BOGACZYK: Letman Says Herd has ‘Lot on Table’ at WKU
The Word on the Herd-Nov. 22, 2015
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Taj Letman doesn’t need the spectacles he wears off the field to see what’s next for Marshall football. The senior safety remembers what Western Kentucky brought here last season.
In a 67-66 overtime loss that halted the Herd’s unbeaten season, the Hilltoppers scored nine touchdowns – or 25 percent of the TDs Marshall allowed in 14 games last season.
“They came in here last year and they played great,” Letman said. “They had a good scheme for us last year. They played well and got the W. We’re going to be ready for this game. We remember what happened last year and we know what’s at stake – playing for the (Conference USA) championship, so this game has a lot on the table for us.”
The game comes Friday at L.T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Ky., when Marshall (9-2, 6-1) goes to WKU (9-2, 7-0) for a high noon (ET) showdown for the C-USA East Division title and a berth – likely at home for whichever team wins – in the Dec. 5 C-USA Championship Game.
Led by star fifth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty, with 3,814 passing yards, 37 touchdowns and six interceptions, Western returns most of the talent from a year ago except running back Leon Allen, who was lost for the season to injury in Week 2. Receiver Taywan Taylor (68 catches, 1,151 yards) is a Biletnikoff Award finalist. Outside catching mate Jared Dangerfield has 64 catches … and there’s more where they come from.
“I told our DBs when we met that we have a good task ahead,” said Letman, who will make a 39th career start in his three Herd seasons after transferring from Holmes Community College in Mississippi. “We have good competition. All five receivers are real guys and the quarterback is a real guy. We’re going to see good versus good.”
The wiry 6-foot-3, 190-pound Georgian was right in the middle of things against the Hilltoppers last season, as he led the Herd with a career-high 15 tackles. Because of last season’s WKU performance and what’s at stake this time, Letman said the final regular-season game is the biggest challenge of the 2015 season.
“I’d say that team-wise,” Letman said. “They’re a great team. I think that offense could play in any league in the country – scoring points, and they’ve got a good defense now. They have a great offense, a good scheme. They have real players, real routes.
“It’s going to be a good test, the task at hand, for us, the (secondary), defensive-wise, the whole unit, we have to come ready to play. It’s a good team. I think beating them is a challenge for us.
“Doughty, he just has it. Confidence, arm strength … He has a relationship with those receivers. He doesn’t have regular guys around him to make him better. He has guys who if he gets in trouble, you just throw it up there and they go make a play. He has some guys. It’s going to be a good matchup for us.”
A year ago, the Herd was 11-0 and ranked No. 19 in the Associated Press poll following a struggle for a 23-18 win over UAB at Legion Field. The Herd knew – win or lose versus WKU – it still was headed to the C-USA title game the following weekend.
So, does it help Letman and Co. that this time the date with Western is a win-to-get-in situation and to become the only team to play in three C-USA Championships in a row since the league went to divisional play in 2005?
“This year, we know what we’re playing for. We’ve been playing for a championship the last three years. We’re playing for one (at WKU). We need that to go for the big championship, so we’ve got a task at hand.
“After we lost at Middle (Tennessee, in triple overtime on Nov. 7), everything was still in hand for us. All of our goals are still out there. We can still host (the championship game) here. Everything is still on table for us. We just have to go do our part and make sure it happens.”
Doughty – he owns a .728 passing percentage this season -- threw for an Edwards Stadium-record eight touchdowns against the Herd last season, while both teams set the stadium mark for first downs with 37 apiece. Western’s 738 yards total offense was the most against Marshall in its history. This season, WKU is averaging 517 yards and 44 points per game.
“Last year, sometimes, we got caught in the middle a little bit,” Letman said of a WKU attack that stunned the Herd with 49 first-half points. “There were a lot of individual plays that people really didn’t make. This time, we’ve just got make plays. You’ve got to be accountable. You’ve got to be in the moment, live in the moment. We’re going to be ready.’
Letman smiled when asked what he felt when he heard Doughty had been granted an additional season of eligibility on appeal to the NCAA because of a season-ending knee injury early in 2011, his redshirt freshman year.
“When I heard it, I actually thought he was a junior (in 2014), so when I heard it, it was ‘OK, cool,’” Letman said. “After the game last year, it was bad. He kind of threw us for a loop.
“Anybody that was here last year is looking forward to playing this game. There’s going to be a lot of emotion in this game. We know they’re coming; we know we’re going to get their best shot. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”