It’s been a tale of two seasons for Marshall. A hot start cooled off in a hurry.
Marshall started the season 4-0, but their trajectory completely shifted when they went on a five-game losing streak following that ODU game.
To be fair, its schedule was brutal during that stretch. It faced North Carolina State, Georgia State, James Madison, Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State. You’d be hard pressed to find a Group of Five team — and even a number of Power Five programs — to come out of that stretch with more than two wins.
However, for the Herd, it wasn’t able to come away with one win in those five weeks and suddenly dropped to 4-5 and 1-4 in Sun Belt play.
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With things looking grim, Marshall rallied to score a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter and defeat Georgia Southern last week in a win that seemed to have salvaged its season.
Sure, the Herd would have had two games left against South Alabama and Arkansas State and still had the chance to reach bowl eligibility if they lost to GASO. But with the way they were playing and knowing their next two opponents wouldn’t be pushovers, securing a bowl berth was far from certain.
Now, there’s a chance for the Herd to reach at least seven wins for the eighth consecutive season.
Part of the reason Marshall struggled so badly during its losing streak was because they weren’t able to generate any offense. The Herd combined for just 24 total points in its last three losses and averaged 198 total yards in those games. It also had four road games in those five losses, and are 1-4 on the road this year.
Against Georgia Southern, Marshall was able to lean on Rasheen Ali and its experienced offensive line to get the ground game going. When Ali has gotten opportunities this season, Marshall has found success. He rushed for 165 yards and three scores last week:
In the Herd’s losses, Ali wasn’t getting as many touches and had just 25 combined carries in the previous two games, compared to 24 last week. This was in part due to the Herd falling behind early, but still, the offense goes as he goes.
With an undisclosed injury, Ali missed the JMU game but his 14 rushing TDs rank second in the league while his 100 rushing YPG are fourth.
This year’s rough patch was somewhat similar to one Marshall encountered last season. Following one of the biggest upsets of 2022 in which the Herd knocked off then 18th-ranked Notre Dame 26-21, it went on to lose three of its next four games with the only win coming against FCS Gardner-Webb.
Marshall bounced back, though, and won its final four games of the regular season to finish 8-4. They followed up by knocking off UConn in the Myrtle Beach Bowl, 28-14.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Herd finish the season. Will it mirror last year, where it closes out the season on a much-needed win streak? Or will they stumble again and miss out on the postseason?
We’ll find out soon enough if Charles Huff’s squad can bounce back from a stretch that many teams wouldn’t be able to do.