average includes production from all 13 games because he played on special teams.

Senior Tyre Brady led the team in receiving again (1,002 yards), and became the first Herd player to eclipse 1,000 yards since Tommy Shuler in 2014. Brady joins an exclusive list of players who have led the team in receiving in consecutive years. The last five: Shuler, Aaron Dobson, Cody Slate, Nate Poole and Randy Moss. Brady is one of 34 players nationally with 1,000 receiving yards (as of Dec. 28), and his 71 catches ranks No. 32.

Overall, this Marshall team produced three players on the top 20 list in all-purpose yards per game for a career. After two seasons, King is averaging 98.9 all-purpose yards per game, which ranks No. 11 in school history. Davis is No. 13 on that list (92.9) and Brady is No. 19 (81.6).

Defensively, senior linebacker Chase Hancock became the first defender to lead the team in tackles in consecutive years since Mario Harvey accomplished the feat three straight seasons (2008-10). Hancock finished with 105 tackles, which ranks No. 56 nationally.

Senior defensive lineman Ryan Bee, who was named the team's defensive MVP, finished No. 10 on the program's career sacks list with 18.5. Bee may need to fight off junior defensive lineman Ty Tyler to stay on the list next season, as Tyler finished 2018 with 9.0 sacks, one shy of becoming the first player since Vinny Curry (2011) with double-digit sack totals. Tyler ranked No. 24 nationally in sacks this season.

STREAKS

Nine minutes and 40 seconds into the Gasparilla Bowl, Green scored on a 10-yard QB keeper to give Marshall a 7-0 lead. After rolling to an 18-point bowl win, the Thundering Herd has now won 18 consecutive games when scoring first.

That streak dates to Nov. 7, 2015, when Marshall lost on the road, 27-24, in triple overtime against Middle Tennessee. Emanuel Byrd caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Chase Litton to open scoring with 4:23 left of the first quarter, but the Herd had a field goal attempt blocked in the third overtime and lost after the early lead.

It was a season of streaks for the MU football program.

Until Charlotte visited Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Nov. 10, the Herd had not allowed a first quarter touchdown all season. At the time, the team's streak extended to include the final three games of the 2017 season – 12 games total, the longest such run among teams competing at college football's highest level. Charlotte QB Evan Shirreffs scored from 1-yard out with 8:42 left of the first quarter to end the streak and hand the top spot to national championship game participant Clemson. Overall, Adam Fuller's Herd defense allowed only three first quarter touchdowns all season.

In 2018, Marshall will have a new defensive coordinator after Fuller's departure to Memphis. The new coordinator will inherit a defense that did not allow an individual 100-yard rusher this season – one of four teams to accomplish the feat. The Herd has not allowed a 100-yard rusher since Southern Miss running back Ito Smith gained 150 yards on 29 carries on Nov. 29, 2017, a 14-game streak. Clemson owns the nation's longest streak at 20 games. Northern Illinois is second on the list at 15 games, and Southern Miss has not allowed a 100-yard rusher in 14 games.

Marshall had a 7-0 record this season when leading after the first quarter and a 9-0 record when the turnover margin was anything better than minus-two. The Herd had exactly a minus-two turnover margin in losses to NC State, Middle Tennessee, Southern Miss and Virginia Tech, but otherwise went unbeaten.

BOWL ODDS AND ENDS

Marshall has competed in a version of the St. Petersburg/Tampa bowl three times in 11 seasons of the game's existence, so it is not surprising to see a strong presence in the bowl's record book.

Earlier this month, the Herd set a Gasparilla Bowl record for points in the first quarter with 21, and tied the record for points in a half with 28. The 38 points scored by Marshall ranks as the third most in the game's history.

The Herd dominated time of possession – 36 minutes and 14 seconds – which is a Gasparilla Bowl record, breaking UCF's record set in 2012.

MU running backs continued to star in the Sunshine State. Davis' 52-yard run in the fourth quarter is the third-longest in bowl history, while Knox's 43-yard first quarter run is fifth all-time. Davis also has the sixth-longest run in bowl history – 41 yards in 2015 against UConn – giving Marshall three of the top six longest rushes in the game's history.

Davis finished with 94 rushing yards and 77 kickoff return yards, giving him the third-highest all-purpose yardage total in the bowl game's history (177). Senior receiver Marcel Williams gained 37 punt return yards on two attempts, which ranks as the second-most in the game's history behind another Marshall receiver – Andre Booker, who had 57 yards against FIU in 2011.

Junior defensive lineman Channing Hames, Marshall's Defensive MVP in the 2017 New Mexico Bowl, again shined on the big stage with a pair of sacks, which tied the game's record and placed in the top five in Marshall's 14-game bowl history.

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a six-time winner of the National Sports Media Association West Virginia Sportswriter of the Year award. In addition to HerdZone.com's Word on the Herd, McGill is the editor of Thundering Herd Illustrated, Marshall's official athletics publication. Follow him on Twitter (@chuckmcgill) and Instagram (wordontheherd).

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