While I am sure, Head Coach Doc Holliday is steaming inside over losing the last game in a seven game series against the school that he wanted to be the head coach at, he has to be happy with more than just a few of the things he saw at Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
For starters there was the offense. There is really no need to try and play anything else up in order to fill space in a game day wrap up article, because the sheer volume of accolades which can be bestowed upon this unit will take up enough space all in itself.
The first thing that jumped out to me, before any of the yardage numbers has to be the number of plays the Herd's offense ran from scrimmage. Marshall was able to squeeze out an astounding 101 offensive plays, fifty six passes and forty five rushing attempts. Marshall fans, for the past two years have only heard about this fast paced, up tempo style offense. Yet, they had never seen it on the field with the exception of games against Tulsa and Houston, in which the opponent was the team moving so quickly.
Ok, now to the real meat and potatoes of the afternoon. Everyone has already read all the great numbers put up by Rakeem Cato (413 yards passing,) and Kevin Grooms (43 yards on only 5 carries,) and Eric Frohnapfel, (6 catches, 60 yards, 1 excellent athletic first down grab, and his first ever college touchdown catch,) but what about a few things you may or may not have noticed.
- Everyone has heard about Grooms speed and ability to dodge a tackle, but for three straight carries down near the goal line, Grooms was running at people, and over people. He showed that he could some day be an every down back, and not just a scat back taking passes or pitches out of the backfield and slashing through holes. He had one touchdown carry called back after he ran through a few arm tackles. This has to be a positive as the Herd moves on throughout the season, most likely, without star running back Tron Martinez.
- The speed shown by tight end Gator Hoskins. Although the touchdown was called back on a very questionable penalty flag thrown against Antavious Wilson, the speed that Hoskins showed after he caught the ball and headed up the field was very promising. Against a very fast defense, he simply outran everyone to the endzone.
- The tight end position in general. The three tight ends, Frohnapfel, Hoskins and C.J. Crawford combined to snag an astounding 11 catches. The impressive thing is, it wasn't the case of 11 catches for 60 yards and a few first downs. These 11 catches went for 132 yards, and should have been 11 for 180 without Hoskins touchdown getting called back. That is over 11 yards per grab.
- It should come as no surprise that Aaron Dobson had no problems getting open. He could have had an even bigger day if Cato had hit him in stride after he simply outran the defense on a deep out. He also missed the last two quarters due to injury. The game should go to show just how great a year he should have.
- Now, in my opinion, one of the five most important things that happened in the game occurred early on when Dobson went out, and continued throughout the game. Redshirt freshman wide receiver Davonte Allen saw his first playing time as a member of the Herd. Allen, currently, would have to be the one replacement that is built anywhere near the receiver that Dobson is, and one would expect is tabbed as Dobson's replacement. He came in and caught two balls for eighteen yards, and looked good doing it. He also blocked well on the outside. It will be interesting to see how things play out this season with Allen.
Accolades for the defense are fewer and farther between. One could rave on the number of tackles that Dominick LeGrande and Alex Bazzie ended the game with, however, both were guilty of multiple missed tackles, most notably LeGrande. Bazzie, struggled, along with the rest of the offensive line, to get any pass rush at all on Geno Smith.
One positive I took from the game came from a player who most everyone expected to start coming into the season, D.J. Hunter. When Hunter came into the game, he made an impact. He only tallied two tackles, but both were solo tackles, and both came in the open field where he actually wrapped up the runner and got him to the ground. This is what both LeGrande, and fellow senior Okechukwu Okoroha need to do from the safety position.
It was nice to see the speed of Keith Baxter. Although he did have a bit of an angle, it was clear that he has the speed that Holliday raves about. He showed it off by running down Tavon Austin, from behind to prevent a long touchdown run.
The final category has to be special teams. I would be remiss if I didn't add in an "I told you so, " here. Ever since the spring, I have tried to give the fan base a sense of calm about the kicking game, even as most downgraded the unit. I spoke highly of both Tyler Williams, and the kickers Justin Haig and Trent Martin. They did not disappoint this past weekend. Williams, in his first ever collegiate football game boomed four punts for an average of 51.2 yards, with a long of 59. Haig converted both field goal attempts and all four extra points. This should be a great sign for Herd faithful as the season plays out.
Back to my original statement regarding leaving a thirty five point pasting with a good taste in your mouth. I can only remember one other time where a Marshall game ended in a blowout, yet there was still excitement in the air. That game came at Georgia Southern in 1989, when the Eagles beat the Herd 63 to 31. Marshall was close at halftime, but simply didn't have the horses to run with them. In this case, Marshall fell behind early, but nearly matched the Mountaineers blow for blow for some time.
Marshall now enters week two 0 – 1. Western Carolina should make for the perfect bounce back game. As if the Herd needed any motivation, they will be playing against former teammate Eddie Sullivan who, as everyone knows, transferred before the season after having left the team last year, mid season. Although it was a smart career move, and a move that most any father would hope his son would make, it still left a bad taste in the mouths of many here at Marshall as the Herd was forced to go into to the last part of the season with a wide receiver, Jermaine Kelson, as the back up quarterback.
Western Carolina is a former Southern Conference foe, and coincidentally is the first team that I actually saw Marshall play in person as a young boy. I watched the Herd and the Catamounts battle to a 10 – 10 tie in 1985 at old Fairfield Stadium.
Tickets are still available at herdzone.com. Game time is 7pm, the walk typically begins two hours prior to kickoff.
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