HUNTINGTON, W.Va.—Football is a game of adjustments. Adjustments on the sidelines to what the offenses and defenses are seeing. Adjustments at halftime to the gameplan based on the results of the first half. There are also adjustments at the line of scrimmage as the offense tries to put itself in the best play possible based on what the defense is showing.
For the vast majority of offenses the days of calling one play in the huddle and running it are long gone, heck the huddle is becoming an endangered species. When Marshall comes to the line of scrimmage, the checks quarterback Rakeem Cato are making at the line are not just random calls. Offensive coordinator Bill Legg says they are based on a grouping of plays that are called.
“We don’t call one play then check to the right play. We call a combination of plays to handle as many possible scenarios as we can handle, but you’re not going to handle 100 percent of the scenarios,” explains Legg.
Unlike when you or I call on a play while playing Madden on the PlayStation, Cato and company come to the line with several plays to choose from based on the defensive alignment and personnel.
“At the end of the day we want to get the best possible play at the snap of the ball we can run,” says Legg. “What we’re trying to get to with those guys is they see the same pictures I’m seeing. They’re thinking the same things I’m thinking. What’s the very best play we can get into against a particular look?”
Cato, now in his third season as a starter, is thinking more and more like Legg everyday. In fact, Legg says Cato made who made call to run the ball on Essray Taliaferro’s 18-yard touchdown run last week against Southern Miss.
The Herd will have to be ready to adjust again this week against a UAB team that Legg admits caught the offense off guard a year ago but only rushing three linemen and dropping eight players into coverage all night long.
“It’s got to log in the back of every coaches’ mind who was here. We’d worked against that defense that they played for third downs. We’d not worked against that defense on first and second downs.”
Since then, UAB has made a change at defensive coordinator and with that has come a change in styles. Reggie Johnson was demoted after his unit allowed 600 yards to Florida Atlantic. Jimmy Williams was promoted to the post and the Blazers have shown a couple of different looks throughout the season.
“I’ve kind of got the impressing the new defensive coordinator is more of a four-down guy. He’s more of a man concept coverage guy. They have a multitude of ways to play man coverage,” scouts Legg.
Coach Doc Holliday says that doesn’t necessarily mean the Blazers won’t drop eight and try to take away Marshall’s passing game.
Legg admits against the Blazers last year the offense was not ready for the three-down look it got from UAB. Now, he says they prepare of everything and anything that might get thrown at them.
“They haven’t shown three down except for third down,” says Holliday. “Because of the success they had against us a year ago we have to prepare for the three-down stuff because we may get it.”
“Every single week we work on everything we’ve seen on film and then we work on the possibility that someone says let’s go odd and drop eight. This was the week that started that and this week will be no different,” emphasizes Legg.
As for the numbers, there’s a reason UAB is just 2-6 on the season. The defense is allowing 273.3 passing yards per game and teams are averaging almost 196 yards on the ground. The Blazers are ranked 109th in the country in total defense allowing 469.1 yards per game.
The Blazers also have a hard time getting off the field. UAB is 112th in the nation with opponents converting third downs 48 percent of the time.