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Herd Ready For Tulsa’s Blitz

The Purdue defense provided one of the toughest tests so far this season and the Marshall offense undoubtedly passed with flying colors. Aside from the disastrous four minute span in the second quarter, Marshall’s offense continued to roll up yards and points and nearly came all the way back from trailing four touchdowns. 
Rakeem Cato threw for 439 yards and five touchdowns, both career highs and the most yards since Byron Leftwich threw for 447 yards against Buffalo back in October 2002. Marshall rolled up 534 yards of total offense, eclipsing the 500 yard mark for the fourth time this season. However, offensive coordinator Bill Legg says that was last week and this Saturday presents a new obstacle.
“Every week presents a new challenge and opportunity. The challenge is we’re getting ready to play a good defense,” explains Legg. “It’s a conference game, it’s a big challenge and its an opportunity to find out are we where we want to be?”
Marshall’s offense has been pretty good so far. Marshall’s offense ranks 3rd in the country in passing, 6th in total offense and 18th in scoring offense. 
Not too shabby.
While Purdue’s defense mostly used its front four to rush the passer, that will not be the case against Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane defense ranks first in the nation with 26 sacks, averaging 5.2 sacks per game. It is also tops in the country with 55 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of 290 yards. Quarterback Rakeem Cato knows with that type of pressure coming from all directions he’ll need to get the ball out of his hands a little quicker.
“Throwing the ball on time and keeping the defense frustrated,” Cato says will help neutralize the blitzing scheme.
Legg says Tulsa’s blitz scheme can be tricky to pick up because the Golden Hurricane does a great job of disguising the blitzes and coverages right up until the ball is snapped.
“They [blitz] about one out of three snaps. There’s some games it’s one out of two and sometimes its one out of every two. The most difficult thing is when they blitz it looks like they’re playing base and then the ball is snapped and here comes people,” scouts Legg.
Tulsa runs a base 4-3 scheme and will bring blitz packages out of that look. Cory Dorris and Jared St. John are the bookends up front. Dorris, a senior, has started 42 games. He collected two sacks against Tulane and blocked an extra point versus Fresno State. St. John is a former walk-on and has six TFL including five sacks on the season. In the middle of the defensive line, seniors Derrick Jackson and Daeshon Bufford will stuff the run as well as bring pressure up the middle.
“It’s trying to find a way to matchup with who we’re blocking and which routes we’re running. They’ve been there a while and their kids have grown up in the system and they don’t have to think they just have to react,” says Legg. 
DeAundre Brown, DeWitt Jennings and Shawn Jackson can play the run and the pass at the linebacker positions. Brown has played all three linebacker positions this season and is one of three defensive starters to have more than 200 career tackles. Jennings has five tackles for loss this season and blocked an extra point in Tulsa’s one point win over Fresno State. Shawn Jackson missed the first three games of the season due to a suspension and returned to the lineup against Fresno State. Jackson also has over 200 career tackles and was a Freshman All-American back in 2010.
In the secondary, Dexter McCoil will play a hybrid safety/linebacker position. McCoil can assist on the run but is also excellent in coverage. McCoil, a preseason C-USA All-Conference selection, has 14 career interceptions, a new record at Tulsa. DeMarco Nelson will handle the duties at free safety. Nelson has seven picks to his credit.
Lowell Rose and John Flanders are the corners. J.D. Ratliff and Dwight Robbins will also see time in the secondary. 
The bottom line, according to Bill Legg, is simple. This Tulsa defense is good.
“They’re very sound and the play very well fundamentally. It’s not a complicated deal,” says Legg. 
Follow Dave on Twitter @wvmetro_dwilson. E-mail comments to

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