Jan. 31, 2014
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Before the arrival next Wednesday of those National Signing Day faxes that will further turn attention to the 2014 Marshall football season, here are a few more facts to put a wrap on the Thundering Herd’s 10-4 season in 2013:
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Coach Doc Holliday talked repeatedly during the season about the improvement in tackling over the work of a porous MU defense of 2012, and there are numbers to underscore the coach’s point.
Holliday said the goal in every game for any of his teams is to keep “missed tackles” at less than 10. Well, the 2014 Herd did better than that most of the time. Only twice in 14 games did Marshall miss more than 10 tackles – 13 in the last-second win at FAU and 12 in a loss at Middle Tennessee (back-to-back games).
According to figures compiled by the defensive staff, the Herd missed 115 tackles in 14 games, an average of 8.2 per game. Here are the numbers for each game:
Miami (Ohio) 3, Gardner-Webb 10, Ohio 7, Virginia Tech 9, UTSA 5, FAU 13, Middle Tennessee 12, Southern Miss 7, UAB 7, Tulsa 9, FIU 8, East Carolina 8, Rice 9 (Conference USA Championship), Maryland 8 (Military Bowl).
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Holliday said it only goes to figure that if the Herd could improve its tackling, another bugaboo in the 2012 season – kickoff coverage – would improve, too.
Those enhanced numbers were dramatic, and not just because true freshman Amoreto Curraj produced a school-record 52 touchbacks (ranking No. 4 in the country).
Marshall ranked 26th nationally (FBS) in opponent kick returns, allowing 19.5 yards per return. Only five Herd kickoffs were returned 30 or more yards, and none more than 33 yards.
In 2012, the Herd ranked 116th in FBS in kick coverage, at 25.1 yards. At 144.6 return yards per game, only Oregon had a worse average (159.9). The 2012 Herd allowed 17 returns of 30 or more yards, and the six of 50 or more yards (including three for touchdowns) made for the leakiest effort in the nation.
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In its first double digit-victory season since 2002, Marshall played its way into an even more elite group than those 27 teams with 10 or more victories.
Only eight of the 125 FBS teams scored at least 21 points in every game. The Herd was one of those eight – and the lone school playing below the BCS automatic-qualifying conferences to do so.
The others were BCS champion Florida State, BCS runner-up Auburn, Kansas State, Missouri, Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Washington.
The eight schools combined for an 87-22 record (.798) and went 5-3 in bowls.
The Herd’s 21-point streak is at 18 straight games, tied for fourth on the above list behind the Seminoles and Buckeyes (22 games), and Oklahoma State (21). Washington also has 18 in a row.
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In two of its victories, the Herd set single-game C-USA records on offense (dating to the league’s creation in 1996) and also produced FBS season-high standards.
In a home victory over UAB, Marshall’s 12.6 yards per play (52 plays, 657 yards) total offense topped the 11.5 by the Blazers against Florida Atlantic back in 2009. The 12.6 led the FBS by one yard. An 11.6 average by Florida State against Syracuse ranked second. The Herd’s 9.94 yards in a win over Southern Miss also made the top 10.
In the same win over UAB, the Herd averaged 11.91 yards per rush (32-381) beating the 11.51-yard record set by Louisville against Cincinnati in a 2004 C-USA game. Auburn had the No. 2 game in 2013 in per-rush average, an 11.88 against Western Carolina. The Herd’s 11.3 average in the win over Southern Miss was in the top five.
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The Bowl Championship Series is history, to be replaced by the College Football Playoffs, and the numbers are in for the four non-AQ conferences in the final BCS season.
College football scribe Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com recently revealed that among the four non-AQs in 2013, Conference USA ranked third in BCS computer average, which is how revenue distribution is determined.
The Sun Belt had the lowest (best) average in the six BCS computer rankings (77.396), followed by the Mountain West (81.528), C-USA (86.738) and Mid-American (88.218). With the demise of the Western Athletic Conference, what would have been the WAC’s financial share was split among the other four leagues.
Each of the four leagues received a base payment of $1,426,950, and then 10 performance-rooted shares were broken down (4-3-2-1). The C-USA BCS revenue total was $2,854,440. That eventually will go into the whole bowl revenue pot of the Herd’s home conference, and be split among 16 members (with the six teams that played in the postseason getting bigger dollars).
The MAC might have been No. 1 on the BCS computers against the non-AQs until the league went 0-5 in bowl games. As for C-USA, its average was dragged down by five teams that had an average of 101.667 or higher (out of a possible 125.00).
Marshall’s computer ranking average was 58.167 (rounded off), which was third in C-USA behind East Carolina (46.167) and champion Rice (47.333). The Herd’s numbers were diminished in four games against teams that averaged 101 or worse. Miami (Ohio), which the Herd beat in the 2013 opener, was last among the 49 teams in the four leagues, at 124.5.
The Herd was 10th among teams in BCS non-AQ conferences in average computer ranking, trailing (in order) Fresno State, Northern Illinois, ECU, Rice, Utah State, Bowling Green, Louisiana-Lafayette, Arkansas State and Ball State.
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Dates and times will come later, but Conference USA is heading toward 2014 with five guaranteed bowl berths, plus a secondary deal with the currently sponsorless Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La., should the ACC and/or SEC not fill the berths there.
The five guaranteed C-USA berths are in the Boca Raton Bowl against the MAC, the Hawaii and New Mexico bowls versus the Mountain West, the Miami Beach Bowl against the AAC and the Heart of Dallas Bowl against the Big 12.
And if the Herd or one of the other 12 C-USA teams wins the league title and is ranked the highest among teams from the AAC, MAC, Sun Belt, Mountain West or C-USA by the CFP selection panel, it gets a spot in one of the six games run by the College Football Playoff.