MU notebook: Herd's silver lining: big numbers on offense
MORGANTOWN - The last time Marshall was this prolific on offense, the results weren't any better than the 69-34 loss Saturday to West Virginia.
But the 545 total yards and 34 points were bright spots for the Thundering Herd, nonetheless.
"We're trying to score 31 points or better every game. That's our goal. We did that today," said quarterback Rakeem Cato. "We came out with a loss, but we're addressing that. We saw some good things, some bad things. Look at the film [today] and go on from there."
It was the first time in five years the Herd has racked up that much yardage and first time in eight years since it has done so against a Division I-A/FBS foe. But you may want to brace yourself for those last times.
Marshall recorded 562 total yards on Sept. 15, 2007 against New Hampshire, but its debilitated defense was soundly defeated 48-35. Worse: Marshall gained 554 total yards on Nov. 5, 2004 at Akron, that 31-28 defeat that lives in the depths of infamy.
It's better for Herd fans to consider the offensive positives, and how a whopping 19 players contributed to the stat sheet. Yep, 19 - seven different ball carriers and 13 different pass-catchers, with Travon Van doing both.
"You saw that we've got a lot of people who can make plays," said tight end C.J. Crawford. "Me, Gator [Hoskins], Froh [Eric Frohnapfel] made plays, all the receivers got touches. We've just got to do better, score in the red zone, no more field goals."
Actually, Marshall scored four touchdowns in six trips inside the WVU 20-yard line, settling for field goals the other two times. The Herd also was hurt by two touchdown-erasing penalties and two turnovers.
Those mishaps came in the second half after WVU took a 48-17 lead, but they still hurt. That began with the only sack the Herd yielded, the strip by Terence Garvin. After Garvin battled the ball out of Cato's hand, Isaiah Bruce returned it 43 yards for a defensive score.
Two touchdown-negating holding penalties were called against Marshall on the same drive. The first one had the Herd livid.
Hoskins took a pass outside, went around an Antavious Wilson block and outran the WVU defense for a 52-yard score. Wilson was flagged for holding, however.
"Nah. It was a [legitimate] pancake block," Van said. "It was a great block and Gator outran everybody."
Said MU coach Doc Holliday: "I'll be anxious to see that on film."
Wide receiver Aaron Dobson missed the last 21/2 quarters with a hip injury. That didn't help the Herd's cause, as he had four catches for 72 yards, including a 40-yard bomb.
As it turns out, that was his last tangible contribution.
"It was on the deep ball I caught. I just came down on it wrong," Dobson said of his injury. "I finished that drive and came out for the [next] drive. It was hard for me to get in and out of my routes. It was just messing with me, so that's when they iced me for the rest of the half.
"I tried to come out for the second half and I couldn't really run like I wanted to, so they decided to sit me out."
Demetrius Evans and Davonte Allen divvied up snaps at wideout the rest of the game. Evans had a tough time, dropping what would have been a first-down pass on third-and-9 at the WVU 26. That first-half drive was stopped on downs, and WVU drove the other way to set its 34-10 halftime lead.
Dobson aims to rehabilitate the hip and return next week against Western Carolina, but right tackle Garrett Scott's prognosis isn't as bright. Then again, it's better than coaches thought at first.
Scott went down in the first half and rode a cart off the field. He returned with crutches and a heavy wrap on his lower leg, but X-rays were negative for a fracture.
"We thought it was broken, and that we lost him there," Holliday said. "But I don't think it's broken. I think he is going to be fine."
Tyler Williams and Crawford were fine on Marshall's special teams. Williams was better than fine, averaging 51.2 yards on four punts.
The freshman's first boot looked shaky from high above the field, but bounced out at the WVU 6. His other three punts were 53, 54 and 59 yards.
Of those first two boomers, Tavon Austin returned them 14 and 12 yards - good returns, but still good nets of 39 and 42. Austin lost 7 yards in fielding the longest kick, with an illegal block putting the Mountaineers all the way back on their 9.
That performance should have Herd fans breathing easier about the punting situation. Snapper Matt Cincotta, also a true freshman, didn't seem to have first-game jitters, either.
"He did great, and he almost got a tackle. I was really impressed, and really proud of him, too," Williams said. "I wasn't really worried about him."
Crawford, the tight end who missed two weeks in August with a concussion and an ankle injury, blocked WVU's first punt (alas, in the third quarter), making it look as easy as the Herd's punt-blocking drills in practice. Hoskins recovered and advanced the ball to the WVU 11, setting up Van's second touchdown run.
Leggett is listed as playing, along with Williams and Cincotta.
Those not traveling included running back Tron Martinez, linebacker Billy Mitchell, receiver DeAndre Reaves, cornerback Darryl Roberts, offensive linemen Billy Rone and Sebastian Johansson, and defensive linemen Ken Smith and James Rouse. Martinez, Roberts, Smith and Rouse practiced little or very little in August; Mitchell has been out the past few weeks.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.