Brenden Knox steps up as unsung hero
HUNTINGTON — Early in the third quarter, things looked bleak for Marshall.
The Thundering Herd found itself tied with Charlotte 13-all just two minutes into the second half after a fumble and subsequent injury to running back Anthony Anderson, who came off with his left arm dangling.
Anderson was seeing an increased load because of the absence of running backs Tyler King and Keion Davis, who were both out because of injuries.
Those were the only three running backs who had carried the ball all season, leaving the Thundering Herd wondering who might step up.
Enter Brenden Knox, who completely changed the contest in the third quarter.
Knox, who had not logged a carry all season coming into the game, toted the ball 22 times for 116 yards, including a 4-yard touchdown that capped the subsequent drive after the 49ers had knotted the game.
Following the game, Knox’s teammates praised him for not only his effort, but his demeanor for stepping up in an important situation.
“A lot of people watching, that might have been a surprise because they haven’t seen him on the field as much,” Marshall offensive lineman Jordan Dowrey said. “There was no doubt when he got the ball in his hand, that was how he was going to run the ball. Everybody on the team knows what type of guy he is. He goes to work, he does it quietly, he’s never complained one bit about not getting the reps on the field. He does everything he’s supposed to do in the offseason and so, when he got the ball in his hands, we know how he runs, how hard he plays. It was just a matter of time.” The sentiment was not limited to the offensive side of the football with the defensive players also being fueled by their teammate’s breakout performance.” We’re all so excited for him,” Marshall defensive tackle Ryan Bee said. “He’s a guy that never says anything. Back in the spring when Tyler and Keion were in front of him, he never complained. He just went to work and never complained about it or anything and it’s showing now. We call it competitive excellence. Whenever your number is called, you have to step up and make plays, and he did that tonight. We’re proud of him.”
The redshirt freshman from Columbus helped Marshall establish a ground game, which was non-existent in the first half. The lack of a rushing attack helped Charlotte to a 2:1 advantage in time of possession in the first half, but behind Knox, Marshall established itself and helped neutralize that advantage in the second half.
To put it in perspective, Marshall had the ball for only 9:38 in the first half, but Knox’s emergence enabled the Herd to possess the ball for 10:25 of the third quarter alone.
It was the first time Charlotte had given up a 100-yard rusher all season.
And, it was a guy that had never had an official carry in his Marshall career. Chances are, that will change in the upcoming future, though.
ALL HERD WELCOME:
Marshall played a video in the stadium before the game commemorating those who passed away in the Nov. 14, 1970, plane crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 that crashed during an attempt to land at Tri-State Airport on return from a 17-14 loss at East Carolina.
Marshall’s administration took it a bit further, asking former players to come down to the field for the team’s arm-in-arm walk out of the tunnel, which has been customary for the “Memorial” game.
SPECIAL TEAMS AGAIN KEY: Marshall’s lone first-half touchdown came after a blocked punt by Darius Hodge that Naquan Renalds recovered at the Charlotte 1-yard line. Anderson scored on a 1-yard plunge to account for the Herd touchdown.
It was the second-straight week Marshall’s punt block team came up big.
Against Southern Miss last weekend, pressure forced a bobbled snap and Obi Obialo caused a fumble that Brenden Knox recovered for an 8-yard touchdown.
STREAK OVER: Marshall came into Saturday’s contest with an 11-game streak of not allowing a touchdown in the first quarter of a game.
That streak abruptly ended Saturday when Charlotte took the opening drive 75 yards in 12 plays with quarterback Evan Shirreffs scoring on a 1-yard plunge on a broken play. The drive took more than six minutes off the clock and featured 11 consecutive running plays after a pass to open the game. Following that drive, however, Marshall limited Charlotte to just 110 yards the rest of the game, including only 14 on 21 plays in the second half.
SEVERAL PLAYERS OUT: Prior to the game Marshall released an extensive list of normal starters out because of injuries.
Running backs Tyler King and Keion Davis were both announced out on the offensive side, as well as defensive tackle Malik Thompson and linebacker Artis Johnson on defense.
All were out with undisclosed injuries, per head coach Doc Holliday’s policy.
YULEE HONORS AARON: Marshall linebacker Jaquan Yulee decided to take honoring players a bit further. Yulee gave up his normal No. 2, wearing No. 93 in honor of former teammate Larry Aaron, who passed away Feb. 22 from complications resulting from a gunshot wound that left him paralyzed on New Year’s Eve.
In the second half, Yulee switched back to No. 2.