Ball security is key for Thundering Herd football

November 10, 2017

HUNTINGTON — For Marshall University football, there is a simple formula for winning. Take care of the football and victories will take care of themselves.

In Marshall’s six wins this season, the Thundering Herd is plus-5 in turnover margin. In its three losses, Marshall is minus-9 in the turnover battle.

That includes the last two weeks when the Thundering Herd coughed up the ball seven times and didn’t produce a turnover of its own in losses to Florida Atlantic and FIU.

“During the first seven games, we took care of the football,” Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. “You have to follow the plan to win. If you do that, you win the game.”

The difference has been with quarterback Chase Litton who has who had seven turnovers in the last two games — six interceptions and a fumble lost.

Both of the last two games started with a turnover on the first drive, which set a bad tone.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to take is that, despite the turnover issues in both losses, the Herd was within striking distance late — especially in last week’s loss to Florida Atlantic (30-25).

Marshall had its chances, but wasn’t

able to get over the hump of giving up multiple possessions to the opposition.

To Litton’s credit, he shouldered the blame for the difficulties and worked to correct the issues, which Holliday said are not as egregious as they appear to outsiders.

“It would be one thing if he was forcing throws and making bad reads,” Holliday said. “He isn’t. He’s throwing the ball where it’s supposed to be. A couple of balls took off on him. Sometimes, those are incomplete, and they just happened to be interceptions (against FAU). He understands. He’s a competitor, and there’s nobody that wants to correct things more than he does.”

Holliday added that Litton is still the same quarterback that helped Marshall to a five-game winning streak and a 6-1 start on the year.

“The first seven games, he played really well and took care of the ball,” Holliday said. “He’s just got to get back to what he was doing.”

Marshall’s only other loss came in Week 2 at N.C. State — a game where the Herd was also minus-2 in the turnover department.

The Herd has just one win when losing the turnover battle — the 14-3 win at Charlotte when the Herd had a pair of fumbles lost, including one following a defensive interception.

Marshall (6-3, 3-2 Conference USA) will be going against a Western Kentucky (5-4, 3-2) defense Saturday that is gaining an interception per game (9 INTs on the year). The Hilltoppers have gained 12 turnovers on the year while losing 13 total, meaning their turnover margin is minus-1. Marshall’s turnover margin is minus-4.

Kickoff between the Herd and Hilltoppers is 6:30 p.m. in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg repeated his philosophy that the offense is successful when every drive ends in a kick — whether an extra point, a field goal attempt or, at times, a punt.

In those situations, there are no sudden change issues that can put the defense behind the proverbial 8-ball.

Especially with Western Kentucky struggling in the run game, a punt and winning the field position battle can loom just as large as trying to force the issue offensively.

For Marshall to turn its recent misfortunes around, the Herd needs to flip the turnover battle in its favor.

WKU (5-4, 3-2 C-USA) AT MARSHALL (6-3, 3-2 C-USA)

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Joan C. Edwards Stadium

TV: beIN Sports

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

TICKETS: HerdZone.com