"You look at the down and distance if the other guy comes in," he said of Thomas. "He's probably going to be more mobile. Those tough downs, those third and 3s and third and 6s, those pass-runs that bind you ... you can look at him beating you with his feet rather than his arm."
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UTEP RUNNING back Donald Buckram looks healthy after dealing with knee issues early in the season.
Buckram, a 5-10, 195-pound senior, led the nation with 1,594 yards last season. This year he's gained just 225 yards (56.3 per game) and one touchdown. He has played against Memphis (59 yards), Rice (47), UAB (38) and Tulane (81).
Last week against the Green Wave he averaged 8.1 yards per carry and scored his first touchdown since last year's game against Marshall.
"You watch him from Memphis all the way through," Holliday said. "He was a little tentative against Memphis. You watch him against Tulane last week, he stuck his foot in the ground and got vertical."
Added Rippon: "That No. 3, banged up, that kid is doing a heck of a job rehabbing. He's not there then all of a sudden at Tulane - boom - it's like he's not missed a step."
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UTEP LEADS the all-time series with Marshall 2-1. All games have been decided by 28 points or more.
That could be attributed, in part, to the fact that the road team must travel 1,635 miles and two time zones from one campus to the other.
Holliday remembered making the trip to El Paso for the Sun Bowl in 1987 when he was an assistant coach at West Virginia.
"It was Christmas Day and it snowed, believe it or not," he said. "What we should have done was scheduled this game for noon, that way for them it would have been 10 a.m."
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LAST YEAR'S trip to UTEP not only included a 31-point beating, but culminated with Mark Snyder's resignation as head coach less than 24 hours later upon the return to Huntington.
"That was just a crazy trip out there," Marshall center Chad Schofield said. "This year our No. 1 focus is on UTEP. They laid the wood to us last year. We were all in shock. We want to send them home having the feeling we had last year."