HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Marshall’s offense probably won’t see another defense as tough, physical and as stingy as the Virginia Tech unit it faced two weeks ago in Blacksburg. Despite all the accolades and praise the Hokies had garnered, Marshall still moved the ball.
The Herd rolled up 361 yards of total offense, 228 through the air and 133 on the ground. To put that in perspective, Alabama had just 206 yards of total offense in the season opener against The Hokies. Marshall is once again at the tops of the charts in Conference USA, first in scoring offense and total offense. Second in passing offense and third in the league in rushing offense. The games in which Marshall has struggled, it has beaten itself.
“We didn’t do a very good job taking care of the football. That’s the first or second thing in the plan to win and we have to do a better job of taking care of the football,” says coach Doc Holliday.
The UTSA defense Marshall faces this week is much like Virginia Tech in the aspect that the Roadrunners aren’t going to play mind games with opposing offenses and try to trick them. They play a pretty simple scheme but execute nearly to perfection.
“Their defense is very sound. They don’t do any trickery. They play hard and very discipline and try to execute to the best of their ability and see what the result is as the end of the game,” explains receiver Demetrius Evans.
The Roadrunners adhere to a coaching adage, they may not run many plays or coverages but the ones they do run are run well.
“They’re not an over complicated group. They’re not going to try to trick you a bunch. They’re going to try to make sure they know where they’re supposed to be and when they’re supposed to be there, know their keys, keep the ball in front of them and tackle well,” says offensive coordinator Bill Legg.
Junior tackles Richard Burge and Ashad Mabry anchor the defensive line in the middle. Center Chris Japserse says it will be important for the offense to get a quick start against UTSA’s defensive front.
“They got some guys inside that are big pluggers and try to stop the run and that’s what the pride themselves on. We’ve got to be able to win up front and get a run game going early.”
Jasperse says like the rest of the defense, the front four are disciplined and focus on their assignments.
“They’re all big boys up there and aren’t really worried about the pass rush. They want to push the pocket and try to get penetration on run plays,” scouts Japserse.
Senior Steven Kurfehs leads the linebacking corps. He was a second-team All-WAC selection a year ago, posting a record 71 tackles and team-high 4.5 sacks. He will patrol the middle of the field as the “hawk” backer Kurfehs has recorded 30 tackles so far this season, including a team-best nine stops last week against Houston. He’s joined by Drew Douglas at the “mike” backer position. Jen Jeters and Blaker Terry will also roll in for the Roadrunners.
The Roadrunners use three safeties in its base scheme. Free safety Triston Wade has been a ball hawk for UTSA in his first two seasons. Wade has a hand in 13 turnovers, seven fumbles and six picks, in the first 27 games of his career. He forced four fumbles and had four interceptions last year for the Roadrunners. This season he leads UTSA with 47 tackles and has posted a career high 12 in each of the last two games.
Junior Brian King lines up as the “rover” safety. He s second on the squad with 32 tackles and recorded a career high 10 stops against Arizona.
Nic Johnson is the “dawg” safety and Crosby Adams and Bennett Okotcha round out the rest of the secondary.
Again this season, Marshall’s offense has been nearly unstoppable when Legg has put the pedal to the floor and switched the offense in to turbo mode. However, Legg says after watching film on the Roadrunners there have actually been times when offenses have been at a disadvantage by running at such a fast tempo.
“There have been some negatives. There’s been times they were still scrambling to get lined up and it actually caused more problems for the offense than it did the defense,” explains Legg.
Legg insists it doesn’t matter if Marshall is running plays every 15 seconds or slowing down the pace. Marshall must still execute the offense and not run three or four plays and turn the ball back over to UTSA.
“At the end of the day we’ve got to move the football by creating first downs, however we do that, and we’ve got to find a way to score and execute at a high level because this is a good football team,” insists Legg.
The numbers tend to lean in Marshall’s favor. The Herd is averaging 39.8 points a game and 485 yards of total offense.
UTSA has been effective on defense but is ranked sixth in C-USA in total defense allowing 402 yards per game and is ninth against the pass giving up 244 yards per game.