Marshall football: Spotlight now on Herd's Hoskins
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Marshall tight end Gator Hoskins didn't waste much time becoming a factor in Thursday's game at Middle Tennessee State - even if, by his own admission, those opportunities are harder to come by this season.
Hoskins caught his sixth touchdown pass of the season in the second quarter, giving Marshall its first lead of the game, 21-14, over the Blue Raiders. It was Hoskins' fourth catch of the half, one that he ended with 67 yards.
The Blue Raiders were able to tie the game before halftime, with a 16-yard pass from quarterback Logan Kilgore to receiver Christian Collis with 27 seconds left in the second quarter.
It hasn't been as easy to get open for the senior in 2013. His six touchdowns lead the Thundering Herd, but it's coming against more double teams and bracket coverage. It's not as much as receiver Tommy Shuler sees, Hoskins said earlier this week, but more than he saw in 2012. He set the single-season record for touchdowns by a tight end last year, with 10.
But that came, he said, with senior receivers Aaron Dobson and Antavious Wilson on the outside, taking the pressure off Hoskins over the middle.
"Last year, we had Dobson and Tay and going into the season, a lot of people game-planned around Dobson," Hoskins said. "That allowed me to get open and make a couple of plays. This year, they're game planning around me and Shuler. It's a lot tougher to make plays, but you've still got to make plays."
He made plenty in the first half versus MTSU. He was on the receiving end of quarterback Rakeem Cato's first completion of the night, a 21-yarder. A 30-yard catch later in the half initially was called a touchdown, but Hoskins was ruled down at the 1-foot line after a review.
Hoskins was a quarterback at Eastside High in Gainesville, Fla., but has evolved into an effective pass-catching tight end in his college years. That growth simply came from hard work, he said.
"Practicing, practicing it every day," he said. "Working and working and working and getting experience from other guys, knowledge they have about the game, just telling me different things."
Some hullabaloo apparently was made on the Fox Sports 1 broadcast, when Hoskins was seen wearing sunglasses on the sideline, but those were to alleviate problems he's had with migraines.
BLUE RAIDERS starting linebacker Christian Henry has a special connection to Marshall University.
Henry's father Charles was a freshman linebacker of the 1971 "Young Thundering Herd," the first following the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 players, coaches, staff and boosters. He led the team in tackles in 1971 and 1972, still holds the team record for tackles in a game - 30 versus Miami (Ohio) in 1972 - and was inducted into Marshall's Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
Christian Henry, a 6-foot, 224-pound redshirt junior, entered Thursday's game third on the Blue Raiders with 47 tackles. He has 1.5 tackles for loss, a sack and two forced fumbles.
THURSDAY'S GAME was designated a "blackout" for Middle Tennessee and its fans. Players wore black uniforms and fans were asked to dress in black for the game. There was a lot more aluminum than black, though, as the MTSU crowd was pretty sparse.
Regardless, Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said earlier this week that gimmicks like blackouts weren't very important to the outcome of a game.
"I never felt that uniforms made a whole hell of a lot of difference, to be honest," he said. "I saw some blackouts last week and they all got their (tails) beat. I think it's all about preparation and preparing to go play. If I've got to put a uniform on a football team to motivate them, they've got the wrong coach.
CLINT VAN HORN, a redshirt sophomore from Beckley, made his first career start Thursday at right tackle ... Cato's touchdown pass to Jazz King in the first quarter marked the 25th consecutive game in which he's thrown a touchdown. That's one behind Fresno State's Derek Carr for best active streak in the nation, and one behind Chad Pennington for the top streak in Marshall history ... Cato also passed Michael Payton in the first half to move to third on the career pass attempts list, giving him 1,126.
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.