Herd’s ‘Florida boys’ shine in win
MIAMI — Following Marshall University’s 28-25 win Saturday against FIU, Thundering Herd defensive end Juwon Young came out of the locker room and took a deep breath.
Young just had to take a second to breathe in the Miami air one last time before hitting the bus to the airport and head back to Huntington.
There was definitely a charge in the air for Marshall’s large Florida contingent as Young and his Sunshine State teammates shined in their return to the area in front of friends and family.
“Back in the city, back in the city, man,” Young said with a big grin. “It feels good to come back here and get a win, especially. FIU has been a problem in the conference a little bit, but we came to handle a job and we did.”
Young finished with five tackles, including a half-tackle-for-loss defensively, and also made a big special teams play when he and Ryan Bee teamed to push back the guard on a field goal attempt, which led to a blocked field goal early in the third quarter.
It was not the only major special teams play by a Florida native, either.
Largo, Florida, native Brandon Drayton came through to block a punt, which he recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter.
As Marshall’s big performances go, the state of Florida was etched all along the Herd’s leaders.
Offensively, wide receiver Tyre Brady — another Miami native — led the way with a pair of touchdown receptions while Frankie Hernandez — a Largo native, like Drayton — led the Herd defense with eight tackles.
Omari Cobb, from Port St. Lucie, Florida, intercepted a pass and returned it 25 yards for a score, meaning all four Herd touchdowns came from Florida players.
“We’ve got a lot of people’s families here,” Hernandez said. “This is a great time for our team and everybody to get together and get this ‘W.’ ”
Brady said each Floridabased player in the locker room was amped up for the return. Marshall’s contingent accounted for nearly half of the actual fans inside Riccardo Silva Stadium, which had an estimated live attendance of 2,000 (announced crowd was 14,862).
Brady added that looking across the line of scrimmage or to the opposing sideline threw it back to the high school days when guys were competed for local pride.
“This Florida air, man,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of competition every time we step out on the field against our peers and we take that to heart. Being from Florida, it was a must-win for us and we went in there and got it done.”
It wasn’t just important to the Florida players, either.
Marshall players from outside the state of Florida sensed the importance of winning for their teammates who were back home.
“It definitely puts a chip on their shoulder being from Florida and wanting to show out for their families and friends or whatever the case may be here,” Marshall running back Brenden Knox (from Columbus) said. “I definitely feel like that contributed to the win tonight.”
While the victory only counted as one win in the standings, it also could go a long way toward Marshall’s future.
Given Marshall’s presence in recruiting within the state of Florida, the Herd could be considered as the third Conference USA team from the Sunshine State, along with FIU and Florida Atlantic. Considering Marshall defeated FIU and Florida Atlantic, it’s fair to say the Herd’s “Florida boys” are the champs of the Sunshine State in 2018.
SCORING ALL WAYS: Marshall achieved a bit of a statistical oddity, scoring touchdowns in all three phases of the game.
Offensively, the Herd had a pair of touchdown passes from Isaiah Green to Brady.
Defensively, Marshall got a score when Cobb picked off James Morgan and returned it 25 yards to the end zone.
And, in addition to negating an FIU score with a blocked field goal, Marshall added a special teams touchdown when Drayton flew in to block and recover a punt in the end zone.
Four touchdowns — one in each of the three phases. That’s a complete performance.
HERD STREAK ENDS: Marshall entered the game as one of two teams in the nation to not allow the opposition to eclipse 150 yards rushing in any game and the Herd was the only team to not allow a 30-yard rushing play.
Both streaks came to a close. FIU’s Napoleon Maxwell ripped off a 37-yard rush in the first half to end that streak while rushing for 96 yards to fuel an effort by the Panthers that produced 190 yards.
CRAZY EIGHTS: Numbers might not be superstitious, but the No. 8 was really good to Marshall. Three of Marshall’s four touchdowns were scored by players wearing jersey No. 8.
Brady scored two touchdowns wearing No. 8 for the offense; Drayton, No. 8 on defense.