UMass Preview: UMass Minutemen (0-1) at Marshall Thundering Herd (5-0)

Line: Marshall by -44.5

Opening Kickoff: The Minutemen travel to Huntington, West Virginia to take on the undefeated Thundering Herd in a game that was scheduled three weeks ago.

UMass lost to Georgia Southern in their season opener 41-0. The Minutemen had trouble with the Golden Eagles Shotgun Triple Option offense. Luckily, UMass will not see the option today but the Thundering Herd offense is potent. Marshall averages 33.8 points per game.

Defensively, Marshall is stout. They have limited opponents to just 9.4 points per game.

Needless to say, the Minutemen has a tall task ahead of them but they need to find a way to be competitive while giving their young players an opportunity to grow.

Here are three offensive and defensive keys for the Minutemen.

3 Offensive Keys

1. Offensive line must play well: The offensive line was supposed to be a strength for the Minutemen entering the season but they struggled mightily against Georgia Southern and it led to the dismissal of offensive line coach Jim Jackson. Blocking defensive end Darius Hodge will be priority number one for the Minutemen this season.

2. Get Merriweather going early: The Minutemen want to run the football and be physical so look for them to try to get Merriweather going early. They have to set a physical tone and slow the pace of the game down.

3. Consistent quarterback play: Whether it’s Mike Fallon, Will Koch or Josiah Johnson, the Minutemen will need more consistent quarterback play than what they got against Georgia Southern.

3 Defensive Keys

1. Compete: I just want to see the Minutemen be more competitive on defense today. I know they are young, but I want to see good, fundamental football. Good pursuit angles and sound tackling.

2. Slow down Knox: Marshall running back Brendan Knox is the centerpiece of the Thundering Herd offense. In five games, he has rushed for 556 yards and 7 touchdowns on 118 carries. Slowing him down as much as possible will give the Minutemen a chance to be competitive in this game.

3. Get off the field on third down: The Minutemen must find a way to get teams into third down situations and to get off the field. It is imperative that they do if they want to develop as a defense.

Final Prediction: Marshall 45 UMass 10: Remember, this season is about developing young players for the future. I know the alumni don’t want to hear that but that’s the truth. The Minutemen just aren’t experienced enough right now to compete in games like this.