Nine Herd players first-team All-C-USA; Knox declaring for NFL Draft

Marshall quarterback Grant Wells (8) hands off to teammate Brenden Knox (20) during an NCAA college football game for the Conference USA Football Championship on Friday, Dec. 18, 2020, in Huntington, W.Va. (Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch via AP)

A two-week nosedive just ahead of bowl season did nothing to distract from Marshall’s individual accomplishments.

Nine Marshall players were named to the All-Conference USA first team as voted by league coaches, it was announced Monday. Leading the way was quarterback Grant Wells, who was also named to the All-Freshman Team.

Wells, a redshirt freshman who graduated from George Washington High, leads C-USA with 1,977 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes in nine games. He has completed 152 of 250 passes and thrown nine interceptions. Five of those came in the Thundering Herd’s 20-0 loss to Rice on Dec. 5, the team’s first loss after starting 7-0 and being ranked No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25.

Junior running back Brenden Knox and senior tight end Xavier Gaines joined Wells on the first-team offense, along with senior offensive linemen Josh Ball and Cain Madden. Knox, who announced on Twitter that he is opting out of the Camellia Bowl and forgoing his senior season to declare for the NFL Draft, has run for 889 yards and nine touchdowns on 186 carries. Gaines has 26 receptions for 396 yards (15.3 yards per catch) and four touchdowns.

Defensive first-teamers are senior linebacker Tavante Beckett, junior end Darius Hodge and junior cornerback Steven Gilmore.

Beckett is the league’s leading tackler with 10.0 per game (31 solo, 59 assists) and leads the nation in fumble recoveries with four. Hodge is third in C-USA with 6.5 sacks with 6.5 and sixth in tackles for loss with nine. Gilmore is tied for second in the league with 10 passes defended. He has also forced two fumbles and has 33 tackles.

Sophomore Talik Keaton made the first unit on special teams. He leads the league with a 6.8-yard average on 14 punt returns.

Second-teamers were senior offensive lineman Alex Mollette, junior defensive tackle Jamare Edwards and senior defensive back Nazeeh Johnson. Honorable mention selections were sophomore linebacker Eli Neal and senior defensive back Brandon Drayton.

Joining Wells on the All-Freshman Team was defensive tackle Immanuel Bush (18 tackles, 2.5 for loss).

Marshall is 7-2 and will take on former Mid-American Conference foe Buffalo in the Camellia Bowl. Kickoff from Montgomery, Ala., will be 2:30 p.m. Eastern and the game will be televised on ESPN.

The Herd will be looking to rebound from a two-game losing streak, including last Friday’s 22-13 loss to UAB in the C-USA championship game.

Like Marshall in C-USA, Buffalo (5-1) won the MAC East Division title before losing to Ball State in the championship game.

The Bulls are led by running back Jaret Patterson, who was the nation’s leading rusher after the regular season with 203 rushing yards per game and 18 touchdowns in five games. But he was held to 47 yards on 18 carries in the title game loss.

Patterson, who was recently touted as a 2021 Heisman Trophy candidate, was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year. Lance Leipold was named Coach of the Year.

Email: gfauber@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @GaryFauber

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