HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– There weren’t very many teams that did more than the Thundering Herd on offense last season. Marshall raked up 6,411 yards of total offense, averaged 365 yards passing a game and averaged almost 41 points per game. Marshall’s offense was statically one of the best in the nation. This season, The Herd could actually achieve more while doing less statistically.
That is, if Marshall can achieve a few of the goals it set back in spring practice.
First, an improved defense will take a huge burden off the offense. The Herd may have scored 41 points a game last season, but it was giving up 43 points a game. The offense was forced to continually put the ball in the air and score as many points as possible. No lead, no matter how large, was safe.
Chuck Heater was brought in as the new defensive coordinator and has installed a base 4-2-5 defense, which should make a tremendous difference in the pass-happy Conference USA. The Herd is also much deeper at defensive tackle and more athletic at linebacker, as well as the secondary. Opponents should not be able to roam in free spaces as they did last year.
Doc Holliday has called the offensive line the strength of the offense this year. That unit struggled a year ago when the offense slowed the pace and tried to eat the clock or just give the defense a rest. Holliday and offensive coordinator Bill Legg have expressed the desire to control the tempo, speeding up and slowing down when they want to.
The results of an improved defense and offensive line may be statistics that don’t match last season’s gaudy numbers. Rakeem Cato shouldn’t have to put the ball in the air 40 times a game and throw for 365 yards week in and week and week out, as long as the defense can keep the opposition out of the endzone and games don’t turn into shoot-outs.
Just the same, if the line can take over a game and The Herd can slow down and eat the clock when the situation calls for it, Cato and company won’t be forced to put up the same numbers as a season ago.
Marshall should be able to achieve more in 2013 while doing less statistically. You won’t hear any complaints from Rakeem Cato, Tommy Shuler, Steward Butler or anybody else if The Herd is contending for a conference title at the end of the season.