HUNTINGTON — Marshall quarterbacks Grant Wells and Luke Zban each took their first collegiate snaps at the position Saturday afternoon.
In looking at the final numbers for the two, it would have seemed like the exact opposite.
Both Wells and Zban showed poise in their first live action, combining for a largely efficient afternoon as Marshall topped Eastern Kentucky 59-0 in the season opener at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Wells played the entire first half and the initial drive of the second half while Zban earned the final quarter and a half of action.
No matter who led the offense, the outcome was the same — points on the scoreboard.
“If I could have scripted it, that’s the way I wanted it because it was good for us to get — other than that first drive in the second half — we got Zban and those guys in there the entire second half,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “That’s going to help us down the road.”
Offensive coordinator Tim Cramsey’s game plan helped build confidence early as Wells got a couple easy completions to get into rhythm before letting the ball fly.
As his confidence grew, so did his play making ability.
Possibly his two best throws went to tight end Xavier Gaines — one being his first touchdown pass, which came on a 22-yard strike over the middle and another being a back shoulder throw with zip on it that allowed Gaines to adjust to the football.
Gaines spoke at length about the touchdown toss that marked the first of Wells’ career.
“He couldn’t have put it in a better place, to be honest,” Gaines said. “As soon as I came out of my break and turned my head, it was right there on my chin, so I can’t ask for a better ball.”
One throw that really showcased Wells’ arm strength came late in the first quarter when Wells threw off his back foot between two defenders for a 21-yard score to Talik Keaton.
Wells’ day ended after his own 25-yard rush set up a 6-yard scoring run for running back Sheldon Evans. In his first start, Wells completed 16 of 23 passes for 307 yards and four touchdowns.
The 307 yards were a Marshall record in a debut, and Wells started the game off by completing his first seven passes.
Once Wells left the game, Zban picked up right where he left off, engineering a pair of scoring drives of 63 and 75 yards that each got the Herd in the end zone.
That final scoring drive culminated with Zban’s first touchdown pass — a 3-yard scoring throw to tight end Amir Richardson that capped a 15-play drive that took 8:22 off the clock. Zban finished the game a perfect 6-for-6 passing.
“That was great to see all those young players get in there and make plays,” Holliday said. “We had 13 different receivers catch the ball. That hadn’t happened in a while around here, so that was good to see those guys step up when their number was called.”
Holliday said that getting both quarterbacks and some different skill personnel in the game was a best-case scenario during a year in which multiple players will be needed to complete the season.
“With the exception of that first drive of the second half, we played our backups that entire second half,” Holliday said. “It was great to have the opportunity to do that because those guys may even start at some time with the situation we’re in right now.”
In all, Marshall’s two quarterbacks combined to go 22-of-29 for 345 yards and five touchdowns with zero interceptions while leading an offense that put up 7.6 yards per play.
The Thundering Herd also finished 7-of-10 on third-down conversions while also converting both fourth-down opportunities in the game.
To Holliday, the most important number was not the 627 yards put up; instead, it was zero — and it wasn’t due to the defense.
Marshall had zero turnovers in the game, and that is efficiency Holliday wants to see each week the Herd moves forward.