HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall defensive end Alex Bazzie said that, for the Thundering Herd to compete with Ohio in the "Battle for the Bell," they have to improve exponentially with missed tackles. Considering how many the Herd missed against the Bobcats last season, improving shouldn't be too tough.
"We missed 43 tackles against them last year," he said. "That's a lot."
Kickoff is 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Especially since Marshall (1-1) missed just nine tackles last week against Western Carolina. With nine missed tackles, the Herd gave up 144 rushing yards against the Catamounts in a 52-24 win. With 43 missed tackles, Marshall allowed 271 rushing yards - and 559 total yards - in a 44-7 loss last season to the Bobcats.
Bazzie said Marshall coaches have reminded the defense of those numbers from 2011 throughout this week's practices. The Bobcats (2-0) haven't slowed down this year, averaging 234 rushing yards and 541.5 total yards, a number that's 14th best in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"You've really got to stay disciplined," Bazzie said. "They're a disciplined team and when you play a disciplined team, you don't have room for any errors."
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THE HERD spread around the wealth in the backfield once again last Saturday. Five running backs carried the ball - Steward Butler, Kevin Grooms, Travon Van, Remi Watson and Essray Taliaferro. It was the second consecutive game five running backs got carries and the second straight game that Butler, Grooms, Van and Watson received multiple carries.
Will there be a point where the Herd starts narrowing down the number of backs in each game? Coach Doc Holliday said he doesn't see that happening any time soon.
"I think all four of those guys can play and will play," he said. "I think the one thing we've done, where we've helped ourselves, we snapped it 105 times the first game and 90-some the second game. Whenever you can do that you can play a lot more people. Butler, Grooms, Remi and Travon have all shown they can play and deserve playing time."
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WHILE PLENTY of focus has remained on Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, his current Bobcats teammate and former teammate at Norman North High in Oklahoma, running back Beau Blankenship, is one of the nation's top rushers.
Blankenship, a 5-foot-9, 202-pound redshirt junior, is averaging 138.5 yards per game, the seventh-best average in the FBS. Ohio Coach Frank Solich is not afraid to give him the ball. He carried 31 times versus Penn State and 27 times versus New Mexico State. Solich said Blankenship's running style makes him tough to bring down.
"That style of back that has great toughness like he's got, he goes into contact extremely well and gets yards after contact," Solich said. "He'll, by his toughness, make what normally would be a short gain, a two- or three-yard gain into a five- or six-yard gain. And as the game goes on, if you're able to wear down an opponent, a runner with a style like his becomes even more effective in the second half and late in the ball game."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.r...@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.