BTP: Last year against the Pack, Tyre Brady had an absolutely monstrous game. How will the Herd look to get him the ball on Saturday, and do you think he’ll have another explosive game?
GT: It is no secret that Tyre Brady is Marshall’s main threat in the passing game, as was evidenced at Carter-Finley Stadium last season when he broke the stadium record for an opponent’s single-game receiving yards with 248. Brady has the ability to stretch the field vertically, and if he’s in a one-on-one situation, Marshall looks to get him the ball, which is how he had the big day last season. In the second half, N.C. State made some adjustments by bracketing him and limited him some, but he still caught another five passes for 60 yards in the second half because of his ability to catch in traffic and be a physical receiver. Marshall will look to get him into a rhythm early, whether it is short throws or deep routes in single coverage. I don’t expect Brady to go for another 200-yard performance this weekend, but he can be expected to be in the 6-8 catch range for 80-100 yards.
BTP: Isaiah Green is the newcomer on offense for the Herd, and this will be his first big test leading the team. What does he do well, and what may he struggle with this weekend?
GT: One of the things that makes Isaiah Green special as a redshirt freshman is his poise in pressure situations. His first start was on the road against a veteran Miami (Ohio) team and he led the Herd to a 28-7 lead early in the second half before Marshall started to milk the clock and Miami (Ohio) whittled away at the lead. Green trusts in his receivers and puts them in situations to succeed. Green’s touch and placement on deep throws is very good for a young quarterback and his confidence also helps him out. However, he’s still a quarterback making his third career start and N.C. State amps up the competition dramatically from what he’s seen early in the season. His ability to read disguised looks at the line of scrimmage has to improve and he will have less time to make post-snap decisions, which could lead to mistakes if he’s not on top of his game. This will be a huge barometer game for where Green is in his young Marshall career.
BTP: Who on the Wolfpack offense should give Marshall the most concern? How about on defense?
GT: Undoubtedly, Marshall’s coaches have lost sleep over trying to figure out how to slow down N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday praised Finley in his weekly press conference, saying he’d be one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in Joan C. Edwards Stadium and comparing him to former N.C. State quarterback Philip Rivers, whom he coached while with the Wolfpack from 2000-04. For Marshall to have a chance, they have to find a way to get Finley off track, which likely means applying pressure up front with their defensive line. On the defensive side of the football, linebacker Germaine Pratt is an experienced guy who will help some younger defensive players making their first road start. Pratt seems to be everywhere and can be disruptive in blitz situations as well. Marshall needs to account for him in their pre-snap reads.
BTP: How do you see the rest of the season playing out for Marshall?
GT: Marshall coach Doc Holliday really likes this particular team and the veteran presence that it fields. With nine starters back on each side of the football, Marshall should be a team that contends for a Conference USA Championship at season’s end, should quarterback Isaiah Green continue to progress and limit mistakes, as he’s done in the first two weeks. A 10-win team is not out of the question - even with a game cancellation last week against South Carolina.
BTP: The Herd will win this game if they...?
GT: Marshall will win this game if they establish a rushing attack early, which takes away N.C. State’s opportunity to go with less people in the box, thus opening opportunities for one-on-one passing situations with Tyre Brady and Obi Obialo on the outside. Both players are sizable targets that have built chemistry with new quarterback Isaiah Green early in the season. Defensively, Marshall knows Ryan Finley is going to make his fair amount of plays. He’s simply that good. The Herd must limit the rushing attack of the Wolfpack, get pressure on Finley to not allow deep throws to develop with talented, veteran wide receivers like Kelvin Harmon and Stephen Louis, and win the battle on third down to get off the field. That is easier said than done, however.
BTP: NC State will defeat the Herd if they...?
GT: N.C. State will win the game if they make Marshall a one-dimensional offense and avoid big plays. The Herd got several chunk plays in the first half of last year’s game, which helped them to a 20-10 lead. Once the Wolfpack made adjustments, the Herd had to take the underneath throws and the result was a Marshall offense that was shut out in the second half. Offensively, the Wolfpack needs to establish the run and stand strong at the line of scrimmage to avoid the Herd’s pressure. The Wolfpack also could benefit by winning the special teams battle, which could loom large as Marshall has struggled in this area in 2018.