MCGILL: After watching Louisville game alone, Litton returns to the field
The Word on the Herd -- Sept. 28, 2016
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Minutes before kickoff against Louisville, Marshall quarterback Chase Litton was in operating in the hurry-up.
“I didn’t have the channel for the game and it was 7:53 and I’m looking for the game,” he said. “I call my brother and say, ‘Bro, I have a laptop here, please tell me you have a login so I can watch this game.’
“I plugged it into my TV and watched.”
This is how Litton, a sophomore football player who had to sit out the loss to No. 3 Louisville with an undisclosed injury, watched the Thundering Herd and backup-turned-starter Garet Morrell. Litton was by himself at his Huntington home as his teammates tried to overcome the odds and knock off one of the nation’s best teams in front of the second-largest crowd in Joan C. Edwards Stadium history.
“It was just me,” Litton said. “I was just sitting there … I felt like I was at the game. Instead of me enjoying the game I turned into a coach screaming at the TV. You could tell it was an exciting atmosphere.”
Litton said it was the first time he missed a game since his sophomore season at Wharton High School in his hometown of Tampa, Florida. Wharton lost that game to Sickles High School, and Litton returned the next week to lead his team to victory. The directive to stay at home came from the MU medical staff.
“They told me the best thing for me was to focus on rest and focus on improving,” Litton said. “They gave me medication and put me through workouts to help me get through it.
“Once they found out about (the injury) they took control of it and put me on the path to get better.”
Marshall coach Doc Holliday confirmed during Tuesday’s press conference that Litton would practice this week and is on schedule to play this Saturday at Pittsburgh (2-2). The non-conference game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Heinz Field, which doubles as the home for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“Chase has got a lot of games – he’s still young going into his second year – but he has a lot of games under his belt,” Holliday said. “He is our quarterback … has experience there and getting him back is going to help a lot.”
Litton put up impressive numbers – 722 yards and 10 touchdowns – in two games this season before the injury. He is one of three quarterbacks – along with California’s Davis Webb and Texas Tech’s Pat Mahomes – who have at least four touchdown passes in every start this season. Litton is averaging a touchdown pass every 7.3 throws.
Morrell, a true freshman, was 9 of 21 passing for 59 yards and two touchdowns as Litton’s replacement against Louisville, which entered the game fifth nationally in sacks and No. 11 in tackles for a loss.
That is far from slowly and gradually entering the ocean water on the beach.
“I was thrown in with the sharks,” Morrell said.
This time last season, Morrell was playing for Lee County High School in Georgia. The contrast in competition was significant.
“The way the defenses were rolling,” Morrell said, "the coverages were something I’m not used to seeing, but I’ve got to pick it up. I got in my groove later as it went on.”
Morrell’s experience behind the returning Litton will help Marshall (1-2). Holliday said after the Louisville game it was "limited" what the offense could do with Morrell behind center.
“On the outside looking in, people might look at it differently,” Litton said, “but Garet did everything that was asked. He had a solid game, scored for us twice and really managed the offense.
“We didn’t have all the success we wanted, but considering the situation he was put in, he did what we wanted.”
Litton is averaging 361.0 passing yards per game this season, which would rank him No. 8 among FBS quarterbacks if he qualified. Remember, not only did Litton miss a game but the Thundering Herd had an unusual season-opening off week, so he had two fewer games in September than most QBs.
Now the test that awaits is, like Louisville, an Atlantic Coast Conference team. Pitt is undefeated at home and has a pair of narrow road losses (by a touchdown to Oklahoma State and by 1 point to North Carolina).
“This is a very good team we’re about to play,” Litton said. “Whether it’s up front or their secondary, their offense or their defense, they have guys everywhere. We know as a team this is a very tough challenge at Heinz Field, and it is a night game and there are going to be a lot of fans there.
“We know we’re the underdog. We have to forget about the week before and play us. We have to be us.”