Nov. 15, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – On Senior Day for Marshall Football in 2012, Antavious Wilson could play with a source of satisfaction.
The redshirt senior wideout from Pahokee, Fla., has returned to the pass-catching numbers he provided as a 2009 redshirt freshman. However, Wilson approaches Saturday’s Edwards Stadium noon finale against Houston wanting more for himself and his classmates.
“It’s really important for me to go out and play hard, make plays, leave it all on the field,” Wilson said. “It’s my last game here, and some of my classmates unfortunately won’t get to play.
“We need to make sure we win this one and the next one (at East Carolina) to make to that bowl game, so maybe some of those seniors can make it back and play.”
At least three and perhaps four of the eight Thundering Herd seniors could be sidelined – including Wilson’s wideout running mate Aaron Dobson -- for their home Senior Day. Only Texas-San Antonio (six) and Rice (seven) have fewer seniors on the roster in 2012. Wilson might be dinged and bruised a bit himself and his practice contact limited, but he’s going out playing.
“He’s had a great season for us,” Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said of the 6-foot-1, 196-pound receiver. “We talk all the time about our seniors playing their best football their final year, and he’s done that.
“He was banged up a little a year ago and some this year, but he’s kept on battling.”
In ’09, Wilson broke into the lineup in former coach Mark Snyder’s last season to make 60 catches for 724 yards and was named to the Conference USA all-Freshman team.
Wilson’s fortunes changed in early November 2010, when during a home win over UTEP he was blocking, and MU quarterback Brian Anderson
was hit and crumpled into Wilson’s right knee. The meniscus and ligament tear required surgery.
Wilson’s season ended with 29 receptions for 342 yards and five touchdowns. He returned last season, but wasn’t the same, and while Dobson was emerging, Wilson had only 29 catches again, for 462 yards and one score.
Wilson’s senior season has been a return to bigger numbers as the Herd’s pass-first offense engineered by quarterback Rakeem Cato has provided record figures. The wideout has 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns, second on the team to sophomore slot man Tommy Shuler’s 87 receptions for 892 yards.
“I think I’ve had a pretty good season,” Wilson said after the Herd’s Wednesday workout. “I believe I’ve made plays when my number is called, but we’re not done yet.
“And now that we’re spreading it around a lot (a record 19 players have caught Herd passes this season), it’s not like it’s just two people, Aaron and me. I like it like this though, because defensively, you never know where it’s going in our offense. It helps us a lot.”
His 39 career starts lead the 2012 Herd, and Wilson continues to rise on the school’s career receiving charts. In his final two or three games, Wilson – with 173 catches and 2,154 yards -- needs four receptions to pass “Little” Ricky Carter (1992-95) for seventh place on the all-time list. He also needs only four yards to pass Carter for 10th in receiving yardage.
Wilson also is one scoring catch from the top 15 all-time in touchdown receptions at Marshall.
And his 173 catches rank second among all current C-USA receivers to the 220 by Darius Johnson of SMU.
“It’s gone fast, really fast, my time here,” Wilson said of his five years in the Herd’s program. “I thought I could have a good year. Coming back from being injured, I worked my butt off this past offseason to get to 100 percent.
“I wasn’t near that last year. It’s helped that a lot of teams were doubling Aaron, and that opened things up for me and the other receivers, too.”
Wilson knows the continued productivity of the Herd offense is crucial in what Holliday has called “nine months for 10 days” – offseason, preseason and regular season to determine if the Herd is bowl-worthy.
“Nine months for 10 days, that determines whether our season goes up or down,” Wilson said. “We’ve lost games we should have won, and that crosses your mind, but we’ve got to push forward. You can’t think back to those games. We’ve got to win these two.”
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The Herd enters Saturday’s noon kickoff against Houston – a bowl-elimination game between 4-6 teams – with the longest-running active streak nationally (FBS) in one category.
Whether it wins or loses the coin toss or the opponent defers its choice, Marshall has received the opening kickoff in 15 straight games (five last season and 10 in 2012). San Diego State is next with 13 straight games receiving the opening kick.
With those 15 opening drives, the Herd has four touchdowns and one field goal and has forced its opponent to start its first drive inside its own 23-yard line seven times (four of those from the 12 or deeper).
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The Herd has gone 31 straight games without having a point after touchdown blocked or missed. That ranks ninth nationally on a list led by Duke (66), Washington (58), Virginia (57) and Indiana (49).
Marshall also is ninth on the list of consecutive PAT conversions without a miss or block, with 112. Texas Tech leads that list at 202, followed by Duke (177), Washington (167) and North Carolina (166).