HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Marshall didn’t do it very much last year. In fact, a takeaway by the Marshall defense was about as rare as a Doc Holliday smile during a postgame press conference.
In 2013, The Herd’s defense is playing more aggressively and making plays happen. Marshall intercepted UTSA quarterback Eric Soza three times Saturday in a 34-10 win giving Marshall nine through the first five games of the season. Marshall had nine picks all of last year.
“That’s what you have to do on defense. Offenses are going to move the ball but you have to have guys that will make some plays. I think we’ve got good players and we’ve just got to keep developing them,” says defensive coordinator Chuck Heater.
Marshall created turnovers in every since of the phrase Saturday. Two of the interceptions were thanks to aggressive and smart defensive line play. On UTSA’s first possession of the game Alex Bazzie stopped his pursuit, jumped and was able to bat Eric Soza’s pass in the air, allowing Evan McKelvey to come away with the pick.
“Our d-linemen did a great job. The bottom line is today we did an effective job of getting the ball tipped and that led to interceptions,” says Heater.
The Herd’s defensive line came through again on the very next Roadrunner drive. This time it was Gary Thompson applying the pressure and getting his paws in the air to bat a Soza pass attempt. Defensive end Ra’Shawde Myers dove and snagged the interception just before the ball hit the ground.
Those two picks directly led to 10 Marshall points in the first quarter.
The third pick kept points off the board.
Down 24-0, UTSA was trying to claw back into the game. After stopping Marshall on 4th and 3, the Roadrunners drover the ball to Marshall’s 18 –yard line. Eric Soza threw for the corner of the endzone and A.J. Leggett hauled in the third interception of the afternoon, ending the UTSA threat.
“Evan McKelvey had great underneath coverage and I just helped over the top,” says A.J. Leggett.
Leggett says the credit for the turnovers needs to go to the big guys along the defensive front.
“I give them all the credit. They put pressure on the quarterback and made the turnovers happen.”
With the three interceptions Saturday, Marshall is now +3 in turnover margin on the season.
“Our defense just came together. We watched too much film to let them roll over us,” says Stefan Houston.