HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Name that score, if you dare.69-34, 56-10, 54-51, 39-12, 51-41, 52-14, 45-38, 56-49, 54-17, 37-12, 44-41, 48-32, 65-59.Yes, those are real scores, witnessed in 2012 games involving Marshall and Miami (Ohio). These are listed in alternating order of offending defenses, from the Thundering Herd's debacle at West Virginia through the Herd's double-overtime loss at East Carolina.Miami's listed porousness started with that 56-10 loss to Ohio State and lasted to that 48-32 loss to Kent State and two games beyond that.You need some more avert-your-eyes numbers? Following are some combined defensive stats for the two teams over 12 games (with a defense like that, you don't play a bowl game):Points: 936 (78 combined per game); rushing yards: 5,172 (combined 431); total yards 11,093 (6.3 miles); third-down conversions (157 of 344, 45.6 percent); fourth-down conversions (29 of 40, frightening).In the NCAA rankings, Miami was No. 119 against the rush. Marshall was No. 119 in points against.
Get the picture? When the two teams meet at 7 p.m. Saturday, fans' heads might turn left and right faster than at a U.S. Open tennis match. The Las Vegas folks agree - one online odds service puts the over-under at 671/2, for example. In other words, the "over" loses in a 35-32 game.Saturday's game is about the Herd vs. the RedHawks, but it's also about two salivating offenses going against two defenses thirsting for redemption.From Marshall defensive end Jeremiah Taylor: "It's been so long from that ECU game all the way to now. To end your season not where you want it to be, that sour taste is going to stay in your mouth for a while. And it's still there.
From Miami defensive end Wes Williams: "We definitely had some issues on defense last year; it wasn't one of our strengths.We had a lot of key injuries that hurt us as well. I feel like we've had a great offseason and just finished up a great camp, and I'm looking forward to what our defense can do."Yes, the RedHawks had a few injuries. Cornerback Davonne Nunley, who leads the team with 12 career interceptions, injured himself in the 11th game. Defensive tackle Austin Brown suffered a back injury in the second game and took a medical redshirt. And so on.Marshall wasn't exactly healthy the whole season. Linebacker Evan McKelvey suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament early, Billy Mitchell lost half a season to a concussion, and we'll never know what impact cornerback Darryl Roberts could have had - he never took a snap.One major difference between the defenses: Miami's defensive coordinator Jay Peterson returns in that capacity for the second year. He is proven as a linebackers coach at Miami, having served from 1991-98 and 2011 to the present. His protégés include two-time Mid American Conference player of the year JoJuan Armour and third-team All-American Dustin Cohen.Marshall's defensive disaster spelled the end for coordinator Chris Rippon, who has resurfaced in Columbia. Chuck Heater has taken over, and one thing is for sure: His troops are raving about him after a spring and a preseason camp.
And those plaudits aren't just coming from the defensive side."They're a lot better. They're a whole lot better," Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato said of his team's defense. "Physical-wise, smarter, making good decisions, just doing everything right. They're living up to Coach Heater's standards."Can the Herd's defense live up to those standards Saturday night? Will Miami's defense slow down the Herd's rapid-fire attack?If one or both answers are "no," the scoring summary will runneth over.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.