Marshall and East Carolina both had varying degrees of expectations for 2021. Yet only one is finding success early on this season.
The Thundering Herd can record their second straight 3-0 start by keeping the visiting Pirates winless on Saturday night in a nonconference meeting in Huntington, W.Va.
Marshall (2-0, 0-0 Conference USA) has successfully ushered in the Charles Huff coaching era by outscoring Navy and North Carolina Central 93-17. Quarterback Grant Wells has completed 70.1 percent of his passes for 680 yards with three touchdowns and one interception and Corey Gammage has already recorded 14 receptions over the first two games.
Defensively, the Herd held consecutive opponents to 10 or fewer points for the first time since the 1999 season. Yet, Huff has offered a certain amount of coach-speak in trying to keep his team focused. And poised to, at the very least, repeat as C-USA East Division champions and avoid a third consecutive bowl defeat.
"Don't look at the results, it's not about the results," Huff said. "It's about how we play. So, if we can continue to get better, play better, the results will take care of themselves.
"There's a lot to get cleaned up, for sure ... I have high expectations for this football team."
East Carolina coach Mike Houston also has "pretty high expectations, internally," for his program, which last enjoyed a winning season and reached a bowl game in 2014. However, the Pirates (0-2, 0-0 American Athletic Conference) are in danger of their first 0-3 start since 2017 after losing to Appalachian State and South Carolina by a combined 17 points.
ECU led 14-0 against the Gamecocks last weekend and held the visitors to 106 rushing yards, but ultimately lost 20-17 on a 36-yard South Carolina field goal as time expired.
"Those are the games that you've got to learn how to win," Houston said. "If anything, I think everybody sees the kind of heart this bunch has. They're going to fight. We're going to show up (at Marshall). We're going to play."
Receiver Jsi Hatfield has been East Carolina's big-play threat early on with five receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. Three of the Pirates' four touchdowns this season have been of 38 yards or more.
This will be the first meeting between the teams since Marshall's 59-28 victory on Nov. 29, 2013.
Members of Marshall's 1971 "Young Thundering Herd" team will be on hand in celebration of the program's 50th anniversary of football following the 1970 plane crash that claimed the lives of all players, coaches, staff and supporters on board.
--Field Level Media