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Marshall football: Running backs ready for Pirates

HUNTINGTON - The Marshall football team's running back situation likely won't be as dire for Friday's East Carolina game as it looked at the end of the Thundeering Herd's win over Houston last Saturday.

Steward Butler, Marshall's second leading rusher with 484 yards and three touchdowns, should be ready for the 2 p.m. kickoff at ECU (CBS Sports Network), said Marshall Coach Doc Holliday. Butler sat out the Houston game with a cast on his left wrist. That wrist will remain protected Holliday said, but it won't be the thick cast Butler wore against Houston.

Remi Watson, however, is questionable, according to Holliday. Watson injured his left leg against the Cougars and put no weight on it as he was helped off the field. That left the Herd with Kevin Grooms and Essray Taliaferro to take the carries.

Grooms maintained his season form, rushing for 155 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. His 732 yards this season is the fourth-best single-season total for a freshman in Marshall history.

"Anytime you can get him in space, he's hard to handle," Holliday said of Grooms. "He can make things happen when he does get in space, there's no doubt."

Taliaferro shouldered his biggest load of the season, carrying 18 times for 66 yards. He had carried the ball just 13 times in the previous 10 games.

"He's had to step up at times to get things done and he has," Holliday said. "He's a solid back. You remember during camp that he had a good camp and he'll have to step up again Friday."

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HOLLIDAY SAID that, for the most part, the Herd should be fine on the injury front entering Friday's game. Other than Watson, he said receiver/returner Andre Snipes-Booker (possible concussion) could still have some issues returning.

But senior receiver Aaron Dobson (knee) practiced Monday after missing the Houston game.

Yet while they might be able to take the field, Holliday said many of the players will be working through bumps and bruises.

"This time of year, you have a lot of guys playing that are still banged up," he said.

Kicker Justin Haig is one of those players. He kicked three field goals against Houston, including a career-high 45-yarder to win the game, but did so while fighting through bad back spasms. He's gone through treatment three times a week to stay in the lineup.

Holliday said there's a chance Haig and fellow kicker Trent Martin could share kickoff duties against ECU. Martin kicked off twice against Houston, getting the Herd's only touchback.

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QUARTERBACK RAKEEM CATO has said in the past that he's not a running quarterback. That image changed a bit against Houston and could remain different against East Carolina.

Cato carried the ball nine times for 32 yards against the Cougars. One carry went for 17 yards and he scored a five-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Marshall's only touchdown of the second half.

The Herd is seeing more three-man defensive lines in the second half of the season, and Cato said both quarterbacks coach Tony Petersen and running backs coach JaJuan Seider have talked to him about the finer points of pulling the ball down and taking off.

Cato's touchdown run was the first of his career.

"When the run is there, I'm going to go out there and just run the ball and hopefully get positive yards," he said. "If it's there, take it. If it's not, don't force it and just go on with the play call and read everything out. If the run's there, I'm going to take it."

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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