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MCGILL: Rushing Numbers Support Strength and Conditioning Gains

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday.
Oct. 27, 2017

By Chuck McGill

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It is hard to overlook the influence the strength and conditioning staff at Marshall University has had on the 2017 football team. But if one wanted to delve into statistics to search for concrete proof, the offense’s average rushing yards per attempt and the defense’s average rushing yards per carry allowed is solid indicator.

“As the game goes on it is obvious that we don’t wear out and the other team does,” said Blake Keller, a senior defensive lineman for the Thundering Herd.

Marshall is 6-1 overall and 3-0 in Conference USA play as it hosts Florida International (4-2, 2-1 C-USA) this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The Herd is riding a five-game winning streak, is tied for first place in the East Division of C-USA and is receiving Top 25 votes in the major national polls.

“The whole strength staff – they get credit for every win this year,” said Malik Gant, a sophomore safety. “You can really tell a big difference. We don’t get tired in the game, we’re focused and we don’t feel like we’re weaker than anybody when we step on the field.”

The players do not feel a drop off as the game progresses. The numbers support their claims.

Marshall’s rushing offense averages 3.84 yards per carry in the first quarter, 4.18 in the second quarter and 4.58 in the third. That is a steady, but significant, trend in the positive direction as the Herd’s offensive line wears down the opposition. MU’s rushing average drops slightly, to 4.06 yards per carry, in the fourth quarter, but keep in mind the winning streak and massive leads have meant predictable offensive play-calling over the game’s final 15 minutes.

During Marshall’s five-game winning streak, the offense has rushed 71 times in the fourth quarter against 19 passing plays.

“You can put all of that on strength and conditioning,” said Levi Brown, a sophomore center. “We don’t get dull as the game goes on; we get sharper and sharper. You learn to get mentally tough or get out. You learn to roll with it.”

The averages for the rushing defense are staggering. The Herd allows 4.18 yards per rush during the first quarter, but that numbers drops to 3.23, 2.77 and 2.56 in the final three periods.

Meanwhile, the Marshall running backs are the best in the fourth quarter. In the last 15 minutes, the Herd has more rushing touchdowns, more first downs, more 10-yard runs and more 20-yard runs than any other quarter.

That, the players say, goes back to a grueling offseason strength program.

“I remember in the summer we would do 20 sets of prowler pushes for 20 yards, and you had to make it in four seconds,” Keller said. “There was weight on them and it was hot and sticky on the field. I know I failed that workout at least once because it was hard, but it definitely simulated a game and prepared us for this season.”


There are two undefeated teams left in Conference USA: Marshall (3-0) and Florida Atlantic (3-0).

While the Thundering Herd is a program that has been typically known for its offensive firepower, this season FAU has generated noise as one of the top offensive teams in C-USA.

Their improvement, though, is on the defensive side of the ball.

In three Conference USA games, Marshall’s offense has averaged 5.65 yards per play, up 0.99 yards per play from last season in league play. FAU is averaging 6.25 yards per play this season, up 0.84 from last season.

On defense, though, Marshall is allowing a league-best 3.81 yards per play, an improvement of 2.23 yards per play from last season’s eight league games. FAU’s improvement has been 1.60 yards per play, from 7.16 to 5.56.


Tyler King, a freshman, is likely going to improve with each game. That should worry opponents.

King had a career-high 129 rushing yards and a pair of touchdown against Middle Tennessee. He has at least 70 rushing yards in four of five games since his collegiate debut, including two 100-yard performances.

“As these games go by I’m starting to get more used to college football because this is my first year,” King said. “I’m starting to get the hang of it and get in the groove.”

The youngster also discussed his favorite running backs:

“I like Le’Veon Bell, but my favorite running back was Chris Johnson in his prime. I loved him and LaDainian Tomlinson. Now, I like Le’Veon Bell. I like his style. I forget the last Madden (video game) that LaDainian was on, but I used to always play with him and run the same running play – it was like a counter left or a counter right – and it was always a touchdown.”


As always, at home or on the road, the Marshall athletic department will provide in-game updates through social media websites Twitter and Facebook. Please follow me on Twitter – @chuckmcgill or – and Marshall’s official football account – @HerdFB or Questions are welcome on Twitter or by emailing