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Marshall, Central Florida to match similar styles

HUNTINGTON, W.Va.— If Marshall coach Mark Snyder wants to take a good look at the Central Florida Knights, he can just look at his practice field.

The Thundering Herd head coach sees a lot of similarities between his team and the Knights who will match their mirror images at 8:15 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.

“This game is about both fronts. With the teams that win, it starts up front,” said Snyder. “These are two pretty good fronts on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively. The key is who is going to win the line of scrimmage battle.”

Marshall is 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the East Division of Conference USA. Central Florida is 4-3 and 2-2 in the league.

The teams have two common opponents with similar results. Marshall beat Memphis 27-16 and lost to East Carolina 21-17. UCF beat Memphis 32-14 and lost 19-14 to East Carolina.

“It is a game on a national stage and it gives us a chance to go against a very good UCF football team. Coach (George) O’Leary has done a great job,” said Snyder.

“They are tough, well-coached, and they don’ beat themselves. We have our work cut out for us, but I think our guys are excited and ready for the challenge.”

Team-wise and individually the teams match up closely, too.

In the running game, Darius Marshall leads the Herd and C-USA with 952 yards o 168 carries for a 5.7 average. The focus of the Knights’ running game is Brynn Harvey with 152 carries for 632 yards and six touchdowns.

Herd quarterback Brian Anderson is 139 of 232 for 1,427 yards and seven touchdowns. He also has seven interceptions. UCF’s Brett Hodges is 97 of 165 for 1,216 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Cody Slate had 43 catches for 502 yards and three scores. Anatavious Wilson is next with 26 for 328, Chuck Walker 24 for 279 and Jamal Wilson 16 for 111.

Hodges has five different receivers with double figure receptions. Rocky Ross has 21 catches for 251 yards, Jamar Newsome 20 for 249, A.J.Guyton 18 for 296, Kamar Aiken 13 for 269 and Harvey 10 for 38.

Team-wise, the Knights are first in C-USA in scoring defense and Marshall is fourth. Marshall is fifth in rushing offense and UCF ninth, but the Knights are first in rush defense — 92.3 yards per game allowed — and Marshall is seventh at 175 yards.

Central Florida is 10th in pass offense and the Herd 11th, but Marshall is third in pass defense and UCF is eighth.

In total offense, Marshall is ninth at 329 and UCF is 11th at 327 yards per game.

Two keys on defense are the Herd’s end Albert McClellan and the Knights’ end David Williams.

“Not talking about Williams would be like talking about Albert McClellan and not talking about Vinny Curry,” said Snyder. “There are a bunch of them up there, but he is definitely a really good player. You can just keep going. There are about four of them.”

Marshall has not had a winning season during Snyder’s previous four years, but a win over UCF not only gives the Herd their sixth win but would make them bowl eligible.

Snyder has cautioned his players to take care of business and not get ahead of themselves.

“I am sure it is in the back of (the players’) minds. Everybody is human. But this is the most important game because it is the next game. I’ve said that all along,” said Snyder.

“You never look forward and you never look back. You live in the moment, then all of a sudden you wake up one morning and you are champions. That is what we’re trying to do right now.”