Emporia State head football coach Garin Higgins has been full of praise for redshirt sophomore quarterback Braxton Marstall in recent weeks, and his award-winning effort over the weekend against Central Oklahoma was no different. Marstall was named MIAA Offensive Player of the Week after setting new career highs in passing yards and touchdowns thrown in a game.
But when talking about such performances, Higgins and Marstall both have also been quick to direct accolades to the Hornets' offensive line, where the attack begins on each and every snap.
"They gave (Marstall) all kinds of time to throw back there," Higgins said Monday on KVOE's "Hornet Talk." "I actually said (Sunday) in our team meeting when we actually showed some plays to the whole team, that those guys gave Braxton enough time back there that he could've made a sandwich.
"They made him feel really comfortable and then when you have the type of weapons that we have out there at the receiver position, those guys making plays ... they made some unbelievable plays."
Marstall's comfort level can likely be mirrored in his season game log, where his yards passing has increased from the week before four times in five weeks. For it to move even higher against Northeastern State next weekend, things will truly need to be special.
"The O-line was keeping me protected and that gives me time to look downfield," Marstall said after throwing for 279 yards against Missouri Southern on Sept. 18. We've got four great running backs, our receivers are all skilled, as long as I can get them the ball, they can make the plays."
Throughout the young season, it's been the line that has helped steer the Hornets to success. Perhaps it was most evident two weeks ago in Warrensburg, when the Hornets' Antonio Brown gave ESU the lead over Central Missouri with less than a minute to play. All in thanks to five guys that put up a wall.
"They said don't be denied," Brown said after ESU's 37-31 double-overtime victory. "They weren't going to be denied and I wasn't going to be denied."
Senior Jarrett Stastny has started all five games thus far for ESU, and 33 of the Hornets' previous 34 games dating back to 2014. Dane Riley, DeAndre Herron and Jake Warehime have also been in the starting lineup all year, with Thomas O' Grady and Estevan Arana having opened games for ESU as well.
Regardless of the numbers on the jerseys, the bodies inside them have been getting the job done. And that job has led to a 4-1 record as well as opportunity for some of the more acrobatic catches in recent memory for an abundance of receivers.
"Not only with Mitch making his spectacular catches and J.B. made a great grab, there have been a lot of outstanding catches there at Welch Stadium in the past four-five years," Higgins said. "We've had some guys make some great catches and those (current) guys continue to do it."