After eight long, tough weeks the Blue Raiders finally got an open date on their schedule last Saturday. With more than 20 players having missed time due to injury, it was a welcome bye week for MT. However, it wasn’t the physical rest that Coach Stockstill highlighted when discussing the week off.
“I think it has been better mentally than physically (for the players). Who we’ve played, the schedule we’ve played, where we’ve had to play has been a strain mentally, as well as physically. So, I think our team is fresher mentally because of the time off.”
But the schedule won’t get any easier this week for MT, as they welcome Conference USA defending champions Marshall to Floyd Stadium. Marshall is currently tied with WKU for the lead in the C-USA East division, and have unquestionably the best defense in the conference. Marshall leads the conference in fewest total offensive yards allowed per game and per play. They have proven to be especially adept at shutting down the passing game, allowing opponents to pass for only 177 yards per game while also holding opponents to a measly 47 percent completion percentage. In the process, the Herd have allowed only 16 points per game, also fewest in the conference.
Marshall no longer has the very decorated Rakeem Cato to lean on at quarterback, but instead rely heavily on the running game. Former-linebacker-turned-tight-end-turned-running-back Devon Johnson is a load to bring down at 6’1″ and 245 pounds, and is expected to return against MT after struggling with injuries over the last several weeks and missing the Herd’s last three games. In Johnson’s absence, Marshall hasn’t lacked for depth. Three other backs have averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in 49 attempts.
The Thundering Herd have replaced Cato with true freshman Josh Litton. Litton hasn’t been spectacular versus FBS opponents, but he has done well enough to keep opposing defenses honest. Marshall’s running game paired with Litton’s game management has been enough to put Marshall at 8–1 on the season.
Coach Stockstill spoke earlier this week about the pre-season goals the team had set for this fall. While he acknowledged that winning the C-USA championship was all but out of reach, he did say that getting in and winning a bowl were still realistically achievable goals. However, one must think this week’s game is a must-win, along with the remaining schedule, if the Blue Raiders can keep those hopes alive.
This week marks the 34th Annual Salute to Armed Forces celebration at Floyd Stadium. The special festivities will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a memorial service for veterans in front of the Tom Jackson Building, followed by a complimentary picnic to be held on the lawn of the Kennon Hall of Fame building at 11:30. Veterans, active service members and their families are invited, and will be given tickets to the game. Various military equipment will be displayed around Floyd Stadium as well. In addition to all this, a different branch of the military will be honored each quarter.
This one is scheduled to kickoff Saturday, Nov. 7, at 2:35 p.m. at Floyd Stadium.