Doug Smock: Herd’s ‘live ball’ era, by the numbers
HUNTINGTON — Ready, set, snap. Run ball, get to line, snap. Pass ball, get to line, snap.
Snap again, score. And score some more.
That’s pretty much been Marshall football the past two years, and you know what? It’s been a whole lot of fun to watch.
Does anybody sporting kelly green miss this program’s “dead ball” era, which ran roughly from 2004-2011? I mean, who yearns for those 16-13 overtime wins and 30-14 losses?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
Saturday begins Year 3 of Marshall Football As You Knew It, in which scoreboards go into overdrive, defenders are gassed and fans experience the best 3 1/2 hours of their week.
Following is a stat nerd’s interpretation of the last two years, compared to the offensively lackluster final two years of the Mark Snyder regime, 2008-09.
In all cases, the first number(s) in each stat category are from 2012-13.
n Offensive scoring (taking out defense/special teams touchdowns): 1,042 points (40.8 average) vs. 515 (20.6); running and passing touchdowns 139 (5.35 average) vs. 62 (2.48).
n Plays per offensive touchdown: 15.68 vs. 26.60.
It’s funny, I just went over the Herd’s reduction in plays per game from 90 in 2012 to 78 in 2013. Sure, the Herd turned down the tempo at times, but quick touchdowns sometimes played a part. Against ultra-hapless Florida International, for example, the average MU TD drive was 1 minute, 7 seconds.
n Total yardage: 13,416 (516.0) vs. 8,419 (336.8).
n Rushing yardage: 4,913 (189.0) vs. 3,744 (149.8).
n Passing yardage: 8,503 (327.04) vs. 4,755 (190.2).
n Passing efficiency rating: 148.50 vs. 113.47.
n Red-zone touchdowns: 99 of 130 (76.1 percent) vs. 39 of 76 (51.3 percent).
Shoot, I could go on all week, but you get the point. And you’ll get it again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, when this Herd team dumps 40 or 50 or so on host Miami (Ohio), giving new RedHawks coach Chuck Martin his formal baptism into Division I head coaching.
Let’s temper all that good cheer a little, by reminding you of historical items that should have no bearing on Saturday’s game.
Or so a Herd fans hopes.
First, there is the grim fact that MU hasn’t won a road opener in this millennium. Yes, you have to go all the way back to Sept. 4, 1999, when the Herd overcame a half-mile of penalties to win a 13-10 slugfest over Clemson.
Quality of competition plays a role here, as the Herd took on some of the better West Virginia teams, as well as Ohio State, Virginia Tech, etc. The roll call includes WVU (three times), Ohio State (twice), Virginia Tech (twice), Wisconsin, Tennessee, No. 1 Florida, Michigan State and Miami (not Ohio).
But the Herd also spit the bit last year at Ohio and in 2005 at Central Florida.
Anybody remember the latter game? I surely do.
At the Florida Citrus Bowl, UCF personnel made visiting media park four blocks away in an unlit lot in a bad neighborhood, an Orlando bike patrolman mistakenly shot an undercover UCF officer in a crowd of terrified tailgaters and Mark Snyder’s Herd lost its inaugural Conference USA game.
And broke UCF’s 17-game losing streak.
Nobody knew the Knights would win the East Division at the time, but the Herd was embarrassed. It was the last time fans of an MU opponent ripped down the goalposts.
And now, the Herd faces a Miami (not Florida) team with a 16-game losing streak, and I guarantee the RedHawks will not win the East Division. Surely, the goalposts in Oxford will survive.
They will, right?
Reach Doug Smock at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5130 or follow @DougSmock on Twitter.