It is difficult enough to play number one, but to do it the first game is even more challenging. Adjustments must be made to compensate for the speed and talent of college football's best team and that is hard to do in game one with a lot of new players.
It would have been nicer for MU to have a breather in the first game and work the bugs out before going to Florida but they couldnt, so they had to work the bugs out against the top rated Gators.
Florida jumped all over the Herd in the first quarter and took a 21-0 lead mainly on Marshall's mistakes and inability to move the ball. The Gators are good enough that they didnt need any help from the Herd but they got it and took advantage of it.
Florida treated MU mistakes just like Marshall does the MAC teams they play: They took advantage and jumped all over the Herd and put the game away early. Marshall had some missed assignments both offensively and defensively especially in the first half and this could have been from putting too much into the game plan in week one to compensate for the Florida speed and talent level, which was much higher than Marshall is used to seeing.
I dont think the speed and talent level between the two teams were that far apart. The difference was Florida is used to playing against that level of speed and talent week in week out, and Marshall is not. I think that the Marshall players will learn and benefit from this experience, they will correct their mistakes and use this game as a lesson which will springboard them to a very successful season.
I know that Marshall lost by 35 points but there were several positives that the Herd can take from this game:
1) Byron Leftwich is one of college football's best QBs. He looked very good against the best college football team in America. If he can perform that well against Florida, what can he do against the rest of the schedule? If he keeps performing like he did Saturday even the MAC will have to make him All-Conference.
2) Marshall has a very good set of young receivers. I know they dropped some passes but I also know that they constantly were able to get open and even got behind the Gator secondary a couple of times. They actually caught the ball much better than last year's more experienced players did.
3) The Herd showed a good running game against the top rated Gators, even though Chanston Rogers had to go the whole way without rest. Against Florida the Herd ran the ball effectively and will be very productive on the ground this year. This running game will just serve to make the passing game that much better by keeping opposing defenses honest.
4) The offensive line performed well, not great, but better than average against a really good defensive front which may be the best they will play against this year. They were able to make holes for the running game, they contained Alex Brown the two time All-American for most of the night, and Byron was able to stay on his feet and off the ground much more than he did early in the year last year.
5) The defense shut down the Florida running game. This is very important when you play a schedule that consists mainly of running teams.
6) The team did not quit when they fell way behind early in front of a huge and hostile crowd. The Swamp is rated as one of college football's hardest places to play, and the Herd was able to perform even with Florida the second half, even after falling way behind to the point that a lot of teams would have given up and just quit. Not the Herd. They had enough of the pride that comes from being champions on a yearly basis that they wouldn't quit and they will never quit in a game.
7) Defensively, even though they blew a lot of assignments and coverages they showed that there is enough talent there that when they can combine that talent with experience that this defense and the secondary is going to be pretty good. And, it will probably help win a lot of games for Marshall in the future.
I wasnt happy with the fact that Marshall lost and wish they could play this game over because I still believe they can play with the Gators. But they can't, so they must go on with the rest of the schedule and improve each week. I can see enough good from this game that I really think MU is going to have a very good season and, in the end, be right where all Marshall people think they should be: At the top of the MAC.
Because as Coach Pruett says, Marshall plays for championships and they dont like to settle for anything less.
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