Oct. 7, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – With a welcome midseason break, Marshall’s Jermaine Holmes said the Herd’s defensive fortunes come down to the basics.
“We’ve got to stop people from running the ball on us,” Holmes said Saturday night after Marshall’s 45-38 Conference USA loss to Tulsa at Edwards Stadium on MU’s 111th Homecoming. “These guys (the Golden Hurricane) kept running it because we needed to stop it.”
The sophomore from Valdosta, Ga., had what statistically was his best game this season, getting 11 tackles, including a half-tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries.
There wasn’t much opportunity for those QB hurries. Cody Green threw only 17 times (completing nine) in 70 plays for Tulsa (5-1, 3-0 C-USA). The last time a Marshall opponent went to the air less was in the first Friends of Coal Bowl, when West Virginia went 11-for-15 in a 2006 opener at Mountaineer Field.
The last time a Herd foe threw fewer times at Edwards Stadium was back in Coach Bob Pruett’s final sideline season, 2004, when UCF went 7-for-14 in a Mid-American Conference loss.
And if it had been hush-hush as to why Herd opponents are running the ball (it wasn’t), Tulsa Coach Bill Blankenship let out the secret.
"Every time we ran the ball, it's was probably two or three plays that Marshall didn't get to run because the clock was still running," Blankenship said after Tulsa’s eighth straight C-USA road win. "You've got to be aggressive, but let's don't be dumb. Let's try to keep the clock running."
Marshall (2-4, 1-1 C-USA) still ran 90 offensive plays, only 2.4 below its game-entering average and the time of possession was within one minute of being even.
Holmes said the Golden Hurricane “pounded us with the running game. I really thought they’d throw more, but they started running the ball, and we didn’t stop it, so they kept doing it.
“We need to go toe-to-toe, on every snap. We’re halfway through the season. It’s time for us to quit making mistakes.”
Holmes entered the game with 25 tackles in five games, sixth among the Herd defenders. In Marshall’s early season, the 245-pounder has had to spend too much time trying to battle large, veteran offensive linemen -- and occasional double-teams -- from the likes of WVU, Ohio and Purdue.
“I felt like I played just all right tonight,” said Holmes, who made his 14th career start. “I made more stops, but there was room for me to make more plays. There’s room for all of us to make more plays on defense.”
In the last four games, Marshall’s defense has faced 52 (Ohio), 50 (Rice), 53 (Purdue) and 53 (Tulsa) rushing plays. Those four have averaged 225 rushing yards per game.
Some of that is to keep the Herd’s offense – averaging 558.3 yards, fifth nationally – off the field.
“You can say we only allowed how many (340 total yards), but they just kept running it,” Holmes said. “They made a few big plays on third down. And teams just keep capitalizing on our mistakes, missed tackles, penalties.
“There’s a lot of frustration right now. Well, we need to take that out on the other team, our next opponent (at 0-5 Southern Mississippi, Oct. 20). We need to look at film and see the mistakes a do something about it.
“It’s about playing toe-to-toe from the get-go, and when a play needs to be made, we need to make it. We aren’t doing that … missed tackles, penalties, those things have really hurt us over and over so far.”
Marshall also has been on the field on defense for 489 plays. Only Arizona (494) has faced more. That offsets MU’s nation-leading 552 offensive snaps, nine more than the Pac-12’s Wildcats.
Holmes sees a bright side, however, too, in that the Herd has been a better second half-season team in Coach Doc Holliday’s first two years on the MU sideline, and the fact that Marshall still has to play all five of its fellow East Division teams in a conference in which only two of 12 teams (Tulsa and 3-2 UCF) own winning records..
“Hopefully, we can still see Tulsa in the conference championship game,” Holmes said. “They’re good. They’ll be there. We need to get there, but we’ve got to win. We can’t afford more mistakes, more losses.
“We have the same record (2-4) as last year, but I feel like there’s a big difference in this team from then. We have older guys, more mature, on offense. On defense, we’re still young, but there just isn’t any more room for mistakes.
“No time for excuses. We need to play how we can, and we need to do it now.”