Marshall football: Evans, Allen step up after Dobson exits with injury
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Aaron Dobson's day against Memphis lasted one play.
The Marshall wide receiver, senior captain and preseason all-Conference USA pick caught a 4-yard pass from quarterback Rakeem Cato on the Thundering Herd's first snap from scrimmage. But when DeAndre Thompson and Cannon Smith brought him down for the Tigers, Dobson's knees bent awkwardly and sent him limping to the sideline, never to return.
Dobson's absence allowed junior Demetrius Evans and redshirt freshman Davonte Allen to step in his place. The Belle Glades, Fla., natives responded with a touchdown catch.
Allen's was the biggest of the game. With the Tigers cutting Marshall's 24-point lead to three points in the fourth quarter, Cato found Allen in the end zone on fourth and 6 for a 28-yard score to give the Herd its final margin of victory. Allen was pushed out of bounds by a defender on the route, but recovered for the score.
Allen said he wasn't thinking about the magnitude of the catch or whether officials would wave off the score because he stepped out of bounds. All he thought about was the need to make a big play.
"If anybody's stepping up, it's the time to step up," Allen said. "Right now, our backs are against the wall and we have to come out and press forward every game."
Evans may be a junior, but had caught only seven career passes entering this season. He caught seven passes for 50 yards Saturday, including a 25-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make the score 24-7. Allen caught four passes for 87 yards and his score.
Marshall Coach Doc Holliday wasn't sure about Dobson's status as of Saturday night. Dobson spent the rest of the night on the sideline with a brace on his right knee. But he was happy that two other wideouts that haven't seen as much of the spotlight this year, had no problem working underneath it against Memphis.
"They had to and it was great to see," Holliday said. "A lot of times you get put in that situation with the young kids thrown into the fire and they don't respond."
Also among the notable receiving news was senior Antavious Wilson's seven catches for 61 yards. He has 170 career catches, which allowed him to pass John "Fuzzy" Filliez (1973-76) and Randy Moss (1996-97) to sit eighth on the all-time list.
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DOBSON WASN'T the only player dealing with injury Saturday. Marshall had to juggle its starting lineup on the offensive line after the usual starter at right guard, John Bruhin, had to sit out with an unspecified injury. Garrett Scott, the usual starting right tackle, took his place and was joined in the starting five by Jordan Jeffries at left tackle, Alex Schooler at left guard, Chris Jasperse at center and Gage Niemeyer at right tackle.
Cornerback Keith Baxter also sat out the game with an injured arm, leaving Monterius Lovett and Derrick Thomas to handle the work. Brandon Sparrow also left the game banged up. Holliday said he expects Bruhin, Baxter and Sparrow to be ready for Saturday's game at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (4:30 p.m., CSS/WCHS). Sparrow tweeted to followers Saturday night that he was fine.
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CATO DIVULGED a unique nickname for freshman fullback Devon Johnson during postgame interviews - "Blockhead."
It's a term of endearment for the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder from Richlands, Va., who caught his second pass, and first touchdown, of the season in the third quarter. That 9-yard score gave Marshall a 31-7 lead.
But as much as he liked the touchdown, he also likes leading the way for tailbacks Remi Watson, Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms. It was Butler and Johnson's work on Marshall's final drive that let the Herd run out the clock.
"We've got three great backs, so they let me pound in there," he said. "Stew looked at me and said, 'Let's go, Devon, make a hole.' And I was like, 'I got you.' I just hit the hole and Stew broke free like he always did."
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SPECIAL TEAMS hasn't been the Herd's strong suit the past two games. After allowing two kickoff returns for touchdowns against the University of Central Florida. Marshall gave up a 52-yard kickoff return to Bobby McCain, couldn't field Memphis' third-quarter onside kick, and gave up a 61-yard pass on a punt fake.
"I knew going in that we were going to get something in the special teams or offensively that's going to take some shots and create issues for us and we did," Holliday said. "We have to get better in those areas, there's no doubt."
The only bright spot on Marshall special teams was recovering an accidental onside kick in the third quarter. It was supposed to be a routine squib kick, but it bounced off a Memphis player and Marshall recovered at the 50.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.