HUNTINGTON, W.Va.– Despite the preseason hype that Marshall should run away with Conference USA this season, there is still lots of work to be done before The Herd takes the field against Miami (OH) on Aug. 30. Coach Doc Holliday came out of Saturday’s scrimmage both happy and frustrated with aspects of his team’s performance.

Coaches Corner

Coach Holliday had several likes and dislikes from his team at the completion of the scrimmage but more importantly, he had several opportunities to see young guys to step up and make a play without a coach on the field.

“Defensively we’ve got to get better,” Holliday said. “You’re never happy walking off because one phase of the team didn’t play as well, but we will be fine on defense. We had some guys we didn’t play for a reason.”

However on offense, Holliday was pleased with his teams output.

“Offensively we made plays,” Holliday said. “The receivers made some catches down field and that was good to see. I was anxious to see some of the young players when we got off the field and let them play and they reacted pretty well.”

Holliday was most impressed with how the young players stepped up tonight.

“You see the young kids, the Yuracheks, Gator Green, Angelo Jean-Louis, you see all those guys just get better,” said Holliday. “Players make plays and they made some plays today.”

Holliday said the officiating crew was a welcomed site to the session.

“It was nice to see those guys,” Holliday explained. “They (officials) could see how the secondary was playing with their hands and that type of thing. That was a great crew and I was glad to get them out here.”

Over amped start for Cato

Taking the field for the first time with officials this season, the Heisman Trophy candidate shook off a rough start to finish strong. Cato’s first five passes fell incomplete before he connected with Jean-Louis for a 27-yard touchdown strike. The crowd erupted with applause for the first score of the night. Although starting 0-of-6, Cato finished 5-of-6 including two deep throws to Davonte Allen. Cato hit Allen on a streaking route up the far sideline for a gain of 42 yards on a pass that Cato threw from the shadow of his own end zone. Cato’s second hook-up with Allen was a jump ball into the north end zone on the near sideline that Allen skied over corner Corey Tindal for a 22-yard touchdown strike.  If Allen and Jean-Louis can stretch the defense down field, Cato will be like a kid in a candy store as he picks the defense apart.

Keep feeding the rock

To no surprise, Devon Johnson started along side Cato in the back field. Johnson took the first play of the night forward for a gain of six yards. Johnson only saw the ball five times but finished with a 6.4 yards-per-carry including a 14-yard carry that he broke through several attempts of being the big back to the turf. Johnson also turned a 4-yard loss into a 3-yard gain by simply churning his legs and playing through contact. If Johnson can stay healthy this season, Cato could slice and dice the middle of the field as defenses will have to put a spy on 47. Play action with Johnson could almost be unfair at times.

Stew Butler saw action with the twos as he finished with 46 yards on 11 carries. Butler also had a score and a fumble that Emanuel Beal was able to jump on to retain possession. Butler simply lost the ball as he was running in space, it was not forced by the defense. Butler was able to bounce back later in the contest as he punched in a score from 11 yards out on a nice option read by Holcombe who read the blitz and made the hand off.  Butler finished with a 4.2 yard-per-carry average.

Remi Watson continues to heed Coach Barclay’s advice of getting north and south as soon as he can. Watson finished with 51 yards on 11 carries and a touchdown to cap off a five-play 25-yard drive that saw Watson handle all five carries. Watson had a slow start with his first three carries being 4-yards, 1-yard and no gain. He bounced back with a 3-yard and 9-yard gain. His biggest gain of the night went for 13-yards on first down. Watson finished with a 4.6 yard-per-carry average.

Tony Pittman was the work horse of the night as he tallied a team-high 14 carries. However, the freshman only totaled 27 yards.Pittman’s longest run of the night was six yards but also had a carry the resulted in a loss of four after Stefan Houston blew Pittman up in the backfield. Pittman took a loss of five on a play that came off a bad snap after the quarterback recovered the ball and stuffed it in the bread basket of the freshman. Pittman did convert two third and short for a first down. Pittman could easily turn into a third down specialist for the Herd as he attacks the line with bad intentions in mind.

Air traffic control

With the amount of talented receivers that will line up Saturdays this season, Cato may be able to add air traffic controller to his resume by the season’s end. Of the 14 receivers who was targeted by a quarterback, all 14 made at least one catch. McManus led all receivers with six targets with Shuler leading catches with three.

Davonte Allen continues to impress as Coach Furrey said this is the time for Allen to be the guy. Allen was targeted five times but two of his grabs would be on a highlight reel. A 42-yard grab down the sideline where he outran the defender in coverage and skied over Tindal for a 22-yard touchdown. Allen’s continued progress could become a staple for the offensive production deep down field. The junior looks much faster than last season and seems to have the confidence that he lacked.

Craig Wilkins showed up in a big way finishing with two catches for 46 yards including a 38-yard touchdown grab from Holcombe. Wilkins’ score was an amazing catch as it appears he will be the third member of the outside receiver group of Allen and Jean-Louis.

Gator Green had one of the best non-scoring catches of the night as the freshman nearly converted a third-and-24 after a breaking a tackle and using his shifty speed to break into the open field ahead. He was able to pick up 21 on the play and continues to make a case to be on the field this season.

Other players with scoring plays tonight was Emanuel Beal on an 11-yard pass from Cole Garvin and Rodney Allen with a juggling 12-yard catch from Michael Birdsong on a frozen rope from the James Madison transfer.

Deuces wild

As the back-up quarterback position is still officially undecided, it appears that the job will be Holcombe’s and while Garvin will travel, he is like to use a redshirt and not play. Holcombe made some nice passes tonight but also have several inconsistencies as well. Holcombe had a pass tipped by Ra’Shawde Myers only to have freshman Kendall Gant pick the next attempt. Holcombe finished with two scores.

Garvin got one of his own in the end zone with an 11-yard strike to Beal. He would however get picked off by Mark Shaver two possessions later.

Michael Birdsong showed the crowd in attendance of what is coming in 2015. Due to transferring, Birdsong must sit this season but very well could challenge for the starting role next year. Birdsong commanded only one drive but excelled in doing so. The junior transfer went 2-of-2 for 28 yards and a touchdown during the four-play 25-yard scoring drive. Birdsong connected with Ryan Yurachek for a 15-yard gain on first down and hit Rodney Allen for the score. Birdsong’s passes were lasers with plenty of zip on the ball as it headed down field.

Time to “D” it up

Stefan Houston and Cortez Carter led the team with six tackles while Raheem Waiters had 5. DJ Hunter and Kendalll Gant finished with four each. Oddly enough, after the top three leading tacklers of the team were all linebackers last season, the top five tonight were of the same position.

James Collier

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Comments

  • Daryl

    With powder puff teams that the hurd will play, they should be excitied to play these high school teams.

    • Junius

      Daryl and his other brother Daryl are keen sports analysts. Please weigh in often with your brilliance.

    • eerdiot patrol

      You know eerdiot, you can celebrate your sS SOS at the end of the year, and sit at home watching the herd celebrate their top 10 season and cfp playoff bowl berth.

      • Aaron

        Just to be clear, are you stating Marshall will be one of the 4 teams selected to participate in the initial playoff bracket, or are you saying they will receive an invitation to participate in one of the bowl games outside the bracket>

        • eerdiot patrol

          I said CFP playoff BOWL. Not the college football playoff semifinal. There is a difference. You may know it also as the new years six, access bowl, etc. One of the 6 major bowls

        • Jason

          Analysts have Marshall as one of two teams outside the big 5 conferences that could have the possibility of making the 4 team playoff....but I seriously doubt that they will be picked as top 4 by committee at the end of the year...however...being selected as the best team outside the top 5 conf and going to one of the other BCS bowls is a very good possibility.

          • Jason

            Yep...probably true...a BCS game invite would be a monster step forward for the program. As for the 4 team playoff, it is dreaming, everybody knows that...the ONLY way I see it playing out (and not this year, especially in year 1 of the system) is if say a team like Marshall happens to play a top 5 or so team as a non conf opponent during the season and they win that game handily and then go on to run the table and the team they beat goes on to run the table....that is ALOT of if's and but's....however possible...it is all about TV money and ratings....small market teams will have little shot at a 4 team playoff unless they can paint a really good Cinderella story for the nation to rally behind and want to tune in for the game...with Marshall's schedule this year, an undefeated season by blowing everybody out and getting to a BCS game would be realistic and enormous..and carry with it a lot of weight when Doc goes to the living rooms to recruit. (not to mention, if Marshall makes a BCS game this year, I am sure Doc's time at MU will be limited...just the nature of D1 coaching)...anyway...Go Herd!

          • Aaron

            I've read a couple of nice stories on Marshall and Cato and I hope they all come true. While I do not believe for a second that Cato can win the Heisman, an invitation to New York is a win for both he and the program.

            I would love to see it precede a trip to the Orange Bowl where Cato can show his wares to the nation on a big stage, demonstrating that what ESPN terms "one of the softest schedules in recent memory" was not the only reason for Herd victories.

            Even with all of that, if every power 5 team has at least two losses and Marshall wins every game by a margin of 50 points, there is ZERO chance the Herd makes the 4 team playoff.

            Understand that I'm not trying to take anything away from Marshall but even if Cincinnati, Central Florida, BYU, Utah State run the table, none of those teams are cracking the play off system. Ever. It's not going to happen, not with a 4 team playoff. The only hope the have-not's have of dining with the Big Boys is if the play-off is extended to at least 8 teams and then 1 team every 5 years from one of the minor conferences might make the playoff.

            Reality sometimes sucks.

    • Jason

      yep....nice to hear a comment everybody in the nation and on the team already knows...and yes..I said nation because USA Today ranking all the teams in FBS and has Marshall at #20 for all the nation to see...they mentioned what everybody knows...the schedule is weak this year...however..if they blow out every one of these high school teams with their current ranking, they will get a shot at one of the big bowls in the new playoff system by being the highest ranking team outside of the power 5 conference...so...yes...to run the table and blow out all these crappy teams and make it to a huge bowl would be very exciting!

      • Mister Man

        Ditto.

  • James

    Excited to see it all come together. Expecting great things from the Herd this year. I think the D will be better than expected.