Brian Anderson dropped back and fired a deep pass to Wayne Bonner, who was being covered by a single East Carolina defender.

Bonner leaped and got both hands on the ball but could not get a grip. Another ECU defender came in, but the ball fell harmlessly to the turf.

That was it — Marshall’s only shot downfield the entire game.

There have been fewer and fewer of them in recent years. For a team commonly referred to as “Quarterback U” because of past greats such as Eric Kresser, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, times have definitely changed.

A steady dose of tailback Darius Marshall and a whole lot of screen passes have dominated the Herd offense.

But Marshall coach Mark Snyder believes big-play potential remains, when the opportunity is presented.

“It starts with protection,” Snyder said. “You want to stay ahead of the chains. You would like to throw the ball when you want to throw the ball, not when you have to throw the ball, and that is what I mean by staying in front of the chains.

“Sometimes that is difficult to do when you are playing a good defense, and I think you saw two pretty good defenses out there on Saturday. I think both sides of the ball had issues when you knew there was going to be a pass.”

The Herd (3-2, 0-1 Conference USA) has the nation’s leading rusher in Marshall, who is averaging 159.8 yards per game. But the passing offense ranks 112th in the country at 158.6 yards.

Anderson blew everyone away in the preseason, but has done nothing to stand out. He is 79 of 137 for 756 yards (151.2 per game), four touchdowns and four interceptions.

Tight end Cody Slate has been ineffective as a pass catcher with the air struggles. After posting a 114-yard game in the season opener against Southern Illinois, Slate has 175 yards in four games since.

Chuck Walker also got off to a fast start with 119 yards against the Salukis, but has only five catches for nine yards since.

“I think we need to make a concerted effort on getting the ball to some other guys,” Snyder said.

The absence of Courtney Edmonson has obviously hampered the passing game. Edmonson, a senior, had a breakout camp like Anderson, but he has not played since suffering a hamstring injury early against the Salukis.

There was a chance Edmonson could have returned last week against East Carolina, but he did not dress. He is listed second on the depth chart behind redshirt freshman Antavious Wilson for Saturday’s game at Tulane, but his status remains wait-and-see.

“He is still feeling a little bit of a twinge in there,” Snyder said. “He would make a huge difference on the field, but I am going to travel him either way. He is going to be probable, and for his leadership standpoint for those other guys, he will travel.”

Edmonson’s return would likely open things up.

“We took a shot or two down the field and didn’t make the play,” Snyder said. “With the camp that Courtney had, he might have made that play, or two or three of them.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

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