Marshall (6-3) at Tulsa (2-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 14, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: H.A. Chapman Stadium (30,000) -- Tulsa, Oklahoma. Television: Fox Sports 1. Home Record: Marshall 5-0, Tulsa 1-3. Away Record: Marshall 1-3, Tulsa 1-4. Neutral Record: Marshall 0-0, Tulsa 0-0. Conference Record: Marshall 4-1, Tulsa 1-4. Series Record: Tulsa leads, 4-0.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd will try to defeat the Golden Hurricane for the first time in history on Thursday when they battle Tulsa in a Conference USA bout at H.A. Chapman Stadium.
Although the Thundering Herd have won four of their last five games to improve to 6-3 and become bowl eligible, all three of their losses have come on the road this season. Marshall's lone victory away from home did not come easy as it barely edged out Florida Atlantic for a 24-23 decision. Coach Doc Holliday's team can not afford a loss if it hopes to earn a berth in the C-USA title game as its 4-1 league record has it positioned a half-game behind the 5-1 East Carolina Pirates. The Thundering Herd have built up a ton of momentum over their past two outings by coasting to a 61-13 victory over Southern Miss before completing a 56-14 rout of UAB last week at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Tulsa owns a 4-0 all-time series lead versus Marshall thanks to its 45-38 win in Huntington last October. Coach Bill Blankenship's squad will have trouble maintaining perfection in the rivalry as the Golden Hurricane's 2012 C-USA Championship season seems like a distant memory, entering this bout with a 2-7 overall record. With senior quarterback Cody Green out of action this past Saturday with an injury, redshirt Dane Evans took over under center. The rookie struggled as Tulsa suffered a 58-24 loss at East Carolina which marked its third consecutive setback.
Marshall has been much more balanced offensively this season after ranking first nationally in passing yardage in 2012. This was made evident last week when the Herd had three players compile over 100 rushing yards for the first time in school history versus UAB. Steward Butler (139), Essray Taliaferro (118) and Kevin Grooms (108) all surpassed the century mark on the ground to help Marshall rack up 657 yards of total offense. Taliaferro scored two rushing touchdowns, while Butler, Grooms and Rakeem Cato all registered a single rushing score. Taliaferro is the team's leading rusher on the season with an average of 80.9 ypg and is eight rushing scores is tied for first in the C-USA rankings.
Cato did some damage versus the Blazers while the score remained close as he finished 14-of-20 for 276 yards and three passing touchdowns to break Chad Pennington's school record with 27 consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The junior quarterback and wideout Tommy Shuler have both been consistently productive throughout the campaign. Cato has completed 60.0 percent of his pass attempts for 2,345 yards and 23 touchdowns against six interceptions. Shuler is pacing the Herd in receiving with 693 yards on 65 catches. Senior tight end Gator Hoskins has proven himself as a red zone threat with seven touchdown grabs, which leads all tight ends nationally.
Defensively, Marshall has limited seven of its nine opponents to 23 points or less through regulation. The Herd rank second in the C-USA in terms of points allowed (20.8 ppg) and third in total yardage allowed (361.7 ypg). Marshall played well defensively against the Blazers in its last outing, recording seven TFL and two fumble recoveries while holding UAB to only one touchdown on three red zone trips. Brandon Sparrow has recovered a fumble in two consecutive games. Jermaine Holmes has been the anchor with 61 total tackles, 7.5 TFL and an interception.
Despite Marshall's overwhelming lead over UAB for much of the contest, the Blazers attempted only 17 passes. The previous week the Herd registered five sacks versus USM.
Tulsa's offensive line has been able to absorb opposing pass rushers well so far and is tied for sixth in the FBS in sacks allowed (0.78 per game). Despite the solid protection, the quarterback play has been atrocious. Green has hit on only 56.2 percent of his throws and tallied just seven TDs to six interceptions. Evans, who has played in only five games, has also been picked off six times and completed only 45.5 percent of his attempts.
The Golden Hurricane have a solid tailback in Trey Watts, who has rushed a conference-high 178 times for 857 yards and six scores. The senior running back has also reeled in a team-high total of 41 receptions for 370 yards. The team's top two wideouts, Jordan James (390 yards) and Keevan Lucas (373 yards), have been only slightly more productive in the aerial attack.
While Tulsa's offense turned the ball over four times versus ECU, the defense surrendered 505 yards to the Pirates. Will Barrow had a strong showing on the defensive side of the ball with 11 tackles, a forced fumble and a 37-yard fumble return for a touchdown, which marked the first defensive score of the season for the team. Tulsa's defensive unit has been poor throughout the season, ranking 12th in the league in red zone defense (92.3) with allowances of 405.6 total yards of offense and 34 points per outing.
Although Marshall has had trouble outside of the state of West Virginia this season, it has a lot more on the line heading into this week 12 matchup. A loss would be detrimental to the Herd's C-USA title hopes, but due to their incredible balance they should be able to down the struggling Golden Hurricane without much trouble.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 42, Tulsa 24
11/14 15:05:35 ET