HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Lost in Marshall’s mistakes a week ago was the fact that the defense actually played a pretty good ball game. Obviously it was not a perfect game. Ohio did convert third down after third down and chew 8:31 off the clock on a 17-play drive in the second half. But the defense held Ohio’s running game and quarterback Tyler Tettleton in check for the most part.
Ohio was limited to 60 yards rushing, averaging just 1.7 yards per rush. Tettleton threw for 266 yards but the average pass went for just seven yards. However, Marshall could not dig itself out of the hole it created by turning the ball over four times and Doc Holliday knows his team took the loss personally.
“They took that thing awful ha rd but they also know that one game does not define a season and they know that and they’ll be good. Effort has not been an issue,” emphasizes Doc Holliday.
This week the stakes have been raised as Marshall takes on Virginia Tech and quarterback Logan Thomas. Thomas is a different style quarterback than Tettleton and brings his own unique set of challenges to the table.
First of all is Thomas’s size. He more resembles a tight end than a quarterback. The redshirt-senior is 6-foot-6, 254 pounds in the pocket.
“He looks bigger than that when he gets out on the field,” says Holliday. “He’s an impressive guy that can make all the throws.”
Marshall has done a good job getting pressure on the quarterback this year but Thomas’s size in the pocket makes him much more difficult to bring down than the average signal caller. Defensive Coordinator Chuck Heater says making solid hits and gang tackling will be especially important this week.
“He’s so big and strong you can fall off of him if you’re a 220 pound linebacker. You’ve got to wrap him up. He’s a physically imposing guy, that’s for sure,” notes Heater.
So far this year, teams have dared Virginia Tech to beat them through the air.
There are two reasons. The Hokie running game has struggled early on and there are two versions of Logan Thomas that may show up.
There’s the Logan Thomas who completed 10-of-11 for 117 yards on a pair of touchdown drives against East Carolina. Eight of those passes went for first downs. On the flip side, Thomas can also gift wrap interceptions for defenses. ECU linebacker Montese Overton dropped a potential pick-six in the fourth quarter of the Pirates 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech a week ago that would likely have completely altered the outcome of the game.
One drive Thomas can look like an NFL caliber quarterback and the next drive he can make offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler want to pull out his hair.
Some credit must be given to the ECU defense a week ago as well. Doc Holliday says the Pirates made Virginia Tech earn every inch.
“East Carolina played extremely well on defense. They’re as good as they’ve ever been on defense.”
Frank Beamer desperately wants to run the football. His is one of the few offenses left that actually uses a fullback. However, the running attack has struggled for Virginia Tech. East Carolina was committed to stopping the run and shutdown the Hokies. Trey Edmunds had just 42 yards on 21 carries and found little running room. The rest of the Hokies only contributed another seven yards on the ground.
“Part of their issues is revamping the tight end and revamping the offensive line,” says defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. “It’s just some of the growing pains they’re going through.”
Starting tight end Ryan Malleck was injured in preseason practice and lost for the year and since then Virginia Tech has been looking for a suitable replacement. Going into the season he was the only tight end with any receptions on the roster. Duan Perez-Means has stepped in as the starter and Darius Redman and Kalvin Cline have split time has the number two tight end.
Along the offensive line, the Hokies have a pair of first-year starters at tackles in Jonathan McLaughlin and Brent Benedict. Virginia Tech played musical chairs with the offensive line through most of spring and preseason camps trying to replace tackles Vinston Painter and Nick Becton and utility lineman Michael Via.
If the line gives Logan Thomas time, he has a talented group of receivers to throw to. Redshirt-Sophomore Demetrius Knowles and freshman Joshua Stanford will start out wide for the Hokies.
So, how does the Marshall defense prepare to take on Virginia Tech’s offense and simulate a quarterback with the size and athleticism of Logan Thomas?
The answer is you don’t. But Holliday says they do their best.
“You just do what he does. You simulate like we do every week. We go good on good. Our seconds go against our first defense emulating Virginia Tech’s offense. We get as good as players as we can and work extremely hard to get better.”
Like East Carolina, Marshall must play sound defense and pressure the Hokies and force Logan Thomas to beat them. Thomas is prone to making mistakes and The Herd must capitalize if it is able to force turnovers and get the Hokie offense out of rhythm.