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Marshall football: Missed assignments baffle Herd QB

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato heard the number leave offensive coordinator Bill Legg's lips, but he didn't want to believe it.

Did the Thundering Herd offense really have 19 missed assignments against Central Florida?

"It was shocking, just shocking," Cato said.

Cato said the offense averages in the single digits with missed assignments, but the unit more than doubled that mark against the Knights. Not coincidentally, Marshall struggled to its worst offensive performance of the season in that game.

The Herd averages 542.9 yards and 39.9 points per game. Against UCF, Marshall gained just 364 yards and fell 54-17.

Legg said the offense might have been too pumped up for the UCF game. Of course, he said, the unit needs to focus on its opponent. But defenses thrive on emotion and they crave the fire-and-brimstone energy that whips them into frenzy. Offenses need a controlled intensity.

Legg compared it to both driving on the NASCAR circuit and performing surgery.

"You've got to find that middle ground," he said, "where your focus and intensity is high enough that you're locked into the exact thing that you need to do and you have good enough energy that you're doing it in the manner you need to do it.

"But emotion can't take over you," Legg added. "That's why they don't let doctors do surgery on family members."

As Marshall (3-5, 2-2 Conference USA) prepares for Saturday's 2 p.m. clash with Memphis (1-7, 1-3) at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Cato agrees with Legg that the offense needs to stay cognizant of its mission, but relax a little in doing it.

"We know we need to focus more and just have fun out there and not think about things, just play ball," Cato said.

* * *

DEON MEADOWS wasn't expecting to dominate the playing time at weak-side linebacker, especially when the guy in front of him on the depth chart, captain Devin Arrington, has 32 starts to his credit. But Arrington had to leave the UCF game with a knee injury and Meadows had to jump into his spot.

"When your number is called, you've actually got to go play," the 5-foot-11, 223-pound sophomore said.

Meadows responded with a solid all-around performance. He recorded seven tackles, four solo, forced and recovered a fumble in the fourth quarter and also blocked an extra point. His teammates noticed that he was a bright spot in a tough loss.

"For his first time really getting thrown in there, he was all over the field, making a lot of plays," Hunter said. "I told him (Sunday) in practice, 'I know it ain't nothing coming from me, I'm just another player, but I'm proud of you, bro."

Meadows should be seeing a lot more playing time and likely will make his first collegiate start. Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said Arrington will likely be out for two to three weeks with his injury. He spent the entire second half on the sideline with his right knee in a brace. Meadows doesn't want to see Arrington put on the shelf, but he's ready to pick up where the senior left off.

"I'm up for it," Meadows said. "I'm there with open arms. I'll be ready."

* * *

IT HAD been since Sept. 4, 2011, when West Virginia's Tavon Austin  scored from 100 yards out, that an opponent had returned a kickoff for a touchdown against the Thundering Herd. But foes now have done it three times in the last three games.

Trey Watts returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in Marshall's 45-38 loss to Tulsa. Then Quincy McDuffie earned Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors after returning two kickoffs for scores, from 97 and 98 yards. No player in UCF or C-USA history had done that.

Holliday said personnel is the most important factor in the Herd improving its kickoff team.

"It's like anything else," he said. "Guys have to get in position to make a play and you have to make it. Unfortunately, that didn't happen last week and we have to make sure that we get guys in there to make those plays. That's what happens to you when guys get banged up and hurt. Your special teams will suffer a little bit because of it. We have to get the right people in the positions and coach the heck out of them."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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