The rain is not easing up and Arkansas is trailing Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M 24-10 in the second quarter last season in Razorback Stadium. The Aggie offense is clicking on all cylinders, breezing through the Arkansas defense. Brandon Allen and the Razorback offense are looking for a spark and a way to get the rainsoaked fans into the ball game.
Allen steps up under center on first and 10, and Arkansas is driving very methodically. Allen takes the snap, fakes a handoff to fullback Kiero Small and makes an option-style pitch to a largely unknown freshman tailback, who bursts through a tackler for 16 yards and a first down. The crowd is back into the game. Allen then throws a touchdown pass to Jonathan Williams on the next play.
Fans are ecstatic about the Razorbacks cutting the Aggie lead to just a touchdown, but everyone is also wondering who the back was who helped set up the touchdown pass. Who is this freshman with this unbelievable explosiveness? His name is Korliss Marshall. And he needs the ball in his hands more often. It didn't take long to figure this out.
In an effort to give him more touches, Arkansas decided to have him on kickoff return. Typically, you like to have a playmaker in that role, so Marshall was the perfect fit. He ran one all the way for a touchdown in Baton Rouge, but a penalty called it back so it's not in the record books even though we all saw it. Then in the spring game, the entire state and the entire SEC saw even more of what he can do.
That is how the legend of Korliss Marshall began. We've seen him deliver short bursts of excitement in games, but he's yet to have the "breakout game." He is one of Arkansas fans' favorite players, and it's easy to see why, despite being somewhat unproven.
The sophomore is now a vital part of the Arkansas running game. His rise from just-barely-recruited unknown to significant member of the offense has been a quick one, but seems to be nothing he can't handle. Then he was popped during the season opener vs Auburn, taking a helmet to the arm, and was forced to leave the game. He returned after halftime, but before we knew his status, Razorback fans were sick to their stomachs, hoping his arm injury wasn't major. Fortunately, it wasn't.
Marshall then sat out the Nicholls State game last weekend as a precaution and to rest up for Texas Tech, who I feel the Arkansas native is going to break out against Saturday. There really is no telling how many yards Marshall would have run for against the Colonels. I believe this: if he plays, Arkansas would have rushed for 600+ yards for the game.
But before the injury at Auburn, Marshall was on his way to a stellar game. He touched the ball eight times for 45 yards, an average of nearly six yards per carry. Bielema says he is going to feed the hot hand, and Marshall was that hot hand. Alex Collins was having a nice half also, but Marshall was going to hit the home run. You could feel it. Then his injury happened.
Marshall is going to have a breakout game Saturday. That is my bold prediction for this week. When you combine one of the more explosive backs in the SEC with a very pedestrian, undersized run defense, it equals a career day. Trust me, I did the math.
For crying out loud, UTEP's top back ran for 151 yards and two TDs against the Red Raiders. If I'm Texas Tech's defensive coordinator when Korliss Marshall is in the game, I'm shielding my eyes. UCA's top running back also ran for nearly 100 yards in Lubbock.
It is also fairly safe to say Texas Tech has not seen an athlete of Marshall's caliber this season, yet they have still given up ugly numbers on the ground. I'm afraid the Red Raiders are going to take the brunt of his frustration from being prematurely knocked out of the season opener and not getting to play against Nicholls State.
I could be completely wrong here. I've been wrong a lot about a lot of different things in the past. But something just tells me Korliss Marshall is about to become a household name in Lubbock, and in the SEC.
We'll just have to wait and see.