If Marshall is to pick up its first win of the season and first win over Southern Miss in four tries it will have to contain another prolific passer. Last week, WVU quarterback Geno Smith was undoubtedly the difference in the ballgame completing 26 of 35 for 249 yards and two touchdowns. This week Marshall’s defense must deal with Austin Davis.
Davis’s resume is impressive. He holds the school record for most career touchdown passes with 53 besting the school’s most famous signal caller, Brett Farve. He has thrown for 200 yards or more 23 times, more than anyone else in Southern Miss history and he will likely break the school record for passing yards this week. He only needs 73 yards to surpass Brett Farve to be tops in that category. Had Davis not missed most of the 2009 season with a ligament tear in his left foot, he would likely already hold all of the school’s passing records.
“He’s the heart and soul of their offense,” says Marshall Defensive Coordinator Chris Rippon.
Davis is not only a threat to throw the ball he can pull it down and pick up yards using his legs. Southern Miss is 8-1 when Davis rushes for 50 yards or more. The only time the Southern Miss lost is a 2008 game against Memphis when Davis rushed for a career high 121 yards.
“He’s not the best runner but an effective runner,” according to Rippon. “He has the ability to keep a play alive.”
Keeping the play alive is something WVU’s Geno Smith did against the Marshall defense on more than one occasion Sunday, especially on third down. The Mountaineers converted 7 of 13 third down attempts and four of those conversion attempts came on third and nine or longer. Davis brings the same escapability to the position which could cause more headaches for the Marshall defense.
Containing Austin Davis was an issue for the Thundering Herd Defense last year. Davis rushed for three touchdowns and threw for a another in a 41-16 route by Southern Miss.
“He’s not the best thrower, but a very effective thrower,” according tor Rippon. “They can pretty much run what the want.”