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2015 Has Been a Roller Coaster Ride for Marshall

Richard Lewis/Icon Sportswire

Making headway into Week 9 of the college football football season, it’s been nothing short of a strange year for the Marshall Thundering Herd.

It all began prior to the regular season with fresh faces rolling in, while everyday players stormed out. For a team that had scraped up a Conference USA title in 2014, the group had a serious transition to make. It started with wide receiver Angelo Jean-Louis departing just a handful of weeks before the season opener.

There was also a perceived notion that the skill players would be completely fine with the talent Marshall brought back, and quarterback Michael Birdsong was going to stroll into Huntington with his 6-foot-4 frame and seal the lips of naysayers who yearned for a Rakeem Cato-like presence once more. Early chemistry issues and an injury was all it took for head coach Doc Holliday to insert freshman Chase Litton to govern the supposed alluring offense, though.

Speaking of, the offense been far from that in 2015, to say the least.

If Herd fans believed a new face under center would be aided by the ever-so dynamic running back, Devon Johnson, they were quickly mistaken. Suffering a back injury two weeks ago and being listed as ‘out indefinitely’ translates to zero timetable for the senior tailback to return. As if quarterback issues and revamping a similar offensive unit was a big enough task for Holliday, he’ll have to move forward without the 1,767-yard rusher from a year ago.

Sophomore Tony Pittman had replaced Johnson, yet he also suffered a setback that forced him to miss the previous two games. Now, wide receiver—and one of the more reliable receivers heading into 2015—Hyleck Foster is receiving carries.

In regards to the wideout corps, it’s been mass disarray and a call for names to step up.

Tight end Ryan Yuracheck had carried the workload heading into the latter parts of September. The sophomore had hauled in just 17 receptions last season and wasn’t a name that hung atop the list of perceived “primary targets.” It may have taken an extended period, but the Thundering Herd also desperately need Davonte’ Allen to consistently get better in the coming weeks. While he’s yet to enjoy a breakout performance, the reins have been handed to the dark horse on offense who has.

DeAndre Reaves.

06 September 2015:  Marshall Thundering Heard WR Deandre Reaves (19) during pregame warmups prior to the game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Marshall Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, WV.  Marshall defeated Purdue 41-31. Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

06 September 2015: Marshall Thundering Heard WR Deandre Reaves (19) during pregame warmups prior to the game between the Purdue Boilermakers and the Marshall Thundering Herd at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, WV. Marshall defeated Purdue 41-31. Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire

Notorious for a skill set via the return game that periodically gives special teams coordinators nightmares, he only caught two passes a season ago. But, in 2015 Reaves has provided an adequate spark for the offense by catching frequent deep balls and four scores to go along with his ability to stretch opposing secondaries.

Moving over to the other side of the ball, what has been stable is Marshall’s defense—yet again.

Just a meager 16.9 points per game surrendered ranks 17th nationally. It’s been somewhat a down year for Conference USA offenses but the slack is being picked up on the defensive side.

Yet with all this chaos and commotion, the Thundering Herd sits at 7-1 overall and 4-0 in the Conference USA East. It’s been far from flawless, but in football you play the hand you’re dealt. For Marshall to shake up the lineup the way it did and  still manage a 7-1 record speaks volumes to the talent and resilience of the football program.

Flying under the radar with Louisiana Tech and Western Kentucky chatter surrounding the conference, if Marshall is to win out, the implications for a Week 13 showdown with the Hilltoppers could be a perfect angle for Holliday and the Herd to enjoy: sweet revenge.

The Herd look primed to snag yet another title; even with the mayhem that’s been endured in West Virginia.

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