CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The MVP of the first half of Marshall's football season isn't easy to choose, and it has nothing to do with the fact there are no names on the backs of the jerseys.
Actually, the MVP isn't even wearing a jersey. But he's down there, clad in green. And over the crowd noise, you should be able to pick out the time-weathered voice that 60-year-old coaches often have.
For the Herd, "MVP" doesn't stand for "Most Valuable Player." "Most Valuable Person" is more fitting.
Chuck Heater, take a bow.
The first-year defensive coordinator's worth to Marshall's reversed fortunes is summed up with one number, provided this week by CoachingSearch.com's Pete Roussel. Roussel charted the 12 most improved scoring defenses in college football this season, and the Herd's defense is the runaway No. 1.
Marshall's defense is allowing almost 24.8 fewer points per game this season compared to last season, shrinking its average from 43.1 points to 18.3 points. The next closest competitor is the Arizona defense led by former West Virginia University defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, allowing 15.5 fewer points per game.
So with Heater guiding the defense, there is a four-score improvement with this season's unit. And if that one number isn't enough, here are a few more to cement his status.
Last season, Marshall was 119th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in points allowed per game. It was 101st in total defense, allowing 456.6 yards per game, and 105th in rushing defense, allowing 203.1 yards per game. This season, the Herd is 10th in total defense (301.5 ypg), tied with Oklahoma State for 14th in scoring defense and 23rd in rushing defense (121.2 ypg).