MCGILL: Defense Defines Herd's Homecoming Win
The Word on the Herd -- Oct. 14, 2017
By Chuck McGill
There was another multi-touchdown, turnover-free game from quarterback Chase Litton. He again found Tyre Brady for two touchdown passes. The offensive line allowed one consequence-free sack against one of the nation’s more fearsome defensive fronts. The special teams outscored ODU alone, 6-3, when Jaquan Yulee punched loose a ball on a kickoff return and Chris Jackson scooped up the ball and scored.
And that doesn’t even touch a historic punt by Kaare Vedvik, whose 92-yard boom in the first quarter set a school record, became the seventh-longest punt in FBS history and the longest punt in the FBS since some fellow named Ray Guy booted a 93-yarder for Southern Mississippi in 1972.
No, when Holliday sat down behind the podium and stared at the stat sheet, he started his praise at the most logical point:
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” he said.
Marshall (5-1, 2-0 Conference USA) became the first Conference USA football program in 22 years to not allow a touchdown on its first two league games. The Thundering Herd suffocated the Monarchs’ offense on Homecoming, allowing only 197 yards on 63 plays (a 3.1 yards per play average), and ODU managed a mere three first downs and 45 total yards of offense after halftime.
“I thought we were playing tremendous defense, we just had to get the ball rolling on offense,” Holliday said. “In the second half we came out and we felt like we were able to establish the run.”
Marshall trailed 3-0 until under a minute left of the first half when Litton connected with Brady on a 2-yard touchdown. The Herd rolled from there, scoring 35 consecutive points en route to the team’s fourth consecutive win this season.
“You’ve got to wear them down up front and that’s what you saw,” Marshall senior tight end Ryan Yurachek said. “You saw the kind of game plan we had to keep pounding. We took our shots when we could in the first half … and once we softened them up we were able to enact our whole game plan.”
Marshall built a 14-3 lead when freshman running back Tyler King broke free on third and 10 for a 30-yard score. The Herd added another third-down touchdown when Litton found a wide-open Brady for a 46-yard touchdown with 14:16 left of the fourth quarter to make it 21-3. That score did not hold long.
On the ensuing kickoff, Yulee poked the ball loose from ODU returner Isaiah Harper and Jackson raced 15 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-3, Herd. Marshall scored 14 points in a seven-second span.
“That kind of put (the game) out of reach,” Holliday said.
Just for good measure, Marshall added an exclamation point touchdown with 10:49 left when Litton hit Yurachek for a 31-yard score on fourth down to arrive at the final margin. It was ODU’s fourth consecutive defeat of 30 points or more.
Litton completed 12 of 23 passes for 176 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Litton added to his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass, which now stands at 27 games. It was his third consecutive game without an interception, and the Herd improved to 9-0 the last three seasons when Litton throws multiple touchdown passes but does not throw an interception.
Brady had the team high in receptions (five), yards (76) and caught two touchdowns for the second consecutive game. He has four touchdowns in his first two league games.
Still, though, the defense earned the praise.
Marshall again held an opponent without a touchdown in the first quarter. The Herd has allowed 6 points in six games in the first quarter, and has permitted only 3 points in the first halves of the last four games.
ODU (2-4, 0-2 C-USA) gained 55 yards on its first drive, 34 on the second and 65 on the third – the latter of which ended with a field goal. After those points, however, the Monarchs offense had seven possessions, ran 19 plays and gained a total of 9 yards before an 11-play, 37-yard drive on their final possession.
Sophomore safety Malik Gant and junior linebacker Chase Hancock led the team with 10 tackles. Sophomore Omari Cobb, junior Frankie Hernandez and sophomore Channing Hames each finished with a sack. Senior safety C.J. Reavis finished with seven tackles and an interception.
Vedvik finished with six punts for 291 yards (48.5-yard average), and had two punts downed inside the 20. His 92-yarder was nearly downed at the 1, but it rolled into the end zone for a touchback.
“That’s a punter’s dream, really,” Vedvik said. “You try that every time. You’re trying to hit your best ball and I hit a good ball and it went over (the returner’s) head. It had a nice tail wind and it helped the ball roll to the other goal line.”
After the game, Holliday presented Vedvik a game ball. The previous school record for longest punt belonged to John Arnold, who had a 79-yarder against Temple in 1974.
“I thought special teams were again sensational,” Holliday said.