Punting numbers count for Williams
HUNTINGTON — One positive byproduct of Marshall's 54-17 shellacking by Central Florida: Tyler Williams became a national top-10 punter.
OK, that wasn't all positive. From the beginning, Williams' yardage was high enough to rank among the top booters in Division I FBS, but he usually didn't have enough kicks. The minimum is 3.6 attempts per game.
So he qualified after the opener against West Virginia, after the fourth and fifth games against Rice and Purdue, but not again until Saturday. Central Florida forced the Herd into a season-high (and unwelcome) seven punts.
That gives him 29 attempts, right on the minimum 28.8. After averaging 47 yards against UCF, his season average is 45.97, placing him ninth in the nation.
"We wouldn't like to punt that much, but when we got out there we got the job done as best we could," he said. "Gave our defense the best shot at giving the ball back to our offense."
Arguably, he was the Herd's most valuable player of the UCF game. He had the team's two most spectacular plays, uncorking rainmaking shots of 61 and 64 yards. The only drawback was both ended in touchbacks.
Still, those were net punts of 41 and 44 yards. He also had a 41-yarder end in a fair catch at the UCF 9-yard line and a 40-yarder downed by Deon Meadows at the 1.
Meadows was partially in the end zone, but that is not a consideration in the college game — it's all about the position of the ball.
Meadows said he knows the rule, though a flash of uncertainty hit him before he stopped the ball.
"I saw [a teammate] miss the ball and it just rolled and [I said] 'Let me go stop it,' " Meadows said. "I just lay [on the turf] and hoped for the best."
Williams was named to the Ray Guy Award candidate list Monday.
As deserving as he may be, that list isn't exactly an exclusive club — 69 players were named, compared to 93 qualifying punters listed in the NCAA's latest ranking.
Another testimony to Williams' effectiveness: He is ninth in individual punting, which is gross yardage, but he is even better in net punting. As a team statistic, Marshall is sixth, netting 42.13 yards on average.
Williams did not win special teams player-of-the-week honors in Conference USA.
To the surprise of nobody, that went to UCF's Quincy McDuffie, who returned two kickoffs for touchdowns against Marshall.
It is the second time the Herd has been victimized by a player-of-the-week honor. Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue won for his 467 total yards on Sept. 22.
Conversely, Williams won special teams honors for his 50.8-yard average that day, and Tommy Shuler won offensive honors for his school-record 19 catches the next week at Purdue.
Sunday practices in the MU camp generally include watching film from the previous game, identifying mistakes and correcting them on the field. There were plenty of mistakes on the defensive side, as UCF's 568 total yards can attest.
The 75 gained by Latavius Murray on a backbreaking second-quarter run may have hurt the most.
As defensive end Jeremiah Taylor tells it, the Herd did little wrong except fail to tackle Murray for a loss when it had the chance
"It just hits you in your gut," Taylor said. "To know that you had everybody where they needed to be; it came down to 'get him on the ground.' "
For those sweating out the Herd's cornerback situation, there was one sign of relief Monday: Derrick Thomas showed up for player interviews.
Thomas went to the locker room late in the game, leaving a banged-up Keith Baxter and Monterius Lovett to finish the game. As you may remember, Herd coaches tried to fortify that position by moving Travon Van from running back, a move that was foiled by Van's own unspecified medical problems.
Thomas confirmed that Baxter finished the UCF game in a fair amount of pain, but did not elaborate on what put him on the sidelines.
"All of us should be good by Saturday," said Thomas, who had a spectacular interception on a first-play UCF bomb. "We don't have a lot of depth, but us three as corners, we know that. We stick together, all three stay as healthy as we can because we don't have much depth. You've got to stay healthy."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.