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Marshall football: More schools moving to high-tempo offenses, Herd’s Holliday says

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's defense struggled last Saturday in the team's 51-41 loss to Purdue, but it wasn't alone in that instance.

There were shootouts aplenty in college football's top 25 alone. Georgia outran Tennessee 51-44. Oregon State edged Arizona 38-35. And how many times does a team score nine touchdowns and lose, like Baylor did against West Virginia, 70-63?

Marshall Coach Doc Holliday said it's a product of the changing face of college football offenses. More and more teams are moving toward high-tempo, 85-play-a-game schemes that spread defenses and employ empty backfields with four- and five-receiver sets.

"It's crazy what's happening in college football," he said. "It really is. It's almost coming down to who's got the ball last. It can be one or two turnovers. In our case, it was one or two turnovers. For some it can be one or two stops."

Holliday gave the example of Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. He considers Diaz, who he knows from his time on North Carolina State's staff, one of the best coordinators in the country on a team that snags the nation's top recruits. Yet the Longhorns had to outlast Oklahoma State 41-36 with the Cowboys starting backup quarterback J.W. Walsh.

The Thundering Herd hosts a high-octane spread offense Saturday when Tulsa visits at 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network), and Holliday said the Herd needs to be ready for another fast-paced game.

"I think everyone's going through some growing pains defensively around the country trying to matchup with what's happened to the offenses," Holliday said. "You've got to catch up quick. I still believe in my heart you win championships by playing great defense. That's still the key to winning championships."

*  *  *

THE HERD now has its second member of the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Sophomore Tommy Shuler, who leads the nation with 51 catches, was added to the list Tuesday.

He joins senior Aaron Dobson. Shuler was named Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week following his 19-catch performance against Purdue, with broke the school record and tied the conference record for single-game receptions.

The award goes to the nation's top receiver. Shuler was one of 11 receivers added to the list.

Holliday said Shuler may not be a big, fast guy, but he's a hard worker with an "it" factor that makes him tough to stop.

"He's extremely quick and he has a great feel for the game as far as finding the open space," he said. "And then (quarterback Rakeem) Cato and him have been playing together for so long, it's almost they have a sense with each other. He can find him, and when he does, good things can happen."

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HOLLIDAY WASN'T too chatty following Saturday's Purdue loss about the gash he suffered across his right cheek during Derek Mitchell's punt return for a touchdown. That didn't change Tuesday as he was sporting nine stitches.

Holliday was cut when an official ran into him while running down the sideline to follow the play. The coach also was flagged for a five-yard delay penalty, but Yahoo! columnist Pat Forde listed Holliday as the coach "who earned his courtesy car" for coaching hurt.

But Holliday said the players didn't pay too much attention to the cut after the game.

"We weren't in a very good mood after the game, because we lost it," he said.

Did he think players might be a little more reticent to complain about simple bumps and bruises when they see their head coach directing the game with blood running down his face?

"I never even thought about that, to be honest," Holliday said.

*  *  *

ON THE injury front, Holliday said offensive lineman Garrett Scott, receiver Antavious Wilson and corner Travon Van should be ready for Saturday's Tulsa game. Scott and Wilson both left the Purdue game hurt, while Van did not make the trip. Holliday said it was due to an injury of undisclosed nature.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.


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