Marshall, 49ers not giving any ground
HUNTINGTON — Saturday’s battle between Marshall and Charlotte could very well end up as a stalemate at the line of scrimmage.
As it turns out, neither team is giving up any ground to the opposition this season.
Charlotte comes in ranked No. 3 in FBS, allowing just 82 rushing yards per game on the season while Marshall is No. 13 nationally at 103.5 rushing yards per game.
Those figures are good enough for Nos. 1 and 2 in Conference USA as the teams get set to meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“There is no doubt that we are very similar teams at this point,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “I think we’re playing pretty good defense as well. It’s going to be a battle of defense. The biggest thing is finding a way to win that turnover battle.”
Holliday went on to talk about last week’s performance by Charlotte, which may be their best of the season to date.
The 49ers went on the road to Tennessee and limited the Volunteers — an SEC opponent — to 20 yards rushing for the game and only one offensive touchdown in a 14-3 loss.
Much of that damage was done by defensive end Alex Highsmith, who was named the Conference USA defensive player of the week after amassing seven tackles, including four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks in the loss to Tennessee.
For the season, Highsmith has 12.5 tackles for loss, which is just two tackles for loss off the program record set by Larry Ogunjobi, who is now in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns.
In addition to Highsmith, Charlotte possesses a major playmaker in linebacker Juwan Foggie, who leads FBS in interceptions with six on the season.
It is all part of a well-rounded defense that Lambert has put together, which helps accentuate his gameplan, which is to play good defense and control possessions on offense.
“If you look at them statistically, they are one of the top (teams) in America defensively,” Holliday said.
Not to be outdone, the Herd has also been strong defensively, allowing just over 100 yards on the ground by getting to the football in bunches and gangtackling. That will be especially crucial against Charlotte running back Benny LeMay, who is a load to bring down at 5-foot-9, 220 pounds.
Holliday paid LeMay the ultimate compliment, comparing him to preseason Conference USA Player of the Year Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic.
Marshall limited Singletary to 39 yards in a victory over Florida Atlantic earlier this year.
“He is similar to Singletary,” Holliday said. “He’s hard to tackle with just one guy. He makes the first guy miss, so you have to rally to the ball, as we did with Singletary. It will be the same type of challenge we had there, but (LeMay) is a little bigger and more physical.”
Marshall’s players said the physical nature of the game is something they embrace and they look to prove each week that they are the most physical unit on the field.
“I believe it starts with all of us,” Marshall defensive tackle Channing Hames said. “It’s our mentality and what we want to do before the game starts. We’re a really aggressive attack front. It starts from there, just attacking our men, just getting off blocks and just trying to make plays for the betterment of our defense, really. I think you’ll see a lot of that on Saturday, as a whole.”