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BOGACZYK: Herd Offense Says It Needs to Finish What It Starts

Tommy Shuler
Sept. 11, 2014

By JACK BOGACZYK

HERDZONE.COM COLUMNIST

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Long, long ago, it was Mark Twain who offered his opinion on lies, damn lies and statistics.

Marshall’s football team has good grasp of that persuasive notion of numbers as it plays Ohio (1-1) on Saturday at noon at Edwards Stadium in another renewal of the “Battle for the Bell” series.

For example, the Herd (2-0) understands that in three consecutive losses to the Bobcats, the winners have a time of possession bulge of 26 minutes, 30 seconds. Ohio also had a very significant .527 percentage of success on third down in those games, much of that due to the heady playmaking of Bobcat quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who has graduated.

Herd Coach Doc Holliday certainly remembers.

“He made every play last year,” Holliday said of Tettleton. “When you go back and look at a year ago, there are about 6-8 plays that you watch and he made them all. Ohio was put in many big third-down and fourth-down situations in critical drives in that game and he found a way to make a play.

“He had that ‘it’ factor. He found a way to make plays … There was one drive where we had 22 plays and couldn’t get off the field defensively when he made unbelievable throws and scrambles. That’s what made him really good.”


 

 

Back to the numbers … there is the well-chronicled plus-10 advantage in turnover margin for the Mid-American Conference team in those three victories.

On the other hand, in those three losses, the Herd has averaged a decent 435 yards per game and 76 plays.

Yes, statistics can say what you want them to say, and so Marshall isn’t buying much into its No. 10 total offense ranking early this season – 578 yards per game against an FCS team (Rhode Island) and a Miami (Ohio) club that a week after losing to the Herd fell to an FCS program, Eastern Kentucky.

No reliable video study because two MU foes had new coaches? Playing on the road and then in the pouring rain? Trying to deal with lofty expectations?

Herd offensive players say those haven’t been issues as much as something else that needs to change in the 58th Marshall-Ohio game.

“I think it’s us, plain and simple,” said Herd junior right tackle Clint Van Horn. “I don’t think it’s the looks that we’ve been getting or any of that. In the first game at Miami, it’s 28-3 in the first half, we’re blowing them out and then we came out and laid an egg in the third quarter.

“That’s on us. Last week (against URI), we had almost 400 yards total offense in the first half (388), and only 17 points to show for it, because we gave up two or three touchdowns in the first half. So, it’s definitely us. I don’t think it’s so much the outlying issues. I think it’s us, an internal issue, and we’re going to try and fix that this week.”

Marshall senior tight end Eric Frohnapfel, who said he’s tired of hearing the Bobcats ring the bell, said the Herd knows what it needs to do.

“I think we saw it a little bit against Rhode Island, and that’s our tempo,” Frohnapfel said. “I think against Ohio, we’re going to get into a lot of uptempo situations. It throws them off. It makes them stay vanilla, stay in base schemes, and I think in this game especially, I’m suspecting we’ll come out with a really high tempo, get sets in quick, get lined up quick and churn out a lot of plays against them.”

Herd star quarterback Rakeem Cato is in a run of 13 straight quarters without an interception, a streak that began in last season’s Conference USA Championship Game loss at Rice. He threw his last pick on the first series of the second half that December day.

His 124 straight pass attempts without an interception is his second-longest no-interceptions streak at Marshall, behind a 135-throw stretch (and 11 quarters) from the second half of a 2012 romp at Southern Miss through no-pick games versus UCF and Memphis and into one quarter of a loss to UAB at Legion Field.

He puts it succinctly.

“We need to score every time we get a chance,” Cato said. “We need to be consistent, do what we do best.”

Devon Johnson has rushed for 288 yards in his first two games as the Herd running back, and he said the performance by the Marshall offense has been somewhat like two of his 33 attempts – where he’s been stopped 1 yard short of a touchdown.

“I think it hurt us not to have film (on Miami and Rhode Island), so there’s no idea what they’re doing, but that’s no excuse because a few times we drove downfield and fumbled or made an error or mistake, an MA (missed assignment) we shouldn’t have made,” the junior running back said. “We’ve got to correct that this week, no question.

“We’ve got to fight all four quarters and I think we’re really going to work on that as a team, concentrate on playing all four quarters, lights out, and don’t let up.

“Most definitely (the Ohio rivalry) adds to that. Like I’ve been telling everybody, we’ve got to turn it up a notch, turn it all the way up to where you can’t turn it up anymore. If we practice great and practice better than Ohio, we can beat ‘em. But if we can’t practice great, lose focus, they can beat us. Their defense is great; our offense has to be ready. If we’re not ready … we’ve got to go out and score points.”

Herd receiver Tommy Shuler has 19 catches in the last two games against the Bobcats, and he said last week’s 724-yard performance in thumping Rhode Island just offered a glimpse of what offensive coordinator Bill Legg’s scheme wants to do.

“People say we’ve started off slow but I feel like we’re just getting our groove,” Shuler said. “We’re getting started. We’ve been kind of sluggish. I feel like if I graded our offense right now, it would be a C. We’re haven’t really gotten into our groove yet.

“Coach Legg agrees with me. We haven’t gotten going yet, the fast tempo, getting up on the ball, what we do. I think this week, Coach Legg is just going to pull it out of the hat and let’s roll. We’ve got to come out and play right from the start and keep playing.”

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