Tonight begins a big stretch for Marshall

AP PhotoMarshall quarterback Isaiah Green passes during the first half against VMI on Saturday, Aug. 31 in Huntington.

There may not be a Power Five opponent on Marshall's schedule this season, but that doesn't take anything away from the three-game stretch that awaits.

It starts with tonight's opponent, No. 24 Boise State (9 p.m. Eastern time, ESPN2). The Broncos have developed a reputation as being among the best Group of Five teams around. Their 36-31 win at Florida State last Saturday put them in the first Associated Press Top 25 of the regular season.

That's followed by a game with Battle For the Bell rival Ohio at home and then, after a bye week, Cincinnati will visit Huntington. The Bearcats are much improved from the team that Marshall beat on the road in 2017.

"Those three teams won a total of 33 games last year and all won their bowl games. That tells you what kind of challenge we're up against," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "That's a good thing and we'll embrace that. Right now, it's Boise so you take it one at a time. The good thing is we have two of those three at home.

"Right now, our focus is that blue turf and getting the opportunity to play an excellent team. At the end of the day, we'll find out where we stack up with the Group of Five because we play three of the best, that's for sure."

Anything less than total focus on the Broncos likely won't end well for Marshall (1-0).

Boise showed what it can do against Florida State. The offense rolled up 621 yards and 38 first downs, kicker Eric Sachse tied a Boise State record with five field goals and the defense shut out the Seminoles in the second half.

True freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier shined in his first game, completing 30 of 51 passes for 407 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, running back Robert Mahone rushed for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns.

A key for the Broncos (1-0) was time of possession. They ran 108 plays and Florida State had the ball for a total of just 19:57. The Seminoles punted five times and fumbled once in the second half, and the defense was on the field for 48 Boise State snaps.

Marshall's defense held VMI to 5-of-17 third down conversion success in last Saturday's 56-17 win.

"We have to be a complete team," Holliday said. "We have to take care of the ball offensively and score when we get in the red zone, which we did on Saturday (4-of-5). Defensively, we have to get off the field on third down and have to play great special teams, which are a big part of field position. When we punt the ball, we have to force them to go 90-plus yards and we have to cover kicks on kickoffs and create some big plays in the return game.

"We have to be the best team on the field in all three phases. We have to play together as a team or we have no chance."

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

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