Marshall notebook: Thompson making mark at defensive end
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Being a freshman nonqualifier, defensive end Gary Thompson was not with the Marshall football program last season, but he was in the Edwards Stadium stands for Marshall's heartbreaking loss to Ohio.
For his part, he'd just as soon leave that game in 2012, but he knows it's not that easy going into Saturday's game with the Bobcats in Athens, Ohio. Last year's 5-7 season provides no shortage for motivation for Marshall players, even for somebody who had to watch.
"The games that we know we should have won, we use that to our advantage, a chip on our shoulder," said the 6-foot-1, 227-pound native of La Mesa, Calif. "Brings motivation in practice, and stuff like that."
After two games, including extended shifts last week in the Thundering Herd's rout of Gardner-Webb, Thompson has become comfortable with playing college football. That has been the story for several reserves - for instance, reserve tackle Josh Brown is fifth on the team with eight tackles, including a 2-yard sack.
Thompson has six tackles and a half-sack, plus a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry. He is still behind the Jeremiah Taylor-Alex Bazzie-Ra'Shawde Myers rotation, but he and Arnold Blackmon are getting tougher to keep off the field.
Thompson is finding the toughest part of playing is giving consistent effort - in the position's vernacular, keeping that "motor" going. Nonetheless, he is impressing coaches and teammates alike.
"He's looked tremendous," Taylor said. "I think I saw one play where he chased down a quarterback from the back side and got the sack. That tells you he can run, now. He can run, he can hold his own. I'm just excited to have those guys out there, keep it rolling on Saturday."
Both starting Bobcat guards, Jon Lechner and Sam Johnson, remain on the sidelines. They were injured in Ohio's opener at Louisville, Lechner on his 23rd snap and Johnson on his 34th. Lechner's absence may really hurt - he was a solid all-conference contender and led the O-line with 26 starts.
Mike McQueen has stepped in at left guard, with Mike Lucas at right guard. That leaves the three third-year sophomores manning the inside blocker positions, including center Lucas Powell. Both Lechner and Johnson are fifth-year seniors.
Saturday's game is expected to be a sellout and then some, but there are seats remaining.
Ohio media relations official Tom Symonds said about 400 seats remained as of Thursday morning. One factor: Marshall returned about 500 tickets before the season started, but Herd fans have triggered a recent surge.
There is a good deal of standing room at Peden Stadium, which allows crowds to exceed the 24,000 seating capacity. The all-time record is 25,893 on Sept. 8, 2012 against New Mexico State, with last week's home opener against North Texas fifth at 24,511.
Marshall visits occupy two spots in the top 20 - sixth (24,244 in 2011) and 18th (21,728 in 1998).
Anthony Becht, the former West Virginia tight end who enjoyed a 12-year NFL career, will be in the press box Saturday as analyst for the ESPNews broadcast.
ESPN's MediaZone describes Becht's main assignment as analyst on the American Athletic Conference syndicated game of the week. He was previously a studio analyst on NBC Sports Network's "Pro Football Talk," and co-hosted pregame and postgame shows on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio network in 2012.
As his NFL career was winding down - his last year was 2011 - Becht jumped into broadcasting, performing work for Sirius XM, SNY and other outlets, and was described as a standout at the NFL's "Broadcast Boot Camp."
Playing with the Jets, Buccaneers, Rams, Cardinals and Chiefs, he played in 152 consecutive games from 2000 to 2010. He owns a bachelor's degree in marketing from WVU.
And finally, there is no starting time after all for Marshall's Nov. 23 game at Florida International just yet. The FIU website had unilaterally declared a 6 p.m. kickoff with Fox Sports 1 televising, but has returned the time designation to "TBD."
A final announcement could come as soon as next week.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.