But the Herd showed it can close out a game on the ground, doing so in a 6-minute drive late in the UTSA game. The offensive line, playing only six men, picked up the pace.
"Our line, they get better as the game goes on," said Herd running back Essray Taliaferro. "They get a better feel for the game. Also, a lot of this goes to [strength and conditioning] coach [Scott] Sinclair's workout regimen."
FAU is coming off its first-ever game with two 100-yard rushers, Jonathan Wallace (117) and Johnson, who helped the Owls rush for a season-high 280 yards against Alabama-Birmingham.
The Herd defended Ohio's Tyler Tettleton and Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas reasonably well, but gave up a few critical plays to both. But last week, UTSA quarterback Eric Soza was rendered ineffective and frustrated and couldn't leave Huntington quickly enough.
For the combination of slickness and power, Johnson is right up there. He will test Marshall's new reputation as a team adept at tackling.
"Athletic. If you have an athletic quarterback, that opens up room for the other athletes around him, if you cannot contain him," said defensive end Alex Bazzie. "We're going to put a lot of emphasis on containing him, making him uncomfortable, not allowing him to make the throws he wants to throw and, first of all, stopping the run."
As always, the intangibles are trickier to predict.
For example, will the Herd's south Florida contingent put its collective best foot forward, or will those players press and make mistakes? The 2011 trip to UCF was an ugly experience for Sunshine State natives, particularly quarterback Rakeem Cato.
Then again, that 16-6 loss may have imparted a hard, unforgettable lesson.
"Fortunately we have some mature players," Holliday said. "These kids have all been here and they are starting to mature. Rakeem Cato is one that has matured a bunch. We have some leadership on the team from our Florida guys and from guys from other places. We have to make sure it is handled properly."
Can this Marshall team string together two conference wins in a row? Remember, that hasn't happened since the end of 2011, when the Herd rallied to beat Memphis and East Carolina to salvage a bowl bid.
This MU team will not need to salvage anything, if it lives up to expectations. That includes a win today as a double-digit road favorite, no matter how spirited FAU may play.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.