Losing Tyler King is a setback that certainly cannot be ignored. It leaves Marshall relying on a group heavy on underclassmen to not only carry the ball, but also provide blocking.
But the Thundering Herd has also been in this situation before and always seems to come out fine. For proof, look no further than the man who is now the starting tailback.
Brenden Knox was sharing time with King anyway before King was dismissed for an undisclosed violation of team rules and policies on Monday. Now, the bulk of the carries will go to him.
“I love Knox,” head coach Doc Holliday said Tuesday in his weekly press conference. “He’s been a three-time captain for us this year already, three straight games. I like what he brings to the table.”
Knox’s third honor as a weekly offensive captain will occur Saturday when the Herd (1-1) hosts rival Ohio (1-1) at 6:30 p.m. (Stadium Facebook).
Knox already knows about being thrown into the fire. He did it last year King went down with a season-ending injury.
“Knox didn’t play a game until the ninth game last year, as far as (carries at) running back is concerned,” Holliday said. “Went in the ninth game, took over and he’s still our No. 1 tailback.”
The Columbus, Ohio, native responded immediately when called upon.
He made his first start against Charlotte in Week 9. He carried 22 times for 116 yards and a touchdown — the first allowed by Charlotte that season — in a 30-13 victory.
That was the first of three 100-yard games for Knox, including 109 in a big win over Florida Atlantic.
His true breakout came in a game that wasn’t even on the original schedule. The Herd picked up a game at Virginia Tech on conference championship weekend. Marshall was left without a 12th game when a trip to South Carolina was canceled because of Hurricane Florence. The Hokies also had a game at East Carolina canceled, and needed a sixth win to become bowl-eligible.
Tech defeated Marshall 41-20, but Knox had a day to remember. He ran for two touchdowns and finished with 204 yards, the ninth-best single-game road total in Marshall history.
Knox, a 6-foot, 220-pound sophomore, has not disappointed thus far. He ran for 43 yards and two touchdowns in the opening win over VMI, and led the team with 71 yards and its only touchdown in last Friday’s 14-7 loss at No. 22 Boise State.
But running back depth has been a hallmark of the Holliday era, and he is confident that won’t change now.
“These (young) guys, now it’s their turn to step up and go make plays,” Holliday said. “I feel good about the running back position.”
Listed second on the depth chart now is Sheldon Evans, a 5-11, 196-pound sophomore out of Roswell, Ga. Evans didn’t carry the ball at Boise State, but did run seven times for 56 yards against VMI.
Also getting carries against the Keydets was redshirt freshman Lawrence Papillon (six for 34 yards).
“Somebody now has to step up. It’s their opportunity.,” Holliday said. “Kids react in different ways when they get their chance. I’m anxious to see how Sheldon Evans reacts. I think he’ll go in there and play his tail off. I know he will. And those young kids, one of them will step up and go play.”
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