Non-league tilts show MU hasn’t changed
Let’s dare to compare.
After the close to a successful 2017 season, Marshall University’s football program changed both its offensive and defensive coordinators.
Long-time offensive coordinator Bill Legg was let go, while veteran defensive coordinator Chuck Heater departed for Power Five pastures at the University of Maryland.
The duo was replaced by Tim Cramsey as offensive coordinator while former MU linebackers coach Adam Fuller was promoted to defensive coordinator.
So, now that the non-conference portion of the season has been completed and since the 2017 and 2018 non-league schedules included two of the same opponents — Miami (Ohio) and N.C. State — it seems like the perfect time to compare the bodies of work.
Interestingly enough, under both sets of coordinators Marshall lost to N.C. State by the identical same score — 37-20. And, score-wise, the wins over Miami (Ohio) also were very similar — 31-26 in 2017 and 35-28 in 2018.
The similarities don’t end there.
In 2017, N.C. State star quarterback Ryan Finley completed 29 of 36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
In 2018, Finley was 24 of 40 for 377 yards and one TD with no interceptions.
Wolfpack wide receiver Kelvin Harmon burned MU’s secondary on nine catches for 121 yards and a touchdown in ’17 and added six receptions for 150 yards with no TDs in 2018.
Much the same is true of Miami (Ohio) quarterback Gus Ragland.
In 2017, he was 23 of 44 for 298 yards and two TDs with one interception.
In 2018, Ragland was 25 of 46 for 357 yards and three touchdowns.
So, how much difference did the change in coordinators make? Very little.
Yet, let’s dig a little deeper.
In 2017, Marshall’s offense averaged 27.5 points during non-conference play.
In 2018, it increased slightly to 29.0. But, defensively, it was the opposite.
In 2017, MU allowed 21.0 points, while in ’18 it climbed to 27.0 points.
Total offense-wise, MU averaged 366.3 yards (5.3 yards per play) on 69.3 plays in 2017.
During this non-conference, the Herd averaged 378.0 yards on 69.0 plays for a 5.5-yard average.
Again, very similar.
The same goes for MU’s defense. In ’17, it allowed 380.5 yards on 71.8 plays for a 5.3-yard average.
In 2018, it dropped slightly to 377.7 yards but the average remained at 5.3 yards.
MU’s passing has increased in 2018, averaging 273.3 yards and a .580 completion percentage.
In 2017, MU averaged 253.5 yards (20 less) and a .600 completion percentage.
Still much the same.
MU’s running game has declined in 2018, averaging 29.3 carries for 104.7 yards.
In ’17, the Herd averaged 31.8 attempts and 112.8 yards. But, again, not a profound difference.
The biggest differences are in punting, time of possession and third-down conversions. In 2017, MU averaged 44.9 yards per punt. In 2018, it’s only 35.5 yards. As for time of possession, MU was winning this stat in 2017, but not in ’18.
As for third-down possession, MU succeeded at a .460 clip in ’17, but is at .400 in 2018. Defensively, MU allowed only .339 in ’17, but the percentage is .410 in 2018.
What it all amounts to is Fuller is utilizing much of Heater’s concept defensively and it shows. MU is very tough against the run, but allows a lot of passing yardage.
Offensively, Cramsey’s scheme has yet to post the big boost that Marshall’s fans expected. So far, so same.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.