Breakdown - Marshall Offense vs. OSU Defense

On paper, it may seem like a mismatch after seeing Marshall struggle offensively against Troy and OSU control the game defensively against Cincinnati. But the Buckeyes are definitely not overlooking this Thundering Herd offense. Dave Biddle has a look at the matchup between OSU's D and Marshall's offense.

Marshall limps into Ohio Stadium fresh off its 17-15 home loss to Troy State last Saturday.

Just how bad was Marshall's offense in the loss? Bob Pruett has been the head coach of the Thundering Herd since 1996 and had never seen anything like it.

"Since I've been at Marshall, that's the worst offensive performance we've had," he said. "We were poor in all phases offensively."

But one thing is certain: a better Marshall offense will show up in Columbus this weekend. The Herd has targeted this game for quite sometime and will be at their best against the Buckeyes.

"We think they overlooked Troy State last week and all summer they've been working on us," Ohio State defensive tackle Quinn Pitcock said. "It's like N.C. State last year against Wake Forest. They overlooked Wake Forest, then came back the next week and had a tough game with us. So, I think it's the same situation. We're going to have a tough game on our hands."


Marshall's offensive line struggled last week, giving up eight sacks to Troy State. The Herd has just two returning starters on their line: left tackle Nate Griffin (6-6, 344, Sr.) and center Jesse Saito (6-2, 308, Sr.).

The new starters are: left guard Doug Legursky (6-3, 308, Fr.), right guard Toby Bullock (6-4, 340, Jr.) and right tackle Zac Elcess (6-5, 285, Jr.). Legursky is a true freshman and Elcess is A.J. Hawk's and Mike Nugent's former teammate at Centerville High School.

Although it's an inexperienced line, Pitcock says the Buckeyes won't attack it any differently than they would a veteran O-line.

"Definitely not," he said. "I think we attack everyone the same. It's just they might not pick up little things here and there, but we'll still go after them the same. Not any more, or any different."

Pitcock (6-3, 300, So.) is coming off a strong performance in OSU's 27-6 win over Cincinnati. He is joined on the defensive front by ends Simon Fraser (6-6, 280, Sr.) and Mike Kudla (6-3, 265, Jr.) and tackle Marcus Green (6-3, 290, Jr.).

Also sure to see a lot of playing time for the Bucks up front are tackle David Patterson (6-3, 300, So.) and end Jay Richardson (6-6, 270, So.).

As usual, the No. 1 job of the defensive line will be to control the line of scrimmage and stop the run.

"Our biggest thing is stopping the run first and if we can do that, we'll have a great day," Pitcock said.

ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE. A young offensive line against a young defensive line. But the Bucks have more talent across the board and a lot more depth.


The leader of Marshall's offense is quarterback Stan Hill (6-3, 215, Sr.). Although he missed half the season last year with injuries, he still threw for 1,767 yards (69.6 comp. pct.) with 15 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

In the loss to Troy State, Hill was 14 of 28 for 152 yards with a touchdown and a pick.

"Stan is right up there with all the great quarterbacks they've had," OSU defensive coordinator Mark Snyder said. "He has a quick release, he's patient in the pocket and he finds the open guy."

The Thundering Herd also has a quality tailback in Earl Charles (6-1, 215, Sr.). He rushed for 1,039 yards last year (5.1 yards per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

Against Troy, Charles was held to just 56 yards on 21 carries.

But OSU knows that last week was probably an aberration.

"Well, we watched the Kansas State-Marshall game last year and Marshall rushed for almost 300 yards," Ohio State linebacker Bobby Carpenter said. "They ran the zone play right and left. Their running back is extremely good."

Marshall does not use a fullback. Its starting tight end is Jeff Mullins (6-3, 253, Jr.), a Gallipolis, Ohio native.

Ohio State counters with one of the best group of linebackers in the country. The starters are SLB Carpenter (6-3, 255, Jr.), MLB Mike D'Andrea (6-3, 248, Jr.) and WLB Hawk (6-1, 238, Jr.). Carpenter and Hawk led the Bucks with nine tackles each against UC.

Also seeing a lot of playing time will be MLB Anthony Schlegel (6-2, 245, Jr.). He will split time with D'Andrea and will be in there as the fourth 'backer when OSU switches to a 3-4 defense.

Outside linebackers Thomas Matthews (6-2, 220, Sr.) and Marcus Freeman (6-2, 230, Fr.) will also see time off the bench.

The Buckeyes obviously want to pressure Hill and force turnovers. If that means blitz a little bit more, that's what they'll do.

"Marshall was sacked (eight) times last week, we didn't get any sacks last week, so that's a goal," Carpenter said. "We want to improve quarterback pressure and with that will come some turnovers, hopefully. Some caused fumbles and some interceptions."

ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE. Not many units across the country are going to win a matchup against OSU's linebackers.


As usual, Marshall has a talented group of receivers. The crew is led by Josh Davis (6-1, 190, Sr.). He had six catches for 79 yards and a touchdown last week against Troy State.

Last season, Davis finished with 66 receptions, 823 yards (12.5 yards per reception) and six touchdowns. Those were all second best on the team behind Darius Watts, who is now playing for the Denver Broncos.

Marshall starts three receivers, but will use as many as five at a time. The other starters are: Emanuel Spann (5-11, 170, Fr.) and Tremel Guillory (5-10, 185, Sr.).

Ohio State's starting corners are Dustin Fox (6-0, 190, Sr.) and E.J. Underwood (6-1, 175, Jr.), both candidates for All-Big Ten honors.

The starting safeties are Nate Salley (6-3, 215, Jr.) and Tyler Everett (5-11, 196, Jr.). Salley is another candidate for all-conference honors, while Everett is a first-year starter after edging Donte Whitner (5-11, 200, So.) for the job. Everett had a good first start last week, knocking away a would-be touchdown pass and making a few nice tackles.

Whitner will also see time as a nickel back, as will Ashton Youboty (6-1, 188, So.). In fact, Youboty will be on the field quite a bit and might even start the game since the Herd start three receivers.

"Marshall always has good receivers," Underwood said. "Randy Moss, Watts last year and Josh Davis this year."

Underwood will see a lot of Davis on Saturday.

"He's going to be the go-to guy and we know they're going to take some shots downfield, so we've just been preparing and we're going to be ready on Saturday to step up to the challenge," Underwood said.

ADVANTAGE: OHIO STATE. Marshall has talent at receiver, but not as much talent as OSU has in the secondary. The Buckeyes will surely pay a lot of attention to Davis, so it will be up to the other MU wideouts to step up.


Marshall runs a spread attack out of the shotgun and usually operates it well under fourth-year offensive coordinator Mark McHale. Yes, the Herd struggled last week, but you can bet they were saving some plays for the Buckeyes. A potent offense like MU's probably won't be held in check for two straight weeks.

Last season, Marshall ranked No. 18 in the country in total offense with 440.9 yards per game. It was No. 20 in the country in rushing (196.3), No. 38 passing (244.6) and No. 39 scoring (29.2).

"I think their system is exceptional offensively," Snyder said. "They have a great package and when those kids grow in that package and by the time their juniors and seniors - which a lot of them are - they're a force to be reckoned with."

Last week against the Buckeyes, Cincinnati avoided sacks by rolling Gino Guidugli out of the pocket. Since Marshall struggled so much protecting the quarterback last week, you can probably expect them to copy UC's plan a little bit.

"Definitely, I would think," Pitcock said. "Coaches do learn off other teams and I could see that happening. We're ready for whatever they're capable of doing."

Look for Ohio State to start the game in its nickel defense and look for a lot of the 3-4 scheme as the game progresses. Marshall might try and run the ball early with Charles, but in the end expect a lot of throws from Hill. The Herd will need to throw to move the ball against this talented OSU defense, which is ranked No. 18 in the country in total defense (238) after the first week of the season.

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