Herd Set to Face Eagles

Every football season has that moment in time when at the end of the year an entire football program, including its fan base, can look back and say, "that is what changed the season." Sometimes, it is for the good, sometimes it is for the bad.

Twenty five years ago there was such moment. Losing on the road to Division 1-A Louisville, Marshall was setting with a 2 – 3 record and the season was on the line. At just that moment, at just that time, current quarterback coach Tony Petersen dropped back to throw a hail mary, as he let the ball go, a tiny wide receiver wearing number 6 made his way to the back of the endzone behind the pack of players. The ball sailed over the larger group and landed in the stomach of the current father of Marshall cornerback Keith Baxter, also named Keith Baxter.

Conversely, in 2009, Marshall had a 5 – 3 record, and was 3 – 1 in CUSA. It was poised to finally turn a corner it had not turned since 2002. Leading 20 to 7 in Orlando against UCF, Marshall gave up a touchdown. Then, late in the game, center Chad Schofield got dinged up, and for one play, Landis Provancha came in. He had a poor snap to quarterback Brian Anderson, who was unable to hand the ball off to Darius Marshall, so instead, with the clock literally running out, and with UCF having no timeouts, Anderson was hit and fumbled. UCF took over, scored on a botched defensive play, and won 21 to 20. The season fell apart after that.

Two plays, changed the course of two seasons. One play saw the Herd go .500 after being in the CUSA lead. The other play saw the Herd go on an incredible run all the way to the National Championship Game.

Has that one play happened in 2012? Personally, I do not believe it has, however, it will happen Saturday. I don't know when it will happen, or who will make it happen, but it will happen this Saturday as Marshall heads to Hattiesburg to play a very scary 0 – 6 Southern Miss team.

Marshall welcomes back two defenders this week who have missed the entire season. Junior College Defensive Tackle Ken Smith returns from a back injury which has kept him out since before fall camp even started. He should help to bolster an interior line which up to this point has not played too bad. The play of Marques Aiken and Brandon Sparrow is one thing the Herd defense has been able to hang its hat on. The second player is linebacker Billy Mitchell. If Mitchell can come back and actually play, then the defense has a chance to make a turn around.

Mitchell is a very athletic and much bigger linebacker who could go along well with the fast, ultra athletic D.J. Hunter, Raheem Waiters and Devin Arrington. Mitchell had double digit tackles in the season ending bowl win over Florida International last season. He had an excellent spring and was clearly stepping up as a leader. He also was finally morphing into what a linebacker is supposed to look like. Mitchell came to Marshall with long blonde hair, he was fast, and athletic, and was a tight end. He looked like Cody Slate, and even donned the number 85 for some time. Keep an eye out for number 27 this weekend.

Another aspect of the Herd to check out is the emergence of wide receivers Davonte Allen and Craig Wilkins. Allen has shown a couple signs of being a play maker, and Wilkins had a big game against Purdue ending with him making a difficult touchdown catch look easy. The next six games will go a long way towards what Doc Holliday and company look for in regards to wide receivers on the recruiting front. He has made it clear he needs three wide receivers none of them being slot guys. If Wilkins and Allen are unable to continue their development then one would think that one of those spots would need to go to a JUCO outside receiver.

With Marshall running 92 plays a game on average, the plays are there for those two guys to step up. The injury bug though, has been an issue for both of them throughout their early careers.

Coach Holliday is 0 – 2 in games following a bye week in his brief Marshall career. Both losses came on the road to upper tier CUSA teams East Carolina and Tulsa. Interestingly though, in all games following the game following the bye week, Holliday is 7 and 2.

Marshall should have a good list of potential recruits visiting for the UCF game in two weeks. I will have a full report on each visitor late next week. This past home game only saw a couple visitors, one of which was current Marshall commit Michael Selby. Selby, an offensive lineman from Georgia, was here on an unofficial visit. He remains fully committed to the Herd. I will have a follow up interview with Mr. Selby this Sunday, and will get an update out shortly thereafter.

The Huntington Chapter of the Marshall Quarterback Club will have its luncheon today, Thursday, October 18th at 1130. The lunch will be held at Guyan Country Club, not at Pullman Plaza.

Kickoff time is set for 7pm this week at USM. The game will be telecast on CBS College Sports.

This is Marshall's third CUSA game and first against the East. Standing at 1 – 1 overall, Marshall has full control over its own destiny.

Currently the Herd has four players on post season, "watch Lists," Tommy Shuler, Rakeem Cato, Aaron Dobson and the recently added Gator Hoskins.

Cato continues to lead the country in passing yards, however, due to the off week, and Geno Smith having an off week early in the year, Smith is to within less than 100 yards of Cato.

Hoskins is tied for fourth in the country in receiving touchdowns.

With the return of Smith and Mitchell this week, that leaves Tron Martinez, James Rouse, A.J. Leggett, Travon Van and Darryl Roberts as prominent players who are out with injuries. Martinez, Roberts, and Leggett should be done for the year and will be able to redshirt.

Stay tuned to Herdhaven.com for further updates.

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