HUNTINGTON - In the unexpected personnel move of the day, D.J. Hunter started at strong-side linebacker for Marshall.Hunter was moved forward from safety, where the redshirt freshman was behind Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha. The 5-foot-10, 199-pound Hunter supplanted Raheem Waiters, the Riverside High graduate who started the Thundering Herd's opener at West Virginia.Freshman Devon Johnson moved across the ball to tight end, and he began his college career as a fullback in a short-yardage formation in the first quarter. The 6-2, 225-pound native of Richlands, Va., became the third true freshman to play this season, with backup center Cameron Dees entering the game in the second quarter to become the fourth. "We're trying to get our best players on the field," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "He was one of our best 11, so he had to play. He brings some athleticism to the position, and I thought he did a good job."Hunter had been the nickel back, but his new position affords him a lot more playing time. Hunter said that, in a way, he didn't really move positions."It's a nickel. It's a 'Sam,' but it's a nickel," he said. "It's not real bad except when I have to go 'in the box' and fit the run gaps. That's different, way different."A.J. Leggett, a highly touted recruit expected to contend at cornerback, will redshirt. He had shoulder surgery and Holliday said he is out for the year.
Dees entered at right guard, giving John Bruhin a rest. Eventually, Dees will have to produce at center, as starter Chris Jasperse has carried the load so far. Jasperse played all 105 snaps last week at WVU, and played deep into the fourth quarter against Western Carolina Saturday night.Elsewhere, Trent Martin handled the kickoffs, while Justin Haig remained on field goals and extra points. Haig made a short field goal but missed a 37-yarder. nn
The Herd wasn't proficient with trick plays, with two misfiring.First, MU attempted a flea-flicker on the first play of its second possession, but Western's Caleb Hawkins sacked quarterback Rakeem Cato for an 8-yard loss. In the third quarter, the Herd was foiled on a tricky punt formation near midfield.On fourth-and-3 at the WCU 48, five MU players were lined up to the far left of the field, with Steward Butler taking a direct snap and going the other way. He was stopped for a 1-yard gain, giving the Catamounts the ball.They cashed in with a 53-yard drive that made the game a closer-than-expected 24-10 at the time.
Briefly As somewhat expected, offensive tackle Garrett Scott did not dress, but he was also joined by left guard Josh Lovell. Holliday said Lovell could have played, but Scott could not have. Holliday expects both at practice in the coming week.
Receivers Chris Alston Jr. and Davonte Allen were out, along with long-term injured players James Rouse, Tron Martinez, Darryl Roberts and Billy Mitchell. Score an error for first-year Western head coach Mark Speir. Faced with the choice of taking a running-into-the-kicker foul on fourth-and-6 or an illegal block in the back on the return, Speir opted to rekick from his 30. After a short punt, the Herd gained 10 yards on the decision, starting on its 34 instead of its 24.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org
or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.