HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—You could feel the panic starting to build around Joan C. Edwards Stadium as Marshall and Miami retreated to the lockerrooms at halftime tied at 14-14. Marshall’s offense, which had knifed through defenses a year ago, was sputtering, was out of sync, and quite honestly didn’t look anything like last year.
Then the third quarter arrived and the offense found its stride. Rakeem Cato and the offense took control of the game in the third quarter with an unstoppable diet of quick passes and a rushing attack that averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Once Marshall took a 35-14 edge on Cato’s second touchdown pass to tight end Gator Hoskins, there was collective sigh of relief in the stadium.
“Going into halftime, Coach Legg challenged us. We knew we came out sluggish and we challenged ourselves as a team and as an offense to get started and close them out and that’s exactly what we did,” said tight end Gator Hoskins.
The consensus after the game from the players and coaches was the offense was simply suffering from a case of the “first games” and had to get acclimated to actually playing a game and not just scrimmaging. It is hard to argue with that assessment given the offensive explosion in the third quarter that was more in line with the expectations that have been heaped on this team.
Good indications on defense
I’m not ready to rush to judgment on Marshall’s defense quite and proclaim all of its issues from a year ago have been fixed, but the early indications are very favorable.
The Herd was clearly more athletic than Miami, which it should have been, and the swarming defense kept the Redhawks in check all night. The defense, like the offense, took some time to get ramped up. Miami’s second drive of the game was a 7 play, 61-yard drive that include a 45 yard pass from Austin Boucher to Dawan Scott that put the Redhawks on Marshall’s five-yard line. Boucher connected on another deep ball in the second quarter, a 47-yard completion. Take away those two plays for 92 yards and Marshall allowed just 147 yards of total offense.
Miami was unable to convert a third down after converting two in the first quarter and the Spencer Treadwell touchdown run in the second quarter was the last time Miami threatened in the game.
Don’t forget Jermaine Holmes interception return for a touchdown late in the game to salt away the win.
But more importantly than the numbers we saw a swarming defense that brought different blitz packages, got to the quarterback and stuffed the run game. We also saw more man coverage in the secondary, as promised, and saw defensive backs batting passes away.
I’m not ready to proclaim the defense “fixed,” after one game against a Mid-American Conference opponent, but I certainly saw indications that it is improved from 2012.
Best second half
Marshall hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire in the second half of games over the last few seasons. In fact, Marshall has seen its fair share of leads slip away during the third and fourth quarters. Saturday was probably the best second half Marshall has played under Doc Holliday and he agreed.
“I would think. I haven’t looked at the defense, but I know if you take away a couple of Miami-Ohio’s plays then they would be under 100 yards of total offense. It was great to see the defense come and play the way that they did. Of course, offensively we got everything rolling in that second-half. The offensive and defensive coaches did a tremendous job today. The coaches that won that game are our training staff. I felt like our kids were in great shape the second-half. They got stronger as the game went along. I thought that was a factor in that game.”