Chuck Landon: Special teams not MU’s only problem
Welcome to “Second Guess” Tuesday.
Here are the opinions du jour.
n Everyone knows Marshall’s special teams are a mess.
It was very obvious after watching the Thundering Herd lose two fumbles when punts bounced off teammates, having both a punt and an extra-point kick blocked and fumbling a kickoff.
Some schools’ special teams don’t have that many special teams miscues in a season, much less one game.
The good news, however, is the blocked kicks are fixable.
The bad news?
Punting could be a chronic problem. Redshirt sophomore Robert LeFevre has struggled and it is magnified by the fact he is trying to fill the “shoe” of Kaare Vedvik, who was one of Marshall’s all-time best punters.
LeFevre had a poor night in Marshall’s unimpressive 32-16 win over FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky Saturday night in Edwards Stadium. He punted six times for 187 yards, which calculates to a poor 31.2-yard average.
What’s worse, however, is Marshall averaged merely 24.8 net yards per punt. That does very little to change field position. Net punting is a very important statistic for that very reason.
So, guess where Marshall’s average of 31.3 yards net punting in two games ranks in the NCAA’s statistics? All the way down to No. 118 out of 128 FBS programs.
That must improve.
Otherwise, it’s going to end up biting Marshall right in the
n Marshall has other problems besides special teams.
So, don’t think I’m picking on special teams.
The Herd also is having trouble with holding penalties on the offensive line, pass interference penalties on the cornerbacks and mounting a decent rushing attack.
In two games, Marshall’s offensive line has been flagged for five holding penalties - three vs. Miami (Ohio) and two against Eastern Kentucky.
Right guard and sometimes center Alex Mollette has been assessed a holding penalty in each game. Center Levi Brown and left guard Jordan Dowrey each were called for holding against Miami (Ohio). Then, second-team right tackle Alex Locklear was flagged in the Eastern Kentucky game.
Meanwhile, three Marshall cornerbacks have combined on four pass interference penalties in two game. Junior Chris Jackson leads with a pass interference penalty in each of Marshall’s two games. Jaylen McClain-Sapp and Kereon Merrell had one a piece against Miami (Ohio).
But those penalty woes pale in comparison to the concerns about Marshall’s lackluster running attack.
The Herd’s ground game was decent against Miami (Ohio), contributing 171 yards on 38 attempts for 4.5 yards per carry. But it absolutely stalled against Eastern Kentucky, managing just 89 yards on 28 attempts for a paltry 3.2 yards per carry.
That made Marshall very one-dimensional with 278 yards passing compared to 89 rushing. The ground game was so poor, wide receiver Willie Johnson actually was Marshall’s leading rusher with 36 yards on two reverses.
Sad, but true.
Keion Davis had only 19 yards on 12 carries for a 1.6 yards per attempt average, while Tyler King had 31 yards in 11 attempts for 2.8 yards per carry.
Those are sobering statistics.
So is this one.
Marshall is tied with Southern Miss with a lowly ranking of No. 101 in rushing nationally.
That has to improve.
n A Marshall fan tweeted wanting to know what happened to the Thunder Clap during the Eastern Kentucky game.
But does Marshall’s athletic department have a good answer?
We will see.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.