HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Here's Chris Rippon, standing on the 30-yard line at dusk on the Edwards Stadium turf, talking defense with a sportswriter.
As if preparing for and scheming ways to defend evolving college football offenses isn't time-consuming enough, right?
It's a stressful task, too. Check out that bald dome that Coach Rip often covers with a ballcap or headset. Spend one's life focused on defending ball carriers and it's the hair that escapes.
Rippon is Marshall's third-year defensive coordinator, and this Saturday (8 p.m., CBS Sports Network) the Thundering Herd (3-4, 2-1) will try to even its record in one final Conference USA throwdown with the UCF Knights (5-2, 3-0).
UCF is an intriguing test for the MU defense, which has shown subtle statistical improvements this month. The Knights do nothing exceptionally or poorly, ranking in the middle of the Football Bowl Subdivision pack in just about every offensive category.
The Knights are No. 56 out of 120 teams in rush offense, No. 59 in pass offense, No. 63 in total offense and No. 40 in scoring offense. That last ranking is the most important, Rippon said.
Even a scribe like me can comprehend that.
"It's always going to come down to points," he said.
That's why the veteran defensive assistant has felt the heat of a blitz this season. Scrutiny comes with the territory and the points have been plentiful.
In its first seven games, Marshall surrendered 45 or more points four times, making this the first season since 1968 that has occurred.
West Virginia racked up 69 points in the season opener. Rice (51), Purdue (51) and Tulsa (45) piled on the points in three consecutive weeks.
Then, finally, came last week's rock-solid performance at "The Rock" after an off week in the schedule. The Herd defense held Southern Mississippi to 24 points - the unit's best total against an FBS opponent this season - and 331 yards of total offense.
That is the fewest yards Marshall has allowed this season, and the fourth consecutive game that number has gone down.
"The competitive nature of people, if it's not getting done, they try to do more," Rippon said. "We had a bunch of guys that were frustrated and they were trying to bring more onto themselves and sacrificing their responsibilities.