HUNTINGTON - Marshall's upcoming opponent has dozens and dozens of Texans on its roster, to the surprise of nobody. These days, the Thundering Herd has one.Defensive end Arnold Blackmon, come on down.Blackmon hails from Bellaire, Texas, a suburb perched on Houston's I-610 West Loop. After his high school graduation, he played two years at Navarro College, located more toward Dallas.On Saturday, the improving-by-the-down reserve and his teammates take on Texas-San Antonio, with a 2 p.m. kickoff. That will give Blackmon, a 6-foot-1, 242-pound junior, a taste of home.Sort of. He has been to San Antonio, but knows how removed it really is from the Lone Star State's other population centers. It's a big state, you know."You would think it's all right next to each other," Blackmon said. "But once you take those drives, you understand."Before the season, Blackmon seemed to be as far away as taking a spot on the first team, what with Jeremiah Taylor and Alex Bazzie ruling those starting end spots.But he and redshirt freshman Gary Thompson were groomed to take more and more snaps per game, and they played a key role two weekends ago at Virginia Tech.
Add in the injury to nose tackle Brandon Sparrow, and that was a recipe for another disaster against the physical Hokies.That didn't happen, as the Herd defense held Tech to two touchdowns in regulation of an eventual triple-overtime loss.Playing upwards of 30 snaps, Blackmon split a tackle for loss, combining with safety A.J. Leggett to throw quarterback Logan Thomas for a 2-yard loss in the second overtime.The usage alone says something. Thomas had just picked up a first down on two 6-yard runs and was going for all he could on the third keeper. That loss more or less forced the Hokies to go ultraconservative, centering the ball for a game-winning field goal - that missed.Blackmon wasn't prepared for the Lane Stadium noise that never seems to quiet down, even with the home team in possession, in a heavy rain. And those practice sessions with the turned-up CD of an annoying fight song don't really prepare you, he said."There was a point where I couldn't hear myself think," he said. "Standing on the sideline and also being in the game, not being able to hear calls, watching hands, watching signals and looking for coach [Chuck] Heater on the sidelines trying to get the call in."It was chaotic at the least. I mean, that place got extremely loud. But it was a great feeling and an opportunity I wouldn't exchange for the world."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.