Marshall football: RedHawks' Nunley expects test from Herd
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dayonne Nunley will not ease himself back into game action.
The senior Miami University corner, who sat the spring after a knee injury cut short his 2012 season, will test that knee against Marshall, the nation's top passing team last year, when the two teams clash at 7 p.m. Saturday on the CBS Sports Network. Yet the two-time all-Mid-American Conference first-team pick wouldn't have it any other way.
"They're a great offense," Nunley said. "They execute. They throw the ball a lot and we're preparing ourselves for that. They're a great team and this should be a great game."
The RedHawks slid to 104th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total defense in 2012, but it was the pass defense that kept it from falling any further. Miami ranked 54th in the FBS in average passing yards allowed (226.6 per game) and Nunley, a 5-foot-8, 184-pound Monroeville, Pa., native, led the way. He picked off three passes as a junior and broke up eight more. That came after a sophomore season where he picked off three passes and broke up another 13.
"He's a big-play guy," Miami Coach Don Treadwell said. "He has certain intangibles that the great ones have. You can only coach so much, then you have to have certain instincts that shine on game day, and Dayonne has them."
Nunley's 12 career interceptions put him sixth on Miami's all-time list, four picks behind career leader Ron Carpenter, who serves as the RedHawks' defensive backs coach.
But it's not just on Saturdays when that caliber of play comes out, Treadwell said. Nunley is an on-field leader who makes sure his practice performances mirror his game output.
"He's not just a game-day performer," Treadwell said. "He goes out of his way to make sure, especially at his position and those that surround him, that everybody is locked in on their assignments."
Nunley won't accept all the credit for what he's been able to do in his Miami career. There are plenty of other guys, he said, who have contributed to his success.
"We have a great defensive line and great linebackers," he said. "They're going to get after it and give me the opportunity to do what I do best."
He'll have to be at his best Saturday. The Thundering Herd threw for 365.08 yards per game last season and returns 2012 Conference USA MVP quarterback Rakeem Cato, record-setting receiver Tommy Shuler and tight end Gator Hoskins. From looking at film, Nunley sees that the Herd's receivers are exceptional route-runners and knows he'll be in for a challenge against Cato.
"He's a great quarterback," Nunley said. "He throws the ball around and knows his offense."
Treadwell said Nunley will have to remain an exceptional practice performer this week, as his teammates will need to look at his example to get ready for such a potent offense.
"That's a great challenge," Treadwell said of stopping Marshall's offense. "That's something we're still studying now. Hopefully we have the answer, quite frankly, by game day. But let me just tell you, we have a tremendous amount of respect for how explosive their offense is and they demonstrate that with every team they played."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at email@example.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.