UAB (2-6) at Marshall (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 9, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Joan C. Edwards Stadium (38,227) -- Huntington, West Virginia. Television: CSS. Home Record: UAB 1-2, MU 4-0. Away Record: UAB 1-4, MU 1-3. Neutral Record: UAB 0-0, MU 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 1-3, MU 3-1. Series Record: Marshall leads, 6-2.
GAME NOTES: The Marshall Thundering Herd will be out for revenge on Saturday when the UAB Blazers visit Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a Conference USA tilt.
The Thundering Herd finished the 2012 season one win shy of bowl eligibility. Marshall's only questionable loss came late in the season when it was upset, 38-31, by the Blazers at Legion Field. The victory improved UAB to 6-2 versus the Herd in the all-time series, but it has gone winless in Huntington in four tries.
UAB showed it is capable of an upset last week as it held a lead for the majority of its home game versus Middle Tennessee, which is the only C-USA team with a win over Marshall so far. The Blazers could not hold on to the advantage and lost, 24-21, as the Blue Raiders connected on an 18-yard field goal in the closing seconds. Coach Garrick McGee's team has been unimpressive for the most part of the 2013 campaign and enters at 2-6 with a 1-3 mark in league play. UAB will be looking to end a two-game losing slide.
Marshall bounced back from its last second loss to Middle Tennessee last week with a 61-13 rout of Southern Miss. Coach Doc Holliday has guided the school into the postseason only once so far in his three seasons in Huntington. The Thundering Herd will most likely clinch another postseason berth and have an excellent chance to earn a spot in the C-USA Championship as they and ECU are the only teams in the East Division with a single loss in league play to this point. Marshall is 5-3 overall, which includes a 4-0 record at home. It has won its last six games at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
The Blazers amassed 299 rushing yards and attempted passes on just nine of their 65 offensive plays in their close loss to the Blue Raiders last week. The Blazers had two players gain over 100 yards on the ground in the same game for the first time since 2009 as Jordan Howard racked up 154 yards on 23 carries, while Darrin Reaves rushed 27 times for 119 yards and a score. Reaves has been a factor in UAB's offense for some time. His strong showing last week improved his career total of rushing yards to 2,087, which is the fourth most in school history. The freshman Howard will find himself among the school career leaders in the future if he continues to build upon his excellent debut season, during which he has averaged 6.8 yards per carry to rank third in the C-USA with 92.9 ypg.
The Blazers are usually much more balanced offensively as 54.6 percent of their gained offensive yards have come through the air. The gameplan changed last week as senior signal caller Jonathan Perry made his first start of the year. Perry has been efficient as a passer in limited work under center and showed he can engineer a drive when needed in last week's hard-fought loss, but UAB will heavily lean on its talented running back duo for as long as they stay productive.
The issue for the Blazers this season has been their porous defense. Although it showed improvement last week, the unit allows 38.4 ppg and 469.1 ypg, which ranks 115th and 109th in the FBS, respectively. Jake Ganus leads the team with 62 tackles, which is 28 more than any of his teammates. He has also registered six tackles for loss and Diaheem Watkins has been a factor with 3.5 sacks.
UAB's defense will need to make huge strides to slow down Marshall, which has been unstoppable offensively en route to conference leading averages of 40 ppg and 473.2 ypg. The Thundering Herd looked finely tuned last week with Rakeem Cato's five touchdown passes leading the way to a lopsided victory. With his prolific passing day, Cato tied Chad Pennington's school record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass (26). He frequently targeted his favorite weapon Tommy Shuler, who finished with 10 catches for 76 yards and two touchdowns.
Cato and Shuler have both been consistently productive throughout the campaign. Cato has completed 60.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,069 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions. Shuler is pacing the Herd in receiving with 593 yards on 59 catches. Senior tight end Gator Hoskins has proven himself as a red zone threat with 10 touchdown grabs, which is the most by any player at his position in the nation.
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 amassed 304 yards on the ground and 332 through the air versus USM. As a result of the play calling, senior tailback Essray Taliaferro has already surpassed his previous career best single-season rushing total with 610 yards and six touchdowns on 112 carries.
The Herd are very stingy on the defensive side of the ball. They are second in the conference in terms of points allowed (21.8 ppg) and total yardage allowed (348.9 ypg). Marshall played well defensively against the Golden Eagles, recording five sacks, 11 TFL and a couple of takeaways. Jermaine Holmes has been the anchor with 49 total tackles, seven TFL and an interception.
Marshall had trouble stopping the run against Middle Tennessee and it is hard to gauge much from last week's game versus the winless Golden Eagles. UAB could challenge the Herd in this one if Reaves and Howard continue to excel, but Cato is going to be nearly impossible to match if he stays in the zone.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Marshall 42, UAB 24
11/06 10:44:51 ET