HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– A defensive line’s mission is two-fold. The first is to stuff the run and get pressure on the quarterback. The second is to occupy the opponent’s offensive line so the linebackers can roam free, able to make tackles and disrupt plays in the backfield.
The Herd did both in Saturday’s win over Miami. Marshall’s linebackers looked quicker and more athletic, partly because they are, and partly because they didn’t have to ward off offensive guards and tackles to get to the ball carrier.
“That’s what needs to happen if they’re trying to stay on level one and block the d-line then the linebackers need to show up and make plays,” says defensive end Jeremiah Taylor. “If they try to come off the d-line and go block the linebackers then the d-line has to make plays. I feel like we’ve done a way better job of making those plays.”
The Herd recorded seven tackles-for-loss against the Redhawks, led by linebacker Jermaine Holmes who registered three tackles behind the line of scrimmage including The Herd’s only sack of the game.
“The d-line did their thing. The plays I made, I’m thankful to them,” says Holmes. “The whole defense got together late and I was just trying to make plays. The plays I made I was supposed to make.”
The front seven also made the plays it was supposed to make, stifling the Miami running game, limiting the Redhawks to just 74 yards rushing and 2.2 yards per carry. In fact, backup quarterback Austin Gearing was the Redhawks leading rusher with 27 yards on six carries. Starting tailback Spencer Treadwell netted only 15 yards on five touches.
“The pressure up front, we’re doing a better job of that,” says Taylor. “Being able to knock them off ball and get them in the backfield so Jermaine (Holmes) and Evan (McKelvey) can have a party back there.”
Taylor insists it is no accident that Marshall is showing signs of improvement along the defensive front. It is the result of putting in time in the weight room and practicing against an improved Herd offensive line all preseason long.
“I’m a firm believer that how you play in practice is how you’ll play in the game. Going against our o-line, being able to get pressure on them it just translates to the game,” Taylor says. “The way we played in camp, it’s starting to show now.”
While defensive line’s performance is promising, Taylor is not satisfied with playing well in just one game and he won’t let his teammate be satisfied either.
“It’s where you want to be but success and failures are both impostors. There are some that are there for the moment but its not final. Being 1-0 feels great but we need to focus on going 1-0 again.”