Tale of the Tape & predictions: Who has the edge when Marshall football visits Notre Dame?

Mike Berardino
South Bend Tribune

WHEN NOTRE DAME HAS THE BALL

Notre Dame quarterback Tyler Buchner looks for a receiver during the third quarter of the team's NCAA college football game against Ohio State, Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Marshall’s defense allowed just one third-down conversion in 12 tries last week, but that came in a 55-3 romp over FCS member Norfolk State. The Irish went just 3 of 13 on third down in the loss to Ohio State, including 1 of their last 8. Senior captain Jarrett Patterson (sprained right foot) remains questionable to make his first start at left guard, and the running attack must solve a solid front that includes defensive tackle Anthony Watts, a 294-pound transfer who started 20 games at Purdue.

Tyler Buchner, who completed his first eight passes in his first college start, must be wary of a cornerback tandem (Steven Gilmore and Micah Abraham) that had a combined 26 passes defended last season.

Edge: Notre Dame

WHEN MARSHALL HAS THE BALL

Former Florida State running back Khalan Laborn, one of eight offseason transfers from Power 5 programs, went over 100 rushing yards in his debut as did sophomore Ethan Payne. Rasheen Ali, who rushed for 1,400 yards and 23 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, left the team in late August to work on personal issues. His return isn’t expected anytime soon.

Dec 18, 2021; New Orleans, LA, USA;  Marshall Thundering Herd wide receiver Corey Gammage (7) avoids the tackle of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns safety Ja'len Johnson (28) during the first half of the 2021 New Orleans Bowl at Caesars Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Junior wideout Corey Gammage (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) has 115 catches for 1,307 yards and seven touchdowns since the start of 2020. Senior transfer quarterback Henry Colombi, 23, went 24-of-26 passing in his debut after previous stops at Utah State and Texas Tech. He’s a 69-percent career passer with more than 3,000 passing yards but just a 16/11 touchdown/interception ratio. The Irish pass rush, held to one sack and no official hurries against Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud in the opener, will be hungry to make some noise.

Edge: Notre Dame

SPECIAL TEAMS

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish place kicker Blake Grupe (99) kicks the field goal during the first quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Mason’s kickoff return unit struggled mightily in the opener, so there could be some changes. Graduate transfers Blake Grupe (33-yard field goal) and Jon Sot (46.2-yard punting average) enjoyed successful Power 5 rollouts in Columbus. Freshman walk-on Zac Yoakam, who filled in for freshman kickoff specialist Bryce McFerson (groin strain), forced touchbacks on two of his three kicks at Ohio State. The Thundering Herd finished 28th nationally in kickoff return yardage allowed last season but did give up a touchdown.  

Edge: Notre Dame

COACHING

Marcus Freeman, still looking for his first win as a head coach, expects to feel “goosebumps” as he leads the Irish onto the field for the first time at Notre Dame Stadium. Charles Huff, a former Hampton University center now in his second season at Marshall, has been an assistant for James Franklin (Vanderbilt and Penn State) and Nick Saban (Alabama) with additional stops at Mississippi State, Western Michigan, Maryland, Tennessee State and the NFL’s Buffalo Bills.

Herd head Coach Charles Huff as The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns take on Marshall University Herd in The 2021 R & L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.  Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021.

Huff, 39, is best known for his work with running backs Najee Harris, Saquon Barkley and C.J. Spiller. Both coordinators, Clint Trickett (offense) and Lance Guidry (defense), were hired off Willie Taggart’s Florida Atlantic staff after the 2020 season.

Edge: Notre Dame

Staff predicitions

TOM NOIE — Notre Dame 45, Marshall 10. No way will Irish be tested/stressed in first home game for head coach Marcus Freeman. Herd are in wrong place at wrong time.

ND Insider columnist Tom Noie

MIKE BERARDINO — Notre Dame 35, Marshall 10. Favored by three touchdowns in the first-ever meeting between the schools, the Irish won’t let another Week 2 scare happen after surviving Toledo last season.

Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for the South Bend Tribune and NDInsider.com

JUSTIN FROMMER: Notre Dame 39, Marshall 19. Notre Dame's offensive line heads in the right direction, while Tyler Buchner and his receivers make some big plays to pick up the Irish's first win of the season.

South Bend Tribune sportswriter Justin Frommer

MICHAEL WANBAUGH — Notre Dame 46, Marshall 17. The Thundering Herd meets Shakedown the Thunder. This is a wake-up game for the Irish, and they'll play 'till the whistle blows. Is that the right movie?

Michael Wanbaugh 
South Bend Tribune Sports Editor