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MCGILL: Litton leads, newcomers follow in Herd's opening rout

Head coach Doc Holliday
Sept. 10, 2016

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By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall coach Doc Holliday didn't need any help from the skies. No matter what, plenty of players on his football team were going to get their feet wet.

The Thundering Herd soundly defeated visiting Morgan State, 62-0, while using 16 freshmen, plus newcomers like receiver Michael Clark, safety C.J. Reavis, linebacker Davon Durant and running back Anthony Anderson.

Marshall (1-0) scored nine touchdowns, including six from sophomore quarterback Chase Litton in the first half and a pair of fumble returns for scores by college football rookies.

"They were both freshmen," said Holliday, whose team built a 49-0 lead by halftime, well before sheets of rain started to fall on 26,488 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

George Davis, a 6-foot-3, 175-pound defensive back, scooped up a loose ball at the Herd's own 5-yard line and raced 95 yards for a touchdown in the first half. It is the longest fumble return in Herd history (James Hagan, 85 yards, vs. Georgetown College, 1922).

In the third quarter, defensive lineman Ty Tyler returned a fumble 20 yards for the final points. Marshall returned two fumbles for touchdowns for the first time since 2002, when J.T. Rembert and Marcus Hairston combined to accomplish the feat against Buffalo.

"(George is) a freshman and the other was Ty Tyler, who is a freshman," Holliday said, "so you had two young kids who got in there and made some plays."

It was a theme throughout the 62-point rout, tied for the 17th most lopsided game in the Herd's favor in program history (62-0 vs. Ohio Wesleyan in 1938).

Clark, a 6-7 target for Litton, snagged touchdown catches of 21 and 35 yards in the first quarter - his first two receptions in college.

Garet Morrell, a true freshman who will back up Litton at QB, took the second-half reps as Litton held up play cards on the sideline.

Three newcomers - Durant, Tyler and freshman linebacker Omari Cobb - were the Herd's top three tacklers. Tyler and freshman Channing Hames recorded sacks.

"We played a lot of young kids in the second half," Holliday said, before offering some criticism. "A little disappointed in the second half with a couple things we've got to clean up ... a lot of that was with a lot of young kids in there who didn't get their jobs done."

Earlier this week, Holliday said 29 student-athletes were first-timers when the team headed to their hotel Friday night before the game.

Of course, he knew that'd be the case. The top five tacklers from last season are no longer with the team, for example. That wasn't lost on Holliday, even as he offered insight into improvements before next Saturday's home game against Akron.

"That's the first time Durant's played in a while," he said. "I thought he went in there and played well with Chase Hancock (at linebacker).

"A lot of new guys, new faces, have gone in there playing for the first time. You had a freshman corner out there; you had a lot of new kids."

Overall, Marshall outgained Morgan State (0-2) 530-222, including 217-47 on the ground and 313-175 through the air. The Herd nearly had more touchdowns (nine) than Morgan State had first downs (11).

In the end, it was Holliday's third shutout in 79 games at Marshall, and the program's 21st win in its last 22 games at home.

"I think everybody played their role well," said Corey Neely, who had a forced fumble and interception in his first career start at safety. "Everybody was locked in and got their job done."

NOTES: Marshall had eight first-time starters: Clark, Hancock, Neely, Reavis, receiver Josh Knight, defensive lineman Nyquan Harris, cornerback Chris Jackson and center Levi Brown ... Davis and Tyler combined for 115 fumble return yards, also a team record ... Litton's six touchdowns makes him one of four QBs in Herd history to throw at least that many, joining Rakeem Cato (seven), Chad Pennington (six) and Byron Leftwich (six) ... Litton's completion percentage was .812, which ranks as the eighth-best single-game performance in program history (10 attempts or more) ... Ryan Yurachek's 58-yard touchdown is the longest reception of his career ... The Herd improved to 149-28 at home, but lost its grip on the title of having the winningest home venue. Baylor, now 12-2 at three-year-old McLane Stadium, has an .857 winning percentage at home, barely besting the Herd's .851 at 26-year-old Joan C. Edwards Stadium ... Marshall has won 27 games in a row when leading at halftime.