The Florida International Golden Panthers (5-5, 3-3) will travel up the east coast and take on the Marshall Thundering Herd (8-2, 5-1) in a Conference USA East Division matchup Saturday afternoon. Marshall has won the three previous meetings between the schools, including a 45-13 romp on the road as a 21 point favorite on October 18, 2014 in the most recent matchup.
Marshall had their seven game win streak snapped with a surprising 27-24 triple overtime defeat to Middle Tennessee on the road last week. Florida International won for the second time in three games to get back to .500 as they dumped Charlotte 48-31 at home last week. Kickoff from Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia is scheduled for 3:30 pm ET and the game will not be nationally televised. Marshall is a 12 point favorite currently with the over/under set at 54 points.
Florida International raced to a 34-10 halftime lead over Charlotte and never looked back in the victory. The Golden Panthers outgained the 49ers 439-395 and held a slim 30:40 to 29:20 edge in the time of possession battle. That helped Florida International overcome the fact that they gave up 27 first downs to their 24; both teams committed one turnover in the game. The Golden Panthers scored early on a blocked punt to set the tone and then added a pick six in the third quarter to add on to their point barrage.
The Golden Panthers are averaging 266.1 yards (36th in the nation) per game through the air and 113.5 yards (118th in the nation) per contest on the ground this season. Florida International scores 30 points a game, which is tied for 61st in scoring offense, and is 50th in scoring defense as they allow 24.3 points per contest; four of their five losses have been by double figures. The Golden Panthers have thrown 380 passes while running the ball 320 times; Alex McGough is 241 of 365 for 2,529 yards with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season while ranking tied for third on the team with 104 rushing yards plus three scores. Trey Anderson has completed 5 of 15 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown in his limited workload. Alex Gardner leads the team with 168 carries for 698 yards plus eight scores; he’s currently tied for the team lead with 49 grabs for 400 yards plus a score. Anthony Jones (27 carries, 160 yards, 2 TD) and Anthon Samuel (31 carries, 104 yards, TD) are secondary options in the ground game. Thomas Owens is tied for the team lead in receptions as he has 49 receptions for 620 yards and eight scores; Jonnu Smith (36 receptions, 397 yards, 4 TD), Clinton Taylor (32 grabs, 367 yards, 3 TD) and Ya’Keem Griner (21 receptions, 225 yards, 2 TD) are solid targets as well. Austin Taylor is 31 of 35 on extra points and 10 of 13 on field goal attempts this season with a long of 47 yards.
Marshall rallied for 10 fourth quarter points to force overtime against Middle Tennessee but succumbed in triple overtime, putting them behind Western Kentucky in the Conference USA East Division standings. The Thundering Herd was outgained 554-515 though they won the first down battle 30-27 and won the time of possession battle 31:38 to 28:22 in the game. Marshall couldn’t take advantage of the fact that they forced three turnovers by Middle Tennessee compared to one of their own and it cost them dearly.
The Thundering Herd average 237.8 yards per game through the air (53rd in the country) and 170.2 yards per game on the ground, which is 70th in the nation. Marshall averages 31.1 points per game, which is tied for 53rd in scoring offense, while ranking 10th in the nation in scoring defense by giving up 17.2 points per game. Chase Litton (173 of 289, 1991 yards, 17 TD, 5 INT) has supplanted James Madison transfer Michael Birdsong (41 of 74, 348 yards, 2 TD, 3 INT) at quarterback; it remains to be seen if he’ll be the starter long term or not. Devon Johnson (84 carries, 555 yards, 5 TD) and Tony Pittman (61 carries, 288 yards, 3 TD) have done a decent job on the ground this season for the Thundering Herd. Hyleck Foster (66 carries, 332 yards, 2 TD) and Remi Watson (60 carries, 272 yards, 3 TD) are other backs that have gotten the job done for Marshall. Ryan Yurachek is third on the team with 36 grabs for 327 yards plus six scores; Davonte Allen (team high 46 receptions, 590 yards, 5 TD), Deandre Reaves (40 receptions, 541 yards, 3 TD) and Deon-Tay McManus (30 grabs, 289 yards, TD) are capable secondary targets. Nick Smith has hit all 36 extra points and 14 of 19 field goal attempts on the season with a long of 42 yards.
Marshall is 4-0 ATS in their last four after picking up at least 450 yards, 8-3 ATS in their last 11 after an ATS loss and 5-2 ATS in their last seven overall. Florida International is 5-13 ATS in their last 18 against teams with a winning record and 3-9 ATS in their last 12 after throwing for at least 280 yards.
The Thundering Herd has to be fuming after their missed opportunities against Middle Tennessee last week. Florida International is up and down this season as they can’t seem to string together back to back solid performances. Marshall should be able to get the victory here as they get the win and get back on track.