HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall may once again be without top receivers Tyre Brady and Marcel Williams during Saturday night’s game against UT-San Antonio.
“We will see. They both will probably practice at some point,” said coach Doc Holliday. “We will see how they progress during the week.”
Brady and Williams have combined for 96 catches for 1,273 yards and nine touchdowns for The Herd (7-3, 4-2), leaving a big void to fill by receivers like Nick Matthews. The junior set career highs last week against WKU with four catches for 46-yards.
“Unfortunately in today’s society there’s a lot of guys who — if they aren’t playing — instead of preparing themselves for when they get that opportunity, sulk and don’t make themselves better in practice,” Holliday said. “Nick Matthews, he goes to work everyday as a player and when your number is called you go in there and make plays and get things done. That is what he did.”
Matthews made two third-down catches to keep drives alive against WKU.
“It was my first real opportunity and I was excited for it, I have been waiting for a long time,” said Matthews. “I wanted to go out there and show I can do my part when my number is called and help the team when that game.”
Matthews said he is always ready to come in the game at a moment’s notice.
“I was already focused, watching what Marcel was doing to try and get open on his guy,” said Matthews. “I wasn’t shocked, I was already locked in, it was just time to go out there and do the physical part.”
Obi Obialo, who has nine catches for 105 yards in seven games, could also see increased playing time against UTSA (5-4, 2-4). Willie Johnson would be the only receiver with significant catches this season (29 for 343 yards) if Brady and Williams cannot play.
Matthews joins the growing number of walk-on players making an impact on the Herd this season.
Nazeeh Johnson, who returned a late-game interception for a touchdown last week, has found his home as Marshall’s nickel corner.
“Since Nazeeh first came in I have always talked to him and told him what to expect as a walk on, since I was one,” said safety Malik Gant. “I told him keep your head up just keep going. Look at me and Chase (Hancock) — when I was a walk-on I looked at Chase because that was the only person I could look up to.”
Gant said he wanted to establish a closer relationship with Johnson coming in knowing they had a shared past.
“To see that happen, it felt like I caught the pick-six because that is like a little brother to me,” said Gant. “It was just really emotional with the whole 75 night, playing Western Kentucky, and him having the game he had.”
Hancock is currently ranked 15th in the nation with 97 tackles and was named the defensive captain against UTSA.
“I think Chase Hancock is the best linebacker in the league, without question he is an all-conference player” said Holliday. “You look at the walk-on program we have here it’s tremendous, there are a lot of players in there, you can throw Malik Gant in there too.”
Gant, who seized the team’s starting safety position in the second game of the season—has contributed 80 tackles—second on the team and 26 more than any other member of the Herd’s secondary.
“Those guys are walk-ons, but if you ask me they really never should have been,” said cornerback C.J. Reavis. “I feel like it’s not a surprise that they are doing what they are—they are three guys who unfortunately didn’t get the offer they should have—but now they are showing why they should have gotten an offer.”
Linebacker Artis Johnson, along with Obialo and defensive back Rodney Allen, will be returning to their home state to take on UTSA in this weekend’s matchup.
Johnson said he hasn’t been to Texas since he left for Marshall in the summer for training camp.
“It is exciting to go back home and be in Texas, to go out there and be playing in that atmosphere and climate,” Johnson said. “Having family and friends coming out there to support me, it’ll be a great situation to go out there and represent for them and Marshall.”
In his first year with The Herd, Johnson has 42 tackles along with 1.5 sacks, and has also forced an interception and fumble.
“I am trying to bring in a bunch of family to come watch, they are excited and I want to go out there, play our game, and get that win,” said Johnson.
— By Troy Alexander