Marshall football: Herd plans to do more work on punting
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- For as much as Marshall's football team works on punting, Coach Doc Holliday said it's been frustrating to see the problems that have cropped up on that unit.
"There's nobody that works on punt team more than we do," Holliday said. "My coaches get upset with me because we spend so much time on punt, whether it's meetings or practice."
After last week when Marshall allowed its second touchdown on a blocked punt this season, the Thundering Herd will spend even more time with that department as it prepares for Saturday's noon game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium against Southern Mississippi (CBS Sports Network).
Holliday said that blocked punt, with 5:13 left in the first quarter, wasn't the only reason the Herd (4-3, 2-1 Conference USA) lost 51-49 to Middle Tennessee State, but it certainly played a factor. A blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Herd's triple-overtime loss to Virginia Tech did the same. That hasn't been an issue for Marshall in a long time. Before this season, the last blocked punt returned for a touchdown came against Southern Miss on Nov. 25, 2006.
There is no specific special teams coordinator on the Marshall staff, Holliday said. Special teams are coached by committee, though Holliday declined Tuesday to say which coaches oversee which categories. Holliday did say he found nothing wrong with the punt scheme, though it was up to the coaches to make sure the players understand it.
"There's nothing, scheme-wise, that we did and that's what frustrates me more than anything else," he said. "But you know what? The bottom line is I've got a big old sign in the coaches' meeting room that says, 'You've got to see what you coach on the film.' You've got to see what you coach there, and if you're not, you failed. The scheme part is fine. It's got to be executed by the players and we have to do a better job of setting it up in practice.
"I don't mean to make it simple, but do your job," Holliday added. "I don't have a lot of slogans, but as coaches and players, we need to do our jobs. And whatever it is, you make sure you get it done in practice."
It's been almost a full calendar year since Southern Miss (0-7, 0-3 C-USA) has blocked a punt. The last came against the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Nov. 3, 2012. The last time the Golden Eagles returned a blocked punt for a touchdown was against Nevada on Dec. 24, 2011.
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THE HERD returned to more of its high-tempo offense against Middle Tennessee. The 87 plays it ran against the Blue Raiders were the most its run in a game since going for 87 versus Virginia Tech and the most its run in regulation since going for 94 plays versus Miami (Ohio). And it was a major shift from the 69 plays Marshall ran against Florida Atlantic.
Holliday said the Herd was playing its best against Middle Tennessee when it was running at a high tempo, but don't expect the team to completely abandon the idea of slowing down the pace the rest of this season.
"I think we have to be able to do that, but if there's a point in the game where you need to slow it down, we've proven we can do that, too, against a pretty solid team," he said. "Hopefully, when you get to that point, the game's under control a little bit. You have certain situations, as a coach, where you want to slow it down a little bit. I think you just get a feel for that during the game. It's great to have that option, when you do, that the situation's under control."
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THERE WILL BE two first-time game captains Saturday - linebacker Evan McKelvey and offensive lineman Alex Schooler. McKelvey recorded 12 tackles, 10 solos, with two tackles for a loss against Middle Tennessee, while Schooler played every snap at right guard. The other two are corner Monterius Lovett, a three-time captain, and center Chris Jasperse, who was named captain for a sixth straight week. ... Holliday said that strong safety D.J. Hunter, banged up on the last drive of the Middle Tennessee game, would be back on the practice field this week.
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.