HUNTINGTON W.Va—The old coaching adage says you’ll see the biggest improvements from week one to week two. While it is hard to improve upon a 52-14 win and 591 yards of total offense there is room for growth for the Thundering Herd.
While there’s no major issues that need to be fixed, it’s the little things in the game of football that can be the difference between just going to bowl and winning a conference championship.
“Running to the ball, finishing off blocks, getting started fast, getting the defense off the field and not going three-and-out,” emphasizes Shuler. “It’s just the little things we’ve got to fix to help our offense out.”
From the offensive line’s perspective just about everything went right against Miami. Marshall ran for 304 yards and threw for another 287 in the win. However tackle Garrett Scott thinks quarterback Rakeem Cato had to deal with a little too much pressure.
“I feel like we can get better. We should take more hits off or quarterback. There were a few hits they got on him, no major sacks but we need to limit the hits on our quarterback,” insists Scott.
Cato will be pleased to hear that.
“I know conceptually what they (Gardner-Webb) are doing but how are they going to take that concept and fit what we do?” — Offensive Coordinator Bill Legg
Then there’s Marshall’s slow start. The Herd ran just nine plays in the first quarter, going three-and-out on the first three drives of the game. It was looking bleak for Marshall on its fourth drive as it faced a 3rd and 8 on its own 22-yard line. That’s when offensive coordinator Bill Legg says the game changed.
“Sometimes it just takes a play and the play it took was Cato scrambling on third down for 12 or 15 yards and got us a first down and the next play we ran the ball nine yards and we just had a snowball affect from there,” explains Legg.
Marshall will try to perfect its offense against a Gardner-Webb defense that is a bit of an unknown. Legg says they only have the opening game against Furman to base their assumptions off of and the Paladins run an offense that is nothing like Marshall’s.
“Furman plays Pro-I then they change up and go Slot Pro-I, then they change again and got Tight Pro-I and the only time they get into a one back formation is on third and long,” explains Legg. “I know conceptually what they (Gardner-Webb) are doing but how are they going to take that concept and fit what we do?”
Legg says Gardner-Webb will employ and odd front so, he showed the offense film of every team that has played an odd front against The Herd, from UAB to West Virginia. Tackle Garrett Scott says the Bulldogs defense is similar to schemes he’s seen before.
“Their defense kind of looks like West Virginia’s defense from last year with a three down front,” scouts Scott.
The defensive line is the strength of the Bulldogs defense, led by junior defensive end Shaquille Riddick. Riddick recorded six tackles including a sack in the season opener against Furman. Phil Steele also voted him a 2nd Team All-Big South choice.
In the middle of the in the line is nose tackle O.J. Le’iatua Mua, a 6-foot-2, 302 pound sophomore from American Samoa.
“He’s a big kid, he’s got twitch, good push. He’s quick on his angle slants. He’s a good player and he ties up people inside and letting those linebackers run and their linebackers made a lot of tackles,” praises Legg.
Statistically, the Bulldogs defense was impressive against Furman, limiting the Paladins to just 213 yards of total offense in 43 plays. However, this will be a much different style of offense this week when it goes up against The Herd.