HOUSTON - Marshall had two 100-yard rushers Saturday in its 54-51 double-overtime win over Rice. Those runners, Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms, combined for exactly one carry the previous week in a grating loss to Ohio.The Thundering Herd's leading rusher after three games, Travon Van, had zero carries against Rice. But as Doc Holliday puts it, Van deserves a game ball.Herd coaches removed Van from the logjam at running back to join the cornerbacks. Van even got in the game briefly, though he got mowed down by a downfield block on one play.On the other hand, Butler, Grooms and Remi Watson got to show their stuff. Butler romped for 166 yards and a 57-yard touchdown; Grooms gained 103 and scored three times, once from 45 yards; and Watson added 84 yards and two scores. Grooms also caught a 5-yard touchdown pass.
Of the four tailbacks in the season-opening rotation, Van had the most carries with 39 after three games, but he also had the lowest average per carry, 2.4 yards.On the other side of the equation, Marshall had essentially three ready-to-play cornerbacks: Monterius "Pacman" Lovett, Keith Baxter and Derrick Smith. Even a nick or a cramp, to say nothing of a longer-term injury, would make that position razor-thin.And that's why Holliday summoned Van to cross the line of scrimmage."Travon, I called him in the office on Monday and said, 'You know what? I need you to move to the corner, we don't have enough corners over there,'" Holliday said. "And guess what he said: 'Coach, I'll do anything I have to do to help this team win.'"You can't say enough about the unselfishness - he goes from starting tailback to playing a little corner this week. But you know what? He'll be a hell of a corner or safety at some point. It gave the opportunity to get those two young running backs in the game."With Travon's unselfishness and team attitude, he helped us win this game today."nn
The tale of the tape behind Marshall's revived ground game:Grooms ran 17 yards for the Herd's first score and Butler hit paydirt from 57 yards later in the first quarter. The last time Marshall rushed for two touchdowns in the first half was against Rice last year at Huntington, 5 and 15 yards by since-departed quarterback A.J. Graham.
The last time the Herd did it on the road came under the previous coaching regime - Sept. 26, 2009 at Memphis, 2 and 69 yards by Darius Marshall.Butler's 57-yard run was the longest since last year's Tulsa game, when Van scampered 69 yards with the Herd behind 42-3.
Butler's 166 yards was the most since the aforementioned Marshall's game at Memphis. He rushed for 203 yards in that contest.The Herd had two 100-yard rushers for the first time since Nov. 21, 2009 in a home game against Southern Methodist.MU topped 300 rushing yards for the first time since Oct. 21, 2006 at Alabama-Birmingham (317).The Herd rushed for 79 yards in the first quarter, 20 more than it gained in four quarters against Ohio.nn
Elsewhere on the two-deep, defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers did not make the trip. That left Alex Bazzie as the definite starter, with Malcolm Strong and Armonze Daniel getting more snaps. Daniel even played linebacker on some plays, a position where he started his MU career.
Speaking of linebacker, Deon Meadows saw some of his most important action, playing in Devin Arrington's place at weak-side linebacker. Right guard Garrett Scott returned to action with 5:44 left in the first half, but he played sparingly. At corner, Thomas received his first start - at Penn State or Marshall.And finally, receiver Demetrius Evans played defense on a "Hail Mary" play at the end of the first half.BrieflyThe announced attendance of 14,204 - a number that drew much scoffing in the press box - was the lowest Marshall has played in front of since the 2006 game at Alabama-Birmingham. That game at Legion Field had an announced crowd of 12,344.
As for actual live bodies, Saturday's crowd at least outdid the estimated 2,000 diehards who saw Marshall eke out a win at Memphis in the Liberty Bowl.The 105 combined points was a Marshall regular-season record, beating out the 101-0 win over Kentucky Wesleyan in 1916. Of course, the all-time record is the 64-61 double-overtime win over East Carolina in the 2001 bowl game in Mobile, Ala.Rice held a moment of silence for coach David Bailiff's mother, Marsh, who died on Wednesday. Bailiff had missed his Monday press conference to attend to her. Also, an employee in the school's facilities and engineering department was killed in a car accident last week.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org