Marshall football: Healthy Rouse ready for Hokies
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - As a native of Harrisonburg, Va., a town just over two hours away from Blacksburg, Va., Marshall defensive tackle James Rouse will likely have plenty of requests for tickets to the Thundering Herd's game Saturday at Virginia Tech.
"I'll probably have around 15 to 20," he said, "if I can get enough tickets."
Those folks will get the added pleasure of seeing a healthy Rouse on the field as opposed to the sidelines.
When the Herd (2-1) kicks off against the Hokies (2-1) at noon at Lane Stadium (ESPNU), Rouse will be in the mix, on his rapid ascent from the injury list to the starting lineup - and the captains' lineup. Not only has the redshirt senior impressed on the field, he's impressed his coaches enough to be voted a team captain the last two games.
"I feel really honored that my teammates and my coaches look to me for leadership," he said. "All the other players have seen what I've been through. They know I try to give it my heart every time."
For the previous two seasons, his heart had to battle with his back and his left Achilles tendon. The former cut his 2011 season short after three games. The latter kept him from seeing even one snap of action in 2012.
He was able to make it through this preseason healthy, so he was a bit of an unknown commodity when he finally took the field for the Miami University game. He wasn't much of a mystery from there. After three games, Rouse leads Marshall with 2.5 sacks and is second on the team with four tackles for a loss. He's recorded seven tackles overall, with a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry.
In Marshall's loss to Ohio, he had a hand in both sacks of Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton, recording a solo sack and sharing one with Corey Tindal. Those two sacks were the first Marshall has notched sacks versus Tettleton in three meetings.
"Honestly, I don't feel like I've been doing anything special," he said. "I try to take the approach of going as hard as you can and playing as hard as you can. I know from experience that there's not much guaranteed.
"So I just try to go as hard as I can and whatever happens, happens.
"Everything else that's happening is due to the fact that all four of the d-linemen are playing well, the linebackers are giving us the calls we need and I'm in the right position to make plays," he added.
His teammates aren't just happy to see him back in action, linebacker Jermaine Holmes said. They're ecstatic to see what he's able to do when he's out there and the tenacity he shows.
"He's a joy to have, especially up front to keep away the big boys," Holmes said. "I love it a lot. I'd really never seen him play because he was hurt. But he's really a joy to watch."
There might be a chance the Herd could watch him for another year. Despite being a redshirt senior, he could petition for a sixth year due to his injuries. Rouse said that process is on the back burner for now.
"We've talked about it briefly at the beginning of the season, in the summer," he said. "Right now, I'm just focusing on this season and whatever happens, happens. If I get another one, we'll go from there."
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IT'S BEEN a while since Hokies Coach Frank Beamer has seen Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato in person. The last time Virginia Tech played the Herd, Cato was a freshman in his fourth collegiate game and the Hokies didn't make it easy.
Virginia Tech sacked Cato five times in a 30-10 Herd loss, and Cato completed 17 of 33 passes for 245 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Times have changed, though, and Cato is now one of the Herd's leading career passers just three games into his junior season.
That doesn't surprise Beamer much, though.
"Experience is a wonderful thing," Beamer said. "The more you're in an offense, the more you know where to go with the ball. And the quicker you do that, the more accurate you become. One thing kind of leads to another."
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HOKIES DEFENSIVE back Antone Exum had said previously he hoped to be ready for at least some action against Marshall. He's been on the shelf after tearing his ACL, lateral and medial meniscus while playing pickup basketball in January.
Beamer, though, isn't ready to announce the all-ACC defender's return.
"I'm not sure exactly when he'll be back," Beamer said. "We're not sure right now."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.