BOGACZYK: Herd’s Litton, Allen Plenty Scary to Charlotte
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 31, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Halloween, in Marshall’s first football trip to the new Conference USA neighborhood of Charlotte, all of the tricks and treats belonged to the Herd.
Marshall rang the doorbell with a 43-yard, first-play completion from quarterback Chase Litton to wideout Davonte Allen, and that was the scary scene for the 49ers all evening as the Herd rolled to a 34-10 victory Saturday before a capacity crowd of 15,381 at Richardson Stadium.
Marshall (8-1, 5-0) won its seventh straight game and only scored three second-half points, but Coach Doc Holliday’s team didn’t need any more numbers on the scoreboard – or the stat sheet, for that matter.
The 49ers (2-6, 0-5) had been allowing only 376 yards per game. Litton, the true freshman making a seventh straight successful start, had 486 through the air. Charlotte’s run defense permitted the Herd only 136 ground yards, but Allen had 232 yards on 12 receptions – both career highs.
“I just knew – after that first play when he went and got it – that he was feeling it,” Litton said of Allen. “We just attacked that corner. He had a great game. There was one (pass), I was looking to the left and completely threw it way too high for him, and Davonte did what Davonte does and got 40 inches off the ground and made a great catch.”
As for Litton, his 486 air yards – on 33-of-48 with two touchdowns – has been topped only twice in Herd history. Byron Leftwich threw for a school-record 576 yards in the 2001 GMAC Bowl double-overtime comeback over East Carolina. Michael Payton threw for 496 in a 1991 home win over VMI.
Allen’s 232 receiving yards rank sixth in Marshall annals, and were the most for the Herd since Josh Davis had a 264-yard day against Appalachian State in 2002. Randy Moss owns the Herd mark at 288 in a 1996 NCAA Division I-AA playoff victory over Delaware.
The yardage numbers posted by Litton and Allen – who had a 66-yard scoring catch -- were single-game highs in Conference USA this season.
Following a touching pregame ceremony saluting the late Herd star lineman and Marshall and Charlotte assistant coach Phil Ratliff, Marshall needed only 20:48 of clock time to build a 28-0 lead. By halftime, Holliday’s club had put up 406 of its season-high 630 yards total offense, and 173 of Litton’s 333 passing yards at the break were in seven completions to Allen.
“We wanted to come out set the tone and thought we did that; we played extremely well,” said Holliday, whose six Herd teams are a combined 22-6 in games played after Oct. 28 on the calendar. “The second half, we moved the ball up and down the field, but didn’t finish those drives. We missed a couple of field goals, which we hadn’t been doing, and we had guys jumping offside (false starts), penalties we have to clean up.”
The big numbers posted by Litton and Allen came in only three quarters as the Herd went to backups in the final period. Marshall’s offense had a pair of nine-play 97-yard drives and another of 84 yards in nine plays – all for first-half touchdowns. Allen and tight end Ryan Yurachek caught Litton TD passes.
“We tried to start fast, play strong,” Allen said. “We got some momentum on that first play. I feel like we’d been working all week. We saw what they’d do, scheme-wise, a Cover Four team, and we just tried to take advantage of holes in the defense.”
Herd offensive coordinator Bill Legg’s unit tried to unhinge the 49ers by playing tempo with the hosts. It worked. The beneficiary was Litton, a maturing QB who seemed to thrive as Charlotte was pinned into sets it didn’t particularly want.
“One thing we did was we went more tempo today, started to speed things up, which we hadn’t done most of the year, and I thought (Litton) handled that well,” Holliday said. “He made good decisions on the run-pass options and he stepped up and played really well. Davonte Allen had a big-time game.
“I thought Chase threw the ball really well down the field all day long. End of the day, he’s 7-0 -- that’s what matters.”
“The first half, we came out clicking,” Litton said. “Playing fast got them away from all of the stunts they do and all the coverages they like to switch. So, we played fast, and then they can’t do that and it’s in our favor.
“But we’ve got to finish. The second half we were in (the red zone) four or five times and we only ended up scoring three points. We can’t do that. As an offense we can’t do that. The defense put us in a situation to succeed. The first half we were clicking and the second half we just came out too slow -- not uptight because we were doing what we were doing in the first half. But we just didn’t finish.”
While the Herd was 5-of-8 on red-zone opportunities, it did post a second straight game without a turnover. And defensively, Marshall has allowed only 57 points in five C-USA wins. Safety Taj Letman had a Herd-leading 10 tackles and two pass breakups.
Asked about his best career game, Allen insisted “nothing was different” about the Herd’s first game with the 49ers.
“They just gave us the looks we wanted and we took some shots a couple of times and capitalized on them,” the senior outside receiver said. “I was just having fun. It was just like playing in the backyard … pitch and catch.”
SEEN ‘N’ HERD: Nick Smith’s successful Herd field goal streak stopped at 12 when he missed back-to-back third-quarter attempts from 37 and 36 yards. However, Smith’s run is the second longest in Marshall history, trailing only the 16 in a row made by Craig Ratanamorn in 2008 (final two) and 2009 (first 14 tries). The Herd had made 19 straight FGs when Smith missed … Backup tight end Emanuel Byrd’s 41-yard reception was the longest by a Herd TE since Devon Johnson had a 52-yarder in the 2013 home win over East Carolina that clinched the C-USA East Division title … Johnson remains out due to injury, but junior safety Tiquan Lang – usually sporting No. 21 – wore Johnson’s no. 47 jersey in tribute. It was a little large. Lang is 5 feet 9, 182 pounds, while Johnson is 6-1, 243 … Redshirt freshman Fedrice Binot saw his first extensive playing time at right offensive tackle … The Herd goes to Middle Tennessee (3-5, 2-2) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Blue Raiders had an open date this weekend … Marshall and Western Kentucky (7-2, 5-0) remain neck-and-neck for the C-USA East lead, pointing toward a potential noon showdown on Nov. 27 in Bowling Green, Ky.