Oct. 7, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – In the wee hours after getting the first interception by a Marshall defensive lineman in six seasons, Ra’Shawde Myers did what he’s been doing overnight in recent months.
He didn’t sleep much.
Up very late celebrating a Homecoming victory over UTSA?
The defensive end was doing what he does every night … the “Dad” deal.
“It’s a lot of work,” said Myers, who became a father of twin boys this summer. “They keep you up at night. If you can get past the night time, the daytime part is easy.
“The hours are what’s most difficult, because right now they don’t sleep through the night, so you don’t, either. You’re up, changing diapers, fixing bottles. With football, going to class, taking care of kids, it’s tough, but you manage.”
Myers’ wife, Queen – a Marshall biology major – delivered Jaylin and Jahlil on July 13. The redshirt junior from Cocoa, Fla., has made two straight starts at defensive end, replacing three-year starter Jeremiah Taylor, who is out indefinitely with an injury.
Maybe it’s something in the position? Taylor and his fiancee have two children, too.
“It means a lot, getting to start,” the 6-foot-4, 246-pound Myers said. “I really didn’t want to start this way, but it is what it is, so you make the most of it. I come out and do my best and try to represent myself and JT, too, hold down that position.”
Myers has done that well as the Herd (3-2, 1-0) heads for its Conference USA road opener Saturday against Florida Atlantic (2-4, 1-3) in Boca Raton, going against this newly minted C-USA Offensive Player of the Week, burly Owls quarterback Jaquez Johnson.
In his first start of the season, Myers had six tackles, including a half-sack, in a triple-overtime loss at Virginia Tech. In last Saturday’s home win over UTSA, he had four tackles, a sack, another tackle for loss and that aforementioned interception.
Myers’ diving pick – off an Eric Soza pass tipped by fellow defensive end Gary Thompson – was the first for a Herd lineman since 2007, when end Ryland Wilson had two in November games against UCF and Houston.
“I don’t ever remember seeing one, except maybe in the NFL, but in college, no,” Myers said Monday when asked about the last time he saw a D-line interception. “Gary and I were both right there, a forward screen (pass), he tipped it.
“I was surprised when I saw it and said to myself, ‘Hey, I think I can catch that, let’s go get it.’”
Told about Wilson’s two picks in a three-week span in ’07, Myers said, “I heard that … That’s impossible.”
Myers’ first-quarter interception came one play after MU cornerback Derrick Thomas had a first-down Soza pass carom off his mitts … you know what comes next.
“I dropped my chance at an interception,” Thomas said Monday. “On the next play, Ra’Shawde got his interception. Next thing I know, he’s over on the sideline, ‘DT, I’ve got better hands than you do. You should watch me.’”
Fellow defensive end Alex Bazzie admired Myers’ pick.
“That was just a tremendous play,” Bazzie said, “great athletic ability shown right there … I’ve got to go get me one now.”
Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater has liked Myers’ play since the veteran assistant coach got his hands on the unit in spring ball. In preseason, he said the Herd had “three starters at end” in returning starters Taylor Bazzie and Myers.
Against UTSA, Heater went with a scheme that featured only one down lineman, with the other three linemen playing what Bazzie called “like linebackers, standing up,” to combat the Roadrunners’ outside game.
Heater thought his team played its best defensive game of the season, considering the uniqueness of the UTSA attack.
“We knew there was a method to his madness,” Myers said of the defense that was kind of like a 1-5-5 set. “When Coach Heater said we were doing that, we knew there had to be a good reason for it … I’d say it was a complete game, but wouldn’t say our best game. We can play better.
“We had some technical issues, some technique issues, some miscommunication from time to time. It was a hard-fought game. They were more of a perimeter team, wanted the ball outside. They wanted to outrun us. Our job was to not let them get outside. We weren’t as worried about their passing as much as their perimeter plays.”
Marshall has 34 Sunshine State players on its roster – only Louisville, with 39, has more for a non-Florida FBS program – and Myers is one of those making ticket deals with teammates to accommodate requests from friends and families.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said Myers, whose team also has a Nov. 23 date at FIU for which the Herd players will be ticket-bartering among themselves. “The chance to play in front of your family is really nice. We all try to trade off (tickets). You trade Virginia Tech tickets a couple of weeks ago for tickets this week. That’s how it works.”
A year ago after five games, Marshall ranked 115th nationally in total defense, allowing 496 yards per game. Now, the Herd is No. 8, permitting only 279 per game. Myers said besides new talent that wasn’t around in 2012 and Heater, there is another difference.
“Our work ethic is different,” he said. “I can honestly say that. We worked hard last year, but it wasn’t to where everything was full-go like now. Everything we do now is top-notch. Coach Heater is a great coach. Our strength program, Coach (Scott) Sinclair, he’s got us to a point where everything is so easy to us. That helps out a lot.”
Meanwhile, in the defensive meeting room, a point system rewards and penalizes players. Myers said Herd players get seven points for a sack or an interception.
Wait … a pick by a defensive lineman isn’t worth more than the same seven points a cornerback, safety or linebacker would get. That’s just not right.
“Yeah, that’s just what I said, “Myers said, smiling. “Nothing I can do about that.”
It’s sort of like diaper and bottle duty. You deal with it.
“I figure if I can do those things,” Myers said, “playing the game is easy.”