www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd takes Middle Tennessee game personally, pummels Blue Raiders, 49-24 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141011/DM03/141019850 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141011/DM03/141019850 Sat, 11 Oct 2014 17:37:28 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - The jawing between Middle Tennessee and Marshall's football teams began on social media during the week. It continued as the Thundering Herd and Blue Raiders lined up Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The Herd got the last word.

In a game Marshall players called "personal," quarterback Rakeem Cato threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns and running back Devon Johnson rushed for 134 yards and three scores as Marshall beat Middle Tennessee, 49-24.

Despite key injuries at receiver, linebacker, defensive end and offensive line, plus 101 yards in penalties, the Herd (6-0, 2-0 Conference USA) gouged the Blue Raiders (4-3, 3-1 C-USA) for 589 yards of offense and held MT to nearly 60 yards below their 2014 rushing average.

"We knew we couldn't leave this stadium without this 'W,'" Cato said. "There was so much on it. It was homecoming week, (former Herd running back Ahmad) Bradshaw came back, there were lot of things where we knew we had to get this 'W.'"

While the memories still stung of Marshall's last-second, 51-49 loss at Middle Tennessee last year, the Marshall players mentioned some of the trash talk from Blue Raiders players over social media heading into this season's game. The two teams continued their war of words face to face, which likely led to some of the 202 penalty yards accrued Saturday, 101 on both sides.

The Herd struck first, jumping to a 14-0 first-quarter lead on a pair of Johnson touchdown runs. Middle Tennessee countered near the end of the first, when quarterback Austin Grammer hit Jordan Parker for a six-yard scoring pass, but Marshall then retaliated with Cato's first touchdown pass.

That throw, a 26-yarder to Craig Wilkins, pulled the senior quarterback into a tie with former North Carolina State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson - now with the Seattle Seahawks - with 38 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the NCAA major college record. Cato can break the record next Saturday in front of his hometown Miami, Fla., crowd at Florida International University.

Cato matched that mark despite being without his top two outside receivers. Davonte Allen missed his second straight game with an upper body injury, then Angelo Jean-Louis was gone after just one catch with a rib injury. Wilkins stepped in with 77 yards and two touchdowns on five catches, while Deon-Tay McManus, who moved to receiver from tight end just three weeks ago, caught two passes for 68 yards and a score.

The Herd also went without defensive end Gary Thompson (leg) and linebacker Evan McKelvey (knee). McKelvey is now lost for the year, and his roommate D.J. Hunter wore his No. 31 in his honor. Left guard Blake Brooks, who started the game on the bench nursing a leg injury, came into the game for one play and had to be helped off of it, putting no weight on this left leg.

"I thought some guys stepped up today," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "We had some injuries and I thought some other guys stepped up and played, and that's what good football teams do."

Marshall shut the door on the Blue Raiders on the first drive of the second half. The Herd stagnated at the end of the second quarter and allowed MT to score on a four-yard Grammer pass to Shane Tucker with 25 seconds left and enter halftime down 28-17. Deandre Reaves took the opening kick of the second half to the Marshall 41, then the Herd went 59 yards in five plays and 1 minute, 13 seconds, ending the drive with a four-yard Cato touchdown run.

"We knew we always have to come out and the third quarter is the most important quarter of any football game," Johnson said. "If you're up, you just want to punch it in there and for sure get the win if you're up big."

Middle Tennessee entered Saturday's game averaging 224.7 rushing yards per game, second-best in the conference, and the Herd held the Blue Raiders to 169 rushing yards. Jordan Parker led MT with 100 yards on the ground. Grammer completed 25 of 37 passes for 201 yards and two scores, but fell victim to a leaping A.J. Leggett interception. The Blue Raiders converted just three of 14 third downs. Meanwhile, the Herd was 4 of 5 on fourth-down conversions.

With the win, Marshall became bowl eligible for the second straight year and third in the last four. It is the only major college team in the country to have scored at least 40 points in every game it has played this season. Next Saturday's game at FIU is scheduled for a 6 p.m. start and will be broadcast over the American Sports Network.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Herd picked to finish last in Conference USA http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141008/DM03/141009243 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141008/DM03/141009243 Wed, 8 Oct 2014 22:47:41 -0400

from staff reports

The Marshall women's basketball team was picked by Conference USA coaches to finish 14th out of 14 teams in the league, C-USA announced Wednesday. The Thundering Herd finished last season at 11-20 and 3-13 in C-USA, winning its conference tournament opener versus Florida Atlantic, but falling in the next round to UAB.

Middle Tennessee was picked to repeat as C-USA champion, followed by Western Kentucky in second, Southern Mississippi in third, UTEP in fourth, Charlotte in fifth, Old Dominion in sixth, Louisiana Tech in seventh, UAB in eighth, North Texas and UTSA tied for ninth, Florida International in 11th, Rice in 12th, FAU in 13th and Marshall.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd thinks Middle Tennessee defense better than its numbers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141008/DM03/141009254 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141008/DM03/141009254 Wed, 8 Oct 2014 21:45:47 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Neither defense performed very well in last season's scoring avalanche between the Marshall and Middle Tennessee football teams. Combined, the Thundering Herd and Blue Raiders allowed 1,033 yards and 100 points at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Yet MT's defense edged Marshall's by a nose, giving up 49 points compared to the 51 Marshall allowed in the Herd's loss.

Neither team wants a repeat of last season's shootout when they face off at noon Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (Fox Sports Net). But based on this year's numbers, Marshall is better suited to stop that from happening. The Herd leads Conference USA in scoring defense (15.8 points allowed per game) and total defense (319.8 yards allowed per game). Middle Tennessee is seventh in C-USA in scoring defense (30.7 papg) and eighth in total defense (453.0 yapg).

Marshall's offense isn't focused on numbers on paper. The Herd (5-0, 1-0 C-USA) pays attention to what it sees, an opportunistic, turnover-hungry defense that has pushed the Blue Raiders (4-2, 3-0 C-USA) to the top of the East Division standings.

Those forced turnovers are Middle Tennessee's calling card once again this season. The Blue Raiders forced 33 last season, which ranked fifth in the Football Bowl Subdivision. They're a bit off that pace this season with 12 forced turnovers, but that's still good enough to be tied with 14 other teams for 17th in the FBS.

"For one, it stops drives," MT linebacker T.T. Barber said. "It kills their momentum and for us, it's a momentum-builder. When we go out the next time, it's not a crime to get another takeaway. That's what we preach about takeaways, get in there and take the ball."

The Blue Raiders picked off Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke three times so, even though he threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, the Monarchs were neutralized enough for MT to win 41-28. One of those interceptions came on the Old Dominion 27, which the Blue Raiders turned into a touchdown two plays later.

Last week against Southern Miss, Middle Tennessee pounced on a second-quarter Southern Miss fumble at the Blue Raiders 14 and went on a four-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. MT needed those points, as it beat USM 37-31.

"It's just playing violent and playing physical with strength and effort, toughness and attitude" Barber said. "It's all about who wants the ball more."

The Blue Raiders' top ball hawk is strong safety Kevin Byard, who has a team-high four interceptions this season and, just halfway through his junior year, already has 13 career interceptions with four returned for touchdowns.

"What I think makes Kevin good is, I think, his preparation throughout the week," Middle Tennessee coach Rick Stockstill said. "He practices every day like it's a game. Even when he's not in, he's getting mental reps back there. He's up here in the office a lot studying film."

Middle Tennessee's defense will face a Marshall offense much different than the one that entered last season's game. Rather than put most of the emphasis on quarterback Rakeem Cato's arm, the Herd is posting nearly identical running and passing numbers. Marshall averages 299.6 rushing yards and 296.0 passing yards. That 595.6 yards per game of total offense leads both C-USA and the FBS.

"We're going to have be good on early downs," Stockstill said. "If Marshall can get into third and 3 or 4 consistently, third and 2 or 3 consistently, it's going to make it harder for us to get off the field. Because now they can run the ball or throw it.

"We've got to do a good job on first down and second down of getting them into a predictable play call on third down," he added. "If they've got their choice, run or pass, that makes it that much more difficult to defend."

Despite Marshall's offensive success and the relative lack of defensive success with Middle Tennessee, Herd offensive coordinator Bill Legg isn't entering Saturday's game expecting it to be a breeze. The Blue Raiders use a lot of movement up front and play multiple versions of man-to-man defense in their secondary. The numbers might not be stellar, he said, but the MT defense is dangerous.

"This is a good defense," Legg said. "I don't look at stats. I watch film. The film tells me everything I need to know."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Middle Tennessee giving Herd familiar look http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009361 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009361 Tue, 7 Oct 2014 22:19:48 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday said his Thundering Herd will feel some familiarities when the team lines up at noon Saturday againt Middle Tennessee. What the Herd players face that afternoon in Joan C. Edwards Stadium will feel a lot like what they face each day in practice.

The Blue Raiders (4-2, 3-0 Conference USA) try to maintain a balanced offense much like the Herd (5-0, 1-0 C-USA). Marshall's is more prolific, outgaining Middle Tennessee 595.6 yards per game to 492.0, but the ratio of rushing yards to passing yards is nearly 1-to-1 for both.

Holliday credited Middle Tennessee quarterback Austin Grammer for that. Grammer, who replaced the graduated Logan Kilgore, is throwing for 258.5 yards per game with seven touchdowns and rushing for 43.7 yards per game with five touchdowns.

"The thing about Grammer is they haven't missed a beat offensively with him throwing the football, because he can throw extremely well," Holliday said. "But he runs better than the quarterback they had a year ago. They have a lot of designated quarterback runs for him. He does a good job of getting out to the perimeter. He can beat you with his feet."

Defensively, both teams run man-press coverage, where the defensive backs are called upon to play tight man-to-man, whereas many other teams will predominantly run zone defenses. Holliday, who had coached receivers as an assistant at both West Virginia and North Carolina State, said the fact Marshall runs man-press will be a big boost for the team when it faces Middle Tennessee's version. The toughest transition, Holliday said, was to get a team ready for man coverage when they hadn't practiced against it through the spring and preseason.

"Our guys see that every day," Holliday said. "That's the hardest thing they can go up against. And if you get into a game and you do get cushion and you do get (zone coverage), that stuff's pretty easy to react to.

"Middle's going to play a lot of man-press," he added. "Our guys will not be surprised and be unprepared to go against it because they go against it every day, and vice versa with Middle. I expect their receivers, since they go against it every day, when they go up against our guys, it's not something they haven't seen.

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HOLLIDAY WOULD NOT get specific about the Herd's injury issues, though Marshall suffered some in last Saturday's win versus Old Dominion. Guard Blake Brooks, linebacker Evan McKelvey and defensive end Gary Thompson all left the game with leg injuries. Thompson was on crutches following the game. The Herd also played without receiver Davonte Allen, who suffered an upper body injury against Akron. After the ODU game, Holliday said Allen was "week to week."

"With a couple of guys, they're week to week, and with a couple of guys, they're game to game," Holliday said. "I think for the most part they'll all be out there, but we may have a couple of guys that are not."

MT coach Rick Stockstill is dealing injury problems on his roster, too. According to the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Blue Raiders lost offensive linemen Adam Stickel (knee) and David Adams (undisclosed) in their win last Saturday over Southern Miss. Stickel is listed as MT's starting left guard and Adams is his backup. Starting center Daniel Stephens didn't play the USM game due to an injury suffered in practice.

Corner Khari Burke, a usual starter at corner, missed his second straight game with an ankle injury and the player who replaced him, Jamarcus Howard, left the USM game with an undisclosed injury. Also, the newspaper reported, running back Shane Tucker left that game with a separated shoulder. Their status for Saturday's game was unknown as of Monday night.

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THE MAJORITY of Marshall's conference-leading rushing average is thanks to running back Devon Johnson. The junior is averaging a C-USA-best 136 yards per game. Yet a growing chuck of it is coming from redshirt junior Remi Watson. Watson recorded his second straight 100-yard game with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries versus Old Dominion.

Watson actually owns a better yards-per-carry average than Johnson, edging him 8.3 yards a carry to Johnson's 8.0. Watson has averaged 11 yards per carry over the last two games, while Johnson averaged 19. With neither shouldering a massive load, Watson said both backs feel better throughout the game and after.

"As a running back, you get hit every play," Watson said. "So when you're rotating series like that, you feel a whole lot better on Sunday than those backs that are getting 25 or 27 carries a game. It keeps you fresh for long-term purposes throughout the season."

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CAPTAINS FOR Saturday's game are center Chris Jasperse, Johnson, defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers and linebacker Neville Hewitt. It's Jasperse's fourth week as captain, the second week for Johnson and Hewitt and the first for Myers.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Chuck McGill: Pitt set for W.Va. return while WVU targets SEC road game in '16 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009362 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009362 Tue, 7 Oct 2014 22:19:08 -0400 CHARLESTON, W.Va. - If there isn't a brawl in the backyard, why not move to the neighbor's property and scuffle a bit?

The University of Pittsburgh is finally scheduled to play college football in the Mountain State again, but it isn't in Morgantown. Marshall agreed to a home-and-home series with Pitt, which was announced Tuesday morning. The Thundering Herd will play at Heinz Field on Oct. 1, 2016, while Pitt will visit Huntington on Sept. 26, 2020.

It is quite the coup for sixth-year Herd athletic director Mike Hamrick, who has brokered home-and-home contracts with programs in power five conferences: Louisville, Purdue, North Carolina State, plus series in the next decade with East Carolina and Navy.

Crafting a non-conference schedule is no easy task for athletic directors these days, especially in the new era of the College Football Playoff. ADs are still evaluating the strength of schedule component, and Marshall's burgeoning program is sometimes a tough sell for teams in the power five leagues.

How much will a win over a Conference USA team - even a championship-caliber program - be of benefit? How much will a loss to a non-power five team like Marshall hurt?

"Scheduling is the hardest thing I have to do," Hamrick said Tuesday. "My philosophy has been home-and-home, no more two-for-ones, because I just believe we're at the level where we play home-and-homes. I will go on the road for a big guarantee game if we have seven home games."

That is the case for Marshall in 2016, although Hamrick finagled a return game down the road. The Herd is already scheduled to host Louisville - a game that was moved off this season's schedule - and Akron in '16. Hamrick went fishing for a power five team searching for a home game to complement those non-conference FBS games.

"We've been talking to Pitt for a long time," he said.

There is a connection, of course. In 2006, Wendy Meyers joined the Pitt athletic department after spending 17 years at UNLV, where she worked with Hamrick. Meyers is Pitt's executive associate athletic director and chief financial officer.

The two schools put a bow on the two-game series while WVU is seemingly searching for a 2016 opponent, too. The Mountaineers have a home game against Youngstown State and a neutral-site game against Brigham Young (in Landover, Md.) scheduled, which opens the door for a road game.

That'd give West Virginia a non-conference slate set up the same as the 2014 season: FCS home game, neutral-site game, road game against power five (or high visibility) school.

Indications are that Missouri is the school with which WVU is negotiating a football contract.

Missouri plays in the Southeastern Conference's East Division and has zero non-conference games scheduled for the 2016 season. WVU could slide into the Tigers' season-opening slot in a game played in Columbia, Mo., the weekend before the Mountaineers begin their home slate against Youngstown State on Sept. 10, 2016.

Meanwhile, it'll be Marshall zipping past Morgantown for its first-ever meeting with Pitt in two seasons.

It's a union that just makes sense for the Herd.

"We want to play home-and-homes that are easy for the fans to get there and easy for us to get there," Hamrick said. "N.C. State isn't far, East Carolina isn't far, Ohio is not far. We've got Navy, Pitt, Louisville - all home-and-home.

"You find schools that fit the criteria and you work and work and communicate and it's kind of a game. They've got other options and we've got other options, but it's kind of like playing poker. You see who'll fold 'em and who'll hold 'em and we held tight with this one."

It's challenging at times to find someone willing to go all-in on Huntington. That isn't a slight to the town, but an opposing school will naturally look at how its own program can be enhanced by making the trip.

"We're not in Broward County (in Florida), we're not in Dallas, we're not in the Tidewater area (of Virginia) where there's 50 prospects in a 30-mile radius," Hamrick said. "Teams won't come here to play us because it's not going to enhance their recruiting in the area.

"We have a lot going against us in scheduling. At the same time, maybe our success helps us with some of these schools that are really trying to go play in the top four in hopes that the selection committee will see that, hey, they beat Marshall on their field."

There may not be any brawls in the yard, but sometimes scheduling schools is enough of a fight.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd secondary backing up 'No Fly Zone' nickname http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009364 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009364 Tue, 7 Oct 2014 22:08:06 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's secondary has itself a nickname - The "No Fly Zone." It can thank safety A.J. Leggett for that one. He saw Michigan State's defensive backs use the monicker last season and figured it would fit for his group.

But there's something important about giving yourself a nickname. Leggett knows that, and said it before the interviewer had a chance to finish his sentence.

"You've got to live up to it," Leggett said.

So far, the Thundering Herd's secondary has. It's allowing just 200.2 passing yards per game, the 28th-best average in the Football Bowl Subdivision, heading into Saturday's noon matchup with Middle Tennessee at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (Fox Sports Net).

Leggett said Marshall's secondary welcomes opponents' attempts to poke holes in that nickname.

"We love pressure," Leggett said. "We love competing. We love pressure on that back end."

Attitude has played a significant part in Marshall's success against the pass, safety Taj Letman said. No Herd defensive back is worried if a quarterback tries to target him. Each one wants the opportunity for a big play.

"It's just a mentality this year," Letman said. "Everybody wants to make that play. It's not just one person saying, man I hope that ball comes to me. Everybody's praying, 'Man, I hope they throw the ball my way.'"

Letman also mentioned depth as a key element, which was evident in Marshall's win over Old Dominion. The Herd faced the Division I active leader in career passing yards in Monarchs quarterback Taylor Heinicke, who has thrown for more than 13,000 in his tenure. Marshall opened the game in its nickel package, but started a now-healthy Keith Baxter at one corner opposite Darryl Roberts.

That allowed Corey Tindal, who had started the previous four games at corner, to move to nickel, where he shared Conference USA freshman of the year honors in 2013. That switch helped the Herd secondary hold Heinicke to 85 passing yards, the only time in his collegiate career he has thrown for fewer than 100 yards.

The Herd already has intercepted six passes, with Leggett and Letman each snatching two. It's also broken up 23 passes, led by Roberts' eight. Opponents average 5.2 yards per passing attempt against Marshall, tied with Houston for sixth-best in the FBS. And opposing quarterbacks average a 102.34 passer rating, the 16th lowest in the FBS.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said part of this defensive backs' effectiveness in games comes from the workout they get in practice against receivers like Tommy Shuler and Angelo Jean-Louis.

"Maybe I sound like a broken record here, but it goes back to practice," Holliday said. "They're practicing against some pretty good wideouts. We go good-on-good in practice a lot and in 7-on-7. We try to get our best possible players to go against them on Tuesdays and Wednesdays so it carries over into the game."

Leggett said much of it has to do with defensive coordinator/secondary coach Chuck Heater's strategies.

"We're bought into Coach Heater's game plan and we're just executing it to the highest level we can," Leggett said.

That game plan calls for plenty of tight man-to-man coverage. Marshall tight end Eric Frohnapfel said most college football teams employ zone coverage these days. They'd rather give up passes underneath and don't want to put their defensive backs in the position of getting beaten deep.

"Our defense comes up, presses you, we play man coverage," Frohnapfel said. "We're used to seeing that in practice and other teams aren't. So they come out and now their guys have to be in man coverage and we have guys like (defensive tackle James) Rouse putting pressure on the quarterback. If you can put pressure and play good man coverage, that'll kill any passing offense."

Leggett also recognizes the crucial part Marshall's pass rush plays into the secondary's ability to cover. So far, the Herd has recorded 13 sacks, including five on Heinicke, and 25 quarterback hurries. That pressure throws the quarterback out of rhythm and sends his passes astray, which gives the secondary easier opportunities to bat them down or pick them off.

"You watch those guys on the D-line and the linebackers on those blitzes, it starts up front," Leggett said. "I have to give all the credit to those guys."

Though Middle Tennessee is known more for its running game - the Blue Raiders' 224.7 yards per game are second to the Herd's 299.6-yard average - quarterback Austin Grammer can pass. He threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns on 22-for-27 passing against Southern Miss. Letman said the secondary is ready to prove its nickname isn't a misnomer.

"If any competition comes at receiver," Letman said, "we're going to strap it up."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd agrees to home-and-home series with Pitt http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009458 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141007/DM03/141009458 Tue, 7 Oct 2014 12:19:42 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University football program will play a home-and-home series with the University of Pittsburgh beginning in 2016, the schools announced Tuesday morning.

The Thundering Herd will travel to Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to face the Panthers on Oct. 1, 2016 to add to a Marshall non-conference schedule that already includes home games Akron and Louisville. Pitt will visit Huntington on Sept. 26, 2020 to complement Marshall road games against East Carolina and Ohio.

Pitt plays its home games at Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Panthers become the third Atlantic Coast Conference school to sign a home-and-home deal with Marshall. Louisville will return its 2011 home game against the Herd on Sept. 24, 2016, while NC State has signed to host Marshall on Sept. 9, 2017 and return the game on Sept. 22, 2018. Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick also has renewed series with Ohio (home in 2019, away in 2020), East Carolina (away in 2020, home in 2021) and will begin a series with Navy (away in 2021, home in 2022).

"Since arriving here in 2009, my goal has been to bring quality nationally-recognized programs on a home-and-home basis to Huntington," said Hamrick. "The addition of Pitt is just another step in that process. Our Thundering Herd fans are loyal and deserve to see quality programs in Joan C. Edwards Stadium. Also, these games are regionally-based, which will allow our fans to travel to see Marshall play."

Pitt began play in the ACC last season and defeated Bowling Green 30-27 in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Panthers are 3-3 in 2014.

Marshall is off to a 5-0 start (1-0 Conference USA) this season and is 26th in the Amway USA Today Coaches Poll (98 points) and 27th in the Associated Press Poll with 78 points).

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd's fast starts sap opponents' morale quickly http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141006/DM03/141009481 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141006/DM03/141009481 Mon, 6 Oct 2014 21:47:59 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall football team's 31.8-point margin of victory is the second best in the Football Bowl Subdivision behind Baylor's 36.8-point margin. And in the last few games, it hasn't taken long for the Thundering Herd to get to that gap.

Take Saturday's 56-14 win over Old Dominion, where the Herd led 28-0 less than 10 minutes into the game. Marshall is learning that quick starts like that can sap opponents of their morale pretty effectively, and would like that trend to continue at noon Saturday when the Herd hosts Middle Tennessee (Fox Sports Net).

The motivation to burst out of the gate came in the one game the Herd (5-0, 1-0 Conference USA) allowed an opponent to come back. In its season opener at Miami (Ohio), Marshall led at halftime, 28-3, but the RedHawks rallied to outscore the Herd 17-0 in the third quarter. Marshall ultimately won 42-27, but it was an eight-point game with less than three minutes left in the contest.

Defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers said after that game the last thing Marshall wanted to do was give another opponent a glimmer of hope.

"After that game, there was no mercy," Myers said. "It was a 'kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer'-type deal. If we get up by 20, we still want to put up more points."

So far, the strategy has been to let the defense set the tone for the game and the offense to take advantage of that. In each of the first five games, the Herd has kicked off first, and in all five it's scored first. In four of the five, Marshall has scored on its opening drive.

Against ODU, the Monarchs mustered only five plays before they had to punt the ball back to Marshall. The Herd then proceeded to drive 58 yards in a shade over two minutes for its first touchdown. Three more followed in the games first 9 minutes, 39 seconds, and the small but packed S.B. Ballard Stadium went silent.

Safety A.J. Leggett likens football to boxing in that regard.

"It's like a heavyweight fight," he said. "You'll keep fighting, but after a certain amount of blows, you're going to kind of drop your hands. And when you drop your hands, that's when that knockout punch goes."

Myers can tell an opponent's will is dwindling when the players on the other side go quiet. The trash talk that began the game no longer is heard. Offensive tackle Clint Van Horn said there are plenty of other indicators that an opposing team's spirit is fading.

"You start to see the hands on the hips," Van Horn said. "They voice that they're tired. They stop coming as hard and coming as hard on field goals."

For some teams, that might be the signal to throttle down. It's Marshall's sign to pounce. At one point versus ODU, Marshall led 56-7. The Herd held leads of 41-0 and 41-3 at one point versus Ohio and Akron, respectively. Marshall led Rhode Island 38-0 before the Rams got their first score.

"We're going to punish teams as bad as we can," Van Horn said. "There's no reason we can't. We're looking for respect. I know what they say about Marshall in the bigger picture and we want the respect of the rest of the country."

The Herd isn't expecting Middle Tennessee to go down on the first punch. The players mentioned how physical the Blue Raiders play and how they employ a power running game that ranks second behind Marshall in C-USA at 224.7 yards per game. Tight end Eric Frohnapfel said the players will be prepared for a scenario where a quick start isn't in the cards.

"I keep saying that, eventually, that's not going to happen, but that's the way it goes," Frohnapfel said. "One time they're going to score first or we won't score first on our first drive. This could be a game where they can stick to their bread and butter. I think we're ready for it."

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HERD RUNNING BACK Devon Johnson was named Conference USA offensive player of the week Monday following his 198-yard, three-touchdown performance against Old Dominion. The junior now leads the conference in both total rushing yards (680) and rushing yards per game (136.0) and is tied with Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon with a conference-high eight rushing touchdowns.

Johnson quickly credited his offensive line, both in interviews and on social media, for the honor, and said it was nice to have tangible evidence of his growth at running back.

"I work with (running backs) Coach (Chris) Barclay every week, and he tells me to keep the same mindset," Johnson said. "Keep going hard and people will know about you, but the things you do last week, flush it. Don't think about it no more. This is a new week and a new chapter."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd defense serves up career-worst day for Heinicke http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009585 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009585 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 21:23:52 -0400 By Derek Redd NORFOLK, Va. - Through a college football career that has spanned 40 games played and more than 13,000 passing yards, Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke never suffered through a performance as bad as the one Marshall's defense subjected him to Saturday afternoon.

Hounded often and sometimes left with no open receivers, the senior and the Football Bowl Subdivision's active leader in career passing yards was held under 100 passing yards for the first time as a Monarch in the Thundering Herd's 56-14 win at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

"It's great," Herd linebacker Neville Hewitt said. "The goal was to get a lot of pressure on him. (Marshall) Coach (Doc) Holliday said put him on his back, so that's what we did."

The Herd (5-0, 1-0 Conference USA), which entered Saturday's game tied for 65th in sacks averaging two per game, sacked Heinicke five times, with Hewitt leading the way with 1.5. Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said it wasn't just Marshall's pass rush that shut down Heinicke. Marshall's secondary played a major part in those sacks, too.

"There were times that Taylor held the ball for four to five seconds and still would get sacked," Wilder said, "so those are coverage sacks."

Marshall threw plenty at Old Dominion (3-3, 1-2 C-USA) to keep the Monarchs off balance. The Herd started the game in a nickel package with Darryl Roberts and Keith Baxter at the corners and Corey Tindal, who had been starting at corner, at the nickel. Marshall also threw a "radar" defense at ODU, where even the defensive linemen stand up.

"I felt like we had to get in his face," Holliday said. "He got hit quite a bit and he had somebody in his face when we weren't hitting him. And we worked extremely hard to take (receiver Antonio Vaughan) and (receiver Zach Pascal) out of their offense. Those are their two best receivers and we worked hard to make sure we had those guys bracketed."

Until Saturday, Heinicke's worst ODU passing day came in his collegiate debut, a 119-yard performance against Massachusetts. Marshall forced him into a 10-for-25, 85-yard, one-touchdown, one-interception finish. He completed 7 of 16 passes in the first quarter, but one was picked off when, on first and 10 at the ODU 24, he tried to loft a pass over Roberts, and Roberts leaped into the air for an interception he returned to the Monarchs 8.

Heinicke's lone touchdown pass came in the first quarter, the first first-half touchdown Marshall had allowed all season. After Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato threw an interception, Heinicke led Old Dominion on a seven-play, 58-yard drive capped by his 21-yard touchdown to Pascal. But Heinicke's day plummeted from there.

The senior completed just 2 of 6 passes in the second quarter and 1 of 3 passes the entire second half. Vaughan, who averaged 5.4 receptions per game entering Saturday, caught just three for 24 yards. Pascal, who was second in C-USA at 6.6 catches per game, caught the touchdown and nothing else. ODU converted just five of 16 third downs and none of three fourth downs.

The Monarchs' 286 yards of total offense was nearly 169 yards below their season average. ODU entered Saturday ranked second in C-USA at 313.6 passing yards per game and fell nearly 229 yards below that average.

Senior defensive lineman James Rouse - who recorded five tackles, a team-best 2.5 for a loss, and assisted on a sack - said that as the game wore on, it was obvious that Marshall's pressure forced Heinicke to alter his strategy.

"The more times we got on him, he was just trying to get the ball out quick," Rouse said. "He didn't want to sit back in the pocket like he did in previous games."

After the game, Heinicke said it was probably best for the Monarchs to just move on from Saturday's loss and not try to search for positives. One thing he was positive of was the tenacity and talent of Marshall's defense.

"I think this is probably the best defense we faced, honestly," Heinicke said. "Again, they just beat us in every facet of the game. Receivers couldn't get open. It's hard for offensive linemen, they're running a different type of front that we weren't used to and doing a bunch of twists and stuff like that."

The last time Marshall allowed fewer than 100 passing yards in a game was in 2012, when Tulsa mustered just 90 on 9-of-17 passing. That was an anomaly of a bright spot in an otherwise nightmarish season for that Herd defense. The 2014 Marshall defense is a completely different animal, one that has been relentless through all five games to start the season. On Saturday, it did to Heinicke what no other defense has been able to do during his tenure under center.

"We just got our asses kicked," Wilder said. "That is what happened. That was an ass-kicking in every sense of the word."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd running game batters Old Dominion http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009586 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009586 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 21:19:37 -0400 By Derek Redd NORFOLK, Va. - When Marshall's football team took the field Saturday versus Old Dominion, its leading receiver was not in uniform. Nor was he even on the sideline.

An upper body injury suffered versus Akron kept redshirt junior Davonte Allen home for the Thundering Herd's Conference USA opener versus the Monarchs. An unspecified injury to sophomore wideout Justin Hunt kept him in street clothes on the sideline.

With the receiving corps hobbled, the Herd turned back to its punishing running game, which pulverized the Monarchs early and led the team to a 56-14 win at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

Marshall (5-0, 1-0 C-USA) finished the game with 354 rushing yards, its fourth straight with at least 257 on the ground.

"That's what all the coaches said," running back Devon Johnson said. "We were going to hit them right in the mouth on the first play. That was our goal, and it worked out for us perfect."

Johnson led the charge Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 243-pound tailback bowled over Old Dominion's defense for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Two of his touchdown drives were almost solely his doing. On his first, which put Marshall up 7-0, he carried the ball four times out of six plays for 48 yards. On his third, he carried the ball on seven of eight plays for 77 yards.

Remi Watson joined Johnson in the 100-yard club with 102 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said Old Dominion's defense looked geared toward stopping Cato's arm, so the Herd used their legs to put the game away early.

"We always come in with the idea to take what the defense gives us," Holliday said. "The majority of the plays we have called there are run-pass options. The quarterback has the option to make the decision whether to hand it to the running back or throw it out there. He continues to make great decisions."

At 299.6 yards per game, Marshall fields the ninth-best rushing offense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Even with that, Johnson is neither surprised nor offended that opposing defenses continue focusing on Cato and the Herd's passing game.

"Cato's just a great quarterback, and if you let him, he'll just eat you alive," Johnson said. "It didn't surprise me and I'm looking forward to more games this season where they're going to worry about the pass."

* * *

WITH ALLEN and Hunt out, it shuffled the receivers' depth chart. Craig Wilkins took Allen's place in the starting lineup and Deon-Tay McManus, moved from tight end to receiver after the Akron game, joined the second string. McManus' wideout debut was a hit, as he caught five passes for 55 yards and his first collegiate touchdown.

"They knew I played receiver in high school," McManus said. "So they gave me a text before practice and said we're going to move you to the outside and see if you can help us out. My mindset was just like in high school, to do the same things I've done and just make plays."

McManus was a highly touted receiver at Dunbar High in Baltimore, Md. A four-star prospect, he originally committed to West Virginia, but ended up at Atlanta Sports Academy for prep school. He enrolled at Marshall in January 2013 and sat the 2013 season as an academic non-qualifier before starting his Herd career this season at tight end.

Holliday said McManus performed pretty well at wideout.

"He can play out there," Holliday said. "We were able to get him out there with that open date. He's a big, physical guy who can make plays and it's good to see him out there doing it."

McManus isn't the first Herd player to switch positions. Johnson was pulled out of the tight end room to become Marshall's starting tailback, and Jerome Dews practiced at safety and linebacker before settling in at defensive end.

"Everybody here is an athlete," McManus said. "We just don't play one position. You can put us anywhere and we can make plays."

On Allen, Holliday said he's probably "week to week" though the injury has not ended his season.

* * *

SATURDAY'S GAME did the Herd no favors on the injury front. Left guard Blake Brooks hobbled off the field with a leg injury and was replaced by former starting left tackle Sebastian Johansson. Defensive end Gary Thompson had to be helped off the field, putting no weight on his right leg. He was on crutches on the sideline and after the game. Linebacker Evan McKelvey also went down, though he was able to walk off the field.

* * *

ONE CATO streak stayed alive Saturday, while another ended. The Herd senior quarterback's 42-yard touchdown to Tommy Shuler gave him a touchdown pass in 37 straight games, one shy of the record held by former Wisconsin and North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson. Cato can tie the record Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium against Middle Tennessee and break it Oct. 18 versus Florida International in his hometown of Miami, Fla.

But Cato's 198 passing yards snapped a 32-game streak of throwing for at least 200 yards. The last time he fell below that mark was his 150-yard passing day against Memphis in 2011. Cato completed 18 of 23 passes with two interceptions and two touchdowns versus ODU.

* * *

HEINICKE'S BAD DAY was compounded later Saturday night. Not only did ODU's senior quarterback throw for a career-worst 85 yards versus the Herd, but Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday broke Heinicke's Division I record for passing yards in a game Saturday night.

Halliday threw for 734 yards in a loss to Cal. Heinicke had thrown for 730 yards versus New Hampshire in 2012.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Major shakeup in latest AP top 25 poll http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009617 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141005/DM03/141009617 Sun, 5 Oct 2014 15:06:51 -0400

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

STARKVILLE, Miss. ­- Mississippi and Mississippi State are tied for third in The Associated Press college football poll after a wild day of unexpected results brought major changes to the Top 25.

Just about the only thing that didn't change this week was No. 1: Florida State is still top-ranked, with 35 first-place votes.

Auburn, the only other team in the top six to win, moved up three spots to No. 2 and received 23 first-place votes. Then comes Ole Miss and Mississippi State, in the top five together for the first time after the Rebels beat Alabama and the Bulldogs beat Texas A&M on Saturday.

The Bulldogs received two first-place votes.

The Rebels haven't been ranked this high since 1970, when they were also No. 3. The Bulldogs have their best ranking ever. Their previous best was No. 7 in 1981.

Baylor rounds out the top five. The Bears are the highest ranked Big 12 team, followed by No. 9 TCU (4-0) and No. 11 Oklahoma (4-1). Oklahoma State (4-1) is No. 16 and Kansas State (4-1) is No. 17.

Half of the Big 12's 10 teams are ranked. West Virginia is in the others receiving votes category with 18 total points. The Mountaineers have seven conference games left in the regular season. Four of those opponents are ranked.

Marshall is on the cusp of cracking the top 25 for the first time since the final poll of the 2002 season. The Thundering Herd accumulated 78 points, just behind Clemson's 92 in the others receiving votes portion of the poll.

Stanford, ranked No. 25, totaled 143 points.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd cruises in C-USA opener, 56-14, over ODU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141004/DM03/141009659 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141004/DM03/141009659 Sat, 4 Oct 2014 16:45:00 -0400 By Derek Redd NORFOLK, Va. - The Marshall football team's 2014 Conference USA debut went no different than much of the Thundering Herd's non-conference slate.

The Herd again exploded out of the gate held a 28-point first-quarter lead, cruising to a 56-14 win over Old Dominion on Saturday at S.B. Ballard Stadium.

Marshall (5-0, 1-0 C-USA) gouged the Monarchs (3-3, 1-2 C-USA) for 354 rushing yards, while the Herd defense held prolific ODU quarterback Taylor Heinicke to the worst passing day of his collegiate career.

"Fortunately, we've done that for five straight weeks," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said of the Herd's quick start. "You talk about starting fast and setting the tone, and it's unbelievable. I thought all three phases played what I felt is the most complete game all year."

Within the first 9 minutes, 39 seconds of the game, the Herd already picked up a pair of touchdown runs from Devon Johnson, another from Remi Watson, Darryl Roberts' interception of Heinicke and a Raheim Huskey blocked punt that Brandon Byrd recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.

Both Johnson and Watson eclipsed the 100-yard mark against ODU. Johnson rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries, while Watson gained 102 yards and two scores on 13 carries.

"We always come in with the idea to take what the defense gives us," Holliday said. "The majority of the plays we have called there are run-pass options. The quarterback has the option to make the decision whether to hand it to the running back or throw it out there. He continues to make great decisions."

By the end of the first half, the only mysteries that remained where when Cato would throw the touchdown that would extend his streak and how healthy Marshall would remain once the game was over. That Cato score came with 6:25 left in the second quarter when Cato zipped a pass across the middle to Tommy Shuler, who ripped away from an arm tackle to run 42 yards for the touchdown.

That gives Cato at least one touchdown pass in 37 straight games. He's one game away from tying Russell Wilson's Football Bowl Subdivision record of 38. Cato can tie the record next week in the Herd's homecoming game versus Middle Tennessee and break it Oct. 18 at FIU.

Marshall didn't have much luck with injuries entering Saturday's game. Receiver Davonte Allen, who led the team with 335 yards, did not make the trip, still nursing an injury suffered against Akron. Holliday said after the game Allen will be "week to week" but his season isn't over. Wideout Justin Hunt made the trip, but did not dress. That pushed Craig Wilkins into the starting lineup and former tight end Deon-Tay McManus into the second string.

The Herd didn't leave Saturday's game unscathed, either. Defensive end Gary Thompson was on crutches following a first-half leg injury, while left guard Blake Brooks left the game in the first half with a leg injury, too. Sebastian Johansson, who missed the last two games with a sprained ankle, took his place.

Marshall went into halftime up 42-7, but the score could have been even more lopsided if not for three turnovers. Cato was intercepted twice, including on a pass in the end zone that bounced off Shuler's chest and into the hands of Christian Byrum for a touchback. Wilkins also fumbled the ball away after catching a 10-yard Cato pass.

That first-half ODU touchdown, a 21-yard Heinicke pass to Zach Pascal with 36 seconds left in the first quarter, was the first touchdown Marshall's defense had allowed in any first half this season. It also was Heinicke's lone highlight. The fewest yards he'd thrown for in a game had been 119 versus Massachusetts in his 2011 college debut. He threw for just 85 yards, a touchdown and an interception on 10-of-25 passing Saturday, taking five sacks.

"He tried to throw some balls down the field, which you think he would do," Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said, "but he wasn't able to get that done. We just had him out of rhythm a little bit, and then we started hitting him."

Cato finished with with 198 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 18-of-23 passing Saturday. It was the first time since throwing for 150 yards against Memphis in 2011 that he failed to reach 200 passing yards, a streak of 32 games. Shuler caught nine passes for 81 yards and a score, while McManus caught five passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. ODU's Ray Lawry rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown, with 64 of those coming in the fourth quarter.

The Herd hosts Middle Tennessee next Saturday at noon on Fox Sports Net.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Prolific QBs on display in Herd-ODU tilt http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009766 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009766 Thu, 2 Oct 2014 22:28:52 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va - Two thousand and forty-one completions. Twenty-four thousand, three hundred and fifty-six passing yards. Two hundred and seventeen touchdowns.

The two quarterbacks on Foreman Field in Norfolk, Va., on Saturday afternoon - Marshall senior Rakeem Cato and Old Dominion senior Taylor Heinicke - collectively have amassed those jaw-dropping numbers. By the end of this season, the two should be among the 25 quarterbacks in Football Bowl Subdivision history to throw for at least 12,000 yards. At 13,017 yards entering Saturday's noon game, Heinicke already is there. At 11,339 yards entering the game, Cato should reach that mark with ease.

The pair's respective head coaches - Marshall's Doc Holliday and ODU's Bobby Wilder - see plenty of similarities between them in how they operate. Saturday's game on Fox Sports Net will be a rare opportunity to see two of college football most prolific passers ever go toe-to-toe.

Neither Cato nor Heinicke have allowed themselves a second to think about history. The stakes in this game are too great for both the Herd (4-0, 0-0 Conference USA) and the Monarchs (3-2, 1-1 Conference USA).

Neither quarterback cuts an imposing shadow in terms of physical stature. Heinicke is listed at 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, while Cato is listed at 6-1 and 176 pounds. Where they loom largest is their dedication to film work and preparation. Wilder said both Cato and Heinicke are great students of the game and decision-makers.

"I think the number one quality a quarterback can have is the decision making and the ability to process information," Wilder said. "If you have a quarterback that can do that, you can expand your package, you can make adjustments to game plans during the week or within the game.

"And it takes a special quarterback to do that," he added. "It takes somebody who can process information quickly and then go and apply it on the field. And it looks to me like Heinicke and Cato are very similar in that regard, in their ability to process information."

While their passing numbers are gaudy - on top of their yards, Cato has 955 career completions and 101 touchdowns, while Heinicke has 1,086 career completions and 116 touchdowns - their feet are an underrated part of their respective games. Heinicke ran for 348 yards and five touchdowns last season. He's scored a touchdown on the ground this year, too. He has just 72 net rushing yards, but the Monarchs have given up 12 sacks this season.

Cato already has rushed for 175 yards and four touchdowns in his first four games of 2014, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Holliday said the pair's mobility also helps their passing performances.

"The one thing, I think, that Heinicke does like Cato, when he gets in trouble, is number one he can beat you with his feet and his eyes are constantly down the field," Holliday said. "He makes a lot of throws in scramble situations, does a great job stepping up in the pocket, and he makes all the throws."

Both Cato and Heinicke understand how important Saturday's game is for their teams' futures. The Monarchs are trying to bounce back from last Friday's 41-28 home loss to Middle Tennessee, their first conference loss after beating defending C-USA champion Rice. Heinicke threw for 430 yards and four touchdowns against Middle Tennessee, but also threw three interceptions.

It's the Herd's conference opener. Marshall trounced its non-conference slate, winning by an average of 29.3 points per game. A C-USA championship and an undefeated season could open several doors for the team - say a marquee bowl against a power-conference foe - but Cato said those dreams will be meaningless if the Herd can't get past ODU.

"We're just focused on one team, and right now that's Old Dominion," Cato said. "I tell the guys we're just focused on a win. Right now, that's all we're focused on, and however we get that win. If the other team scores 49, the offense has to score 50. If the team scores one, we have to score two-plus."

Neither quarterback cares how those points get scored, and they aren't interested in dreaming about the unique upcoming showdown between two productive passers.

"Maybe after the game, I'll look at that," Heinicke said. "But obviously during the game, and I'm sure Cato will say the same thing, we're just trying to win the game, trying to rack up the points and see which one can score the most. Maybe after this year or five years down the line, I'll look back at those match-ups and look at this game and see how many great plays were made on the field."

Cato did echo Heinicke's sentiments. He's not thinking about what the two have done in the past or the numbers they could put up Saturday.

"I don't," Cato said. "Right now, as we speak, I'm just worried about our offense. I'm worried about getting better as a team and worried about getting better as an offense and trying to be a complete offense."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: Serbian duo gets used to new environments http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009770 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009770 Thu, 2 Oct 2014 21:50:35 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall men's basketball team's pair of Serbian imports, forward Milan Mijovic and guard Aleksa Nikolic, got their deepest understanding about their new school the way many do - via the silver screen.

Mijovic and Nikolic's first steps through campus might have come when they arrived in Huntington in August. But their first look at campus came through the movie "We Are Marshall," which chronicles the 1970 plane crash that killed 75 football players, coaches, university staff and boosters and the university's rise from that tragedy.

"It's a good story," Mijovic said, "but very sad. But it was good effort."

The two freshmen continue getting used to not only Huntington, but to Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni's style of basketball. They're also getting used to the Mullens native's style of speech. The two understand English fine and their English is a bit broken but clear, but it's a different situation when you're trying to absorb basketball lessons at D'Antoni's pace.

"Obviously, you can tell with the language, they don't pick it up really fast," D'Antoni said. "I'm not only English, I'm West Virginia English. Sometimes I talk too fast. It'll take them a little bit of time, but I like what I see."

Nikolic, a 6-foot-5 point guard, knows something about Marshall besides what he saw in the movie.

"Jason Williams played here," he said with a smile.

Watching Nikolic's YouTube highlight video, there is some of the flash of Williams - who played a year at Marshall before following coach Billy Donovan to Florida - in his full-court and no-look passes. Yet the Pancevo, Serbia native doesn't want people to look at his film from his Kris-Kros Pancevo club team and expect a mirror image of Williams. Nikolic doesn't want to be a mirror image of anyone.

"I don't want to look like any player," he said. "I want to be myself. But I like Steve Nash, Tony Parker, that kind of player."

D'Antoni likes what he's seen so far of Nikolic's vision on the court.

"Aleksa sees the floor and he's a great passer," D'Antoni said. "He's got length and everything he needs to be a good player."

Mijovic, from Belgrade, Serbia, is a bigger body, but not as big as when he played for club team BC Panda. The 6-9 forward estimates he weighed between 260 and 265 pounds at that point, but has melted down to about 250 pounds and wants to get even lighter.

"Now I'm faster and quicker than I was, but I need to lose more weight," he said. "I'd like to get down to 240. I work hard, and I hope to get better and better every time."

D'Antoni said the next step is to get Mijovic used to his lighter body.

"Milan's getting there," D'Antoni said. "He's lost a lot of weight in a short period of time. We've got to strengthen him back up once he gets his legs back under him. When you lose that kind of weight, it takes a while to get your legs back under you. He's smart and he reads the game well."

While Nikolic and Mijovic are acclimating themselves to a new environment, new style of basketball and new teammates, D'Antoni isn't taking it easy on them. He's keeping a quick tempo. If it's quick now, he said, it'll become even easier to digest once he starts gearing down.

"Right now, I'm pushing the pace really hard on purpose, so that they learn to think in a chaotic situation," he said. "The game will slow down. It'll slow down automatically and there'll be a pace to it, a good rhythm and pace that they'll play. It's like shooting. If you can make 18 feet, 15's a little easier."

And while so much is new for the two, they enjoy the change. They feel the conditions are great to grew as students and players, and that their new teammates have embraced them and are ready to help them improve.

"It's like our new family," Mijovic said. "We can trust each other."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd to honor 1984 team http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009797 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141002/DM03/141009797 Thu, 2 Oct 2014 19:39:47 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall athletics will honor the 1984 Thundering Herd football team for the program's Oct. 11 Homecoming game against Middle Tennessee (noon, Fox Sports Net telecast).

That season, the team finished with a 6-5 record, the program's first winning season in 18 years and the first since the 1970 plane crash that took the lives of all 75 aboard Southern Airlines Flight 932 on Nov. 14, 1970.

Team captains were offensive lineman Rob Bowers and linebacker Tony Lellie.

Among those planning to attend the event are defensive lineman Tony Bolland, Bowers, quarterback Carl Fodor, offensive lineman Sam Manos, defensive lineman Marty Palazeti, running back Robert Surratt, wide receiver Brian Swisher and head coach Stan Parrish.

The group will be honored with a reunion and social in the Big Green Room at Joan C. Edwards Stadium at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, and will tailgate in the West Lot at 9 a.m. Saturday before being recognized on the field prior to the Herd's Conference USA game with the Blue Raiders.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Old Dominion QB putting up historic numbers http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141001/DM03/141009937 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141001/DM03/141009937 Wed, 1 Oct 2014 16:31:17 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The leading active passer in the Football Bowl Subdivision took the first scholarship offer that came his way his senior year at Collins Hill High School in Georgia.

Old Dominion senior quarterback Taylor Heinicke has spent the last four years trying to show those who overlooked him the mistake they made. Just five games into his senior season, he became the 12th quarterback in FBS history to eclipse 13,000 career passing yards. He'll undoubtedly be the central focus of Marshall's defensive game plan when the Herd (4-0) visits the Monarchs (3-2) at noon Saturday on Fox Sports Net.

A couple more scholarship offers came Heinicke's way after ODU's, from Richmond and Georgia State. He stuck with the school that first believed in him,and said all of the accolades he's received since come from that decision.

"I really think my quarterback coach, Coach (Ron) Whitcomb, has really helped me with that," Heinicke said, "whether it's getting on the field and working on footwork and drills, or getting into the film room and just studying film for hours. Between those two things, I think that's what makes quarterbacks good or great. I give a lot of credit to him for molding me into the quarterback I am today."

His freshman season in 2011, he was named runner-up for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in the Football Championship Subdivision, after throwing for 2,385 yards, 25 touchdowns and one interception. He was given the Walter Payton Award as the nation's top FCS player in 2012, throwing for 5,076 yards, 44 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. That included a 730-yard, five-touchdown performance in a win over New Hampshire. In 2013, he threw for another 4,022 yards and 33 scores.

So far in the Monarchs' inaugural Conference USA season, Heinicke has passed for 1,534 yards, sixth best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and 14 touchdowns, fifth best in the FBS. ODU coach Bobby Wilder said it's not just Heinicke's arm that lifted him to those numbers.

"I've either played quarterback or coached quarterback my entire life," Wilder said. "I've been coaching for 28 years and he's the best quarterback I've ever had at processing information. Generally, as a quarterback, on a good day you've got about 2.5 seconds to get the snap, read the defense and get rid of the ball. I've never coached a guy who's been better at processing the information of what the defense is doing and where to go with the ball."

Heinicke was the catalyst in the Monarchs' win over defending C-USA champion Rice in ODU's inaugural conference game. He threw for 430 yards and five touchdowns in the 45-42 victory.

"To go to Rice and beat them was huge for our program," Heinicke said. "Not only for the fact that they were the defending champs and we went to their place to beat them, but the fact of just getting that conference win under our belt and knowing we can compete in this conference.

They weren't as lucky in stumbling last week versus Middle Tennessee. Heinicke threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, but also threw for three interceptions in a 41-28 loss. Now the Monarchs face this year's C-USA favorite, and Thundering Herd head coach Doc Holliday said slowing down Heinicke is his defense's top job.

"You've got to be able to cover, you've got to be able to pressure," Holliday said. "You can't just stand back there and let him pick you apart, because he can do that. You watch him play and he can make all the throws. He's really good at what he does and he has good players around him. He's going to make some throws. He's made throws against everyone."

Heinicke will try to show the Herd what he's shown so many other opponents in his career - letting ODU snatch him up wasn't wise. There's a chip on the senior's shoulder, but also the knowledge that he and Old Dominion have been a perfect fit.

"Obviously, that's always there," Heinicke said. "Not to an extreme, but you always want to prove people wrong. You can say that's there, but at the same time, I wouldn't be nearly as successful these past three-and-a-half years if I was anywhere else."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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Derek Redd: Herd tough in the trenches http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141001/DM03/141009938 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141001/DM03/141009938 Wed, 1 Oct 2014 16:29:33 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Old Dominion football coach Bobby Wilder has watched plenty of film on Marshall in the trenches, and he has an idea why the Thundering Herd has dominated their first four opponents.

"They play like they're mad at you," he said of Marshall's defensive line. "That really jumps out at me, the attitude and aggression. It's almost if you did something mean to them and they're looking to get back at you."

He didn't shortchange the Herd's offensive line, either, praising its toughness and attitude. In Wilder's mind, those two units are what have been driving Marshall to a margin of victory of more than four touchdowns.

And some of those games could have been worse. At one point against Ohio, a team the Herd hadn't defeated since 2011, Marshall walked off the field ahead 41-0. At one point against Akron, which beat Pittsburgh at Heinz Field a week later, Marshall led 41-3.

The Herd doesn't feel like it's playing angry. It likes the word "determined." It likes "tough" even more.

Marshall head coach Doc Holliday has been trying to build toughness on his team since he arrived in Huntington. It was in short supply in those early days, and the numbers revealed it - a team that couldn't move the ball in 2010 or 2011, a team that couldn't stop the ball in 2012.

That toughness grew over the years, cultivated in many areas.

"I think that's something developed in your winter conditioning, that's something developed in the weight room and something developed by the type of kids you recruit," Holliday said. "You recruit guys who love football, that love to play and that will play extremely hard, and it's the way you practice."

Practices aren't always pretty for Marshall along the line of scrimmage, but they've been effective. The two sides clash as if they're grappling with an opponent rather than their teammates. At times, it gets heated, but in the end the linemen remember they're working toward the same goal. So when they actually do line up against a different-colored jersey, they've been well-primed.

"Everybody thinks that we're scrappy in practice, the O-line and D-line, but that's how we play the game and it's really carried over," center Chris Jasperse said. "It starts in practice and starts with our coaches and starts with our older guys, everybody just going at it. Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent."

Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg knows the image a spread offense has in football. He hears the nickname "basketball on grass" and the idea that spread offenses can't be physical. If Marshall is "basketball on grass," it would be called for plenty of charges. The Herd averages a Conference USA-best 286 rushing yards per game.

"I know we're a spread offense, but that's why we do Oklahoma drill every Tuesday," Legg said. "That's why we do inside run, good against good, every Tuesday. We want that physicality."

Herd defensive coordinator Chuck Heater knows there aren't as many variables to a good defense as there is to a good offense. One variable that applies is the need to play to finish. He also knows how difficult it is to develop defensive linemen. Out of 10, he said, three walk onto campus ready to play such a physically and mentally taxing position. The rest must learn.

"Nobody grows up wanting to be a defensive lineman," Heater said. "You're hitting 600 pounds on every snap of the ball. That's not a lot of fun. You have to play every snap. If you don't, you're going to get knocked off the ball and have a bad defense. It's hard mentally to be that player."

"Soft" is one of the worst four-letter words in a football player's lexicon, worse than any of the profanities that could draw a fine from FCC if said on television. Above nearly everything else, Jasperse said Marshall wants to be known as a tough team.

Wilder sees that when he watches Herd game film. In his eyes, it's pretty impressive.

In Holliday's eyes, it's mandatory.

"That's the way you're supposed to play," Holliday said.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Balance carrying Herd offense http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM03/140939902 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM03/140939902 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:21:44 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - For many college football teams, the tendencies are easy to spot. Just look at the statistics. In 2012, Marshall was a passing team, with more than 4,000 yards through the air. Even last year, as the numbers further evened out, quarterback Rakeem Cato's arm was the primary weapon. And the Thundering Herd's Saturday opponent, Old Dominion, throws for 173 more yards per game than it runs.

This season's edition of the Herd, though, is a bit tougher to predict. At 310.8 passing yards and 286 rushing yards a game, Marshall is gaining ground at a nearly 1:1 ratio. That could do plenty to perplex ODU, which hosts the Herd (4-0) at noon Saturday on Fox Sports Net.

"You can't be much more balanced than that," Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder said. "Including Rakeem, they've got four guys averaging over six yards a carry."

Steward Butler holds the lowest average among the four at 6.4 yards per carry. Cato averages 7.3 yards, Devon Johnson averages 7.4 yards and Remi Watson averages 8.5 yards. The Herd's rushing average is 11th best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and its passing average is 22nd best, which adds up to the FBS' No. 2 total offense at 596.8 yards per game.

Marshall's effectiveness at both disciplines keeps opposing defenses on their heels, Johnson said.

"They're switching back and forth," Johnson said. "If we come out and hit them with a deep pass, then they drop eight. Then we run the ball down their throat and they run an eight-man box to try to stop the run."

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said there's really no secret to the offensive balance Marshall has achieved. A look at the film will show the Herd running when defenses drop more back to neutralize the pass and throwing when they stack the box to stop the run. Defenses have to pick their poison, Holliday said, but it's mostly a matter of Marshall's offense reacting to what it sees.

"We haven't planned in any way, shape or form to work out like it has," Holliday said, "but it has because (offensive coordinator Bill) Legg and that offensive staff and Cato and our guys are not trying to put square pegs into round holes."

That balance also allows Marshall to run plays in less-conventional scenarios. In its 48-17 win over Akron, the Herd faced both third and 6 and third and 10, and converted both on runs of 10 and 12 yards, respectively, by Watson.

"Again, that's just taking what the defense gives us and I think our guys are doing a great job of that," Holliday said.

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THOUGH THE MONARCHS lost last Friday to Middle Tennessee, 41-28, they did do well in forcing fumbles. ODU caused three and collected two. It often came when Monarch defenders gang-tackled a ball-carrier and kept him upright long enough for one to strip the ball away.

The Herd already has lost four fumbles this season, three of them coming against Rhode Island. It's put the ball on the ground eight times in total. Holliday said ball security especially will be a point of emphasis this week.

"You watch that film, and they did do a great job of stripping the football," he said. "You could actually see it and there's no doubt they coach the heck out of it. We constantly coach ball security, whether it's this week or last week or six weeks ago, and we emphasize it every week, but it will be emphasized a lot this week with our scout team doing a great job of trying to get that ball stripped."

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MARSHALL'S LEADING tackler through four games is corner Darryl Roberts with 26 total. He's one of three Herd defensive backs in the top six. Safety Tiquan Lang is second with 23 and corner Corey Tindal is sixth with 16.

Defensive backs that high on the tackle chart often is a bad sign. In 2012, when Marshall allowed 43.1 points per game, safeties Dominick LeGrande and Okechukwu Okoroha were the Herd's top two tacklers. Holliday said Marshall's run defense - 17th nationally allowing 99.3 yards per game and tied for first in allowing just one rushing touchdown - has something to do with that. Considering ODU's penchant for passing, a sure-tackling secondary is good to have.

"We've done a pretty good job of stopping the run, so people have had to throw the ball," he said. "They've got to play really well on Saturday, because these guys are good. (Defensive coordinator) Chuck Heater and all those coaches do a great job of teaching the fundamentals of tackling. With what these guys do offensively, there's going to be a lot of plays that have to be made in space."

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HOLLIDAY THINKS everyone who has been banged up over the past few weeks should be available to play Saturday, though they'll get a better grasp of that by the end of the week. ... Captains for this week are defensive tackle James Rouse, corner Darryl Roberts, center Chris Jasperse and receiver Tommy Shuler. It's the third time this season as captain for Rouse, Roberts and Jasperse and the first for Shuler.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: D'Antoni prepping for inaugural run as Herd head coach http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM03/140939903 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140930/DM03/140939903 Tue, 30 Sep 2014 22:19:35 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Dan D'Antoni sat before the reporters at Marshall men's basketball's media day wondering how to proceed. Should he start? Should he go right ahead with questions?

"This is my first press conference," he said with a smile. "We didn't have these at Socastee High School."

Socastee in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was D'Antoni's last head coaching job. That ended in 2005, when he began a 10-year tour as an NBA assistant under younger brother Mike D'Antoni. Now he's beginning his inaugural season as the Thundering Herd's head coach, a job he wanted since he was a star point guard for Marshall from 1966-70.

Now that he's stepped into the job left vacant following Tom Herrion's March departure, he's experienced plenty of firsts as he's stepped into the college game. So far, he feels it's gone well.

The X's and O's part of it hasn't been tough. He's been around basketball for decades. He's enjoyed the fundraising aspects of it, because that's just interacting with fans. He's had to get used to the limitations of NCAA guidelines, but has a veteran staff that can help.

He wasn't so sure, however, how his first steps onto the recruiting trail would go.

"I was really nervous when I first started, thinking I'd never get anybody," D'Antoni said. "I was a little worried about how hard it is. When you don't coach college and you talk to a college coach, they impress upon you how hard it is to recruit. I haven't experienced that yet. I've enjoyed the recruiting process and it seems like we're able to find and sign some players we want."

Junior college transfer Jay Johnson is the only member of Herrion's final recruiting class to attend Marshall. D'Antoni brought in five players, though only two - Serbian freshmen Aleksa Nikolic and Milan Mijovic - will play this year. Fairmont State transfer Stevie Browning and Miami transfer James Kelly will sit due to NCAA transfer rules. Hedgesville High graduate C.J. Burks will sit as an academic non-qualifier.

Former Herd guard Kareem Canty transferred to Auburn, while former guard Chris Thomas was dismissed for team-rule violations and ended up at Texas Southern.

Every member of Marshall's current roster must learn D'Antoni's offensive and defensive systems, vastly different from the style Herrion ran in his four years leading the Herd. The defense will pressure all over the court, while the offense will be full of pick-and-rolls and cuts and work in constant motion.

It's a departure from Marshall's old style, but junior guard Tamron Manning thinks it's a style that will work.

"We've always had the people to do this kind of system with," Manning said. "We've always had those pieces, so now he's putting in the system that pretty much matches the people we have. That'll be good, and we're all really diverse and flexible on the court, so that helps us a lot."

Teaching those principles leads D'Antoni into another first. At 67 years old, this is the first time he's been a head coach of college students after a career spent coaching either high schoolers or professionals. His only college coaching experience was a short stint as a Marshall assistant in 1970-71. Yet he doesn't see his age or his players' age as a barrier.

"One of the things that was asked because of my age, I guess, was how can you relate to kids that are 20 or 21," D'Antoni said. "I said about the same way I do a 60-year-old. Some 60-year-olds are kids and some are men and there are 5-year-olds that are kids and some are men. People are people. I treat them all the same. Age doesn't quite get in the way. You're honest with them and you have their best interests in mind.

"I think the relationship I have with the young men on this team is good," he said. "I think it's in the right direction. I'm not their friend. I'm their coach and I think we've established that relationship."

As much as D'Antoni is excited for his first season as Marshall's head coach, the players are excited to turn the page from a rough 2013-14 season. The Herd finished 11-22 and was bumped from the second round of the Conference USA tournament by Old Dominion. It was Marshall's second straight losing season following its 2012 NIT berth.

Sophomore forward Ryan Taylor said the energy D'Antoni has brought to coaching his alma mater has seeped into the entire roster.

"We're just rejuvenated, coming off of last year and a struggling year at that," Taylor said. "It's rejuvenated us and he's rejuvenated. I like it a lot. It's rejuvenated us as a whole, from (Marshall athletic director Mike) Hamrick at the top down to the managers, and it feels good."

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd defense prepares for ODU passing attack http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM03/140929179 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20140929/DM03/140929179 Mon, 29 Sep 2014 22:46:32 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When opposing defenses have tried to stop the Old Dominion football team's passing game and quarterback Taylor Heinicke, they've relied on zone defenses to attempt it. It hasn't worked very well. In the Monarch's five games, they've thrown for fewer than 281 yards just once and enter Saturday's game against Marshall ranked 22nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 313.6 passing yards per game, a spot ahead of the 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd.

When the Herd and ODU face off at noon Saturday at Foreman Field (Fox Sports Net), Monarchs coach Bobby Wilder thinks Marshall will be able to use a different tactic.

"Those guys are all excellent cover guys," Wilder said. "They can play man coverage and that's my biggest fear going into this, it's that they're going to be able to line up and play man coverage and attack the quarterback."

The Herd (4-0, 0-0 C-USA) is a man press defense, which puts the defensive backs in tight man-to-man coverage. Using that strategy, Marshall has allowed just 16.3 points per game, which leads Conference USA and is tied for 15th-best in the FBS, and led to five interceptions and 21 pass breakups.

The Herd will line up against the Monarchs (3-2, 1-1 C-USA) to find out which strength is stronger and the defense is up for the challenge.

"We love it," safety Tiquan Lang said. "We love competition. That's what the game's about."

Man coverage will be a new experience this season for the Monarchs, Wilder said. Opponents look at passing numbers second in C-USA only to Western Kentucky's 461.5 passing yards per game and Heinicke, who has thrown for more than 13,000 yards and 116 touchdowns in his career, and avoided the idea.

"Everybody's just played zone against us," Wilder said. "Everybody's just stepped back and played zone and tried not to give up the deep ball. Nobody's come at us and played man coverage like these guys are going to do, with the ability to get after the quarterback. Nobody's had any success against them."

Lang won't say the Herd won't completely avoid zone defense - he figures defensive coordinator Chuck Heater will put together a few new wrinkles the Monarchs haven't seen on Marshall's film - but Marshall has reached this point relying on man coverage. That's a coverage that has some risk associated with the reward. If a defensive back gets beaten, that receiver could find a lot of open space behind him.

"It's a lot of pressure," Lang said. "When you're out there on that island, you don't always get help out there."

That's especially dangerous with a passer as prolific as Heinicke. Two weeks ago, the senior torched defending C-USA champion Rice for 430 yards and five touchdowns in the Monarchs' inaugural conference win. In last Friday's loss to Middle Tennessee, he still threw for 362 yards and four scores, though he threw three interceptions.

With a bye week after its 48-17 win over Akron, the Herd got some extra time to analyze Heinicke's game film. Lang said it's easy to see why Heinicke has been so prolific.

"When he throws the ball, he has good ball placement," Lang said. "And the receivers, they catch the ball good. We're just going to have to step up and make plays like we always do, and execute whatever defense Coach Heater calls and just play ball."

It's helped Marshall's defense that it faces a high-volume passer of the team's own in senior Rakeem Cato. Cato, who has thrown for 11,339 yards and 101 touchdowns in his career, is averaging 290.8 passing yards per game in 2014. Linebacker Evan McKelvey said having Cato under center every day during practice makes it much easier to get ready for another top thrower.

"That's why we're so prepared," McKelvey said. "Going against him ... Cato, man, if we even deflect a ball or pick a ball off him. To do that on that guy is just something else, like you're really playing good defense."

Whether the Herd sticks with its man coverage or dabbles a little in zone, the defense is ready to see a lot of passes coming its way. The players hope one aspect of Marshall's defense won't change - its stinginess.

"Every week is a challenge to see how good our defense is," McKelvey said. "This year, I feel like we're even better from last year. Every team we play against, I promise you, we're going to try to not let them score in any way, shape or form."

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MARSHALL'S OCT. 11 homecoming game against Middle Tennessee will be broadcast at noon on Fox Sports Net. The university announced that game time Monday afternoon. With that announcement, only the Herd's Nov. 15 game versus Rice is without a game time or network. That game remains on a 12-day window, which means the announcement will come Monday, Nov. 3. The game will be broadcast on either Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Net.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.

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