Seeking a Solid Second Game

Marshall Head Football Coach Charles Huff says his team needs to do the basics well on Saturday at East Carolina

By Bill Cornwell

Marshall Head Football Coach Charles Huff is talking about “base football” as his 1-0 Thundering Herd hits the road Saturday to take on the East Carolina Pirates at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville, North Carolina.

Game time is 4 pm and the game can be seen nationally on ESPNU.

Huff was not pleased with Marshall’s first-half effort in the season opener at home last week versus Albany as the Great Danes took a 3-0 lead at the halftime break. His biggest complaints were about penalties at bad times such as on a Rasheen Ali touchdown run on the game’s first play eliminated by a holding call.

Huff was pleased that the halftime break helped his team overcome some of the first-half mental mistakes even though the Herd trailed till midway in the 4th quarter.

“After halftime, the offense got things rolling and our defense did what they typically do,” Huff said. “It shows that when we execute, play with discipline, and do what we’re supposed to do, we can have success. We can learn a lot from the slow start we had and how we rebounded in the second half.

“If we can’t do the basic stuff right, we’re going to struggle, and we’re setting ourselves up for failure down the road.”

While Marshall was beating Albany last Saturday, East Carolina was losing at #2 Michigan by a 30-3 score. The Pirates’ only points came on an Andrew Conrad 33-yard field goal on the final play of the game.

Marshall and ECU have met 16 previous times, with the Pirates winning 11 of those games. The teams met in Huntington in 2021, and East Carolina rallied from a 38-21 third-quarter deficit by scoring 21 points in the 4th quarter to beat the Thundering Herd 42-38.

The team spent several years as fellow members of Conference USA before ECU moved on to the American Athletic Conference.

The two programs also share a history centered around the November 14, 1970, Marshall Football plane crash. In that event, 75 Marshall football players, coaches, administrators, and fans were killed when a plane bringing the group back from a 17-14 loss at ECU crashed just short of the runway at Huntington’s Tri-State Airport.

There is a memorial at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium that memorializes the 1970 Marshall Football team.

East Carolina Head Coach Mike Houston, who is in his 5th season in Greenville, hopes the school’s common history means they keep facing each other on the football field.

“There’s a great link between the schools due to the shared history of the plane crash,” Houston said. “The rivalry adds a lot of emotion to everything and this game is always going to be highly competitive and there will also be a lot around it.”

Marshall junior running back Rasheen Ali had a 137-yard, two-touchdown performance in last week’s Albany win, and Houston says he remembers facing Ali when he was a freshman in 2021.

“Ali was a pain in the rear-end 2 years ago against us,” Houston said. “He was very productive last Saturday. They didn’t play a clean game last week and he wasn’t as effective as he could have been.”

Houston is playing two young quarterbacks in Mason Garcia and Alex Flinn, who replace Houston Ahlers, who left ECU last season as one of the schools’ most productive quarterbacks.

Houston says his quarterbacks will be challenged by the Marshall defense on Saturday.

“They return a bunch of guys from a good defensive front from last year,” Houston said. “A very aggressive team with a fast D-line, active linebackers, and an aggressive secondary.”

Huff says the Pirates his team will face show how Houston has been able to impact the East Carolina program after four seasons.

“They play really hard,” Huff said. “Tough and physical. Last year, they were one of the top offenses in the country. The new quarterbacks have strong arms and an ability to run when they need yardage. We’re preparing for both. The system they run is really consistent.

“Defensively, they try to create a lot of confusion up front. They’re aggressive and fast.”