There are just seven teams in the country that have fewer rushing yards than The Herd, five teams with fewer total yards of offense and three teams scoring less points. Marshall’s offense this season has been, well, offensive. While the defensive unit for The Herd has kept games within reach, the offense has too often failed to capitalize on opportunities and at times has been simply unable to move the football.
“I’m not happy at all where our offense is. I’m not,” said Head Coach Doc Holliday. “We have to get better. Defensively, four of the six teams we’ve played are in the top 18 in the country.”
Holliday brings up a good point. WVU, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Southern Miss all have top notch defenses but that is not the case this week and that will be a huge factor in possibly jumpstarting the anemic Marshall attack.
Rice’s defense is ranked near the bottom of the list in four statistical categories: rushing defense(119), total defense (117), scoring defense (98) and pass efficiency defense (107). The numbers would indicate The Herd will be faced with a little less resistance than it had to deal with over the first half of the season, but Holliday is quick to dispel that notion.
“Don’t look at the record, look at who they’ve played. We will have our hands full. I think anytime you’re located in Texas, you’ll have athlete,” insisted Holliday.
Rice’s defense is led by the Owls’ version of Vinny Curry. Defensive end Scott Solomon missed all of last season when he was injured in the final days of preseason practice. He was a preseason All-CUSA selection prior to the injury. Solomon has returned with vengeance racking up seven tackles-for-loss and four sacks. He has 19.5 career sacks and closing in on the school record of 24.
“They all play hard. Not just Solomon, that whole defense will get lined up and come after you,” said Holliday.
Marshall is going to remain committed to the running game. The Herd is averaging just 85.5 yards per game on the ground and 2.8 yards per carry. However, the Owls are giving up 231.6 rushing yards per game and 5.3 yards per carry.
“We have to be able to run the ball. If we can run the ball it opens up the passing game, makes second and third down a lot easy and helps the flow of the game,” said Tackle Ryan Tillman.
Besides playing a defense that is not on the same level with Virginia Tech or WVU is not the only difference this week that could spark The Herd’s running game. A.J. Graham will get the start under center. 6’ 4” 218 pound quarterback brings a little more mobility to the position that Rakeem Cato and might bring a weapon to the offense that hasn’t there through the first six games of the season.
No matter what the numbers say on paper, both teams have to go out and execute the plays called. Don’t forget that both teams are hungry for a win. They have identical 1-1 records in the conference and need wins to keep pace with the favorites in their respective divisions.
“Just go turn on the tape. They play extremely hard. They got a lot of those kids from Texas and that’s great football getting played down there,” said Holliday.
Kickoff is set for 3:00 Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
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