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Gant’s eyes are focused on NC State

September 22, 2018

HUNTINGTON — Marshall University safety Malik Gant remembers everything about last year’s football contest against N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It was Gant’s first career start and he was intent on taking in every aspect. Earlier this week, Gant rattled off every memory that he had about the game.

The speed of the game.

The sound of the crowd.

The feel of the first tackle.

And the thing he remembered most — the sight of seeing a defender run free for a touchdown after N.C. State ran a trick play that left a receiver running open in behind the Marshall defense.

“We know that they got us on a lot of trick plays last year, so we’ve got to be prepared for that,” Gant said. “Looking at film from other games (in 2018), that’s what they like to do. They like to take advantage of people with undisciplined eyes, so going into this game, we have to focus on that.”

The play Gant mentioned was a flea-flicker pass from Ryan Finley to Jaylen Samuels, who got behind the Thundering Herd safeties for a 39-yard touchdown.

To that point, Marshall had

limited Samuels — NC State’s top versatile threat in 2017 — and the Herd had taken a 20-10 lead.

However, that play changed the game’s complexion.

Marshall followed with a three-and-out, and N.C. State went in for another score just before halftime to take a 23-20 lead into the locker room in a game the Herd felt like it had dominated. The Herd didn’t recover from the haymaker and lost, 37-20.

Statistically, Gant had one of the best debuts of any Marshall defensive player in recent memory.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound junior from Washington, D.C., had 17 tackles, including one tackle for loss. It was a performance that solidified his stance as a rotating starter within the Herd’s three-man safety rotation.

Gant remembered his strong play against the Wolfpack began with a special teams tackle that helped settle his nerves.

“Running down and making the tackle just helped me get used to making tackles throughout the whole game,” Gant said.

Gant used that effort to propel him into his role as a steady playmaker and he finished with 100 tackles last season, which was second on the team to linebacker Chase Hancock.

Prior to this season, Gant was named as a Preseason All-Conference USA selection at defensive back and a Thorpe Award candidate, which is given to the nation’s best defensive back.

Gant is a player the Wolfpack — namely quarterback Ryan Finley — will account for at the line of scrimmage before each snap.

Gant said he also will have his eyes on the N.C. State quarterback.

“We are just going to do everything we can do to slow down Finley and his explosive offense,” Gant said.

NC STATE (2-0) AT MARSHALL (2-0)

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium

TV: CBS Sports Network

RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930AM, WMUL 88.1-FM

TICKETS: www.herdzone.com

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