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Marshall football: Herd's Brown won't live down 'The Slide'

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Donald Brown has emerged as one of Marshall's top defenders, but his defense for "The Slide" is filled with holes.

He asked me after Tuesday's practice: "Did you see how big those offensive linemen were?"

Come on, Donald. If you can beat UTEP running back Donald Buckram in a footrace the length of a football field, surely you can wiggle your way past a few big uglies.

For the unfamiliar, here is a recap of the events that occurred at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., last Saturday evening - something Brown has been unable to out-run.

The score was 24-17 in favor of the Herd and the UAB Blazers had the ball with 9:26 left of the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Bryan Ellis dropped back to pass and spotted his target, but the ever-so-sneaky Brown stepped in front of the intended receiver and made his third interception in four games (not counting the pick on the 2-point play two weeks ago when he out-raced Buckram down the sidelines; that does not go into the stat book as an official interception).

Brown caught the ball at the UAB 37 and had nothing but vacant FieldTurf on the right side of the field.

"When he caught the ball we all turned up field to block," Herd middle linebacker Tyson Gale said.

"Then everybody stopped running."

That is because Brown, a sophomore strong safety from Frostproof, Fla., had tucked one leg under the other and got down like he was trying to beat a catcher's throw to second base.

On the diamond, Brown might have been safe.

On a football team, a puzzling move like that makes you safe from nothing.

"What the hell did he slide for?" Marshall Coach Doc Holliday asked after the game, which happened to be a 31-17 win for the Herd, rendering Brown's brain cramp nothing more than fodder for jokes.

After the game, the players in the locker room suddenly cleared an open space. Moments later, defensive backs coach Mike Cassity tried to re-enact Brown's misguided slide. 

"I didn't hear the last of that one," said Brown, who smiled and took every jab like a champ. 

The laughs at Brown's expense didn't stop there. He had a bus ride to the airport to endure, the plane ride home, Sunday's team meetings, etc.

Holliday told defensive coordinator Chris Rippon to have a chat with Brown.

"I didn't have anything to say," Rippon said. "I told Doc, 'Do you think anything I say is going to be worse than what these kids will give him for sliding?' "

Fair enough.

"We rode him pretty hard," Gale said. "Donald was trying to preserve a win which is what we do in our two-minute, but there were nine minutes on the clock. I don't really know what he was doing."

"Everybody was quiet when he did that," cornerback Monterius Lovett said. "Why did Donald slide? He should have taken it to the house. He could have. I have no idea why he slid."

Tight end Lee Smith tried to side with Brown.

"Those defensive guys don't work on fumble drills and all that good stuff," he said. "I'd much rather him get his butt down than give them the ball back. Everybody gave him a hard time about it."

Brown actually had a coach's voice bouncing around in his head when he went to the ground 3 yards after gaining control of the football.

Early in the season, the coaching staff pointed to the inordinate number of quizzical moves by players across the country that were trying to pick up unnecessary extra yardage.

Case in point: the interception in the end zone by Marshall true freshman cornerback Darryl Roberts at Bowling Green.

Roberts made it out to the 9-yard line, and a penalty forced Marshall's offense to start at the 4.

"We made such a big point in the beginning of the season about it," Rippon said. "We are saying hit the ground and everything else. Donald wants to do the right things. He had the right intentions, the wrong moment."

Rippon never said a word about it. He knew that would be taken care of ... and then some.

"You don't have to correct that because he will do it himself," Rippon said, "and his buddies will never let him live it down."

Contact sportswriter Chuck McGill at or 304-348-1712. His blog is at


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