Oct. 10, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Marshall’s offense was on the field Saturday afternoon in the Homecoming football game against Tulsa, and Thundering Herd cornerback Keith Baxter stole a quick glance toward an alumnus in the Edwards Stadium stands.
There, he said, he saw his dad – the first Keith Baxter to play for Marshall, a star receiver a quarter-century ago. With paternal pride, Baxter the father was smiling ear-to-ear.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him smile quite like that,” said the younger Baxter, a sophomore starter for Coach Doc Holliday’s third Marshall team.
However, it’s not quite a “like father, like son” situation for the latest Baxter with the Herd. A 2-4 start to the 2012 season will do that to a young man who also has his father’s great smile, but …
“We’ve got to get some wins, especially after so many tough losses,” Baxter said, with Marshall in an open week before an Oct. 20 date at Southern Mississippi. “I hate losing, but we’ve got to learn from the losses and walk in and say, ‘OK, what do we have to do to change it?’
“We wanted to be undefeated, but when I look back at our season, I tell myself we’re really supposed to be 5-1. We’re supposed to be better than the record says we are, but I can also tell you we’re going to get it done the rest of the season.”
Baxter said the Herd’s season-opening loss at current No. 5 West Virginia “was a tough game for us.” The other three losses, by a combined 20 points, have come at home to Ohio and Tulsa, and at Purdue.
“When we lost to West Virginia, we looked at it honestly and Geno Smith is an experienced senior quarterback, probably the best quarterback in college football,” said Baxter, a 5-foot-11, 190-pounder from Homestead, Fla. “He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks anyone in college football has ever seen.
“Looking at the game, we had a lot of young guys, it was the first start of my career up there, and there were a bunch of the rest of us like that. You could get that (loss). Then we play Ohio, Purdue and Tulsa, and it’s like, ‘What are we doing?’ We’re letting these games slide right through our hands.
“If we go back and look at those other three games we lost except West Virginia, we should have won. It hurts to lose the close ones, it really does.”
Baxter has started five of six games, and Holliday said the sophomore has been in-and-out of the lineup like other corners because of injury.
“Baxter has had to play a lot and for the most part he’s played well,” Holliday said of Baxter, who has 11 tackles and four pass breakups on a defense that in recent weeks has faced mostly run games. “Like everybody else, he’s a young guy who needs to keep getting better.
“He’s a talented young guy who works extremely hard and he’s going to be a good football player here. He’s still learning though. He plays man (coverage) well, loves to play man and does a good job. He’s athletic, he can run and he has good hips.
“He got to work on his eyes in man coverage, and he’s got to become more physical and a better tackler, but all that will come as he gains experience.”
Baxter’s father lettered on three Herd teams with winning records (1985-87), including the NCAA Division I-AA national runner-up club in his senior year. The son hungers for that same kind of success at his dad’s alma mater.
“I know a lot more about playing the position than I did at the start of the season, but I’m still learning each and every day,” Baxter said. “Coach (Lytrel) Pollard (cornerbacks coach) tells me, ‘You don’t know everything. There’s something you can learn every day.’ He’s right.
“I’m just trying to pick that up from Coach Pollard and teammates like Derrick (Thomas) and the other guys on the back line with me. I’m learning everything I can to make sure we turn it around and get this team to where we should be.”