It has been a long season for linebacker Billy Mitchell who has had to watch helplessly from the sidelines as his team’s defense had to endure growing pains and Marshall has been so close to wins over the likes of Ohio, Purdue and Tulsa.
That all changed Saturday night when Mitchell returned to The Herd’s lineup in Hattiesburg as Marshall dominated Southern Miss in a 59-24 blowout.
“It was awesome, I loved it,” Mitchell said. “Just being out there with the players, there’s no other feeling like it.”
Mitchell was competing for the starting job at middle linebacker at the start of camp but missed the first six games of the season while recovering from a concussion he suffered during the very first scrimmage in August. That was the second shot to the head Mitchell had received in less than six months. He had recovered from a concussion he sustained in spring ball.
The senior finished Saturday’s game with four tackles and forced a fumble when The Herd had its back at its own goal line bringing a screeching halt to an 11 play drive by the Golden Eagles. Mitchell’s play in the middle of the field was undoubtedly solid but more than anything he brought back a sense of leadership the defense desperately needed.
“He kind of settled things down in there for us a little bit,” praised Doc Holliday. “He’s got some experience and played a whole lot of football for us a year ago and having him in there brought a calmness to the defense.”
It had been a gut-wrenching start to the season for Mitchell, as he was forced to watch games from the sidelines and felt there was nothing he could to help his teammates when they needed him most. In games such as Tulsa, Ohio and Purdue, Mitchell could nothing more than offer moral support for his teammates while longing to be out on the field.
“It was awful, having home games here, standing on the sidelines and even going to practice was difficult,” Mitchell recalled. “I could see the effort they were putting out there and I wasn’t able to be out there with them.”
Even though Mitchell was banned from contact until a week ago, he still spent countless hours in the film room helping teammates prepare and himself getting ready for his return to the field. Mitchell will admit he cannot rely on athletic ability alone and needs to find that little edge that will give him the upper hand on the opposition.
“Just practicing and being out there learning,” insisted Mitchell. “I love watching film and looking for tendencies and anything that can help me out.”
The drive, leadership and just overall knowledge of the defense has been a trait Marshall has been missing through the first six games. That all changed with the return of Billy Mitchell and that could set up the defense to play like a completely different unit for the remainder of the season.
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