Some things I learned while watching the Marshall Thundering Herd beat Ohio 33-31 in the Battle for the Bell.
1. Marshall’s running game was better than Ohio’s rushing defense in Week three of the 2019 season:
A key matchup we discussed in our game preview for Marshall vs Ohio was if Ohio’s run defense would be able to contain Marshall’s offensive line/running game. We found out the answer to that question was no. Marshall rolled over the middle of Ohio’s defense for 305 yards rushing, 2 touchdowns, and 6.6 yards per carry average. Marshall’s leading rusher was Brenden Knox, who had a career night (playing only the first half) with 133 yards and a touchdown.
The most puzzling aspect perhaps was how Marshall was able to run so successfully without changing its running plays much throughout the game. Marshall ran a few basic interior runs and QB-runs the entire game which were successful over and over.
Marshall was able to run out the last six minutes of the game with ten consecutive running plays, which were the same types of plays Marshall ran in the first half. It was tough to determine if Ohio made any significant adjustments schematically on the final drive to try to force Marshall to abandon its interior running game.
2. Ohio needs to figure out its tackling issues before they play Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns next week.
Ohio’s defense had missed some tackles in the loss in week two to the Pittsburgh Panthers, especially in the second half, which I chalked-up to fatigue created by being on the field too much.
One of the top reasons for the loss to Marshall was the number of missed tackles by Ohio’s defense. I don’t have an official number, but I would not be surprised if someone told me Ohio missed literally dozens of tackles against Marshall. There were multiple plays where Ohio missed 3-5 tackles on a single play.
Ohio is going to have to fix its tackling issues this week if it wants to compete with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, who come to Athens next weekend. Louisiana is ranked 3rd in the FBS in rushing with an 8.0 yards per carry average and 1st in the FBS with 1,010 yards rushing.
3. Ohio’s offense showed toughness
Ohio played through some key injuries to have a pretty good game on offense. Ohio’s starting center Steven Hayes was injured early and Nick Sink came in and did a solid job in relief.
RB Julian Ross did not play and remaining running backs De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison were injured early but played through it to finish the game with 22 carries for 105 yards and 5 receptions for 42 yards. The receptions were especially key as they were able to pick up some first downs through the air.
4. Ohio QB Nathan Rourke returned to form in week three
After a tough loss to Pitt in week two where a sick Rourke did not account for a touchdown, Rourke returned to form vs Marshall with 333 combined yards rushing and four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). Rourke now has the most touchdowns in Ohio Bobcats’ history with 84 (combined passing, rushing, and receiving touchdowns). The record of 82 was previously held by Ohio great QB Tyler Tettleton.
5. Marshall’s Xavier “X-Factor” Gaines can, and did, do it all on offense.
Gaines was an X-Factor in name and deed against Ohio.
After being relatively contained by Boise State’s defense a week ago (5 touches, 40 yards, no touchdowns), Gaines ran amok against Ohio’s defense, as plays not working against Boise found their mark against Ohio.
Gaines had six touches for a combined 105 yards rushing and receiving and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 43 yard touchdown reception.