RIVALRY KICKS OFF 2018 SEASON
OXFORD, Ohio — Last season, the football season opener between Marshall and Miami (Ohio) at Joan C. Edwards Stadium was not decided until the clock reached zeroes.
As it turns out, the 2018 contest between the schools could be just as exciting.
Nearly all the faces that took part in the Thundering Herd’s 31-26 win over the RedHawks last season return to take the field at 3:30 p.m. Saturday when the teams meet at Yager Stadium in Oxford, Ohio.
In the 2017 game, Marshall got two kickoff returns for touchdowns by Keion Davis and a 72-yard interception return by Chris Jackson to spark the win while the offense scored just one touchdown.
Miami head coach Chuck Martin didn’t shy away from the fact that his players team likely have last year’s loss in their minds.
“Obviously, kids that played in the game and went down there and sat in that locker room, I think it will be a little motivation,” Martin said. “They’ve got a lot of returners and we do, too, but it’s a new year and a new start. I don’t know how much it will play in the outcome of the game, but I’m sure it will be in the back of some kids’ minds.”
In that game, Miami outgained Marshall 429-267 but fell short on the scoreboard.
Marshall’s players expect Miami to be hungry for some revenge, which means the Herd will have to be focused on the road to get the season off to a winning start.
“We walked off the field with a win and we were excited about it, but at the same time, we realized that we really didn’t do anything offensively,” Marshall center Levi Brown said. “We’ve stepped up our game and I’m pretty sure that they will come out with a chip on their shoulder also.”
That offense Brown speaks of will feature a new leader in two different aspects in 2018.
The Herd has a new offensive coordinator, Tim Cramsey, who came from Sam Houston State. Cramsey’s offense will be run by a new quarterback — either graduate transfer Alex Thomson or redshirt freshman Isaiah Green — which will not be known until Saturday afternoon.
The starter will have plenty of experienced targets including wide receiver Tyre Brady who returns after hauling in 62 passes for 942 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Marcel Williams and Obi Obialo also bring experience back, along with Willie Johnson.
Marshall’s tandem of running backs returns in Tyler King and Davis, who combined for more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns last year. They will run behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.
Defensively, the Herd also returns nine starters and will look to stop a RedHawk offense that returns its entire offensive line, plus the talented connection of quarterback Gus Ragland and wide receiver James Gardner, who averaged nearly 19 yards per catch and had 11 touchdown receptions last season.
The defense for Miami returns several of its pieces from the 2017 team, but lost a pair of playmakers in the secondary in cornerback Heath Harding and safety Tony Reid. To compensate, Martin moved former starting linebacker De’Andre Montgomery to a safety spot this season, giving the RedHawks a playmaker at each level with defensive tackle Doug Costin, linebacker Brad Koenig and Montgomery on the back end.
“Offensively, they are the same team that you saw out on our field about a year ago,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “Defensively, they lost a couple of guys, but for the most part, they are all back as well. It is going to be a great challenge for us and we have to make sure we play extremely well in all three phases.”
This is the 45th meeting between the teams, and Miami has a commanding 30-13-1 lead in the series.
However, Marshall has won the last four meetings and nine of the last 10 games between the teams, dating back to the days when the teams were Mid-American Conference rivals.
Since Marshall’s return to FBS (formerly NCAA Division I-A) in 1997, the RedHawks have two wins over the Herd in 11 meetings — 45-21 in 1997 and 45-6 win in 2003. Both of those wins came in Oxford.