For the second straight game, former Yellow Jacket Marcus Marshall ran wild for James Madison University on their trek for another FCS National Championship.
Perhaps you remember a b-back from last year named Marcus Marshall. A former three-star recruit out of North Carolina, Marshall spent two seasons on The Flats. In those two seasons, he showed great promise and potential rushing for a total of 1,278-yards and eight touchdowns. However, Marshall realized after last season that Tech just wasn’t the right fit for him.
That then allowed for the emergence of Dedrick Mills to become the Jackets lead b-back, the then-freshman would have an outstanding TaxSlayer Bowl performance over Kentucky last December setting up this year to be a potential breakout season. Mills would then get kicked off the team for breaking team rules and would transfer to Garden City Community College in Kansas in hopes of getting back to the FCS level. He has an offer from Arkansas State to play next season.
Of course, with Mills out of the picture, the Yellow Jackets turned to sophomore KirVonte Benson. Benson fortunately for the Yellow Jackets filled both voids extremely well and 1,053-yards in his first season as the starter. That being said, fans could not be left thinking what the offense would’ve looked like with Marshall in the backfield.
Well, over the last two weeks, Marshall has shown what made him so coveted by the Yellow Jackets staff and why he has a shot at being an NFL caliber running back in the future.
The former Jacket entering the playoffs for James Madison was having a relatively quiet season. During the regular season, he had just one game of over 100-yards rushing and hadn’t topped the century mark in rushing yards for six straight weeks heading into the playoffs.
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After a quiet second round playoff performance against Stony Brook picking up just 17 total yards on six touches, Marshall broke out in their round three victory over Weber State. In that victory over Weber State, the former Jacket b-back rushed for 128-yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries, an average of 9.1 yards per carry. It was a performance that was a confidence booster not just for Marshall but for the coaching staff’s confidence that was instilled in him.
That being said, nobody expected Marshall’s outstanding performance on Saturday night against South Dakota State. The North Carolina native easily had the best game of his collegiate career as he rushed for 203-yards and two more touchdowns against the Jackals. He did all that on just 15-carries this time, an average of 13.5 yards per carry.
Over half of those yards came on two long touchdowns, Marshall’s first touchdown of the night was an electric 82-yard run to the end zone. How would he follow that up? On his very next carry, he took off once again, this time a 65-yard touchdown run.
Overall, Marshall in his last two games has totaled 331 and four touchdowns on just 19-carries. That’s an amazing 17.4 yards per rush, which is incredibly hard to do in multiple games no matter who you are and what level you’re playing on. It’s safe to say that Paul Johnson and the Jackets would’ve loved to have Marshall put up those numbers for the Jackets.
That being said, the Jackets are in great hands with Benson in the backfield but it is always safe to wonder about what would’ve been with other players. The one thing for certain is the Jackets would’ve had the best backfield in the ACC entering this season had all three running backs returned for 2017.
James Madison and Marshall will return to the field on January 6th to take on the North Dakota State Bison who have won the FCS Championship game in five of the last six years. You can read a quick twitter play-by-play of Saturday’s game courtesy of NCAA.com here.