HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's offensive fireworks don't shine as bright as they did during the Thundering Herd's breakout 2012 season. The unit is still near the top, but not as close to the summit as it was last year.
Yet the Herd doesn't feel it's missing a step. It just believes it's walking a little differently.
Marshall's offense has shown a few different wrinkles in recent games that might be cutting down on points and yards, but has players and coaches certain that they'll give opposing defenses more to worry about. That includes Florida Atlantic University, which faces the Herd at 5 p.m. Saturday in Boca Raton, Fla. (Fox College Sports).
Herd Coach Doc Holliday mentioned the changes in his offense after the Herd's convincing 34-10 win over the University of Texas at San Antonio, where Marshall gained 404 yards of total offense.
"I've said at times I don't think we're statistically better than last year," he said, "but we can be a better offense."
Marshall's best game in 2013 in terms of yards was the 591 gained in a 52-14 rout of Miami (Ohio). That would have ranked as the sixth-best total of the 2012 season. The Herd hasn't reached the 500-yard mark in its last three games, but fell below 500 yards in a game just four times out of 12 in 2012. And after scoring 52 and 55 points, respectively, in its first two games, the Herd has scored 31, 21 and 34 in its last three. Last season, the Herd never had a three-game streak where it failed to score at least 38 points.
Marshall averages 469.4 yards per game this season, 34th best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, after averaging 534.3 yards (seventh best) in 2012. Yards per play are down from 5.9 in 2012 (45th in the FBS) to 5.66 in 2013 (70th in the FBS). And Marshall's scoring average has dropped slightly, from 40.9 points per game (seventh in the FBS) to 38.6 (29th in the FBS).
The Herd isn't worried. The team sees it as evidence in its ability to change tempos and slow down the pace when necessary. A prime example came in the fourth quarter against UTSA. After the Roadrunners scored to cut Marshall's lead to 27-10, the Herd offense embarked on an 11-play touchdown drive lasting 5 minutes, 58 seconds, an eternity in Marshall's world.
Offensive lineman Garrett Scott said the change of pace provides a physical benefit - allowing the Herd offense and defense both to catch their breath - as well as a mental one. Not only does it give the Marshall players evidence that they can vary their offense, it gives the opposing defense something new to deal with.