Special to HNN Provided by Herd Zone
MCGILL: Everyone contributes as Herd routs VMI in opener
Photo Rick Haye;http://marshall.sidearmsports.com/galleries/?gallery=668

By Chuck McGill


HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Doc Holliday wanted to win Saturday night's season opener, of course. He also hoped to cycle in as many new faces as possible, giving young players valuable repetitions and easing recovery for others ahead of a short week.

Marshall defeated visiting VMI, 56-17, in front of 23,875 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Meanwhile, 11 different players had a reception and 29 players recorded a tackle. That satisfied Holliday with Boise State looming this Friday night in Boise, Idaho.

"We have a quick turnaround," Holliday said. "Believe it or not, three days from now we're on a plane heading for Boise.

"I saw some young kids step up and make some plays … we're going to need those guys."

The Thundering Herd (1-0) scored eight touchdowns, including a career high four touchdown passes from sophomore Isaiah Green. Sophomore running back Brenden Knox scored twice on the ground, but Green and Knox are names Herd fans know.

They were introduced to players like redshirt freshman Talik Keaton, who did not record a catch even though he made the start at receiver. He did return a punt 67 yards for a touchdown, and become the eighth player in program history with at least 100 punt return yards in a single game.

Fellow freshman Corey Gammage led the team in receptions (five) and receiving yards (82), and caught his first collegiate touchdown pass. True freshman Broc Thompson had two catches for 54 yards.

Seven players carried the ball, three of whom are sophomores and one freshman.

"I don't think anybody played a lot of snaps," Holliday said. "Hopefully that'll help us as far as our recovery goes."

Green and backup quarterback Alex Thomson spread the ball to 11 different receivers. Junior Willie Johnson, senior Artie Henry, junior tight end Xavier Gaines, Gammage and junior tight end Garet Morrell all caught touchdown passes.

"We have a lot of different receivers and I feel confident with all of them out on the field," Green said. "We've been working hard since spring ball, so we've built a good chemistry."

Green's first touchdown pass came after a couple drives fizzled. The redshirt sophomore, making his 10th career start, found a wide open Johnson for a 29-yard score with 3:09 left of the first quarter. Only 87 seconds later, the Herd defense forced a punt and Keaton field it at the MU 33 and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0.

The punt return for a touchdown was Marshall's first since Deandre Reaves returned a 69-yard punt for a touchdown on Nov. 14, 2015 against FIU.

"I found a crease and I had to take it. It was the greatest feeling ever," Keaton said. "When I caught the ball I saw everyone flowing into me, I bounced out and I saw the green grass. It was the best feeling when I got into the end zone."

The Herd added three more touchdowns in the second quarter, including two more scoring tosses from Green. Henry had a career long reception of 51 yards for a touchdown after he plucked the ball above the VMI defender and raced in for the touchdown. That score made it 21-0 with 13:24 left of the second quarter.

Green continued to spread the ball around on his third TD pass, a 4-yarder to Gaines to give the Herd a 28-7 lead with 4:14 left of the first half. On the final drive of the opening half, Knox plunged in from 1-yard out as time expired to give Marshall a 35-7 edge at intermission.

Green made a brief second half appearance, connecting with Gammage for a 33-yard touchdown pass to make it 42-7.

Overall, Marshall outgained VMI (0-1) 620-257, and held the Keydets to 56 rushing yards. The Herd did not allow a 100-yard rusher for the 15th consecutive game.

The defense finished with four sacks and eight tackles for a loss.

"Especially defensively, that whole second half we played our backups," Holliday said. "No. 1 we wanted to do it to get them some work. But we also did it because we have a quick turnaround."

Chuck McGill is the Assistant Athletic Director for Fan/Donor Engagement and Communications at Marshall University and a seven-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).

PHOTOS:  http://marshall.sidearmsports.com/galleries/?gallery=668

  1. Herd_VMI_book.pdf (620.48 KB)