MCGILL: Marshall's Strong Defense Gets Tall Challenge in Bowl
The Word on the Herd -- Dec. 15, 2017
By Chuck McGill
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Something has to give in Saturday’s Gildan New Mexico Bowl here at Dreamstyle Stadium.
The teams with identical records – Colorado State and Marshall are both 7-5 – meet at 4:30 p.m., the first day of the bowl season. The game will be broadcast nationally be ESPN.
Marshall’s top 25 defense meets Colorado State’s top 10 offense. The Herd held nine of 12 opponents under 400 yards of total offense and did not allow the opposition to eclipse 500 total yards of offense all season. The Rams, well, their offense had no problem moving the ball this season, as they average 501 yards per game.
Yes, in this bowl game, a defense that has not allowed a 500-yard effort meets a team that averages that number. MU defensive coordinator Chuck Heater cautioned that CSU is not a one-man show. Receiver Michael Gallup was a Biletnikoff finalist – an award handed to the nation’s best receiver – after catching 94 balls for 1,345 yards. He ranks third and fifth in those categories nationally.
“They got a bunch (of playmakers),” Heater said. “It’s one of those type of things if you spend too much time on him the other guys will beat you.”
Gallup, though, will receive his fair share of attention from a Marshall defense that has played well in wins and losses.
“There’s a reason he’s one of the top receivers in the nation,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said at a Friday morning press conference at the Isleta Resort & Casino. “He’s got strong hands; he gets in and out of routes; he’s physical; he’s a gamer.
“He finds a way to make plays.”
Gallup has six 100-yard games this season, although never consecutively. He also had a pair of 200-yard performances, and finished the 2016 season with five consecutive 100-yard games and eight straight games with a touchdown reception.
Those types of numbers are what landed Gallup on the Biletnikoff list.
“That’s not easy to do from the Marshalls and Colorado States of the world,” Heater said.
Marshall has experience taming potent offenses this season. The Herd allowed 353 total yards of offense at Florida Atlantic this season. The Owls enter bowl play as the No. 14 offense in FBS play. Marshall is the only team to hold FAU under 400 yards of offense in the last 10 games of the season. Meanwhile, the Owls put up totals of 804 yards and 633 yards on the C-USA West Division champs, North Texas.
Holliday sees Saturday’s bowl game as a three-fold opportunity for his Herd.
“You get the opportunity to play on a national stage,” he said. “(Winning the bowl game) springboards your younger players into the offseason, and you get the opportunity to send your seniors out right.”
Marshall players and coaches have been busy since landing in Albuquerque on Wednesday morning. There have been dinners, a luncheon, visits to hospitals and schools, and even a competition against Colorado State in a version of the game show Family Feud. Marshall won.
Senior tight end Ryan Yurachek was asked about his Albuquerque experience at Friday’s press conference.
“This is my third bowl game. Not that the other ones weren’t great bowl games … the hospitality here has been unbelievable,” he said. “We got off the plane and there’s a mariachi band and 50 people greeting us. All of the events, the hotel staff, the bowl staff – everybody has been amazing.”
This will be the first game in Marshall football history played in New Mexico, but one coach has been here and done that.
Chuck Heater, the Herd’s defensive coordinator, coached at Colorado State in 1991 and 1992, and then spent six seasons at Colorado. Colorado State won at New Mexico, 14-10, on the final regular season game of 1992.
THE HYPE FROM JAWS
Ron Jaworski, a former NFL quarterback and current NFL analyst for ESPN, was in Albuquerque on Friday to speak at the bowl game luncheon. Prior to that, Jaworski held a press conference and raved about Marshall and Colorado State.
“I know they are two well-coached teams,” Jaworski said. “I’m familiar with Mike Bobo and Doc Holliday and their pedigree as coaches, what they believe in. They stand for something. They’re good programs. I think the New Mexico Bowl gets two quality teams and coaching staffs. It should be a heck of a football game.
“You don’t get to these games unless you’re well-coached with good players.”
Jaworski, who played in the NFL from 1973 until 1989, spent a majority of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was asked about his thoughts on former Marshall star Vinny Curry, who was drafted by the Eagles in 2012 and has spent his entire career in Philadelphia.
“Vinny Curry has been absolutely incredible in Philadelphia, especially when (defensive coordinator) Jim Schwartz came in and put him in position to make plays,” Jaworski said. “In Philly, when Schwartz came in, they put him in that wide nine. As defensive players, they get out as wide as they want and take a straight shot at the quarterback. The style of defense in Philadelphia has really helped Vinny emerge as one of the stalwarts of that Eagles defense.
“He’s a classy, quality guy. Marshall should be proud they put that kind of player in the National Football League.”
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 www.twitter.com/chuckmcgill – and Marshall’s official football account – @HerdFB or www.twitter.com/HerdFB. Questions are welcome on Twitter or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org