HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The old adage says that there really isn’t too much you can learn about a team from one scrimmage.
As true as that may be in most cases, the Herd also came away with some answers as they get closer to the start of the 2017 gridiron season.
There were plenty of positives to come away from Saturday’s annual Green-White football scrimmage, which was moved indoors to the Chris Cline Athletic Complex on the campus of Marshall University in Cabell County.
The Herd — fresh off a dismal 3-9 campaign in 2017 — showed some real signs of improvement on both sides of the ball as the Green team (offense) and the White team (defense) took turns going against each group’s matching unit.
The defense looked particularly impressive on Saturday after forcing a fumble and coming away with three interceptions while also keeping the Green team’s running game in check for the better part of the three-hour scrimmage.
The offense, however, did show some flashes on the ground — most notably a 40-plus-yard run by Keion Davis in the latter moments of the day. Davis had a handful of decent runs against an otherwise tough defense, but that late scamper certainly proved to be an exclamation point to a very productive day.
Joseph Early also had a handful of decent gains on the ground with the second team offense, while quarterbacks Xavier Gaines and Jackson White also had a few some decent runs on either bootlegs or when pass protection broke down.
Returning two-year starting quarterback Chase Litton showed why he will likely be a third-year starter this fall after connecting on a pair of deep touchdown passes to Tyre Brady, including one of over 40 yards on the first offensive series of the scrimmage.
Litton and the first-team offense struggled a bit more to move the chains on short and mid-range routes, but the offense did have more than its fair share of positive moments — particularly with its young receiving corps.
Marshall will be looking for some perimeter threats headed into the fall as five of the program’s top six receivers from last year are no longer with team.
Willie Johnson got past two defenders and managed to hang on to a bobbled pass from Garet Morrell while scampering 30-plus yards for a score. Nick Mathews also came away with a handful of yard-producing grabs on the perimeter.
Former Point Pleasant standout and current redshirt freshman Cody Mitchell saw a lot of snaps with the first team offense at tight end due to regular starter Ryan Yurachek sitting the scrimmage out. Mitchell held up well as a blocker and mustered a few catches with the first unit.
The defense, however, was clearly the bright spot of the annual event as they did a good job of bottling up the run and an even better job of getting the opposing offense off the field.
Using its own scoring system based on the specifics of a play and a drive, Marshall’s defense ended up winning the afternoon by a 64-16 margin on the scoreboard.
Linebacker Artis Johnson made a very nice dive and grab on a pass popped up in the air early in the scrimmage, which yielded the White team’s first takeaway on the day. With the exception of a pair of deep home run passes, the secondary put together a pretty solid outing in three hours of work.
The two defenders that seemed to be in on every play were linebackers Chase Hancock and Donyae Moody, both of whom are redshirt juniors. A handful of defensive starters, mostly seniors, were also held out of the scrimmage.
Besides being able to go full-speed in front of close to 1,000 Herd fans, the brightest spot of the day was that no major injuries occurred during the three-hour long event.
With the Green-White scrimmage now officially in the books, the Herd has 19 weeks to get ready for the start of the 2017 campaign. Marshall will host Miami (OH) in the season opener on September 2.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.