Marshall coach: No fear to face traditional elites

  • College football reporter.
  • Joined ESPN.com in 2008.
  • Graduate of Northwestern University.

Marshall football coach Charles Huff knew the team he took into Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds.

Some of the players had been there before. Marshall added 24 transfers to its roster this offseason, including several from Power 5 programs.

“We’ve got three guys from Florida State, they all played Notre Dame last year,” Huff told ESPN on Sunday. “The team wasn’t as caught up in the gold helmets as it was, ‘Hey, this is an opportunity to play a good team, and we’ve got to play really well.’ Where college football is now, the intimidation factor probably goes out the window.”

Marshall didn’t flinch against the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish, leading most of the way in a 26-21 victory. The Thundering Herd, who were a three-touchdown underdog coming into the game, recorded their second win ever against an AP top-10 opponent and the first since 2003 against No. 6 Kansas State. Marshall, a first-year member of the Sun Belt, helped highlight a huge day for the conference, which also saw Appalachian State stun No. 6 Texas A&M 17-14 and Georgia Southern beat Nebraska 45-42.

Several transfers factored into Marshall’s win, including running back Khalan Laborn, who was dismissed from Florida State in 2020 for violating team rules. He rushed for 163 yards and a touchdown against Notre Dame. Quarterback Henry Colombi, a transfer from Texas Tech, completed 16 of 21 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.

“When we hit the transfer portal this offseason, we were getting some guys that played considerable snaps in places,” Huff said. “We weren’t just getting a guy that went to some SEC school and never played. We were getting and recruiting guys that were either rotational guys or starters and had lost their jobs or whatever it was.

“We put the roster together, and you’re like, ‘Guys, we’ve got a Power 5 roster if we just count the starters.'”

Huff’s bigger concern against Notre Dame was depth, as Marshall had a significant drop-off from its starters to backups, especially with experience. But the Herd held up and left the field with one of the biggest wins in team history.

“A lot of the guys who have transferred here were at places where they didn’t feel wanted,” Huff said. “Whether that was by the coaching staff or their playing time or the culture that was built. I’m not saying that was intentional by a certain staff, but in here, they feel like they’re part of a family. That was a family celebration in the locker room.

“It was old players, new players, players who had been here for six years, players who had been here for six months, who all kind of came here and threw their chips in the middle of the table and said, ‘We’re going to do this together.'”

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