HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall already has seen the best and worst of quarterback Chase Litton this season.
The Thundering Herd’s chances against No. 3 Louisville on Saturday night will rest on the sophomore relying on what went right in the opener against an FCS school, not last week’s turnover-plagued embarrassment against Akron.
Litton is the latest “other” quarterback in a matchup with Heisman Trophy contender Lamar Jackson. Considering that Marshall plays few ranked opponents, especially at home, this might be the little-known Litton’s one shot at showcasing his talents on a big stage when the Thundering Herd (1-1) meet the Cardinals (3-0).
“It’s my job to keep that offense on the field and continue to put up some points,” Litton said. “After this game, some people might have to know about me.”
The task is monumental for a heavy underdog Marshall team that has only one win against a ranked opponent since joining the FBS in 1997.
Marshall players and coaches are only looking at what they need to do this week, not what Louisville does — which is a lot. There will be few second chances to get it right.
Marshall is accustomed to upsets at home — on the losing end. Look no further than last Saturday’s 65-38 loss to Akron , in which the Thundering Herd was a double-digit favorite. It marked a low point for a program that had won 10 games in each of the previous three seasons.
An inexperienced secondary that was exposed by Akron will responsible for carrying out a plan to limit the damage done by Jackson, who already has thrown or run for 18 touchdowns. Safety Kendall Gant is the most experienced player in Marshall’s secondary with five career starts.
“There’s an extra emphasis on everything this week, because you better be at your best,” said Marshall coach Doc Holliday.
Another quick start this week would help Marshall’s offense or else the game might get out of hand. Jackson threw a 72-yard TD pass against Syracuse two weeks ago on the first play from scrimmage and staked Louisville to a 28-7 first-quarter lead. Against Florida State , Louisville already had a 14-0 lead in the game’s first 10 minutes.
And Louisville’s defense has made talented quarterbacks look less than ordinary. The Cardinals had five sacks last week and has 13 overall.
Syracuse’s Eric Dungey, the current ACC leader in passing yards, didn’t complete half his passes. Florida State freshman Deondre Francois was limited to 101 passing yards against the Cardinals after throwing for 681 yards and five TDs in his two previous games.
Now comes Litton, who is sixth nationally in passing yards per game at 361 and is 10-3 as a starter.
He also has some bugs to work out.
After throwing six touchdown passes to five different players in the season opener against FCS Morgan State, the wheels fell off for Litton after staking Marshall to a 21-7 lead against Akron.
He lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown, and one of his three interceptions also went for a score. Akron also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, and two other Litton interceptions set up Akron TDs.
“The first thing in the plan to win is take care of the football,” Holliday said. “That has to happen again or we’ll have no chance.”
Litton insists he’s already put his gaffes in the past.
“There’s just times that you brush it off and you focus on the moment,” he said.
A big moment at that.
Online: AP College Football website www.collegefootball.ap.org