HUNTINGTON - Once again, Marshall's defense gave its fans hope that yes, it will be a whole lot better than it was a year ago.
There were tipped balls, a few tag "sacks" and some good run-stopping. There was a "pick-six" touchdown by Riverside High graduate Raheem Waiters.
But there were some offensive highlights as well, such as:
Quarterbacks Rakeem Cato, Blake Frohnapfel and Gunnar Holcombe combining to go 31 of 55 for 356 yards with three touchdowns - a 14-yarder from Frohnapfel to Jazz King, a 21-yarder from Holcombe to Dameon Garrett and a 27-yard lob from Cato to Devon "Moo Moo" Smith.
With inside receiver Tommy Shuler held out, the 5-foot-7 Smith caught 10 passes for 103 yards, showing the 750 or so fans just how tough he will be to track down.
"I can't wait to see him just get a ball and miss a tackler, and everybody in the world see his speed down the sideline," Cato said.
Fullback/tight end Devon Johnson dragged tacklers downfield to punctuate a 45-yard reception from Frohnapfel.
And speaking of Johnson, he turned the most macho play of the preseason camp, when he bounced D.J. Hunter's head off the Edwards Stadium turf with a powerful stiff-arm.
That drew "oohs" from the crowd, and it will give Thundering Herd players something to hoot about during weekend video sessions.
"We're were all looking each other like, 'Ohhh!'" Frohnapfel said. "That's one thing he can do that 'bad' to other teams."
At times, though, the defense reigned. Rushing-wise, the Herd averaged an even 3.0 yards per carry, with only two sacks dragging that figure down. Running backs Essray Taliaferro, Remi Watson and Steward Butler fought for 86 yards on 24 carries, an average just above 3.5 yards.
There were just two double-digit runs, the longest a 12-yard scramble by Frohnapfel.
The biggest thing that the defense did, perhaps, was break up 10 passes. Four came from cornerbacks, but about as many came from the defensive line - Alex Bazzie, Jeremiah Taylor and Gary Thompson twice.
And as the night went along, coordinator Chuck Heater's troops kept turning up the heat.
"We did a good job. I was happy with the tipped balls, the knockdowns, a couple of picks in critical situations," Heater said. "It was a lot of positive things."
There were big hits and big pass breakups, but it was Waiters who turned in the defensive highlight. With the second strings on the field, he gobbled up a Frohnapfel pass and could have walked in for the 12-yard touchdown.
For good measure, he had another interception off a tipped ball.
"Good for him," Heater said. "It's a tough year when you get injured like that and fight your way through adversity. It's nice to be rewarded with a fun night. It doesn't mean much in the whole scheme of things, but it means something."
Linebacker Stefan Houston suffered perhaps the first substantial injury of the month, hurting his right knee. He did not put any weight on the leg after he was helped off. Later, defensive end Arnold Blackmon was helped off the field. On Smith's touchdown catch, he was tended to, perhaps getting the wind knocked out of him when he landed on his back.
Tight end Eric Frohnapfel sat out, as did placekicker Justin Haig.
Speaking of placekicking, Amareto Curraj and Nick Smith continued their pursuit of field-goal duties, trying kicks from 33 to 47 yards. Of five attempts, Curraj hit three and Smith hit two, with Jarquez Samuel blocking one.
Camp continues, as the Herd has another week before the semester starts. Practices will be closed from here on out.
RUSHING - Taliaferro 10-48; Watson 11-26; Cato 4-3, (TD); Butler 3-12; Holcombe 1-(-5); D. Johnson 2-2; B. Frohnapfel 1-10. Total 32-96, 1 TD.
PASSING - Cato 13-21-0, 141 (TD); B. Frohnapfel 12-20-1, 136 (TD); Holcombe 6-14-1, (TD). Totals 31-55-2, 356.
RECEIVING - D. Smith 10-103 (TD); Hoskins 6-49; D. Johnson 5-93; Evans 3-29; Garrett 2-38 (TD); Taliaferro 1-(-1); King 1-14 (TD); Butler 1-7; Hunt 1-18; Woodrum 1-8; Knight 1-7.
DEFENSE - Leggett 4 tackles, 1 TFL; Thomas 2 tackles, 1 PBU; Roberts 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU; Tindal 3 tackles, 1 PBU; Rouse 3 tackles; Waiters 3 tackles, 2 INTs - 1 for TD, 1 PBU; Letman 4 tackles, 1 FF; Hunter 6 tackles; M. Johnson 2 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU; C. Wilson 2 tackles; McKelvey 2 tackles, 1 TFL; Reichle 1 tackle; Lovett 3 tackles, 1 FR, 1 PBU; Myers 4 tackles; Hewitt 6 tackles; D. Mitchell 1 tackle, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sack; Pickett 1 tackle; Holmes 2 tackles; Carter 1 tackle; Turene 5 tackles, 0.5 TFL, 0.5 sack; Bazzie 3 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 PBU; Taylor 3 tackles, TFL, 1 PBU; Thompson 3 tackles, 2 PBUs; Gilchrist 1 tackles, 1 TFL; Dillon 1 tackle, 1 TFL; Sparrow 1 tackle; J. Brown 4 tackles.
TOTAL OFFENSE - 87 plays, 452 yards, (5.2 per play).
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.