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MCGILL: Marshall Players Showcase Fun of Football

Oct. 25, 2017

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – As freshman running back Tyler King talked with the media on the field following Marshall’s win at Middle Tennessee last Friday night, he tried to keep a straight face as receiver Hyleck Foster playfully tried to distract him.

Hours before it was King, who had a career-high 129 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns, who hurdled a helpless MT defender into SportsCenter’s Top Plays. The athletic run drew oohs and ahhs from King’s teammates, and became a social media focal point following the four-touchdown win on the road. By the end of the fourth quarter of that game, junior quarterback Chase Litton and senior tight end Ryan Yurachek were caught by ESPN’s cameras on the sidelines showcasing their bowling skills, only Yurachek was a human pin and Litton rolled a football down the field to knock over one of his favorite targets. The ball grazed Yurachek, who wobbled and fell to the ground to the delight of Litton and his teammates.

The bowling video circulated on social media after the game, with Marshall fans replying “This team is fun to watch” and “It’s nice to see a team that really likes each other and plays for each other.”

These guys are having a whole lot of fun.

“It feels like we’re playing high school football again,” said Malik Gant, a sophomore safety.

That level of enjoyment the Thundering Herd is experiencing has likely ticked up a few points because of the team’s 6-1 start. Marshall is undefeated in Conference USA play (3-0) with FIU visiting this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. The Herd is bowl eligible, is undefeated at home and is receiving votes in The Associated Press Top 25 and the coaches’ poll.

“It’s a blast to be winning again,” said Blake Keller, a senior defensive end. “This team is really close. We’re a lot closer this year, and most people don’t even see the behind-the-scenes stuff on the buses and plans and in the locker room.”

There are no cliques or egos, the players insist. The team leadership has come from everywhere, as Doc Holliday has shown when he announces the game captains each week. Through eight games, there have been 15 different captains on offense, defense and special teams. Only five of those captains have been seniors, and every position group has been represented.

“Winning games, in general, is a hard thing to do,” said Levi Brown, a sophomore offensive lineman. “Winning on the road is hard to do. There’s so many challenges and to win road games like we have this year and to win overall, we don’t take it for granted.

“We went through a challenging offseason and we’ve experienced the struggles, so we appreciate what we’re doing together this year.”

That togetherness is important, Brown said. When players hang out away from the field, players from one position group or side of the ball will mingle with different groups on the team. In the team hotel, Brown said, players and coaches will sit around and play cards and pass the time with games as they wait for kickoff.

“There are no small groups anymore,” Brown said. “We’re having a lot of fun as a team. We play a fun game in the hotel where we get a big ball of tape and play like kids in the front yard. It’s not a group of three or so people. We have 20-some people sitting around in a huge circle, laughing and eating ice cream, and just throwing a ball at each other for fun.

“This year has been like hanging out with a huge group of friends all of the time. We’re like a big family.”