Marshall notebook: Williams helped Herd win battle for field position
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - When Marshall punter Tyler Williams lined up near the 50-yard line Friday in the Military Bowl, the result became very predictable.
Maryland, welcome to the shadow of your goal post.
For a while, it looked like the sophomore from Fort Wayne, Ind., would be the game's MVP. He had four punts downed inside the 10-yard line and should have had five - one downing attempt was misplayed by one of the Thundering Herd's "missiles."
The first punt was your garden-variety bouncer to three green-jerseyed defenders at the 1-yard line, and it helped set up the Herd's first touchdown. The defense held the Terrapins to 2 yards, and then the offense had just 37 yards to drive after the punt.
The second punt was downright crazy - it hit the FieldTurf inside the 1-yard line, but kicked back and was downed at the 5. The Terrapins did turn that into a field goal, and were down 17-13 late in the second quarter.
The third such punt was even crazier. After the ball hit the ground, it took a kick to the right and straight to Deandre Reaves, who was running right along the one-half-yard line.
The Terrapins did enjoy their offensive highlight, the 991/2-yard drive that melted away the last half of the third quarter. But they could only cope so much.
After Marshall retook the lead, the Terrapins started on their 16 on the subsequent kickoff. When they regained the ball next, returner William Likely took a fair catch at the 8 - against the old notion of not catching it inside the 10, but probably saving another downing at the 1.
Here's how that affected the field position: On average, Marshall started drives on its 37-yard line to the 19-yard line for Maryland.
The Herd's "iron five" offensive linemen turned into the "duct tape nine" Friday. It started on the game's third play from scrimmage, when right tackle Clint Van Horn went off the field in pain.
Van Horn appeared to hurt his shoulder or maybe his arm, and did so seriously enough to exit the game. That brought Gage Niemeyer, more used to playing on the left side, to go the rest of the way at right tackle.
In the second quarter, left tackle Garrett Scott was hurt, leaving the Herd to dig into the depth chart and send out Trevor Mendelson. He had 29 snaps this season in mop-up duty over four games.
At other times, Michael Selby and Blake Brooks played at the guards, subbing for Sebastian Johannson and Alex Schooler. That was not injury-induced, said Herd coach Doc Holliday.
"'Cheese' [Brooks] and Selby are good players, and they're really physically strong," Holliday said. "We were going up against some guys who were bigger, more physical, and probably two of our most powerful guards are 'Cheese' and Selby. I thought they played well.
"And you cannot give enough credit to Gage. It's an example of how resilient our team has been all year."
Defensive coordinator Chuck Heater took the water-bucket bath at game's end, when the Herd thought it had a second interception and sealed the game. The pick was overturned on replay and Heater's unit had to work a little longer, but the symbolism remained.
Few could argue that if the 2012 Marshall defense played Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown, Brown would probably run for 100-plus yards. Maybe 200.
But the 2013 MU defense sacked Brown three times and held him to 38 net rushing yards. In Maryland's two red-zone drives that only resulted in field goals, the reason was Brown being thrown for loss on option keepers - once by Darryl Roberts and the other one by Alex Bazzie.
"C.J. Brown is a heck of a player, and they like the ball in his hands on third down," Bazzie said. "At times, I had a feeling it was coming."
Also, names returned to the back of the jerseys.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.