HERD ZONE: MCGILL - Herd Makes Another Statement, Stays Perfect With Win LA Tech

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HERD ZONE:  MCGILL - Herd Makes Another Statement, Stays Perfect With Win LA Tech
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By Chuck McGill

The Marshall football program entered Saturday night's game at Louisiana Tech's Joe Aillet Stadium knocking on the door of the Top 25, the first team listed under "others receiving votes."

After the Thundering Herd's 35-17 win against the Bulldogs, it might be hard to keep Marshall on the front stoop.

Marshall is 4-0 for the first time since 2014, and the Herd opened Conference USA play with two emphatic, impressive wins on the road: 24 points at WKU last Saturday, and then this 18-point victory in Ruston, Louisiana. The Herd opened scoring on a 1-yard plunge by redshirt freshman quarterback Grant Wells with 5:36 left of the first quarter, and never trailed thereafter.

In fact, Marshall has not trailed all season. The Herd is outscoring its opponents 37.3 to 9.8 through four games, and the team's offense and defense are in seemingly a constant battle to be the primary reason behind the early season success.

Offensively, reigning Conference USA Most Valuable Player Brenden Knox was a force Saturday night against LA Tech, carrying 32 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns. The junior from Columbus, Ohio, now ranks No. 8 in program history in rushing yardage, and has three consecutive 100-yard games, back-to-back multi-touchdown games and seven total scores this season. Saturday night was his 13th career 100-yard rushing game in 22 appearances at running back.

Meanwhile, the offense endured even with notable absences, going down the depth chart to find production and take the focus off Knox. Senior receiver Artie Henry had his first three receptions of the season, simultaneously posting a team-high and season-high 72 receiving yards and catching his first touchdown in more than a calendar year. Sophomore receiver Corey Gammage, who entered Saturday with four receptions and 23 yards this season, exploded for a career-high-tying five receptions, 65 yards and a touchdown.

The defense gave up a season-high 17 points, but was dominating from start to nearly finish, as substitutes entered in the twilight of the fourth quarter when LA Tech, like WKU a week ago, scored inside the final minute of play.

Marshall held the Bulldogs to 267 yards of total offense (260 passing and 7 rushing). The Herd's 7 rushing yards allowed ranks as the 11th-fewest in program history. Marshall's defense entered Saturday night as the No. 1 scoring defense among FBS teams and No. 9 in rushing defense.

The Herd also tallied six sacks, with seven different players combining to produce a season-high in that category. The defense also had nine tackles for a loss, an interception and a key forced fumble by junior linebacker Abraham Beauplan, who jarred the ball free on a third down rushing attempt and forced a LA Tech punt.

Even long snapper Zach Appio joined the defensive party, recording a tackle on a punt while also being perfect on all five of his extra point attempts.

Wells finished 19-for-24 passing for 227 yards, three total touchdowns and one interception. Wells scored on the ground for the second time this season, while throwing his first two touchdown passes against FBS competition. He also commanded the offense on a near-historical night on third down, as the Herd was 13-for-16 on third downs (81.6 percent), the second-best rate in a single game in school history (Morehead State, 93.3 percent, 1977).

Wells also carried six times for 27 yards, and spread the ball to eight different receivers.

Marshall has now outscored the opposition 49-7 in the first quarter and 41-3 in the second quarter this season, a total of 90-10 in the first half.

In last week's Associated Press Top 25 poll, the Herd appeared on 25 of 62 possible ballots, totaling 105 points – 19 behind Southern Cal for a spot in the rankings. Marshall spent one week in the Top 25 earlier this season, peaking at No. 25.

Next up for Marshall: Florida Atlantic this Saturday, Oct. 24, in Huntington, West Virginia. The Owls are 1-0 overall and 1-0 in C-USA play, but have not played since a 21-17 win against Charlotte on Oct. 3.

The game against FAU is Homecoming for the Herd.