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Marshall football: Cougars’ RB could miss MU game

HUNTINGTON -- One player could make a big difference in what Marshall's football team could see against Houston this Saturday.

Cougars running back Charles Sims, the Conference USA leader with 106.1 rushing yards per game, remains day-to-day with an ankle sprain suffered in a loss to East Carolina that kept him out of last week's loss to Tulsa.

He was not listed on the depth chart released for Houston's visit to Joan C. Edwards Stadium at noon Saturday (CSS telecast).

While Houston (4-6, 3-3) might be known for its gaudy pass numbers - the Cougars led the Football Bowl Subdivision last year with 450 passing yards a game and are 11th this year averaging 324.6 - Sims legs have meant a lot. Houston is 7-0 when the redshirt junior has run for 100 yards or more in a game in the last three years.

"He's a big-league, big-league back," Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon said. "There's no other kid in the conference like (Sims)."

If Sims doesn't play, redshirt freshman Kenneth Farrow and senior Braxton Wexford are next in line.

Against Tulsa, Farrow carried the ball 15 times for 54 yards. Houston quarterback David Piland said he wasn't sure whether Sims would be ready for Saturday's game, but his chances look promising.

"He seems pretty confident and he's excited to possibly be back," Piland said. "He seems well and he's moving around."

Rippon said that, whether Sims plays or not, the Cougars won't change their strategy much.

They'll run the same plays, though they might not have the same impact if Sims isn't in the game. Marshall's defense isn't taking any chances that he won't be ready.

"We always anticipate that they'll have their best players," Rippon said. "(Sims) is in the game in my mind, and these are the plays we'll have to stop and be able to adjust to their wrinkles."

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OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR Bill Legg expects to see plenty of blitzing from Houston's defense. If recent history is any guide, he'd be surprised if they didn't.

When Legg watched the Cougars' last four games on film, he saw that they blitzed more than half the time.

"Usually teams that are relatively big blitz teams are like 35 or 37 (percent)," Legg said. "These guys are like 51-, 52-percent blitz. It's been that way every game. They're a very aggressive group, which is totally opposite from a year ago."

That newfound aggressiveness has led to 13 interceptions - second behind Southern Methodist in Conference USA and tied for 17th in the Football Bowl Subdivision - and 29 sacks - second behind Tulsa in C-USA and tied for 13th in the FBS.

*  *  *

HERD COACH Doc Holliday said his offense has to stick with what works.

And for Marshall (4-6, 3-3), that's the up-tempo game that has made it C-USA's best in producing yards (511.3 per game) and points (38.8 per game).

UAB tried to take a page out of Memphis' book and slow the game down. The Blazers dropped eight defenders into coverage to force the run and Marshall complied, running on 28 out of 41 first-half plays. That led to just 121 yards and seven points in that first half.

"During the second half of the UAB game, we said we were going to get back in tempo," Holliday said. "When you drop eight there are very few seams to stick the ball into. We had some great throws and great catches. We just have to get back to doing that. Regardless of what they do, we have to do what we do."

In the second half, Marshall rushed 13 times and threw 21, which led to 216 yards and 24 points in those two quarters.

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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