www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Balanced attitude leads to balanced output for Herd (video, gallery) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM03/141029215 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM03/141029215 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:58:20 -0400 By Derek Redd

(Reading on our app? See video here)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's football team is in a club of one this week, the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to sit in the top 10 in scoring offense and scoring defense. The 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd is third in the FBS scoring 45.9 points per game and eighth in allowing just 16.5 points per game.

As much as any scheme or strategy, Marshall football players point to the team's demeanor - its even-keeled approach to the season so far - as a major reason in the efficiency of both the Herd's offense and defense.

"I think it's a huge impact," sixth-year defensive lineman James Rouse said. "Being down at halftime this past game, a couple of years ago, we might not have been able to come out in the second half like we did this time.

"There was nobody on each other, nobody pointing fingers," he added. "We knew what we needed to do and just went out and executed."

In its 35-16 win over Florida Atlantic this past Saturday, the Herd (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) trailed at halftime 16-14, the first time Marshall had been down at the half all season. What reception would the players get from the coaches in the locker room? Fire and brimstone? Cool and calm?

"I thought he was going to come in and tell us what we were doing wrong," linebacker Neville Hewitt said.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said after the game that the halftime message was quite simple.

"The only thing that was said was, 'Hey guys, let's go do what we do,'" he said. "'Let's go play and let's go play the way we're capable of playing.'"

What followed was Marshall outscoring FAU 21-0 in the second half, including two more touchdown runs from junior running back Devon Johnson and the Herd defense holding the Owls to 166 yards of total offense and allowing them to convert just two of eight third downs.

The players said they see no need to work themselves into a frenzy before games in order to rise to that level of play. They'd rather stay steady and matter-of-fact. And they're able to remain calm, redshirt junior offensive tackle Clint Van Horn said, because of the work they've done during the week.

"All the rah-rah before the game, we don't really need to do that," Van Horn said. "All that's really going to do is wear you out. Preparation is what wins ball games. Emotions are over after that first snap."

There's another reason the Herd's offense and defense are both top 10 in their respective scoring categories, said sophomore guard Michael Selby. It's because that offense that averages more than six touchdowns a game lines up every practice against the defense allowing just over two touchdowns a game.

"We know every day that, when we go out to practice, we're going up against the best competition we go against," Selby said. "That's the main thing. We know we see the best looks every day. On the weekend, we know we can handle it."

*

LIKE EVERY OTHER college football fan, the Herd players will be very interested at the look of the first College Football Playoff Rankings, to be released at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. At the end of the season, those rankings not only will decide the four teams in the national championship semifinals, but also the selection from the FBS' smaller conferences that will make a marquee bowl.

Van Horn said that announcement will add a little spice to Marshall's bye week, but it will be of little more than entertainment value.

"I'll watch it, but I won't read too much into it, because we've still got four more games to play and a conference championship to worry about," Van Horn said. "Without winning these four, we can't get to the conference championship anyways. So we have to worry about all that stuff before we think about the rankings.

"But I will be watching," Van Horn added with a smile. "Trust me."

*

JOHNSON AND linebacker Jermaine Holmes each earned C-USA player of the week honors Monday, with Johnson earning a national honor as well. Johnson was named conference offensive player of the week after breaking the school record with 272 rushing yards and four touchdowns against FAU. The College Football Performance Awards also named him its national running back of the week.

Holmes was C-USA defensive player of the week after an 18-tackle day against the Owls that included 2.5 tackles for a loss and a forced fumble. Johnson and Holmes joined University of Alabama at Birmingham kick returner J.J. Nelson, who was named conference special teams player of the week.

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: Herd schedule, times announced for 2014-15 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM03/141029220 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141027/DM03/141029220 Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:43:46 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

MU men's basketball schedule has times set

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The remainder of the tipoff times for the 2014-15 Marshall men's basketball season - the debut season for coach Dan D'Antoni - were announced Monday. The six Cam Henderson Center home dates that hadn't been previously announced are set for 7 p.m.

Marshall will play a home exhibition game at 4 p.m. on Nov. 8 against Concord.

The season opener is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 14, against Jacksonville State at the Henderson Center. Two days later, Savannah State visits the Henderson Center for a 4 p.m. tip.

Marshall plays seven of its first eight regular-season games at the Henderson Center, including visits by power conference members South Carolina (Dec. 1) and Penn State (Dec. 6). It is the first time the Herd has had two visits by power conference foes in the same season.

In addition to the Savannah State game, Marshall has two afternoon dates at home - Jan. 24 against UTEP (3 p.m.) and Feb. 14 versus Western Kentucky (5:30 p.m.).

The C-USA opener for Marshall is at 3 p.m. on Jan. 4 against WKU.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Johnson's record-setting effort unexpected by all (video, gallery) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029292 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029292 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 21:56:02 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday would have loved the ability to sit before reporters Saturday night and say he knew all along that running back Devon Johnson was capable of such record-setting performances.

He would have loved to say that, in moving Johnson from tight end to tailback on the eve of preseason camp, he predicted the junior would be one of the nation's most prolific ballcarriers.

"For me to say I was going to move him to tailback and get the production we've gotten out of him, I didn't think that," Holliday admitted.

Here's what Holliday can say: The player he trusted to be the Thundering Herd's featured back is now the owner of Marshall's single-game rushing record and the catalyst for the team's 35-16 win over Florida Atlantic.

Johnson scored four of Marshall's five touchdowns on runs of 58, 62, 66 and 7 yards and in the process ran for 272 yards on just 24 carries. The previous record-holder, Ron Darby, rushed for 262 yards against Western Carolina on Nov. 12, 1988, and needed 47 carries to do it.

As he has with every accolade he's earned this season, Johnson immediately credited Marshall's offensive line.

"It's their record," Johnson said. "I couldn't have done it without them. It starts up front. They hold that record, not me."

Johnson had huge holes through which to run against the Owls and barely was touched, if at all, on any of his scoring plays. He averaged 11.3 yards per carry versus FAU (3-5, 2-2 C-USA), second this season only to his 13 yards per carry against Florida International. He reached that mark despite spending several minutes in the second quarter on the sideline with trainers working on his knees. They fitted sleeves on both his knees and he went to the locker room early for halftime.

He shrugged off those issues, returned to the game in the second half and more than doubled his workload, carrying 17 times after just seven in the first half. He gained 123 yards in the final two quarters and scored a pair of touchdowns that put the game away.

"I think it's just a tribute to his focus," Herd running backs coach Chris Barclay said. "He started fast, then we had a little lull and had some issues moving the football. I told him, 'Kiddo, hey, it's a long game. It's not about one play or two plays. It's a series of plays. Just stay patient and stay with your coaching. Have good eye discipline.' And it was just a tribute to his hard work and focus."

Johnson now is second in the Football Bowl Subdivision behind Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah in total rushing yards with 1,203. Marshall (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) believes Johnson is the fastest Herd player to 1,000 yards in a season in just eight games. He's fourth in the FBS in rushing yards per game (150.4), yards per carry (8.78) and rushing touchdowns (15), despite not playing tailback since his senior year at Richlands High School in Virginia.

The 6-foot-1, 243-pounder has floated from fullback to linebacker to tight end in his Herd career and the breakneck pace of his ascension has surprised everyone. Johnson didn't expect it. He figured he'd serve as quarterback Rakeem Cato's backfield bodyguard during Cato's assault on the Marshall record books.

"I just got back there and I was going to protect Cato," Johnson said. "That's the main goal, to just do what I have to do to make sure the team gets the win."

Barclay didn't expect it, either, but he's having a blast watching it.

"It's awesome," Barclay said. "We're just watching him grow every game. He's becoming a better player every game. The more snaps he gets, the more carries he gets, he's getting a better understanding of the position and just how everything works together."

*

THE HERD found itself Sunday at No. 23 in both the Associated Press sportswriters poll and Amway coaches poll. Marshall stayed put in the AP poll, but fell a spot in the coaches poll. The most important rankings, however, will be revealed Tuesday.

The College Football Playoff committee will release its inaugural rankings at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. That is the list that not only decides the national championship semifinals, but also which team among the "Group of Five" conferences will earn a spot in the Cotton, Peach or Fiesta Bowl. East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference, ranked 19th by the coaches and 21st by the sportswriters, are the only other ranked "Group of Five" team.

"We'll see," Holliday said. "I'm kind of anxious to see how it turns out. It's new, and we'll see how it goes. At this point, you need to worry about where you are five weeks down the road. That's when it counts."

*

HOLLIDAY SAID the Herd will spend some of its bye week reestablishing itself on special teams. Marshall stopped only one kickoff return behind the FAU 30, and the Owls began drives twice at its 34 and once each at its 39 and 46. Kickoff specialist Kaare Vedvik did not record a touchback, the first game this season he didn't record at least two.

Also, kicker Justin Haig - whose 41-yard field goal with time running out beat FAU in Boca Raton in 2013 - missed his only attempt Saturday, a 33-yarder. He is now 8 of 11 on field goals this season with a long of 37 yards.

"We missed that daggone short field goal, and it wasn't a very good snap and it wasn't a very good hold," Holliday said. "And we've got to correct that kickoff thing. Special teams changes field position all the time and you can't have that in kickoff return and put your defense in that position, because it's going to hurt you and it sure did today."

Tyler Williams did punt well, averaging 51.4 yards on five punts with a long of 64. If he had enough punts to qualify (he has only 24 this year), he'd be second in the FBS at 47.6 yards per punt.

*

MARSHALL'S 16-14 HALFTIME deficit was the Herd's first all season, and FAU was the only team this year to lead Marshall twice in a game. Florida International led 7-0 the game before, then Marshall scored 45 straight points. The Owls led 3-0 and 16-14, until Cato's lone touchdown pass, a 21-yarder to Tommy Shuler, put Marshall ahead to stay.

The players, though, said it didn't hurt that the Owls made it tough.

"We knew we were going to come by a game where we were going to be down," Shuler said. "We just had to overcome it and win the game.

"I love games like this," he added. "The crowd is on the edge and everybody's up and everybody's on their feet. I know I have trust in my teammates that we'd come out and get the 'W.'"

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: Holliday "anxious" to see Herd's placement in CFP poll http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029293 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029293 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 21:53:40 -0400 By Chuck McGill HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall University football team has charged through the 2014 season much like the team's running back, Devon Johnson, rumbled through the defense Saturday on three of his long scoring runs: Untouched.

The No. 23 Thundering Herd struggled, relatively speaking, in its 35-16 win over Florida Atlantic on Saturday, and consequently slipped one spot in the Coaches' top 25 poll and held steady in the Associated Press rankings. It was Marshall's ninth consecutive win since the Conference USA championship game last December, all victories by double figures. The Herd has won 14 of 15 games overall, is one of only three unbeatens left in major college football and the program is the only 8-0 team in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

What will all of that mean Tuesday when the first set of College Football Playoff rankings are unveiled at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN?

"Can I let you know after they vote?" fifth-year Marshall coach Doc Holliday said with a laugh.

It is unclear how the 12-person committee, comprised of five athletic directors and people formerly in prominent roles (former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, for example), will weigh head-to-head results, strength of schedule and other metrics to determine the rankings. There will be six top 25 polls released by the CFP committee before the Dec. 7 finale that will determine the four-team playoff and access bowl assignments.

Marshall is vying for the guaranteed access bowl spot given to the highest-ranked team from the non-power five conferences (American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, Mountain West and Sun Belt). Using this week's media poll, for example, Marshall would be ranked behind AAC-member East Carolina and just ahead of Mountain West-member Colorado State. ECU is ranked is No. 21, Marshall is No. 23 and Colorado State is the first team lurking outside the top 25 in the "others receiving votes" category.

If the Herd survives November games against Southern Mississippi, Rice, UAB and Western Kentucky - teams that are a combined 14-16 - and then the C-USA title game, the program could be the sixth team to ever enter bowl season at 13-0.

Will that be enough?

"I'm kind of anxious to see how it turns out," Holliday said. "It's new and we'll see how it goes. At this point, you need to worry about where you are five weeks down the road."

But, Holliday reiterated, he supports the new era of college football and the new system of determining a national champion.

"I think I am," he said. "I'm not a fan of what's happened with the power five conferences and the separation. I do think the best four teams in America should go play for the national championship; I don't care if it's four teams from the SEC.

"If they can get that right, I'm all for it."

The CFP will ultimately determine if Marshall's dominance supersedes the hindrance that is the team's 2014 schedule.

"I think we're in the best position we've ever been in because there's a seat at the table for us and for something special to happen," Holliday said. "In 1999, Marshall was ranked 10th in the nation and ended up in the Motor City Bowl. That's not going to happen again."

Marshall also hopes to receive a boost from the public relations firm Brener Zwikel & Associates, a group hired by Conference USA to plead for the program's inclusion in the CFP.

"I think it's a great gesture on their part," Holliday said. "I think it tells all of us that Conference USA is going to do every possible thing they can do to make sure Marshall gets everything it deserves."

Holliday will be the first to remind anyone that the Herd has "got a long ways to go," but despite sputtering Saturday against FAU, it was another feather in the cap for Marshall. It was the program's first win at home as a top 25 team since beating Appalachian State, 50-17, early in the 2002 season. Marshall is 11-0 all-time at home when it sits in the top 25 poll.

The Herd is off this Saturday and then plays four games in 21 days to conclude the regular season. Maybe, by the end of that stretch, enough of the other major programs will have fallen out of the way to push Marshall up the national rankings. Maybe teams like East Carolina, Boise State, Colorado State and UCF will no longer loom as threats to the Herd's spot in a major bowl against a major opponent.

This upcoming stretch is where Marshall has to turn heads, to convince the doubters that the program deserves at least one shot to prove itself against the top competition.

"Remember what you do in November," Holliday said, "that's where it counts."

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MARSHALL SOCCER: Herd men add final home game http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029333 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141026/DM03/141029333 Sun, 26 Oct 2014 18:36:02 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's men's soccer team has added a final home game to its regular season, head coach Bob Gray announced on Sunday. The Herd will face Concord University at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8 at Hoops Family Field at Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.

The match will be Marshall's final home game of the 2014 season. The team will also play Asbury at home on Wednesday Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

The Concord match will serve as senior day to honor Marshall's lone senior, F/GK Danny Sellitti.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Johnson sets rushing record as No. 23 Herd rallies to beat FAU http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141025/DM03/141029376 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141025/DM03/141029376 Sat, 25 Oct 2014 21:08:15 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall running back Devon Johnson wasn't even alive when the record he erased Saturday evening first was set. The Thundering Herd football team needed every yard the junior running back churned out in its rally to remain undefeated.

Johnson smacked Florida Atlantic University's defense for a school-record 272 yards and four touchdowns as the No. 23 Herd bounced back from its first halftime deficit of the season and beat the Owls 35-16 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

The previous record, 262 yards, was held by running back Ronald Darby, who set that mark on Nov. 12, 1988. Johnson wasn't born until July 28, 1993. He said he didn't even know the record was his until he heard it broadcast over the stadium loudspeakers, and while he's happy to break the mark, the win was even sweeter.

"I'm just here to help my team get the win," Johnson said. "Anything that comes along that we achieve, that I achieve, we achieve it as a team."

Johnson's touchdowns came on runs of 58, 62, 66 and 7 yards. In the process, he tied Ahmad Bradshaw for the Marshall FBS record for 100-yards games in a season with his seventh. He also reached 1,000 yards for the season in eight games, which Marshall believes is the fastest any back has reached that milestone.

Yet it was quarterback Rakeem Cato's lone touchdown pass of the game that gave the Herd (8-0, 4-0 Conference USA) the lead for good. Down 16-14 at halftime, Marshall finally broke through with 3:09 left in the third quarter, as Cato hit Tommy Shuler for a 21-yard touchdown. Johnson extended that lead with his third and fourth touchdowns of the game.

"I told the kids that any great football team, at some point during the year, is going to have some adversity and have to find a way to go win a football game," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "That's what happened today and I thought we responded extremely well in the second half."

The first half wasn't among Marshall's best this season. The Herd fell behind for just the second time this year when FAU kicker Greg Joseph booted a 30-yard field goal to give the Owls (3-5, 2-2 C-USA) a 3-0 lead. Marshall responded 18 seconds later on a one-play drive, Johnson's 58-yard score.

The Owls then scored 10 straight points on a 16-yard touchdown from quarterback Jaquez Johnson to tight end Alex Deleon and a 40-yard Joseph field goal to go ahead 13-7, only to see Devon Johnson strike back with a 62-yard touchdown.

Joseph's 24-yard field goal with 2:06 left in the first half gave FAU a 16-14 lead it took into halftime.

"I think they struggled with tempo, and that's something that we saw on film," FAU coach Charlie Partridge said of the Owls' first half. "That's part of our wheelhouse. It's something that we do and something we're going to create, more pressure on defenses, and we really keep getting a little bit better each week."

FAU wouldn't score again, though. The Owls drove inside Marshall's 35-yard line twice in the second half and twice came out with nothing. FAU got to Marshall's 6 on the first drive, only to see Herd corner Darryl Roberts bat down a Jaquez Johnson throw to Nate Terry on fourth down. The Owls then went for it on fourth and 8 on Marshall's 32, but Herd defensive end Arnold Blackmon sacked Jaquez Johnson for a six-yard loss.

"We just had to get back to playing Herd defense like we knew we could," Roberts said. "They're athletic like Coach Holliday told us they would be, so we weren't nervous. We just had to get out there and get back to our game."

Jaquez Johnson finished with 179 yards and a touchdown on 19-of-37 passing, with FAU receiver Lucky Whitehead leading the Owls with 102 yards on 11 catches. Cato threw for 218 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-24 passing. That touchdown pass allowed him to extend his FBS record for consecutive games with at least one to 40 contests. Deon-Tay McManus led Marshall with 110 yards on four catches.

Marshall gets to enjoy a bye week before it returns to its schedule with a Nov. 8 game at Southern Mississippi.

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 wants to keep hot starts going against Florida Atlantic http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029500 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029500 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 22:16:51 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - It's been a long time since Marshall's football team felt what it did during last season's game at Florida Atlantic University - uncertainty.

The 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd has trailed all of 1 minute, 55 seconds this season, that coming in the first quarter of last week's 45-13 win at Florida International. Marshall has won all seven of its games in 2014 by an average margin of 30.8 points.

Against the Owls last October, it took a last-second 41-yard field goal from Justin Haig to cap a 10-point comeback in the game's final 10 minutes for the Herd to prevail, 24-23.

"I don't think we're going to have to convince our kids that these guys can play," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said this week.

When FAU visits Marshall at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on Fox Sports 1, the Herd (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) would like the game to resemble the rest of the 2014 campaign and look nothing like last year's game.

In order for Marshall to complete last year's comeback over the Owls (3-4, 2-1 C-USA), the Herd needed to convert two third downs and a fourth down on its touchdown drive, including a 41-yard scoring pass from Rakeem Cato to Gator Hoskins on fourth and 5. Then Cato had to convert another third down and find receiver Devon Smith for a 35-yard gain to get into field goal range for the game winner.

It was a matter of intensity, sixth-year defensive lineman James Rouse said. FAU had it and Marshall knew the Owls would. The Herd needed it and didn't show it until late in the game.

"We knew they were going to be amped up and ready," Rouse said. "I think we just didn't prepare like we should have. That made it a close game coming down to the last seconds."

"We didn't match their intensity," he added. "So this year, we're just trying to make sure we start fast at home."

The Owls know plenty about comebacks this season. FAU came from behind in two of its three wins. The Owls trailed by 11 in the third quarter versus the University of Texas at San Antonio before pulling out a 41-37 win on their final drive. Last Saturday versus Western Kentucky, the Owls fell behind by 21 at halftime and trailed by 10 to start the fourth quarter, but scored 17 unanswered points in the final 15 minutes to win, 45-38.

While FAU head coach Charlie Partridge appreciates his team's resiliency, he'd rather the Owls not fall so far behind so early.

"The way we're kind of looking at it is that we need to kind of get games started faster," Partridge said. "At times, we've allowed teams to get up on us in the first quarter, with the exception of one game. So we've had to come back a number of times this year. Marshall has the ability to strike quick on you, whether it's the first quarter or the fourth quarter. It doesn't matter."

"But there's certainly the ability where, if something were to happen against Marshall, or anybody down the road, we can say, listen, guys, we've been down this road before," he added. "Just stay the course and let's figure out our problems and keep moving forward."

Fast starts have been no problem for Marshall this season. The Herd has outscored opponents 104-21 in the first quarter in its first seven games, and 83-16 in the second quarter. The margin dips slightly in the third quarter, 83-24. In the fourth quarter - when the game normally is in hand for Marshall and the coaches start rolling in the reserves - the Herd outscores opponents 62-55. And that margin got a big boost when Marshall outscored FIU 21-6 in last week's fourth quarter.

Marshall has memories of last season's FAU game on which to rely, memories of some of the clutch plays the Herd had to pull out to steal that win. The players also saw what the Owls were able to do last week versus WKU, neutralizing the Hilltoppers' normally potent offense to claw back into the game.

Rouse said this isn't the week to jog across the finish line. The Herd must sprint through.

"It's really important that we keep going for four quarters," Rouse said, "and just don't look at the scoreboard until the game's over."

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: Sane tries to evolve in new system http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029502 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029502 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 22:07:48 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - When Cheikh Sane joined the Marshall men's basketball team under then-head coach Tom Herrion, the 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward was considered more of a conventional low-post player.

Yet with new coach Dan D'Antoni's everyone-runs, everyone-shoots scheme, there's not much room for convention.

Sane wasn't concerned, though. As the Thundering Herd moves closer to the start of its season, Sane has buckled down and tried to mold himself into a better fit for D'Antoni's gameplan.

"I never worried about it," the Dakar, Senegal native said. "I just believed in myself and worked hard."

Sane saw plenty of action in his first season after transferring from Snow College in Utah. He played in 31 games, starting 20, leading the Herd with 27 blocks and finishing second with 5.0 rebounds per game. Scoring wasn't his top priority, as he averaged just 3.2 points per game.

He knew, though, that he might be called upon to take on more of a scoring load on any given night, as D'Antoni doesn't dissuade those who are open from shooting the ball. Sane might have to take shots he's not used to taking, and he couldn't tell you the last time his game resembled anything near a wing's.

"I don't know," he said. "It's been a while."

Yet that didn't mean Sane couldn't try to diversify his game, so he's spent the offseason working on his mid-range play. Teammate DeVince Boykins has watched Sane work on catching the ball in the post, turning, pivoting and shooting jumpers off the glass, and he said the fruits of the forward's labor have started to show.

"In this offense, man, everything is spread out, so there may be times where Cheikh will catch the ball on the wing," Boykins said. "He's done a great job of being able to make passes from the wing spot. As you guys will see, our offense is filled with back cuts and coming off of curl screens and stuff like that, so we have to have bigs that can pass the ball and make a good pass."

Sane figured there was no reason to remain a strictly low-post option. He's a senior who would love to spend his final season helping the Herd pull itself off the canvas after a dismal 2013-14 season. Marshall finished 11-22 last season and 4-12 in Conference USA. It was the Herd's second consecutive losing season following its 2012 NIT berth, which led to the coaching change.

"We just have to adjust and adapt and try to change our game and try to do whatever (D'Antoni) wants us to do, and try to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I thought, why not just try to change my game and try to work on my 15-footer, run the floor more, face the basket, pick and roll, pick and pop? It's a new style and a new year and different coaches. But I really like the pick and roll and stuff and I really think it's going to be a great offense."

D'Antoni doesn't like sticking limitations on players. He understands that some limitations are just facts of life, but he doesn't handcuff a player into one role and prohibit him from evolving. Sane might not become a 3-point marksman, but if he can develop an effective short jump shot, he could grow as scoring option.

"I always leave the door open where, if they work hard, they can improve that part that maybe I'm limiting a little bit," D'Antoni said. "So next year or a month from now, we take that governor off and just let it go."

It's a different style of basketball than what he's used to, and not the style he signed with Marshall to play, but Sane remains confident he can become a valued asset in the Herd's strategies.

"When I knew Coach D'Antoni was going to be our coach, everybody knew the D'Antoni family and how they like to run the pick and roll," Sane said. "I just had to get used to it, work out more and come to the gym more and just try to be a better player than last year. This is my last year and I just want to be a more productive guy."

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: Major PR firm to help plead Herd's playoff case http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029524 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141023/DM03/141029524 Thu, 23 Oct 2014 20:06:30 -0400 By Derek Redd Marshall's football team will get the help of a major public relations firm in pleading its case for its spot in the College Football Playoff. Conference USA, of which Marshall is a member, has retained the Los Angeles-based firm Brener Zwikel & Associates. According to USA Today, the firm sent a statement Thursday touting Marshall's credentials to the College Football Playoff committee.

The firm's clients include the Rose Bowl, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Speedo.

"It's a PR firm that does great work and we thought we really had a great story from a conference standpoint," said C-USA associate commissioner Courtney Morrison-Archer. "We're excited to keep focusing on the great things around the program."

Marshall athletic director Mike Hamrick said Thursday night that the conference wanted to highlight the Thundering Herd's accomplishments this season so far.

"Marshall University did not hire a PR firm," Hamrick said. "However, I'm aware that Conference USA has engaged with a PR firm to not only promote Marshall, but to promote Conference USA football. I'm very appreciative that our conference feels this strongly about our football season to date to do this."

According to USA Today, the firm's statement mentioned Marshall's 7-0 record, No. 22 ranking in the Amway Coaches Poll and its C-USA affiliation. It also mentioned statistics for Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and the Herd's undefeated seasons in 1937, 1996 and 1999, plus a plea to consider the team for the playoff.

This season is the first that a 13-person selection committee will decide which four teams will compete in the College Football Playoff. It also will decide which team from the "Group of Five" conferences - the Mountain West, Sun Belt, Mid-American, American and Conference USA - will fill the group's spot in a marquee bowl. This season, that bowl would be the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or Peach Bowl.

The College Football Playoff Committee will release its first rankings next week.

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Derek Redd: Herd RB's stiff arm gaining renown http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029689 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029689 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:29:53 -0400 HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall running back Devon Johnson is becoming a Twitter darling.

Well, at least his arm is.

In the grand tradition of Twitter handles like @FauxPelini, the parody account spoofing Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, and @RakeemCato, which is the handle of an account titled "not Rakeem Cato," RockHeads Stiff Arm, with the handle @47sStiffArm, has been born.

"I am an equal opportunity abuser," the account's bio reads. "Linemen, LBs, Dbs, doesn't matter."

The real Devon Johnson has been quite liberal in his distribution of that punishing move. Plenty of opposing defenders have felt the 6-foot-1, 243-pounder's meat hook pistoning into their chests or helmets. It has powered him to 931 rushing yards in seven games, ninth best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and 11 rushing touchdowns, tied for fifth best in the FBS.

Not bad for a fullback-turned-linebacker-turned-tight-end-turned-tailback.

Johnson, who has his own Twitter handle @devon_johnson47, learned just recently that his stiff arm grew a mind of its own and dipped its toe into social media.

"I'm still shocked," Johnson said with a wide grin in his face. "I got it sent to me early (Monday) morning and I was like, 'What in the world?'"

That Twitter account surprised him as much as he has surprised opponents, or at least he did until a few games in, when they realized the yards he was churning out weren't a fluke. Now they know they must account for him as much as they do any other aspect of the Marshall offense.

Florida Atlantic University coach Charlie Partridge compared Johnson to John Clay, a 6-1, 255-pound back that was Big Ten offensive player of the year and a Doak Walker Award finalist at Wisconsin when Partridge was an assistant there under Bret Bielema.

Yet opposing coaches are quick to point out Johnson isn't just a one-move back. Sure, that stiff arm is devastating, but Florida International coach Ron Turner said Johnson has plenty of weapons in his arsenal.

"He's big, but I wouldn't say he just barrels in there and runs people over," Turner said. "He has outstanding vision. He has really good vision and quick feet, the vision to see the hole and the quick feet to hit it. He's more than just a big back that pounds it up in there."

Turner offered that assessment before Johnson recorded his fourth-straight 100-yard rushing game and ninth overall against the Panthers, then added three catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns in Marshall's 45-13 win. That included a 71-yard sprint where Johnson exhibited the vision and speed Turner mentioned, then threw in some power, throwing one of those patented stiff arms at Jeremiah McKinnon and dragging a trio of FIU defenders to the Panthers 3.

He wasn't done. Davison Colimon, a 6-1, 217-pound linebacker, tried to stop Johnson on his 46-yard catch and run for a touchdown, but the diving junior simply bounced off Johnson's trunk as he dashed away.

"I felt him a little bit," Johnson said after the game, with that same grin on his face.

That grin shows up a lot. It's there when he lauds the rest of the offense - especially the linemen, who he always makes sure to call the best in the country, and Cato, whose decision making he says allows him the opportunities to rumble for big yards. It's there when he mentions how much pleasure he takes in contributing in whatever fashion is needed.

But the grin doesn't have its own Twitter feed. Nor do the vision and the quick feet. That honor belongs to the stiff arm. It's a growing following for that stiff arm, with 298 Twitter followers as of Wednesday afternoon. Chances are if Johnson throws a few more on his way past 1,000 rushing yards for the season, those numbers will grow.

Johnson laughed off the revelation that his arm now owns real estate in the Twitter-verse, and his hopes for the account are rather simple.

"Hopefully, he don't put nothin' stupid on there," Johnson said.

No worries on that end, RockHeads Stiff Arm, said.

"Don't worry Devon, I won't put anything stupid on Twitter," he wrote. "You complete me."

And he means that in both the figurative and literal sense.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: FAU rebounding from rough start http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029694 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141022/DM03/141029694 Wed, 22 Oct 2014 16:25:22 -0400 By Derek Redd CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Few college football teams in the country experienced the dizzying highs and dreadful lows that Florida Atlantic University's did in the span of a few months in 2013.

The Owls started the season 2-6. Then the players watched head coach Carl Pelini and defensive coordinator Pete Rekstis amid drug use allegations. Then those players rallied to win their last four games and finish the season at 6-6, only to stay home during bowl season despite being eligible.

The topsy-turviness has continued in a less drastic form this season, but new FAU coach Charlie Partridge feels the team is rallying as it prepares for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at No. 23 Marshall (Fox Sports 1).

The 3-4 Owls have yet to put together a winning streak this season, but they're 2-1 in Conference USA, and Partridge feels the adjustments he's made in the program since he arrived in December have paid off.

"What I'm certainly encouraged by is ... one of our goals this year was to make some foundation-level changes," Partridge said, "from the way we recruit to the behavior that's expected of our kids on and off the field and we're seeing great signs that we're moving in the right direction that way.

"My experience has been that all those things correlate," he added, "and when you make good decisions in all parts of your life, it will lead to more victories, so I'm encouraged by the overall direction of our program, which is what we're working to build here."

FAU's win streak stayed firmly in 2013 after a pair of rough non-conference games to begin this season. The Owls visited Nebraska - then ranked 22nd, now ranked 16th - and Alabama - then ranked second, now ranked fourth - in back-to-back weeks and lost by a combined score of 96-7.

"They came off of Alabama and Nebraska and I think they were staggering off the ropes," Marshall defensive coordinator Chuck Heater said. "Now it looks like they're starting to get themselves together."

The Owls thumped former C-USA foe Tulsa, then lost at Wyoming, rebounded to beat the University of Texas at San Antonio, then gave up four turnovers in a four-touchdown loss to Florida International. It looked like things would go further south when the Owls trailed Western Kentucky by three touchdowns last Saturday, but FAU rallied in the second half to pull out a 45-38 win.

FAU quarterback Jaquez Johnson keyed that victory, throwing for 325 yards and three touchdowns, and running for 95 yards and two more scores. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound junior did well as a dual threat last season when the Thundering Herd needed a last-second field goal to beat the Owls in Boca Raton. He's done the same this season, leading the team in passing (1,323 yards, 10 touchdowns, one interception) and ranking second in rushing (277 yards, five touchdowns), but Partridge said his greatest strides have come in becoming a more complete quarterback.

"We had 10 guys catch the ball last Saturday, and that's a testament to the decisions he's making," Partridge said. "And even more prominent are the things he's showing from a leadership standpoint. He's becoming more vocal. He's an encourager. He's a guy our players look to, and that's what you want out of a quarterback. With his growth in all aspect, I'm excited about his progress."

Johnson isn't the only talent on the roster. Senior receiver Lucky Whitehead leads Conference USA with 6.3 catches per game and all-purpose yards at 170.6 per game. Freshman running back Greg Howell got his first playing time of the season versus WKU and rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Senior linebacker Andrae Kirk is second in the conference to Marshall's Darryl Roberts in passes defended. None of these things surprise Marshall head coach Doc Holliday.

"I have said many times, anytime you're located in Boca or Miami and all the players around them, they are going to have really good players," Holliday said. "They are athletic and can run. We are going to have our hands full."

Partridge said there is no surprise as to what the talent on Marshall's roster has been able to accomplish. In facing a Herd team at 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the conference, mistake-free football is a must.

"There's not a lot of weaknesses that have been exposed on their football team," Partridge said. "When you're going against a team that doesn't have any glaring weaknesses, what you have to do is perform at your best. You've got to execute. Florida Atlantic cannot beat Florida Atlantic on Saturday."

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: DL Samuel feels benefit of better conditioning http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029748 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029748 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:42:09 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - An extraordinary circumstance put Marshall defensive lineman Jarquez Samuel in the spotlight.

On the first play of the fourth quarter against Florida International, the redshirt junior plucked the Arnold Blackmon deflection of an Alex McGough pass out of the air at the Marshall 46-yard line, cradled the football and barreled 27 yards to the Panthers 27.

"I was tired after that," Samuel admitted. "I was a little winded."

That fatigue comes less and less often these days. That comes from Samuel's desire to improve his mental and physical toughness, both of which he'll need when the No. 23 Thundering Herd hosts Florida Atlantic University at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (Fox Sports 1).

Samuel was an occasional starter as a redshirt sophomore, running out with the first team in four of 11 games in 2013. The Valdosta, Ga., native battled Steve Dillon for the starting nose tackle spot throughout preseason camp, winning the job for the Miami (Ohio) game and never relinquishing it. He's started all seven games for the Herd (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) this season alongside Conference USA preseason defensive player of the year James Rouse. And Rouse has an up-close look at Samuel's improvement from last season.

"He's come a long way," Rouse said. "Going back and watching film from last year, it's 100 times better from last year, 100 times difference."

Samuel has climbed steadily since he first took the field for the Herd. After nine tackles in 11 games of reserve work in 2012, he bumped that up to 24 tackles, 3.5 for a loss, last season. This season, he already has 14 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, plus his interception return.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said Samuel's slow build isn't uncommon for players at his position.

"Sometimes defensive linemen take a little longer to develop," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "He started to really come around last year and he just continues to get better and better and he's playing at a really high level right now."

Offensive tackle Clint Van Horn could see Samuel's growth from the other side of the line. The key to that improvement, he said, simply was Samuel's ability to play harder for longer stretches.

"It's effort and being in shape," Van Horn said. "It really got important to him. He had a really good spring and his camp was phenomenal. He really didn't put forth as much effort. I don't think he did that on purpose. He just couldn't because he wasn't in shape.

"For him to come out this year and be a guy who plays a considerable amount of downs for us, it's huge because of his athletic ability," he added. "He's an athletic freak."

Samuel credits Marshall strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair for that transformation. When Sinclair arrived in Huntington in 2013, he drove Samuel to improve his physique and stamina. That motivation made the difference.

"It's a whole lot," Samuel said. "Coach Sinclair helped me out a lot. It was a big step. At first it was rough. I had to get used to the way he was running his program and the weight room and, after that, he just kept pushing me and kept pushing me, and I love it."

Holliday feels Samuel has started to shine because the 6-foot-4, 273-pounder is mentally tougher. He's embraced the challenge of excelling in a physically taxing role.

"Defensive line's not a whole lot of fun," Holliday said. "You get beat up every day in practice and you're constantly pounding on each other. It's fun on game day, when you get a chance to go in there and play, but there's a lot of work that goes into it during the week. Those guys have got to be mentally tough. His mental toughness, he practices every day and goes to work every day and it's paying off."

Samuel agreed that his improved mindset has been as important to his game as his improved body.

"I'm not going to feel healthy every play," Samuel said. "If I feel healthy every play and every game, I'm not doing something right. It's just mental. I have to just push through it and fight through it."

Holliday said that interception actually was a repeat of a play Samuel made during practice earlier in the week preceding the FIU game. Samuel wants more of those plays to transfer from the practice field to the game field. With his added energy and the cast around him - the defensive line's depth allows Samuel to play just 30 to 35 snaps per game - he feels he's on his way.

"I just have to keep my head on straight, not get cocky or nothing," Samuel said. "I have to keep on the path of being great. I have room to get better, so I'll just take the coaching, do it to the best of my ability and keep moving forward."

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: ESPN to pay a visit to Herd practice http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029749 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029749 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:35:34 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's football team will enjoy even more of the spoils of a standout season.

ESPN will arrive in Huntington on Wednesday and follow around the 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd for the day as it prepares for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. home game versus Florida Atlantic University (Fox Sports 1). The "All-Access" segment will air on ESPNU on Tuesday.

Wanting to keep practice week as free as possible of distractions, Marshall coach Doc Holliday considered telling the camera crews to stay away. Yet he reflected on past experiences and changed his mind.

"I thought back on when we were at Florida and really good and had some really good teams," he said. "That's what happens to good teams. You get that kind of press and you get people wanting to talk to you and you get people coming in. And that's not a bad thing. That's a great thing."

The buzz began in the preseason, when Marshall (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) was picked by conference coaches to win the East Division and quarterback Rakeem Cato and defensive lineman James Rouse were named preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Through a seven-game stretch where its defeated opponents by 30.8 points per game, the Herd has reached the top 25 for the first time since the 2002 season.

It had been one of Holliday's goals to bring Marshall back into the national spotlight, and he's very happy the Herd is there.

"It's great, because, hell, three years ago, nobody even wanted to talk to us," he said. "It's great for our university and great for our community, and anytime we have people talking about us and wanting to find out our story, it's a hell of a deal."

At the same time, he remains cautious of distractions, especially since the Owls (3-4, 2-1 C-USA) had the Herd on the ropes until Justin Haig's 41-yard field goal with time running out gave Marshall a 24-23 win last season.

"Along with all this stuff that's happening for them comes responsibility," Holliday said. "And if we don't go to work every day and get better as a team, then we're going to get beat and all those goals and expectations go out the window pretty quick.

"We embrace it," he added, "but we've also got to be able to handle it."

*

THE HERD finally was able to take advantage of its new digs Tuesday, the new indoor practice facility. The cold, drizzly weather spurred the team to take practice indoors for the first time.

"We could've gone outside today, to be honest, but I kind of wanted to change things up a little bit," Holliday said. "We're in the eighth week of the season, and I thought we had a great practice."

Marshall christened the building the Chris Cline Athletic Complex, in honor of Cline, a prominent Marshall benefactor, during a September ceremony. On top of the 120-yard indoor practice football field, the facility soon will have a Hall of Fame, an academic center, and the Marshall University Sports Medicine Institute.

*

FAU COACH Charlie Partridge made a pretty lofty comparison when discussing Herd running back Devon Johnson.

"The last time I'd seen someone with his stature was when I was at Wisconsin with a guy named John Clay," he said.

Clay was the 2009 Big Ten offensive player of the year and the finalist for the 2010 Doak Walker Award for the nation's best running back, rushing for 1,517 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2009 and 1,012 yards in an injury-shortened 2010. Standing 6-foot-1 and 255 pounds, Clay spent the 2011 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

It's not just size that makes the 6-1, 245-pound Johnson similar, said Partridge, former defensive assistant for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin and Arkansas. It's the ability, too.

"He's averaging over 130 yards for a reason," Partridge said. "He made some breakout plays last week that helped them get going against Florida International. For us to think we'll be able to get him down one-on-one without great pursuit, we'd be fooling ourselves."

*

FRESHMAN TIGHT END Ryan Yurachek will have his name nestled in Marshall - and national - record books as the guy who caught Rakeem Cato's record-breaking touchdown pass, giving the quarterback a scoring throw in 39 straight games.

"I was wide open and it was like a beach ball coming at me," he said. "I'm just glad that I caught it."

That catch was one of eight he has so far this season in his growing role as a reserve tight end. He's been a special teams contributor since the season began, but Herd coaches started using him more and more in the offense. Yurachek has gained 74 yards on those eight catches with one touchdown.

Once the Myrtle Beach, S.C., saw Deon-Tay McManus move from tight end to receiver, freeing up more playing time behind senior starter Eric Frohnapfel, he knew it was serious.

"Me and Tay battled all the way through camp for those second tight end reps," he said. "Obviously, when they moved him, he's done a tremendous job outside. I feel that's where he belongs. It really started hitting me when he moved there that the coaches really trusted and that's when it kind of hit me."

*

CAPTAINS FOR the FAU game are tight end Eric Frohnapfel, offensive tackle Clint Van Horn, defensive lineman Jarquez Samuel and corner Corey Tindal. It is the second selection this season for Frohnapfel, Van Horn and Tindal and the first for Samuel. ... Holliday said running back Remi Watson, who injured his shoulder against Florida International, would "practice a little" Tuesday, but Steward Butler would be ready for more carries if needed. Butler gained 76 yards on six carries and scored his first touchdown since scoring two against Rhode Island.

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: Herd to have 10 games televised this season http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029795 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141021/DM03/141029795 Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:25:34 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - With the announcement of the American Sports Network schedule, the Marshall men's basketball team will now play 10 televised games this season - seven on ASN, two on CBS Sports Network (Dec. 1 vs. South Carolina and Dec. 6 vs. Penn State) and one on ESPNU (Nov. 21 vs. Louisville.).

ASN has announced it will carry 63 Conference USA men's basketball games during the 2014-15 season, bringing the total number of C-USA televised games on the schedule to more than 100.

ASN is an initiative of the Sinclair Networks Group, LLC, which owns and operates, programs and provides sales services to 164 television stations in 78 markets, reaching approximately 40 percent of U.S. television households. It includes FOX, ABC, CBS, MyTV, CW, NBC, Univision and Azteca affiliates.

Thirty-nine of the 63 games will be conference matchups, including the men's first round and quarterfinals of the 2015 C-USA Tournament that opens March 11 in Birmingham, Ala.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL; Herd defense continues its climb http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029878 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141020/DM03/141029878 Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:29:09 -0400 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall defense made waves last season with a whiplash-inducing turnaround.

What was one of the worst units in college football became one of the best between the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

So far, the 2014 version is even better.

Entering Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against Florida Atlantic at Joan C. Edwards Stadium (Fox Sports 1), the 23rd-ranked Thundering Herd's defensive numbers eclipse last season's, when Marshall vaulted from the bottom of the rankings to near the top. The defensive players said their climb even higher is a matter of trust.

"In the beginning, it was sort of a surprise," linebacker Neville Hewitt said of the defense's continued improvement. "And then as we started to buy into what the coaches were saying and started to see what everybody else was seeing, and how good we really are, I think that helped."

Marshall (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) is seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision in points allowed per game, giving up just 16.6 a contest. That tops last season's average of 22.9 points allowed, which tied MU for 31st overall and blows away the 43.1 points allowed in 2012, next to last in the FBS.

The ascension is similar in total defense. Marshall's 336.3-yard average this season is 27th best in the FBS, better than last season's 368.7-yard average (35th-best) and vastly improved from 2012's 456.8-yard average (103rd-best).

Hewitt - the team leader in tackles (44), tackles for loss (seven) and sacks (3.5) - goes back to the concept of the defense buying in, taking to heart the lessons the coaches offer. Among the most important messages, he said, was for each defender to win his one-on-one battles.

"If you have to make the tackle, make your tackle," Hewitt said. "If you have to beat your block, beat your block. That's where a lot of people are buying in and that's why you can't find just one person on defense that stands out."

Marshall's defense features several standouts. College football expert Phil Steele released his midseason all-Conference USA team and seven Herd defenders made either first or second team. Hewitt, defensive tackle James Rouse and corner Darryl Roberts were first-teamers, while defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers, linebackers Jermaine Holmes and D.J. Hunter and safety Taj Letman were on the second team.

In comparison, the Marshall offense had five first-teamers - quarterback Rakeem Cato, receiver Tommy Shuler, running back Devon Johnson and linemen Chris Jasperse and Clint Van Horn - and no second-teamers. Tyler Williams was first-team punter and Shuler was second-team punt returner.

A defense that commands that type of respect should put up those numbers, Rouse said.

"We always say we have a lot of playmakers on defense," Rouse said. "And on third down, third and long, that's when your playmakers are going to show up and get us off the field."

Third down is among the Marshall defense's specialties, as is the red zone, or rather, Marshall's ability to keep opposing teams out of it.

Marshall is 14th in the FBS in third-down conversion percentage, allowing opposing offenses to convert just 30.09 percent of them (34 of 113). The Herd is tied for 22nd in the FBS in red zone conversion percentage (75 percent), and it isn't very often that opponents get inside Marshall's 20 yard line. The Herd is tied for 29th with opponents getting to the red zone 20 times, fewer than three times per game.

Van Horn said those performances make it easy for the offense, ranked second in the FBS in both yards (574.9) and points (47.4) per game, to trust the defense.

"I have complete and total trust in those guys to do their job," Van Horn said. "I don't worry about them when they're out there. If something goes wrong, I know they won't let adversity get in their way. It's just the resilience of that group of guys."

It's also a group that knows it can still improve. Rouse said the defense counted about 18 missed tackles against Florida International, the first game in which the Herd trailed when it went down 7-0, though ultimately won 45-13. That'll be a point of focus this week, Hewitt said.

"Each game, we see something we can fix, and if we fix it, we'd be that much better of a defense," Hewitt said. "We don't want to be just a good defense. We want to be the best defense."

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: Cato's homecoming ends with record-setting day (with video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019109 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019109 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:22:33 -0400 By Derek Redd

(Reading on our app? Click here for postgame video)

MIAMI - Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato joked last Monday that his dream scenario for his first touchdown pass against Florida International - the one that would set the major college record for consecutive games with a touchdown pass - would be a 99-yard throw to freshman backup tight end Ryan Yurachek.

Cato's prediction fell about 98 yards short.

The record-setting touchdown was just a 1-yarder, but it still went to Yurachek, the first of four Cato scoring throws in the 25th-ranked Thundering Herd football team's 45-13 blowout at FIU.

That first touchdown, the culmination of a four-play, 74-yard drive, gave the senior a touchdown pass in 39 straight games. Cato had been tied with former North Carolina State and Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson at 38 in a row.

"That's a record, guys, that may never be broken," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "And if any guy deserves it, he does. I was happy when he got it, and I think it took a little bit of heat off of him."

Cato finally admitted after the game that he felt a little of that heat. It's not just that he was on the cusp of solely owning a national passing mark. It was that he had that chance in front of an army of family, friends and mentors in his home town. Cato won a Class 6A state championship at Miami Central and ended his high school career as Dade County's all-time leading passer.

It might have played a part in the Herd (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) stalling out on its first two drives. He completed just three of eight passes on those drives for 22 yards. Yet Marshall got no deeper than FIU's 43 on either drive and punted on both.

"Once I threw the touchdown, I knew that it was back to normal," he said. "I could run the offense again and just keep focused. It was a lot of pressure taken off me. I knew how much I wanted it and I knew how much my teammates wanted it for me. I just came out and just executed the play."

Cato said that the play to Yurachek wasn't even one that was in the Herd playbook.

"I knew that play was going to work," Cato said. "It's a play we don't have in our system. We know it. The whole offense knows it and when that play is called, we just know what to do."

Once Cato got that play out of his system, the scoring floodgates for him opened wide. The senior's four touchdown passes against the Panthers (3-5, 2-2 C-USA) marked his second four-touchdown game of the season - Ohio was his first - and the ninth game of his Herd career where he's thrown at least four. He tossed for 214 yards on 15-of-27 passing and threw one interception.

Besides Yurachek, two of those touchdown passes went to running back Devon Johnson and another went to fellow Miami native Angelo Jean-Louis. Cato's best friend, senior slot receiver Tommy Shuler, didn't take part in Marshall's touchdown parade. He caught two passes for 20 yards. But he made sure to be the first person to congratulate Cato after he set the record.

"That's my brother and I'm happy for him," Shuler said. "He deserves every bit of it. He works so hard in practice and it comes out and shows on the field."

That he could set the mark in front of so many friends and family members made it even more special. There were nieces and nephews. There were coaches who worked with him from youth leagues through high school. There were familiar faces and ones he hadn't seen in a while. Yet they all arrived to cheer Cato to a national record.

"For those guys just to be here, I was shocked," Cato said. "I'm still shocked to see tons of family members come to watch what I've been doing throughout my college career. I've seen faces I ain't seen in four years, since I've been in high school."

Cato's passing day allowed him to reach a few more milestones. He has been responsible for 122 touchdowns in his Marshall career, 110 passing and 12 rushing, which broke Chad Pennington's record of 119. He passed Wilson in another category, too. The current Seattle Seahawks quarterback had thrown 109 career FBS touchdown passes. Cato also is second in Marshall history in career passing yards. His 12,088 so far put him ahead of Byron Leftwich (11,903) but still behind Pennington (13,143).

The number Cato feels is most crucial is the zero Marshall still sports in the loss column. While individual records are reasons to be proud, he wants to keep the Herd undefeated for as long as possible.

"I just want to continue doing my best job and just continue making everybody who supported me smile, make the Herd family proud and continue getting Ws."

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: Johnson paces Herd with his hands and feet http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019111 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019111 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 21:03:07 -0400 By Derek Redd MIAMI - Before he became Conference USA's leading rusher, Marshall tailback Devon Johnson was a member of the Thundering Herd's tight end corps.

The junior hearkened back to those pass-catching days in the Herd's 45-13 win over Florida International. Johnson hauled in three passes, two for touchdowns, as Marshall's football team (7-0, 3-0 C-USA) won its eighth straight game dating back to last season's Military Bowl.

Johnson's first scoring catch was the Herd's first of the second half, and the first of four straight Marshall touchdowns. He grabbed a Rakeem Cato throw across the middle, watched a would-be FIU tackler bounce off him, and picked up speed for a 46-yard touchdown.

"I didn't see him," Johnson said of that defender. "I felt him a little bit and I knew he didn't wrap up, so I just knew I had to keep my legs going and knew that I could end up in the end zone if I could break that tackle."

Johnson scored Marshall's next touchdown, too, a 27-yard pass from Cato that made it 31-7.

He also made an impact on the ground, finishing with 117 yards on nine carries, his sixth 100-yard rushing game this season. The Marshall major college record for 100-yard games in a season is seven, shared by Ahmad Bradshaw (2006) and Darius Marshall (2008). The overall record is 10, set three times by Chris Parker in 1993, 1994 and 1995, when the Herd was a part of the Football Championship Subdivision.

Most of Johnson's rushing yardage Saturday came on his first run of the game, a 71-yard burst up the middle that put the Herd on the FIU 3.

"The coaches told me, hey, let's go, get it going," Johnson said. "I was feeling a little sick before the game. I was a little under the weather and they told me to push through it, fight through it, and that's what I did.

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THAT WIN over FIU helped Marshall move up in the Associated Press sportswriters and Amway coaches top 25 polls. The Herd moved from 25th to 23rd in the AP poll and from 24th to 22nd in the coaches poll.

The only other team in the top 25 from a "Group of Five" conference, East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference, was 18th in the AP poll and 17th in the coaches poll. Marshall sits ahead of West Virginia in the coaches poll, where the Mountaineers are 25th, but behind WVU in the AP poll, where the Mountaineers are 22nd.

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WHEN THE HERD fell behind 7-0 in the first quarter, it was the last time Marshall had trailed at any point in a game since the fourth quarter of last season's Military Bowl against Maryland. Yet the players didn't get nervous after falling behind.

"All we heard on the sidelines is, 'We're good,'" receiver Tommy Shuler said. "We knew we could respond. We knew our offense was good enough to respond. We knew our defense was getting cranked up. We went out and responded as great teams do."

On the drive after FIU scored, the Herd went 76 yards in just four plays, featuring Johnson's 71-yard rumble and Cato's first touchdown pass of the night. The Herd scored the next 45 points, and the Panthers finally scored again on their final drive.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said at the half, when Marshall led 17-7, there was no anxiety or panic.

"We went into the locker room at halftime and there were no worried looks on their faces," Holliday said. "They knew what they had to do. All the leadership on that football team, the coaches don't have to say a whole lot at this point. They understand that they want to be a great football team, they understand what's at stake and they fixed their problems."

*

IN A BATTLE of the conference's top two defenses, Marshall's came out on top. Besides three sacks and eight tackles for a loss, the Herd took a page out of the FIU defense's playbook. The Panthers had returned four interceptions for four touchdowns, and Marshall gave FIU a taste of its own medicine with corner Corey Tindal's 30-yard interception return for a score.

"We're just going to keep pushing," Tindal said. "We're going to make our plays. We just have to fight to the end. Things may not go our way at first, but we've learned how to fight until the end."

That pick-six was Tindal's first interception and first touchdown as a member of the Thundering Herd.

*

RUNNING BACK Remi Watson's night was cut short with a left shoulder injury. He spent a while on the sideline with his shoulder pads off and an Ace bandage wrapped around the shoulder. Because Watson was on the shelf, junior Steward Butler got a few carries. He responded by gaining 76 yards and a touchdown on six carries.

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 SOCCER: Herd women fall at home http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019126 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019126 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 19:04:03 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall women's soccer team had its five-game unbeaten streak snapped by a 1-0 count against Conference USA foe Middle Tennessee (7-7-2, 4-3-1) in the Herd's home finale on Sunday at Veterans Memorial Soccer Complex.

The Thundering Herd's (6-5-4, 3-2-2 C-USA) unbeaten streak snapped was the longest since Marshall opened the 2009 season with a program-record seven consecutive wins. The Herd had not lost since dropping its C-USA opener against Western Kentucky, 1-0 (Sept. 27).

The Herd is headed southbound to visit Southern Miss on Friday and Louisiana Tech on Oct. 26.

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MARSHALL GOLF: Herd men trail by three strokes http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019128 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019128 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 19:01:00 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

POWELLS POINT, N.C. - Following a 1-over-par 73 performance by senior Jacob Miller, the Marshall men's golf team sits three strokes behind leaders Maryland and Drake in fifth place at the ODU/Outerbanks Intercollegiate at Kilmarlic Golf Course.

Former George Washington standout Will Evans shot a 6-over 78.

Marshall will continue play on Monday with a second 18-hole round, beginning with tee-times at 8:30 a.m. off holes 1 and 10.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: WVU, Marshall make Mountain State poll history http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019137 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141019/DM03/141019137 Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:16:20 -0400

FROM STAFF REPORTS

West Virginia University and Marshall University teamed up to make Associated Press poll history Sunday.

The college football top 25 poll, as voted on by 60 media members nationwide, ranked WVU at No. 22 and Marshall at No. 23, the first time ever the Mountain State's two Football Bowl Subdivision programs have appeared in the regular-season AP rankings at the same time.

The only other voting week this occurred was the final poll of the 2002 season, which was released Jan. 4, 2003 after the bowl games. The Thundering Herd was No. 24 in that poll after defeating Louisville, 38-15, in the GMAC Bowl. The Mountaineers finished 25th that season after losing to Virginia, 48-22, in the Continental Tire Bowl. In the last AP top 25 poll before the bowls that season, WVU was No. 13 and the Herd sat in the others receiving votes category.

West Virginia (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) cracked the top 25 for the first time this season after defeating then-No. 4 Baylor, 41-27, Saturday in Morgantown. The Bears plummeted eight spots to No. 12. West Virginia has won three consecutive Big 12 games after losing to then-No. 4 Oklahoma on Sept. 20. The Mountaineers have won five of six games since the season-opening loss to Alabama, with wins over Towson, Maryland, Kansas, Texas Tech and Baylor.

Marshall (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA) is in the national rankings for consecutive weeks after winning at Florida International, 45-13, Saturday in Miami. The Thundering Herd, one of four remaining undefeated teams in the FBS, moved up two spots.

The Mountaineers accumulated 272 points by appearing on 52 of 60 possible ballots. Three voters ranked WVU at No. 13.

The Thundering Herd compiled 184 points and appeared on 44 ballots, with one voter placing Marshall at No. 15. Sixteen voters did not rank the Herd.

MU has won eight consecutive games dating back to last season.

WVU visits Oklahoma State this Saturday after the Cowboys tumbled from the national polls. Marshall hosts Florida Atlantic.

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