Marshall football: Long-yardage plays welcome addition for Herd
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's football team doesn't just run a bunch of plays. It also runs a bunch of plays that cover a lot of distance.
The Thundering Herd is tops in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total number of plays from scrimmage (371) as well as number of plays from scrimmage that have gone 10 or more yards (88).
That last total is a welcome change for third-year Coach Doc Holliday.
"I don't think we had 88 plays over 10 yards in the last two years," he said. "Probably not a lot of people have. I think we are getting our guys who can make plays into space and we're seeing the results of that."
The Herd recorded 17 plays of 10 or more yards in Saturday's 54-51 double-overtime win at Rice. Many of them came from the redshirt freshman running back trio of Remi Watson, Kevin Grooms and Steward Butler. The three combined for 353 yards rushing against the Owls. Grooms had touchdown runs of 17 and 45 yards, while Butler scored on a 57-yard run.
"It doesn't take long to tell if a guy can play tailback," Holliday said. "If I've got to coach the heck out of a tailback, chances are I don't have one. You give him the ball and watch him run. That's about what it amounts to when they're really talented. It doesn't take long to figure out if they're a really good player, and they are."
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THE HERD should be feeling a twinge of deja vu this week. In facing Purdue at 3:15 p.m. Saturday (Big Ten Network), Marshall is lining up in its fifth game of the season against an opponent from a BCS automatic qualifier conference.
Just like Marshall did last season when it faced Big East member Louisville.
"We're basically in the same situation we were this time last year when we went to Louisville, and our guys understand that," Holliday said. "They went to Louisville and beat a pretty good football team. Basically, they're in the same situation and hopefully we get the same result."
The Cardinals team Marshall beat last year 17-13 ultimately won a share of the Big East title and had a shot at a BCS-bowl berth until being mathematically eliminated at season's end. Defensive end Jeremiah Taylor said a win Saturday would help the same way as last year's Louisville win.
"It's a big confidence booster and it gives guys that motivation to say we can play those guys," Taylor said.
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CORNERBACK Derrick Thomas, who left the Rice game injured in the first half, will be back for Saturday's game at Purdue, Holliday said. Thomas, Keith Baxter and Monterius Lovett all are good to go, as will be Travon Van, who moved from starting running back to reserve corner.
"Those guys are all fine," Holliday said. "They'll all play. And, of course, Travon will have an extra week there, so we've got to get him in the rotation. By the time the game rolls around, we'll be more healthy there than we were last week."
Corner Darryl Roberts, who has not yet played this season after spending part of preseason camp with a walking boot on his right foot, remains up in the air as far as his return to play.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.