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Coastal Carolina at Marshall: What to watch for

— By Bill Cornwell

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall seeks its first Sun Belt Conference home win Saturday night when the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers visit Huntington for the Herd’s Homecoming game.

Game time at Joan C. Edwards Stadium is 7 p.m. and the contest is being shown nationally by the NFL Network.

Marshall (4-3, 1-2) picked up its first win in its new league last week with a 26-12 victory at James Madison. Coastal Carolina (6-1, 3-1) was off last week off after falling to Old Dominion 49-21 on October 15.

This is the first meeting between the two teams.

The Chanticleers are already bowl eligible for a third straight season and they bring a four-game road win streak to Huntington dating back to last season.

Here are three things to look for on Homecoming Saturday in Huntington:

Let the big dog eat

Khalan Laborn reached the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season last week, needing only seven games to achieve the mark. Laborn reached the 1,000-yard mark faster than any player in Marshall history.

The Florida State transfer has clearly become the main weapon and seems to love the workload. Over nearly 27 carries per game, Laborn averages 5.3 yards per carry and 143 yards. He’s scored 12 times on the ground and has 11 receptions for 65 yards. 

As long as Laborn can stand the strain, Marshall head coach Charles Huff appears ready to have continue assuming a strong workload.

The Chanticleers are allowing an average of 147 rushing yards.

Solving McCall

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall is the conductor of the Coastal Carolina offensive Symphony. 

The Chanticleers don’t have a 6-1 record this fall if McCall isn’t playing at a high level. He’ll be a major challenge for the Marshall defense on Saturday because he’s a smart player who beats teams with his arms, legs and intelligence.

McCall has 2,086 yards of combined offense and he’s responsible for 21 touchdowns through the air and on the ground. 

Even as a true freshman in 2020, McCall’s ability to avoid big errors helped Coastal to a national ranking.

A big question for Marshall will be if it can pressure McCall and get him out of his comfort zone.

Owen Porter, Koby Cumberlander, Sam Burton and even Damion Barber Jr. will get their shots at McCall on Saturday and strive to keep him in the pocket while attacking when they get sack opportunities. 

Much of that work for the Marshall defense will require sound coverage on the defensive backside by key players like Andre Sam, Micah Abraham, Stephen Gilmore and Isaiah Norman.

Porter is coming off a performance in which he had 3.5 sacks against the Dukes to earn Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week.

Two QBs again

Marshall seems committed to the two-quarterback system in which both Henry Colombi and Cam Fancher will see playing time. Fancher was the lone MU quarterback last Saturday in the win at James Madison as Colombi was recovering from injuries he’d suffered against both Gardner-Webb and Louisiana.

Fancher did a good job of managing the Herd’s offense, despite throwing two interceptions against the Dukes.

Colombi and Fancher are still having problems pushing the ball downfield in the passing game. Both have arm talent, but they’re still needing help from what has been a struggling offensive line and a receiving corps that’s encountered difficulty shaking defenders downfield. 

Marshall’s offensive staff carefully prepares packages each week for Colombi and Fancher to operate, but only a team effort will make those packages work. 

Coastal Carolina’s defense might be the remedy for MU’s passing game struggles as the Chanticleers average giving up nearly 267 passing yards.