BOGACZYK: Herd Defense Finds New Guy to Buzz About
The Word on the Herd-Oct. 3, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's 2015 Conference USA football opener was a debut of sorts for one the game's key contributors.
And while the Thundering Herd's 27-7 victory over visiting Old Dominion at a soggy Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday was about more than a Bee sting.
That said, the impressive play of backup redshirt freshman defensive end Ryan Bee was a catalyst for the Marshall defense, which before a gathering of 18,473 allowed the fewest points to a C-USA opponent in Coach Doc Holliday's six seasons.
The Herd (4-1, 1-0) faces a short week with improved Southern Miss visiting "The Joan" on Friday night, but it does so after turning in a gritty and solid performance against the Monarchs (2-3, 0-1). Old Dominion gained 119 of its 285 yards total offense and scored a touchdown in the final two series after Marshall had built a comfortable cushion on the way to its 17th win in the last 18 home games.
As for Bee, the 6-foot-7 lineman didn't play in the Herd's first two games of the season, then received 17 snaps in a home rout of Norfolk State two weeks ago. He received 13 plays in the double-overtime win at Kent State, and Holliday remarked this week about the Ohioan's close-to-home performance. "Somebody told me at the end of the game that he was the MVP," Holliday said, "and I said I'd never heard of a backup defensive end being the MVP of the game, but I guess there's a first for everything. He's a tremendous young player who is very athletic for a 6-7 guy."
Bee came into the ODU game with three career tackles -- all in the previous two games. Against the Monarchs, he channeled Herd tackles leader Evan McKelvey, finishing with 12 stops, 2 sacks, 3 tackles for loss, a fumble recovery and 2 quarterback hurries.
"He played his butt off and that's what we expected him to do," Marshall defensive ends coach Sean Cronin said. "We started working him into the rotation and he's been making plays and making plays, so his role has grown the last few weeks until today -- the most he's played.
"He's a playmaking guy, earned a bigger spot in the rotation and the guys who make plays are going to play, so he'll just continue to grow. I think confidence is a big part, he's a freshman, just getting out there for the first time, and the more plays you make, the more confidence you have.
"Some guys just have a knack for making plays and go get the ball and Ryan's one of those guys. (At Kent State) he played the third series and this week he played the second series, so we'll see where he is after this one. Whoever is making plays, those are the guys we need on the field."
Bee wasn't alone. McKelvey finished with a game-high 13 tackles -- 364 days after he tore a second ACL and missed the remainder of a second season. The senior linebacker has 60 hits in five games. Marshall also was buoyed defensively by the eight-tackle return of linebacker Shawn Petty, the Maryland transfer who was playing for the first time this season after returning from injury. He also forced a fumble and broke up a pass.
Marshall had two interceptions (by cornerback Corey Tindal and safety Kendall Gant) and troubled ODU redshirt freshman quarterback Shuler Bentley into a 13-of-35 day. Besides the two picks, Bentley was sacked four times and Marshall had 10 QB hurries.
The Monarchs' lone productive offensive weapon was running back Ray Lawry, who ran 29 times for 160 yards and his team's first score in nine quarters. For three quarters, Marshall was poised to have its best defensive game in its 11 C-USA seasons, as ODU managed only 117 yards in three quarters. The low total offense by a C-USA team against Marshall was 180 yards by Rice in a 41-14 Owls loss at Edwards Stadium last season.
On the other side of the ball, Marshall got a second straight 100-yard rushing performance by redshirt sophomore Tony Pittman, who in his first career start gained 127 yards on 32 carries -- the most rushes by a Herd back since Darius Marshall had 32 (for 133 yards) in a 27-7 win over UAB in 2009. Pittman also ran for a touchdown.
True freshman quarterback Chase Litton, making his third MU start, was 21-of-35 for 212 yards and scoring passes to wideout Deon-Tay McManus and tight end Ryan Yurachek. Deandre Reaves and Yurachek had six receptions apiece -- single-game career highs for both.
On special teams for the Herd, Nick Smith booted two fourth-quarter field goals -- giving the Herd 13 successful three-pointers in a row dating back to late last season. He's 25-of-25 on place-kicks this season, with six field goals and 19 PATs.
Senior Tyler Williams continued his impressive punting with four of his seven kicks inside the 20. He has 18 of those this season. Kickoff man Amoreto Curraj provided four touchbacks. He has 20 in 29 kickoffs in 2015.
The eye-opening performance, however, belonged to Bee, who hails from tiny Jeromesville, Ohio, which has fewer than 600 residents and only one traffic light (in Ashland County). His 2014 graduating class at Hillsdale High School numbered only 72, and he was a first team All-Ohio Division VI selection as a senior -- in the Buckeye State's smallest football classification.
When Bee committed to the Herd and staff recruiter Bill Legg in July prior to his senior season, his only solid offer at the time was from Marshall.
"I was rotating in there during (August) camp and it really didn't happen until the Norfolk State game," Bee said after being named the Herd's Player of the Game. "I finally got in a live game and I found out I could make a couple of plays and I just started rolling from there.
"Being a redshirt last year and coming from a tiny school in Ohio like I did, I mean, you've got to wonder if you're made for Division I, and making plays just boosts your confidence. The (Kent State game) boosted my confidence a lot. I made a good play last week and Coach (J.C.) Price (defensive tackles coach) came over and said, `You better have some confidence now; we trust you,' so that definitely was a big confidence booster.
"When you see a big guy like me, most people think I would be slow and I'm just doing what I can out there ... I just try to work hard, and today Coach Cronin put me into the lineup a little bit and I tried to take full advantage of it. I was just trying to do my job, play physical like Coach Cronin always tells us, and it just worked out."
Yeah, it was a Bee-keeper of a game for the Herd.