Marshall football: Van makes sacrifice, moves to cornerback
HOUSTON -- Marshall Coach Doc Holliday called Travon Van into his office Monday and told his starting running back he needed him to switch to cornerback.
The depth chart was just too shallow and he knew Van, who was recruited to Southern Cal, Miami and Florida as a defensive back, had the talent to make the switch.
Holliday just didn't know how much he'd really need him in Saturday's 54-51 double overtime win over Rice.
When Derrick Thomas left the game hurt in the first half, it became Van's job to substitute for Monterius Lovett and Keith Baxter. And Holliday felt Van represented himself well in his first college game on defense.
"You can't say enough about the unselfishness," Holliday said. "He goes from starting running back to playing a little bit of corner this week. But you know what? He'll be a hell of a corner or safety by the time he leaves here."
Van's move also gave redshirt freshmen Kevin Grooms, Steward Butler and Remi Watson the opportunity for more carries, and the three responded with 353 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
"He gave us the opportunity to get those other running backs in the game because we do have some talent there," Holliday said. "Because of Travon's unselfishness and attitude, he helped us win the game today. "
Van wasn't available for interviews after Saturday's game, but his teammates praised his selflessness and ability to make the switch to defense. Van had started Marshall's first three games at running back, but had averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.
"I admire the guy for doing that, going from a starter to a reserve after he'd started every game," Watson said. "That's a big sacrifice. That shows we're really a family. He sacrificed for the good of us. He could have been selfish about it. He took it with a smile and I really admire him for that."
While Holliday said Thomas should be OK for the future, he also said Van's move to corner is set for the time being.
"Probably for now, until we get some guys back," Holliday said. "And the kid can play. When he was signed by the University of Florida, he was signed as a corner. So there's no question he has some skills there and he can help us win at that position."
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HOLLIDAY ADMITTED the Marshall defense could have played much better overall, allowing 647 yards in the win, but he said the unit came through in a couple of crucial spots.
While the defense did allow Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue a 47-yard gain on the Owls' final drive of regulation, it did pull the junior down at the Marshall 2. The Owls were forced to kick a field goal on that drive and that became the difference between winning and losing.
"They found a way to get a stop down there and they forced them into a field goal to get that thing into overtime and found a way to win," Holliday said.
McHargue injured his shoulder on Rice's last drive of regulation, but he already had passed for 314 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 153 yards and a score, becoming just the second Rice quarterback to have more than 400 yards of total offense in a game.
Herd defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said McHargue was tougher to bring down than the film showed.
"He was a lot shiftier than what you see on film," Taylor said. "It was kind of hard to get to him. His scrambling ability was a little better than what we thought."
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AMONG THE BONUSES that came with Marshall's win was the fact the Herd no longer had to field questions about going winless in Texas. Before Saturday, Marshall was 0-8 in the Lone Star State.
"I wish to hell it wasn't so hard," Holliday said with a laugh. "But you know what? It's a win. We'll take it."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.