THE ‘MEMORIAL’ GAME
HERD VS. 49ERS
HUNTINGTON — All week long, Marshall players and coaches have said the right things in reference to the importance of this week’s ‘Memorial’ game against Charlotte, which is the annual game to honor those 75 persons lost in the 1970 Marshall plane crash.
Now, it’s time for the Herd to back up its talk when the Herd and 49ers meet at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in a contest that can be seen on ESPN+.
“As we all know, the game that we play every year closest to Nov. 14 is the most important game we play all year,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “We do a great job of educating our kids of the history of this school and what it’s all about. We bring in (WSAZ’s) Keith Morehouse...and a lot of people to explain what the history is to our kids. We want them to understand it and know the important of it. It is so important that we go out and play our best football that we have all year on that particular date.”
Throughout Holliday’s tenure, the team has shown that it understands that point, winning seven of eight games that fall closest to the Nov. 14 anniversary of the crash of Southern Airways Flight 932 in its return from a 17-14 loss to East Carolina in 1970.
That figure includes victories in all six home contests with those wins coming by an average of 21.5 points per game.
Achieving that type of victory against Charlotte (4-5, 3-2 C-USA) will not be easy, given the 49ers’ strength on the defensive side of the football.
Charlotte is coming off of a 14-3 loss to Tennessee in which the team allowed just one offensive touchdown and 20 rushing yards to the SEC foe.
“Tennessee’s offense scored seven points and the other seven came off of punt returns,” Holliday said. “They play great defense and do a good job at controlling the ball offensively.”
Marshall (5-3, 3-2 C-USA) is coming off a disappointing 26-24 loss on the road at Southern Miss in which the team turned the ball over on several occasions, including a two-minute stretch late in the first half where the contest went from a seven-point Marshall lead with possession to a seven-point halftime deficit.
Turnovers are a point of emphasis for the Herd because of Charlotte’s ball-control nature on the offense end. The 49ers are ranked No. 3 in FBS in time of possession at more than 36 minutes per game.
Both defenses are among the nation’s best in run defense, meaning that the battle up front will loom large on the victor of Saturday’s aftair.
Charlotte is No. 3 in FBS, allowing just 82 yards per game on the ground while Marshall is not far behind at No. 13 in FBS while giving up just 103.5 rushing yards per game.
While Marshall likes to balance out their offense, Charlotte’s offense is more run-based behind running back Benny LeMay, meaning that the Herd defense and Charlotte offense is set for a power struggle on Saturday.
“Their defensive front is really good, so they make it tough to run the ball, which we like to do,” Charlotte head coach Brad Lambert said.
Isaiah Green is back as the starting quarterback for Marshall after coming in during the second half of the loss to Southern Miss. Green brings more of a passing threat to the offense than Alex Thomson showed in his four games at the helm.
Green has had turnover issues, however, and lurking in the Charlotte defense is linebacker Juwan Foggie, who leads FBS in interceptions with six. Each team has plenty to play for on Saturday as they look to move forward with a win. Charlotte is at 4-5 on the year and is looking to become bowl-eligible for the first time as a member of FBS while the Herd is looking to honor the ’75′ while also getting back on track and becoming bowl-eligible, as well.
Lambert, who served as an assistant at Marshall from 1990-95, said he knows that Saturday will be a sizable task for each team.
“Everyone is playing for a lot,” Lambert said. “They are and we are. It should be a really good game and a tough challenge that I think our guys are looking forward to. Marshall’s history and what they have done over the years speaks for itself.”
Ironically, the road team has won all three games in the series history. Marshall earned wins in 2015 (34-10) and 2017 (14-3) while Charlotte came to Huntington in 2016 and left with a 27-24 win.