Sept. 4, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – It is a time for captains to be courageous.
As Marshall points toward its 2012 football home opener Saturday night against former Southern Conference foe Western Carolina (1-0), the team leaders among the Thundering Herd do not only understand the urgency of leaving behind what’s in the rear-view mirror.
They’re driving the bus.
“We’ve got to move on and we have,” said junior defensive end Jeremiah Taylor, one of five Herd team captains, in reference to Marshall’s 69-34 opening loss at West Virginia. “Really, it’s not a bad mood in (the Shewey Building locker room). We’re focused on Western Carolina, everybody.”
The Herd’s player interview session Monday at Edwards Stadium was decidedly one in which the nine players who visited with the media weren’t trying to avoid what occurred in the Friends of Coal Bowl at Mountaineer Field. Nor were they wringing their hands.
A lot of times at a lot of places, players are notoriously no-shows following bad defeats. Not so on a rainy Labor Day here … offense, defense and special teams were represented, and four of the team’s five captains were present, too.
“You’ve got to build on the positives,” MU senior offensive guard John Bruhin said. “It wasn’t a conference (USA) game. It was still a huge rivalry, but there’s still a lot for us out there to gain with this team. We did a lot of good things, so essentially, you talk about that.
“There’s tons for us still out there. Our goal of winning a conference championship this year is still out there. A big goal we set early on was we wanted to get after West Virginia, but you’ve just got to push forward and put it behind us.”
Marshall ran 101 plays offensively – the high in major college football for the opening weekend and a Mountaineer Field record (and only three fewer than MU ran in its double-overtime GMAC Bowl win over East Carolina in 2001). The Herd gained 545 yards, and sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato set the school regular-season, single-game record with 38 completions. He completed passes to 13 receivers.
“I think we played well,” Bruhin said of an offensive line that Coach Doc Holliday said during preseason camp was the team’s biggest improvement. “There are some things we needed to clean up, but overall think did really well.
“We had a number of offensive linemen play really well, more linemen (10) played than any game I’ve ever been part of since I’ve been here, so that helps us down the road, getting that experience. It’s nice, too, because we’re trying to get that up-tempo going, and we’re running a lot more plays, so it helps they actually roll people in and out now, and people get different looks.”
Bruhin said the Herd has “a lot we need to still clean up in the run game, especially in the high-powered offense we’re running now. There’s more new in the running game than in the passing game for us.
“The passing game stuff is kind of routine for us, but the new run stuff they’re putting in, we just kind of have to improve on it, get more reps, more experience.”
Taylor acknowledged there were issues defensively, but it wasn’t that the Herd was alone in giving up big numbers in Week 1. Consider that Marshall’s scoreboard number (34) ranked as low as 46th among FBS teams. Twenty-two teams scored 49 or more points in their openers.
“As far as the scheme goes, I wouldn’t change anything,” Taylor said. “We went three-down (linemen) because we didn’t have that many D-line bodies. We had a lot of guys hurt, so we did it to keep as many fresh guys as we could.
“As far as the game plan, I wouldn’t change anything. The missed tackles, being where we’re supposed to be … that’s about it. Those were the biggest problems … tackling is just focusing. When the play comes, bring competitive excellence. Like Coach Holliday says, when your number is called, you’ve got to go make a play.
“They came out and tried to run the ball. We knew they were going to run the ball. The thing that hurt us more is we felt like we were in the right position to make plays most times, but when we got there, it was missed tackles that hurt us. They scored twice off missed tackles.”
So much for the postmortem, the defensive end from South Point, Ohio, said.
“We’re not dreading the season over that one loss,” Taylor said. “I think guys are a little bit better this year about making the transfer over to the next week and next game. You go into the film room, watch the film, go on the field, correct things, and you move on.
“You can’t just hang your head over one game, the first game. There are 12 of them. Everybody is looking forward to Western Carolina, and we’ll get after it.
“All of the goals we have are still there, winning a conference championship, going to a bowl game. We’re not going to hang heads over one loss. We would have liked to get that win, sure, no question about that, but all of our goals are still there for us.”
Aaron Dobson, the Herd’s preseason all-conference wide receiver, is another Herd captain who said his team needs to remember the positives from preseason camp while building on the shortcomings of one afternoon in Morgantown.
“Everything we want out of our season is still up for grabs,” said Dobson, who had four catches for 72 yards at WVU before leaving the game before halftime with a bruised right hip. “We lost the first game of our season, but we can win all of our conference games, go to a bowl and win a bowl game, so we still have a lot riding out there. We can’t let one game ruin our season.
“As a captain, we definitely have got to talk to them, I’m going to tell them to leave that game up there. Leave it behind. We lost, got to get back on pace.
“Got to come out Saturday at home and put on a show, get some confidence back going to the game against Ohio (Sept. 15 at home), so we’re all looking to this one ... get their heads looking forward, not backward.”
Dobson said after two days off, he’ll be ready to play Saturday. Before he left the Coal Bowl, the wideout from Dunbar moved into 16th place on the Herd’s career receptions list (passing Mike Bartrum and Andre motley), and is one behind Jim Cure’s 113 catches (1962-64) for 15th place.
“From receiving standpoint, we missed some blocks and we need to clean that up this week,” Dobson said of the opener. “Our run game wasn’t where it should have been, where we wanted it to be or it needs to be.
“Coming into this game we just need to be prepared and focused. This game is our biggest game on the schedule. We can’t go in there thinking this is going to be sweet or easy or anything like that.”
The approach, Bruhin said, is one down and 11 to go.
“As a captain,” the sixth-year guard said, “you just try to get into everybody’s head that you have to build on the positives. There was some good stuff there, so build on that, instead of worrying about the mistakes we made.
“Come to practice, come back Tuesday to practice and keep on working. It’s a long season.”