www.charlestondailymail.com Marshall Sports http://www.charlestondailymail.com Daily Mail feed en-us Copyright 2014, Charleston Newspapers, Charleston, WV Newspapers MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Big defensive plays key for the Herd http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129653 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129653 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:22:53 -0500 By Derek Redd BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It's not that the Marshall football team's defense hasn't been capable of carrying the Thundering Herd on its back to a win. It entered this past weekend allowing just 16.3 points per game. It just hasn't been necessary.

With the Herd's offense scorching opponents like it has this year, there hasn't been an instance where the defense had to bear down in the fourth quarter and either preserve or lead the team to a victory.

Yet with the University of Alabama at Birmingham holding the Herd to more than three touchdowns below its scoring average, Marshall's defense heard that call and answered it, producing two of the game's biggest plays and allowing the Herd to escape Legion Field with a 23-18 victory.

"It was fun," Marshall defensive end Arnold Blackmon said. "As a defense, we're a bunch of excited guys. We take the field with a bunch of energy and it was really fun. It's one of those games where, as a football player growing up, you think about being in those big games."

Blackmon had a hand, literally, in one of those two game-changing plays. Marshall (11-0, 7-0 Conference USA) trailed in the fourth quarter for the first time this season when it fell behind 18-17. A Marshall drive had stalled at the UAB 35, but punter Tyler Williams was able to stick a punt inside the Blazers' 1-yard line. On third and 10 from the 1, Blackmon looped around the right side of the line toward UAB quarterback Cody Clements.

Unable to get the sack, Blackmon aimed for Clements' arm, smacking the ball out of his hand before his arm started forward. The ball bounced off the turf and to fellow defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers, who grabbed it and fell to the turf for the go-ahead touchdown.

"It bounced up and came right into my hands," Myers said. "It was all Arnold."

That score came with 7:35 left in the game, which gave the Blazers (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) time to respond. They almost did, embarking on a 17-play, 64-yard drive that spanned 6 minutes and 39 seconds. UAB got the ball to Marshall 10, thanks to liberal doses of sophomore running back Jordan Howard. Howard - a 6-foot-1, 224-pound bruiser who finished the game with 168 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries - got the ball 11 times on that drive and ran for three first downs, converting on fourth down twice.

But his attempt at a third fell short, thanks to linebacker Jermaine Holmes, who turned in the defense's second crucial fourth-quarter play. Howard had been successful running out of the Wildcat formation and, on fourth and 1 at the Herd 10, he tried it again. He barreled into the heart of the defensive line, but the hole he saw was plugged by Holmes.

"Jermaine Holmes came in and hit this man so hard," linebacker D.J. Hunter said.

The force knocked Howard backward for a 1-yard loss. Marshall took possession with 56 seconds left and the offense kneeled out the rest of the game.

"They plugged all the holes up with their defense, but we still had to find a way to make a play," Howard said. "We just didn't come through."

Holmes did with his ninth tackle for a loss for the season.

"This was for the (defensive) line," Holmes said. "They got good knock-back. I had just seen the hole and I hit it and squared him up. (Howard) is a big dude. We have a lot of respect for him. Our coaches have been talking about him all week. We knew we had the ability. We just needed to step up."

Marshall allowed 346 yards to the Blazers on Saturday. Clements threw for just 141 yards on 15-of-26 passing and was sacked three times. It marked the fourth straight game where the Herd had held an opponent to fewer than 200 passing yards. It was the fifth straight game the Herd had kept a foe to 18 points or fewer.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday subscribes to the adage that defense wins championships. On Saturday, he agreed that it carried the Herd to this win.

"No question," he said. "When they had to make a play, they did. I've said it a lot of times. It's hard to go 11, 12 games and not have to grind one out."

While the Herd doesn't want its games to come down to the wire like this one, Blackmon was happy that, for a change, the defense needed to take the lead.

"It's exhilarating," he said. "I can't explain it enough. I don't even know what to say. I'm still shaking from the adrenaline from the game. It was crazy."

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 keeps calm in face of biggest test http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129655 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129655 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:19:41 -0500 By Derek Redd BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Marshall's football team experienced a couple of firsts in its 23-18 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Herd also hope those firsts are lasts.

It was the first time this season Marshall (11-0, 7-0 Conference USA) was held to fewer than 35 points. It was the first time the Herd's offense was held scoreless in any half this year. It was the first time the Herd trailed in the fourth quarter, falling behind 18-17 with 11:22 left in the game.

And it was a different feeling for Marshall on the sideline, standing there with just minutes to go and the outcome of the game in doubt. Before Saturday, Marshall had been defeated opponents by a Football Bowl Subdivision-best 30.8 points per game.

"I'm not going to lie," Herd linebacker D.J. Hunter said. "In my head, I was nervous. But outside, we didn't let it show. We came out and executed and just kept going hard."

UAB (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) kept it close thanks to an uncharacteristically quiet scoring day from Marshall's offense. The Herd's offense scored just two touchdowns, both Rakeem Cato scoring passes. The first was a 28-yarder to Tommy Shuler. The second was a wild play that saw Cato slip away from a sack, scramble and throw deep, where it was deflected by a UAB defender into the hands of receiver Angelo Jean-Louis, who grabbed it and ran in for a 43-yard score.

The Herd's offense had as many turnovers as touchdowns. On third and goal from the UAB 1 in the third quarter, running back Devon Johnson fumbled the ball, which bounced out of the back of the end zone for a touchback. Cato threw an interception right into the hands of Shaq Jones in the fourth quarter. The Blazers turned that into the touchdown that gave them an 18-17 lead.

Cato said he was holding his breath all the way through the end of the game, as Marshall's defense sealed the win with a fumble recovery for a touchdown and a fourth-down stop that short-circuited a 17-play UAB drive and iced the game.

"It was an ugly game and an ugly win, but we found a way to get it done," he said.

Despite that white-knuckle finish, the players said their refusal to panic was the key to pulling ahead and staying ahead. Marshall wasn't worried about margin of victory against the Blazers. All it wanted was that victory.

"No matter how much we won by, we won," Hunter said. "We won."

* * *

THE HERD, which clinched the C-USA East Division crown on Nov. 15, still isn't sure who it will play in the conference championship on Saturday, Dec. 6. The list of contenders is down to two - Louisiana Tech and Rice. If the Bulldogs had won Saturday, they would have clinched the West, but they dropped an overtime game to Old Dominion. That turned this coming Saturday's Rice-Louisiana Tech showdown into a winner-takes-the-West contest.

If Marshall beats Western Kentucky on Friday, the Herd will host the title game at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Two other scenarios will require the use of the league's tiebreaker system. The first tiebreaker is highest regular-season winning percentage in C-USA play, followed by head-to-head results, ranking in the most recent College Football Playoff committee poll and finally highest average computer ranking (after eliminating highest and lowest rankings and taking the average of the four remaining computer polls).

If Marshall loses and Rice wins, the Herd still hosts, because it beat Rice 41-14 on Nov. 15. If Marshall loses and Louisiana Tech wins, the league would use the CFP poll if the Herd is ranked this Tuesday. If not, the computer polls will determine home field advantage.

* * *

MARSHALL HAD AN audience of several national media outlets at Legion Field. Reporters from the New York Times, USA Today, Grantland.com and CBSSports.com were in attendance on Saturday. After the game, they were asking the Herd about how it's been handling the fact it remains outside of the top 25 in the College Football Playoff committee's rankings, despite being ranked 19th in this week's Associated Press sportswriters poll and 20th in the Amway coaches poll. The Herd is unable to even know where it stands in the hunt for the Group of Five spot in the "New Year's Six" bowl games.

"We talk about trying to eliminate the noise," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "Our kids, they get out in the community and out in the classroom, and they're hearing all these different things, but there's a lot of people out there that think we're a really good football team. All we can control is to keep winning, and if we keep winning, we think at the end of the day, we'll be fine."

Another observer was Peach Bowl President/CEO Gary Stokan, whose bowl could host the Herd if it does earn that Group of Five spot. The Peach Bowl participants aren't up to the bowl to choose this season. It's the job of the CFP committee. But Stokan thinks Marshall would be a strong choice.

"I think the fans will travel to see them play against a Georgia or a Mississippi or a Mississippi State or someone like that," he said. "It's an easy drive to Atlanta. We've heard from a lot of people with the Thundering Herd alumni club down in Atlanta. It's a pretty big crowd down there. And you'd believe as a Marshall fan, you'd want to support your team down there. It's David and Goliath, it's Cinderella, it makes a compelling story for TV and certainly for fans to attend a game like that."

* * *

IT WASN'T a banner day for Marshall's offensive line, even beyond the fact that starting guard Michael Selby left the game and remained on the sideline on crutches with an ice pack wrapped around his left ankle. Cato was sacked three times, plus the line was called for holding on back-to-back plays on the first drive. The first erased a Cato touchdown run, and the second made it first and goal from the UAB 26. Marshall's line also was flagged for several false starts.

"The holdings eliminated a touchdown, but we didn't have one the rest of the game," Holliday said. "That being said, the false starts are things you can control, and we had way too many."

One bright spot, though, was it blocked the offense to 231 yards rushing. Johnson logged his 10th game this season with 100 yards or more, turning in 171 yards on 20 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 FOOTBALL: Herd announces C-USA championship ticket operations http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129657 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129657 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 22:00:02 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The Marshall Athletics Ticket Office will proceed with Conference USA Championship game ticket operations starting Monday at 8:30 a.m. The league's official host announcement will not be determined until after the Thundering Herd's game on Friday vs. WKU and could come as late as Sunday morning.

Season ticket holders who have completed the application process to reserve their season locations for the championship game will be charged for their tickets at the end of the business day on Monday, Nov. 24. Pre-ordered tickets will be printed and mailed prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.

Season ticket holders who did not complete the application process will have the ability to purchase their tickets on Monday the 24th and Tuesday the 25th by visiting HerdZone.com and accessing their online ticket account or by calling 800-THE-HERD. All tickets not purchased by the end of the business day on Tuesday the 25th will be released.

Open seats will be allocated in priority point order for season ticket holders who requested additional tickets starting on Wednesday the 26th. All seats not claimed will be available for purchase when tickets officially go on sale to the general public.

Season ticket holders who had parking passes during the season will receive their same locations free of charge. In the event the game is not played in Huntington, all season ticket holders would receive a full refund within 48 hours of the host announcement.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd drops to No. 19 in AP poll http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129701 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141123/DM03/141129701 Sun, 23 Nov 2014 14:49:54 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The Marshall University football team dropped one spot, to No. 19, in the Associated Press top 25 poll.

The rankings were released Sunday afternoon.

The Thundering improved to 11-0 overall and 7-0 in Conference USA with a 23-18 win over the University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday afternoon. Marshall trailed in the fourth quarter but rallied for the program's 12th consecutive win.

This is the seventh consecutive week Marshall has appeared in the sportswriters' top 25 poll. The Herd debuted in the rankings in Week 7 at No. 25 and climbed to a peak of No. 18 last week.

Marshall was passed in the poll by Southeastern Conference East Division leader Missouri, which improved to 9-2 with a 29-21 win over Tennessee on Saturday.

Florida State (11-0) is No. 1 after receiving 37 of 60 possible first-place votes. Alabama is No. 2 and Oregon is No. 3.

West Virginia, which lost its third consecutive game last Thursday to fall to 6-5, received two points.

1. Florida St. (37) 11-0

2. Alabama (21) 10-1

3. Oregon (2) 10-1

4. Mississippi St. 10-1

5. Baylor 9-1

6. TCU 9-1

7. Ohio St. 10-1

8. Georgia 9-2

9. UCLA 9-2

10. Michigan St. 9-2

11. Kansas St. 8-2

12. Arizona 9-2

13. Arizona St. 9-2

14. Wisconsin 9-2

15. Auburn 8-3

16. Georgia Tech 9-2

17. Missouri 9-2

18. Mississippi 8-3

19. Marshall 11-0

20. Oklahoma 8-3

21. Colorado St. 10-1

22. Minnesota 8-3

23. Clemson 8-3

24. Louisville 8-3

25. Boise St. 9-2

Others receiving votes: Arkansas 40, LSU 39, Nebraska 14, Utah 14, Duke 9, Southern Cal 8, Memphis 3, Texas A&M 2, West Virginia 2, UCF 1.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: No. 18 Herd survives scare from UAB, wins 23-18 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141122/DM03/141129730 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141122/DM03/141129730 Sat, 22 Nov 2014 17:25:15 -0500 By Derek Redd BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - It was the 17th play of the University of Alabama at Birmingham football team's final drive. On fourth and 1 at Marshall's 10 with less than a minute to go, the Blazers had a chance to extend that drive and possibly do something no other team as done against the Thundering Herd - add a blemish to its heretofore pristine record.

UAB went back to a play that had worked for it so many times Saturday afternoon, a direct snap to running back Jordan Howard. On that snap, though, Marshall linebacker Jermaine Holmes was there to greet him. For Howard, it wasn't a pleasant meeting.

Holmes knocked Howard back for a loss, Marshall took over on downs and the No. 18 Herd escaped Legion Field with a 23-18 record.

"Sometimes, throughout the year, you gotta grind one out, man," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "And that's the definition right there of grinding one out. You don't like them that way, but at the end of the day, I'm proud of the way the football team found a way to win, and that's all that matters."

All that's left between Marshall (11-0, 7-0 Conference USA) and an undefeated regular season is Friday's home finale against Western Kentucky. The Herd already has clinched the East Division crown, but still doesn't know who it will face in the conference title game. West Division leader Louisiana Tech lost to Old Dominion in overtime Saturday, 30-27, setting up a winner-takes-the-West game next weekend between the Bulldogs and Rice. That also likely puts the conference title game in Huntington, no matter the outcome of that game.

The Blazers (5-6, 3-4 C-USA) came closer than anyone this season to knocking off the Herd. They sent Marshall to its first fourth-quarter deficit of the year when Howard scored on a 10-yard run with 11:22 remaining. UAB's 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the Blazers led 18-17.

Marshall's ensuing drive stalled at the Blazers 35, but Tyler Williams was able to land a punt that the Herd downed inside the UAB 1 and set the stage for the Herd's go-ahead score.

On third and 10 from the 1, Marshall defensive end Arnold Blackmon sprinted around the right end and stripped UAB quarterback Cody Clements in the end zone. The ball bounced right into the hands of fellow defensive end Ra'Shawde Myers for a touchdown and a 23-18 lead.

"That was all Arnold, man," Myers said. "He had a great pass rush, got around the corner and it was more of a look-what-I-found-type play."

UAB still had a chance to respond, and looked like it might on that final marathon drive. The Herd was no stranger to long drives by the Blazers. UAB went on a pair that spanned 11 plays and covered at least 80 yards the last time the two met at Legion Field, a 38-31 UAB win in 2012. The ball went to Howard - who finished with 168 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries - on 11 plays of that drive. He rushed for three first downs in that possession, converting two fourth downs. Holmes wouldn't let him convert the third.

"It was for the (defensive) line," Holmes said. "They got great knock-back. I had just seen the hole and I just hit it and squared him up."

Marshall's defense rescued its offense from an unusually quiet scoring day. The Herd entered Saturday averaging 47.1 points per game, second-best in the Football Bowl Subdivision, but scored just two offensive touchdowns against the Blazers. Both came on Rakeem Cato touchdown passes. One went to Tommy Shuler from 28 yards out. The other went to Angelo Jean-Louis after Cato escaped a sack, scrambled, threw downfield and the pass was tipped by a UAB defender into Jean-Louis' hands for a 43-yard score.

Shuler finished with a game-high 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. It was his first game with double-digit catches since catching 10 against Southern Mississippi on Nov. 2, 2013.

Running back Devon Johnson recorded his 10th game with at least 100 yards, gaining 171 on 20 carries, but his fumble kept the score close late. With less than 8 minutes left in the third quarter, Johnson, who had broken a 75-yard run on the drive, fumbled on third and goal at the UAB 1. The ball bounced through the back of the end zone for a touchback.

Despite the nail-biting finish, Cato, who completed 20 of 38 passes for 284 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, knew Marshall's defense could seal the win.

"I have so much faith and loyalty in my defense," Cato said. "Those guys got it done."

Clements finished the game with 141yards on 15-of-26 passing. Tight end Kennard Backman led UAB with 70 yards on seven catches.

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 falls at No. 7 Louisville http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141122/DM03/141129747 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141122/DM03/141129747 Sat, 22 Nov 2014 01:11:21 -0500

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Chris Jones scored 18 points and backcourt mate Terry Rozier added 17 as No. 7 Louisville overcame poor shooting to beat Marshall 85-67 Friday night.

Forward Wayne Blackshear had 16 points, 12 in the first half, for the Cardinals (3-0).

Star forward Montrezl Harrell sat most of the second half with four fouls. He went to bench 2½ minutes after the break with Louisville up 43-31 and returned with 5:47 left and the Cardinals ahead by 13.

Senior forward Shawn Smith led the Thundering Herd (3-1) with 16 points.

Louisville shot 27 of 70 (39 percent). The Cardinals started out only 7 for 23 and missed all 10 of their 3s in the first half.

It was the first time the Cardinals failed to make a 3 in a half since their round of eight win against Duke en route to the 2013 national title, a first half more remembered for Kevin Ware's gruesome leg injury.

Marshall finished 23 of 63 from the field (37 percent) but was confident early, and with reason. The Thundering Herd made seven of their first nine shots and led 18-15 eight minutes in.

Blackshear's steal and subsequent dunk with 7:51 remaining in the half gave Louisville a 22-20 lead, part of an 11-0 run.

Louisville led 41-27 at halftime as Marshall shot just 3 for 20 after its good start.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd won't let Legion Field affect it vs. UAB http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141121/DM03/141129827 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141121/DM03/141129827 Fri, 21 Nov 2014 00:17:43 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., is a place where college football atmosphere often goes to die.

The 87-year old stadium can seat more than 71,000 people. Its tenant, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, officially averages a little more than 20,000, but the real number likely is less than that.

"It's a nice stadium if you can pack it out," Marshall center Chris Jasperse said. "It's too big for what they do."

Two years ago, though, that cavernous building worked to the Blazers' advantage.

The Thundering Herd walked in there in 2012 looking for its fifth win of the year, so that its bowl eligibility wouldn't come down to the final day of the regular season. What the Herd found was a 24-point third-quarter deficit that led to a 38-31 loss.

"We knew going into there it's a hard place to play," running back Devon Johnson said. "It really is. No crowd there. You have to bring your own juice. You have to get hyped by yourself."

The No. 18 Herd (10-0, 6-0 Conference USA) returns to Legion Field for a noon Saturday game versus UAB (WCHS). It likely will experience the same atmosphere, but a much different Blazers team than the one it trounced in Huntington last season. This UAB team (5-5, 3-3 C-USA) sits one win away from bowl eligibility under first-year coach Bill Clark.

Marshall players said they won't let Legion Field trip them up again. The stakes this weekend are much too high. The Herd has clinched the C-USA East Division crown and the spot in the conference championship game that comes with it. But home-field advantage in that game is not yet certain. Louisiana Tech also is 6-0 in the conference. Also, a loss could eliminate Marshall's chance at the Group of Five slot in the marquee "New Year's Six" bowl games.

"This week we're going to worry about bringing our own juice at practice," Johnson said.

It's been the Herd's fortune that it hasn't needed to worry about hyping themselves up on the road. Marshall has handled itself in various environments away from Joan C. Edwards Stadium this season. It's won the five road games it's played by an average of nearly four touchdowns.

Marshall coach Doc Holliday said his Herd has shrugged off low-energy stadiums all year.

"We have, and we're going to have to do the same thing this week, there's no doubt," Holliday said. "But we've gone to FIU, we've gone to Akron, we've gone on the road and faced similar situations. And it'll be critical we react the right way again this week."

The Blazers have rebounded from an awful 2-10 season to reach the cusp of the postseason. Quarterback Cody Clements, a junior college transfer who began his career at Washington State, has speed demon J.J. Nelson to throw to. Nelson also is one of college football's most dangerous return men, the only one this season to return three kickoffs for touchdowns. Sophomore running back Jordan Howard, averaging more than 115 rushing yards a game, heads a stout running game, and UAB's defense has come around as well. After finishing last in the conference in pass defense in 2013, the Blazers jumped up to seventh in C-USA in that category in 2014.

So the Herd will have two issues to combat Saturday - playing a much-improved foe in what likely will be a quiet stadium. Redshirt junior offensive tackle Clint Van Horn doesn't think Marshall will need to feed off a crowd's energy against the Blazers. The Conference USA title the Herd has yet to win since it arrived in the conference is more than enough to spark the team.

"It goes back to us losing the conference championship last year and our strength coaches doing a good job of making us all mentally tough in the offseason. The team motivation is what drives us, really doing it for each other. That's where it comes from, none of that fake hype before the game. Preparation and everything we've worked for in the offseason is enough motivation for us."

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: Taylor heads to familiar surroundings at Louisville http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141121/DM03/141129828 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141121/DM03/141129828 Fri, 21 Nov 2014 00:15:47 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - There was a point in Ryan Taylor's life that his college basketball home was going to be the arena he'll visit Friday - the University of Louisville's KFC Yum! Center.

As a high school sophomore in Indianapolis, Ind., Taylor committed to the Cardinals. In the end, he ended up at Marshall, but the college sophomore will get the chance to face the No. 7 Cardinals at 9 p.m. Friday on ESPNU, bringing an all-around game that he wasn't able to show last season.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere," Taylor said. "It's probably one of the top 10 gyms in the country. But I just think we're going to stay level-headed as a team and play our style of basketball. Our team is excited for it and it's ready for it."

Taylor wanted to be part of the Cardinals 2011 signing class that included Wayne Blackshear and Chane Benehan, but academics sent him to Hargrave Military Academy and then to the Herd, where he sat the 2012-13 season as an academic non-qualifier.

He finally took the floor for Marshall last season and was named to the Conference USA all-freshman team after a campaign during which he averaged 12.7 points and a team-high 7.2 rebounds a game. He did that as part of a potent trio that included fellow freshman Kareem Canty and sophomore Chris Thomas. But by the time this season rolled around, Taylor stood alone. After Marshall and former coach Tom Herrion parted ways, Canty transferred to Auburn and new coach Dan D'Antoni dismissed Thomas for team-rule violations.

That left Taylor to pick up a lot of slack in a lot of places, but D'Antoni gave him the leeway.

"Over the summer, it wasn't coming into the gym being a back-to-the basket type of person," Taylor said. "It was, OK, we were going to show every aspect to everyone's game."

And in giving the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Taylor that leeway, D'Antoni learned that Taylor was pretty good at being more than a low-post scorer and a rebounder.

"In practice, I'm not a position stereotype guy," D'Antoni said. "We move them all around. We worked with Ryan and let him interchange positions, and you watch him and he makes the real crisp pass. He's strong. He can see things. He's big.

"He can play (point guard) through (center) in this league," he added. "He's capable. So in practice he started doing a little bit more and the next thing you know, we're saying, well, let's play him out there a little bit."

In Marshall's first three games, all wins, Taylor is averaging 18 points, 8.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 blocks. He's shooting 67.7 percent from the floor, 80 percent from the free throw line and made 4 of 8 3-pointers.

He followed a 16-point, six-rebound, four-assist game against Jacksonville State with a 13-point, 11-rebound, six-assist night against Savannah State, then tied a career high with 25 points on 8-of-9 shooting against WVU Tech.

"I enjoy it a lot," Taylor said of D'Antoni's offensive scheme. "I'll get happier if one of my teammates makes a shot off of my pass or even like a hockey assist, if I pass it to the open man and he passes it to another open man and he shoots. Last year, I was kind of a one-dimensional player. Coach D'Antoni gives me the freedom to show my full game. I have a lot of fun with this offense. It's a lot of fun just playing in it."

Taylor's passing could be important if point guard Tamron Manning has to sit another game. He missed the Herd's WVU Tech win with a groin injury.

Taylor will get his toughest test so far in that new system against the Cardinals (2-0), led by junior Montrezl Harrell. The preseason all-ACC pick is averaging 22.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. But don't expect Taylor to go on some mission to show Louisville what it's missing.

"I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself about all that," he said. "I'm just going in and looking at it as the next game. They're next on our schedule and we want to go in there and hopefully come out with a win. I'm not going in with added pressure. With too much pressure, I might go out and try to do too much. I'm just looking at it as another game, even though it's a big game for me and the team."

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 BASEBALL: Herd signs nine players http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141120/DM03/141129888 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141120/DM03/141129888 Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:12:12 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall baseball coach Jeff Waggoner has announced the program's 2015-16 recruiting class Thursday.

The class consists of three junior college players and six high school seniors who will join the Herd for the 2016 season.

The junior college signees include two infielders - Tommy Lane (Pendelton, Ore.) and Leo Valenti (Olympia, Wash.) and right handed pitcher Gabe Gunter (Andalusia, Ala.). Joining the Herd from high school are four pitchers - Tyler Schmidt (Croswell, Mich.), Josh Shapiro (Bexley, Ohio), Wade Martin (Portsmouth, Ohio), and Jordan Johnston (Lockport, Ill.) - a catcher, John Stewart III (Granville, N.Y.) and infielder Joey Hernandez (Toa Alta, Puerto Rico).

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: UAB much improved from last season's dismal end http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141119/DM03/141119043 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141119/DM03/141119043 Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:36:26 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's football team has looked at the film from the Herd's game last season against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It's looked at the film from the Blazers' games in 2014. And it's come to a simple conclusion.

"They're a better team," running back Devon Johnson said. "They can beat any team on any given day."

There are plenty of differences between the Blazers of last year, a group that lost its last six games, and the Blazers of this year, who are one win away from bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004. The No. 18 Thundering Herd understands that Saturday's noon game at Legion Field (WCHS) likely will be tougher than 2013.

The 2013 edition was the last in the two-season tenure of former UAB coach Garrick McGee. Marshall pummeled the Blazers, 56-14, at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. It was another setback on the road to a 2-10 finish, after which McGee ducked out of Birmingham to become Bobby Petrino's offensive coordinator at Louisville.

That opened the spot for Bill Clark, a longtime high school coach who parlayed four years as South Alabama's defensive coordinator into the head coaching job at Jacksonville State. He lasted there one season, finishing 11-4 and reaching the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals, before moving to UAB (5-5, 3-3 Conference USA).

Under Clark, the Blazers already are at 5-5. Marshall coach Doc Holliday said an improved attitude might be the secret to their turnaround.

"I think Coach Clark has done a tremendous job with them," Holliday said. "He has them motivated and playing hard. They have players. They have some good football players. He has coached them up. He has them believing in themselves and he has them playing extremely hard. You can tell that by watching them on film."

The not-so-secret reasons include running back Jordan Howard and receiver J.J. Nelson. At 115.7 yards per game, the 6-foot-1, 224-pound sophomore Howard is one of just four C-USA running backs averaging more than 100 yards a game. Last season, Howard backed up Darrin Reaves, who spent a few games this year with the Carolina Panthers. Now, the job belongs to Howard alone.

"He likes to run over people and he also can make you miss," Marshall defensive lineman James Rouse said. "They try to establish the run game early. He's probably the most physical, complete back we've played so far."

Nelson, aside from averaging 19.5 yards a catch, is one of the nation's top kick and punt returners. He's tops in C-USA and second in the NCAA with 36 yards per kickoff return and is the only player in the nation to return three kickoffs for touchdowns this season.

UAB's new defensive staff has sent the Blazers in the right direction, Marshall offensive coordinator Bill Legg said. After finishing last in pass defense and 12th out of 14 teams in rushing defense last season, UAB is seventh in pass defense and ninth in rushing defense in 2014.

That comes from the confusion the Blazers can create, Legg said.

"They create things a lot of different ways," Legg said. "They bring pressure from all different angles. They create a lot of issues. We've got to be on point and we've all got to be on the same page. It'll be as much of a mental challenge as it will be a physical challenge."

While UAB sitting on the cusp of bowl eligibility for the first time in a decade should be cause for celebration, it's being done under a cloud of uncertainty. Some UAB supporters and former players are concerned about a feasibility study the school is conducting, fearing it could lead to UAB ending its football program. The Blazers have no non-conference games scheduled past 2016, nor does Clark's contract go beyond 2016.

Not the best set of circumstances to try and prepare for a nationally ranked Marshall team (10-0, 6-0 C-USA) beating foes by an average of nearly 31 points per game. Clark said the team should embrace its underdog role.

"We should play like we have everything to gain and nothing to lose," Clark told reporters at his weekly press conference. "Our guys have to understand just how hard we are going to have to play. One thing I notice about them is how hard they play. We should turn it loose.

"We just need to take them one at a time," Clark said. "We know what one win means to us, but we need to play for both of them. We understand how good the team we are playing this week really is and what kind of challenge that is. But getting to be at home, with the seniors' last game at Legion Field, we should be inspired. It is just another opportunity for us. You work so hard for these very few opportunities and we should be ready."

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 linemen show respect on couple of fronts http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141119/DM03/141119048 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141119/DM03/141119048 Wed, 19 Nov 2014 21:33:12 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - If this is the closest thing Marshall's football team has to an insurrection this season - which is to say, it really wasn't one at all - the Thundering Herd will be just fine.

Late in Marshall's 41-14 win over Rice, the Herd's offensive line realized that tailback Devon Johnson, a week after sitting out with a swollen knee, was on the verge of a 200-yard rushing game. His last carry against the Owls, a four-yarder on the Herd's final touchdown drive, put him at 199 on the night.

Marshall had one last drive with 5:16 left in the game. Center Chris Jasperse and the rest of the starting offensive line went looking for Johnson.

"They grabbed me and they were like, 'Hey, we're going back in for one play. We don't care,'" Johnson said.

Before that group made it back to the field it ran into one final barrier - the 5-foot-5 roadblock that is offensive line coach Alex Mirabal.

"I campaigned pretty hard," Jasperse said. "I told coach, 'No matter what you say, we're going in.' He said, 'You go in, you're going to get tackled.'"

The group stayed on the sideline. Johnson stayed at 199 yards.

Two items of note here. First is the level of respect Marshall's offensive line has for Johnson, the Brahma bull of a running back who has plowed through and sprinted away from defenses all season to the tune of 155.8 yards per game. That's the fourth-best average in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision.

The 6-foot-1, 243-pounder is the type of guy Marshall's offensive linemen like - reserved, good-natured, humble, with the unbridled desire to annihilate the closest defender on his radar. It's an attitude that turned him from first-time collegiate running back to Doak Walker Award semifinalist in the span of 10 games. He kind of was an offensive lineman last season, when he was a tight end whose sturdy frame made him a solid blocker.

That one extra yard would have given Johnson two straight games with at least 200. He set the school record with 272 rushing yards the last game he played against Florida Atlantic. Anytime someone asks him about his feats as a runner, his first words almost always are in praise of his offensive line.

Those linemen saw Johnson's disappointment when the coaches held him out of the Southern Mississippi game as a precaution. They could tell how eager he was during practice to return to the field.

"I knew in practice he was fine," Jasperse said. "Then, early in the game, you saw the way he was running, and he was back."

With as much respect as he gives them, the linemen only wanted to return that respect with a chance at 200 yards.

That brings us to the second item of note - the respect they all have for Mirabal. The coach's linemen tower over him. How could the headset-toting David be able to stop all those Goliaths at the same time?

None of those Goliaths were brave enough to find out.

"He'd find a way," Jasperse said. "He'd find a way to get us all down."

If Mirabal brought down Johnson, opposing defensive coordinators might have been calling him up for pointers. He'd have been one of the few this season to do it.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: Taylor leads Herd past WVU Tech, 87-65 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119141 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119141 Tue, 18 Nov 2014 22:34:20 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - The warm-ups are over for the Marshall men's basketball team. A brush with the bright lights and a big opponent are on the horizon.

The Thundering Herd weathered a couple of runs from WVU Tech to beat the Golden Bears, 87-65, Tuesday night at the Cam Henderson Center. First-year Herd coach Dan D'Antoni found plenty he liked in the win and plenty Marshall (3-0) could work on. And the Herd will get a couple of days to prepare for Friday's visit to No. 7 Louisville (9 p.m., ESPNU).

"There are good and bad spots," D'Antoni said. "There are good teaching points. If there weren't good teaching points, they wouldn't have hired me. It's good that I can work on something. I've got something I can coach.

"We're going to work on it," he added. "I think the kids have bought in. You can see that they like the style. We're going to try to get better and better. As far as the next game, it's the next game."

After WVU Tech (5-1) was able to induce some turnovers in a 16-0 second half run that cut Marshall's lead to 11, D'Antoni turned the reins over to Ryan Taylor. The sophomore responded by tying his career high with 25 points and adding eight rebounds.

"Coach D'Antoni emphasizes me being a leader on and off the court," Taylor said. "When I came in a lot of my teammates were like, 'Take over. Make everybody calm and just play basketball.' I came in to just get the ball to the middle and make the open pass."

Golden Bears head coach Bob Williams said much of his team's second-half surge came from a zone defense he put in just the day before the Marshall game. The Herd missed seven shots and turned the ball over three times during that WVU Tech run.

"When we went zone, we got, I believe, eight straight stops," Williams said. "You're going to force jump shots and they result in long rebounds. We were able to get the long rebounds and run out. We were able to force some turnovers and stole some passes. We ran out and got some easy stuff in transition and that allowed us to get some easy 3s, too."

The Golden Bears were able to hang close with the Herd in the opening minutes thanks to a pair of Jaren Marino 3-pointers and Marshall's early shooting struggles. Behind Marino's pair of 3s, WVU Tech trailed Marshall just 10-8 with a little less than five minutes gone in the game. The Herd made just 3 of 9 from the floor in that span.

The game's complexion changed drastically over the next four minutes. Marshall made four of its next six shots, including 3-pointers from Jay Johnson and Shawn Smith, and WVU Tech fumbled its way to eight turnovers in those four minutes. By the time the two teams went to the bench for the under-12-minute break, that 10-8 lead became 22-8.

Marshall led by as many as 25 in the first half, buoyed by seven 3-pointers in 15 tries, and went into halftime up 48-27.

The Golden Bears warmed up coming out of the break, outscoring Marshall 8-1 in the first 2:59 of the second half to cut the Herd's lead to 49-35. Taylor hit a 3 to end that rally, and Marshall stayed ahead thanks in part to hitting 13 3-pointers in the game.

Austin Loop scored 14 points for Marshall, which had four more players score nine points each, including Cheikh Sane, who added 16 rebounds, two blocks and three steals. Marino and Jauries Thomas each scored 15 points to lead WVU Tech.

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: Marshall left out of CFP poll; Alabama is new No. 1 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/ARTICLE/141119161 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/ARTICLE/141119161 Tue, 18 Nov 2014 20:01:04 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

Marshall was left out of the College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday evening. It is the fourth edition of the CFP top 25.

The Thundering Herd is 10-0 overall, 6-0 in Conference USA and has already locked up the C-USA East Division title and spot in the league's championship game Dec. 6. Marshall is ranked No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, but hasn't appeared in any CFP poll to date. The final poll will be released Dec. 7 and determine the four playoff teams and other major bowl assignments.

Alabama is the new No. 1 in the rankings and Mississippi State is still in the top four after losing to the Crimson Tide.

Alabama jumped from fifth to first after handing previously undefeated and top-ranked Mississippi State its first loss on Saturday. Oregon was bumped down to second and unbeaten Florida State is now third. The Seminoles are the only undefeated team left in a Big Five conference.

TCU slipped to No. 5 while Ohio State moved up to No. 6, ahead of TCU's Big 12 rival Baylor and Mississippi.

The full rankings are below:

1. Alabama (9-1)

2. Oregon (9-1)

3. Florida St. (10-0)

4. Mississippi St. (9-1)

5. TCU (9-1)

6. Ohio St. (9-1)

7. Baylor (8-1)

8. Mississippi (8-2)

9. UCLA (8-2)

10. Georgia (8-2)

11. Michigan St. (8-2)

12. Kansas St. (7-2)

13. Arizona St. (8-2)

14. Auburn (7-3)

15. Arizona (8-2)

16. Wisconsin (8-2)

17. Utah (7-3)

18. Georgia Tech (9-2)

19. Southern Cal (7-3)

20. Missouri (8-2)

21. Oklahoma (7-3)

22. Clemson (7-3)

23. Nebraska (8-2)

24. Louisville (7-3)

25. Minnesota (7-3)

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Chuck McGill: Rand University's ratings, Doc's buyout and missing ballots http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119172 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119172 Tue, 18 Nov 2014 18:27:26 -0500 In addition to receiving yards and touchdown catches, Randy Moss can pile up the ratings.

ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary titled "Rand University," which debuted last Tuesday as the 68th film in the popular series, had 2.165 million viewers. That makes the film about Moss' life and football career the highest-rated 30 for 30 since "You Don't Know Bo" - the story of multi-sport star Bo Jackson - made its debut Dec. 8, 2012.

The data was provided by TVbytheNumbers and used viewers in the 18-49 demographic.

The hour-long Moss film, which heavily featured the former DuPont High School, Marshall University and NFL star growing up in his hometown of Rand on the outskirts of Charleston, came in second place for all shows on cable last Tuesday. Sons of Anarchy, which appears on FX, had 4.380 million viewers.

* * *

IF MARSHALL coach Doc Holliday is going to make a career move, the date of departure is significant.

Holliday has his Thundering Herd at 10-0 and No. 18 in the Associated Press top 25 poll. That has his name being bandied about for a prominent college football coaching vacancy.

FootballScoop.com, a website that specializes in tracking coaching searches, reported Monday that Holliday is "very much a candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Florida." The job opened this past weekend when Gators coach Will Muschamp was told he'd not be retained next season.

Muschamp is 5-4 this season and 27-20 since his arrival in Gainesville, Fla., prior to the 2011 season.

Holliday, of course, is known for his recruiting acumen in the Sunshine State and coached with the Gators for three seasons (2005-07) as the associate head coach, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator under then-coach Urban Meyer.

The 57-year-old Holliday, a Hurricane native, is 37-24 in five seasons at Marshall. He has the Herd in the national polls for the first time in 12 seasons.

The buyout in his latest contract, dated July 9, 2014, would be $1.2 million if Holliday voluntarily resigned on or before Dec. 6, 2014. That payment drops to $600,000 after Dec. 6, 2014, which happens to be the day of the Conference USA championship game. Considering the Herd has already locked up the Conference USA East Division and a spot in that game, it is unlikely he'll be going anywhere before then, if he goes at all.

If Holliday departs for "any other college, university or professional team" he'll have 30 days to make the payment in lump sum.

As has been reported in this space and elsewhere several times, Holliday's buyout escalates to $3 million if he ever accepts the head coaching position at West Virginia University. That provision has been included in every contract he has signed while at Marshall.

* * *

HOLLIDAY'S Herd moved up three spots, to No. 21, in the AP poll this week with a total of 383 points from the 55 of 60 voters who placed Marshall on their ballots. The total points should've been higher, however.

AP voters Bill Rabinowitz (The Columbus Dispatch in Ohio) and Keith Sargeant (Asbury Park Press in New Jersey) mistakenly omitted the Herd from their respective ballots this week. Rabinowitz had the Herd No. 18 last week and Sargeant placed MU at No. 17. Assuming the Herd would have at least kept those positions, that cost Marshall at least 17 points in the AP poll.

Ultimately, that wouldn't have changed Marshall's standing in the sportswriters' poll, which is released every Sunday afternoon. Georgia Tech had a 140-point advantage on the Herd for the 17th spot.

Both voters acknowledged and apologized for the omission.

Eric Avidon (Framingham, Mass.), Grant Ramey (Maryville, Tenn.) and Kyle Ringo (Boulder, Colo.) are the final three pollsters who do not have the Herd in the top 25.

* * *

AND FINALLY ...

Moss this, Moss that.

Randy Moss' son, Thaddeus Moss, has started to generate recruiting interest. The Class of 2016 prospect, who plays at Victory Christian in Charlotte, has received scholarship offers from Boston College and North Carolina State in recent weeks.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Moss is a tight end and defensive end for Victory Christian, where his father is a defensive assistant coach this season.

Look up the Internet highlight tape of the younger Moss. He possesses his father's pass-catching ability, but looks like a promising pass rusher.

Moss played basketball as a freshman at St. Albans and football as a sophomore at Lincoln High School in Rhode Island.

If Atlantic Coast Conference schools are offering the junior, others will surely follow.

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Holliday focused on Herd, not Florida coaching search http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119187 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141118/DM03/141119187 Tue, 18 Nov 2014 17:14:16 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON - Back-to-back 10-win seasons can do wonders for a college football coach's reputation. That sustained success can put that coach's name on lists for some pretty big job openings, as Marshall coach Doc Holliday is finding out right now.

Holliday's name has popped up on some lists of potential candidates for the soon-to-be vacant University of Florida job. UF announced Sunday that coach Will Muschamp would not return to the Gators next year following their 23-20 overtime loss to South Carolina.

Holliday said Tuesday the Florida search was the furthest thing from his mind. His primary mission was to prepare his 18th-ranked Thundering Herd for Saturday's noon game at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (WCHS).

"Right now, I'm only concerned about being the head football coach at Marshall," Holliday said. "I've never been happier coaching football than I am right now, and I'm concerned about one thing and one thing only, and that's getting this football team prepared to go play, period.

"I haven't even thought about anything else," he added, "and I'm not going to."

Holliday has plenty of connections to Gainesville. He was the Gators' associate head coach, safeties coach and recruiting coordinator under then-head coach Urban Meyer from 2005-07. While there, he was named one of Rivals.com's top 25 recruiters and helped coach UF to the 2006 national championship.

He long has been a strong recruiter in the Sunshine State. Twenty-nine players on the Herd roster are Floridians. Eight of his 22 offensive and defensive starters are from Florida, including record-setting quarterback Rakeem Cato and receiver Tommy Shuler.

n n n

THE HERD will get back a key defensive player this Saturday, as Holliday said defensive end Gary Thompson will be ready to play.

"Gary's fine," Holliday said. "Gary practiced yesterday, he'll practice today and Gary'll play on Saturday. It's good to get him back."

Thompson has not played a down since Marshall's Oct. 5 win at Old Dominion. He had to be helped off the field in that game, putting no weight on his right leg. He watched the Middle Tennessee game with a large brace strapped to that leg, but has been on the mend since.

The redshirt sophomore recorded 11 tackles, two for a loss, with a sack in those five games. His absence pushed redshirt junior Armonze Daniel and redshirt sophomore Joe Massaquoi up the depth chart, and Holliday said both responded well.

"The way Armonze and Joe are playing now, it's kind of happened that way for us all year," Holliday said. "The receivers, when we got Davonte (Allen) back, (Deon-Tay) McManus got some experience. The same thing with the offensive line. Now we get Gary back, who was a starter for us at one time. It just adds to our depth there, which is going to help us."

n n n

HYLECK FOSTER finally reached the end zone for the first time in his career in Marshall's win last Saturday versus Rice, a week after the freshman slot receiver had that feat taken away from him.

Against Southern Mississippi, he caught what was originally called a 24-yard touchdown pass from Rakeem Cato, surfing a USM defender across the goal line. A replay-booth review turned that 24-yard score into a 23-yard first down at the 1.

There was no debating his real first touchdown, a 25-yard strike from Cato to Foster in the second quarter.

"It felt like a monkey being lifted of my back," Foster said. "It felt so good for me. Not scoring last week, to scoring this week, it's a great feeling."

Holliday, never bashful in playing freshmen, has had plenty contribute this season. At one point against Rice, he looked out on the field at the offense and saw Foster, receivers McManus and Angelo Jean-Louis and tight end Ryan Yurachek, all first-year players.

"I kind of looked at (offensive coordinator) Billy (Legg) and said, 'What the hell are we doing, we got four freshmen on the field at the same time?'" Holliday said with a grin. "Then, all of a sudden Yurachek catches a touchdown and Hyleck does the same thing.

"It's a positive," Holliday continued. "They're young players, but they're not freshmen anymore. They've played a lot of football for us and we trust them."

n n n

CAPTAINS FOR the UAB game are linebacker Neville Hewitt, defensive lineman James Rouse, Cato and center Chris Jasperse. It is the fifth captaincy for Hewitt, the sixth for Rouse and the seventh for both Jasperse and Cato.

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 hosts WVU Tech http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141117/ARTICLE/141119280 ARTICLE http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141117/ARTICLE/141119280 Mon, 17 Nov 2014 18:37:01 -0500

FROM STAFF REPORTS

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A pair of undefeated men's college basketball teams meet in Huntington on Tuesday night.

Marshall University, which is off to a 2-0 start in the Dan D'Antoni era, hosts undefeated WVU Tech at 7 p.m. inside the Henderson Center in a non-conference matchup. The Thundering Herd leads the all-time series 17-6 and hasn't lost to the Montgomery-based school since the 1931-32 season.

The Golden Bears are off to a hot start with five consecutive wins to open the season. WVU Tech has victories over Davis & Elkins, Salem International, Kentucky Christian, Ohio University-Chillicothe and Ohio State University of Newark.

WVU Tech (5-0) has six players scoring in double figures, paced by 6-foot-6 senior forward Jauries Thomas, who is averaging 14.6 points per game and 11.2 rebounds (both team-highs). Newcomer Sharife Sergeant, a 6-8 senior, is second in scoring (14.4 points per game) and second in rebounding (8.8 per game). Rashaud Kincaid (12.0 points), Jaren Marino (11.8 points), Eddie Gordon (11.6 points) and Leon Cooper, Jr. (11.4 points) are the others averaging double figures for coach Bob Williams' squad.

The Golden Bears are one of the top rebounding teams in NAIA, ranking first in offensive rebounds per game (23.4), third in total rebounds (49.4), sixth in rebounding margin (16.0) and 10th in total offensive rebounds (247). WVU Tech also ranked 14th nationally in scoring at 88.0 points per game.

Marshall will be playing its third game in five games to start the season. The Herd defeated Jacksonville State, 74-55, in D'Antoni's collegiate coaching debut last Friday. MU also defeated Savannah State, 66-47, Sunday afternoon to stay perfect.

This will be the Herd's third consecutive home game before it hits the road Friday to play nationally ranked Louisville (9 p.m., ESPNU).

Marshall has four players averaging double figures through two games. Sophomore forward Ryan Taylor leads the way with 14.5 points per game and 8.5 rebounds, while senior forward Shawn Smith is averaging 13.5 points per game. Senior forward Cheikh Sane is third in scoring (11.5 points) and second in rebounding (8.0). Sophomore guard Austin Loop averages 11.0 points per game and leads the team with six 3-pointers in 10 attempts (60 percent).

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MARSHALL FOOTBALL: Herd happy, but not satisfied, with East Division title http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141117/DM03/141119290 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141117/DM03/141119290 Mon, 17 Nov 2014 17:52:17 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - The announcement slipped into public knowledge Saturday night, long after Joan C. Edwards Stadium had cleared out following the Marshall football team's 41-14 shellacking of defending Conference USA champion Rice.

The conference revealed on its Twitter feed that Marshall's win, coupled with Middle Tennessee's loss to Florida International, gave the Thundering Herd the C-USA East Division crown and a spot in the conference title game for the second consecutive year. If there is fanfare and hoopla around that news, it hasn't infiltrated the Marshall locker room.

"I don't think we've really talked about being East Division champs," senior center Chris Jasperse said. "Coach (Doc) Holliday didn't mention it (Sunday) at all. We're just letting that go and going for the bigger picture."

That bigger picture is what keeps the 18th-ranked Herd focused heading into Saturday's game at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (noon, WVAH). With a division title in hand, home-field advantage in the title game remains a goal.

Marshall (10-0, 6-0 C-USA) knows how important that home field is. They didn't have it for last season's title game versus Rice. The Herd and Owls finished with 9-3 overall and 7-1 conference records, and the conference's formula gave Rice Stadium the championship. The Owls jumped out early and cruised past Marshall, 41-24.

Louisiana Tech remains undefeated in conference play in the West Division, so the home field remains undecided.

"We really want it to be here, just for what it means to the town," Jasperse said. "It needs to be here."

The subdued tone of the talk surrounding Marshall's division title comes from the players' belief that the primary goal remains unfulfilled. The feeling of that missed opportunity in last season's conference championship game still stings, even if the Herd avenged that loss in dominating fashion this past Saturday.

"It's a great accomplishment, but we want a ring," linebacker Neville Hewitt said. "That's what we feel was taken from us a year ago. The division, yeah, but you get banners and you get rings for championships."

In winning the division, Marshall eliminated the biggest hurdle in winning the conference. The Herd's spot in the title game is guaranteed. Yet senior defensive tackle James Rouse doesn't think he and his teammates will prepare any differently or relax now that that is assured. They still must face UAB (5-5, 3-3 C-USA), which is one win away from bowl eligibility a season after finishing 2-10.

"I still think we're going to prepare the same way we've been preparing," Rouse said. "It's great that we have the spot in there, but honestly, I didn't know that until y'all just told me. I wasn't even thinking about that because we've been taking everything one step at a time and one game at a time and treating every game as a playoff."

Still, the Herd doesn't diminish the importance of winning the division for Marshall's football program. It marks the first time Marshall has won back-to-back conference titles since winning six straight Mid-American Conference East Division titles from 1997-2002. The Herd also has recorded consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins for the first time since 2001-02.

Marshall went nine straight seasons winning no more than seven games and reached that seven-win plateau only twice. It has been the mission of Holliday and Marshall's players to return the team to the level it enjoyed when Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich roamed the field. In winning their second East title, Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato said the players are closer to making good on their vow.

"I think that was our job," Cato said. "We've really wanted to do that over the last four years. I think our players did a great job of responding, really locking into coach Holliday and his game plan. As long as we keep focused and keep locked in, everything will be OK."

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 defenses stuffs Rice (with highlights video) http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119355 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119355 Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:11:50 -0500 By Derek Redd

(On our app? Click here for Herd highlights video)

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall football coach Doc Holliday has plenty of contenders this season in the race for top defensive performance. After Saturday's 41-14 thumping of Rice, he thinks he has a leader - not just for this year, but for his entire tenure with the Thundering Herd.

"This may be the best defense we've had since I've been here," Holliday said.

The Herd defense held an Owls offense averaging nearly 200 rushing yards a game to nearly less than half that. It surrendered just two touchdowns, one on a short field and one with the reserve unit in the game. And it helped keep Marshall undefeated and in the hunt for the Group of Five spot in the "New Year's Six" bowls.

Marshall held Rice - which lit up the Herd for 487 yards en route to winning last season's Conference USA title game - to just 180 yards of total offense. It was the second time this season the Herd (10-0, 6-0 C-USA) held an opponent to under 200 total yards. The first time came against Rhode Island, which gained 175 yards.

The Rams are a Football Championship Subdivision team that hasn't won a game all season. The Owls (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) are the defending conference champs. Marshall hasn't held a Football Bowl Subdivision team to that few yards since allowing just 123 to Ohio in the 2009 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

Much of that stinginess came against the run game. Rice had gone into Saturday averaging 196.8 rushing yards per game. The Owls mustered just 81 yards on 35 carries, and linebacker Neville Hewitt said the key was keeping Rice away from what it does best.

"We really tried to take away the option," Hewitt said. "That's something we worked on a lot. I guess they'd seen us kind of wide there and they just didn't run it."

Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson struggled through the air as well. The junior completed just 11 of 23 passes for 99 yards, was sacked three times, hurried six times and had six passes broken up. Marshall defenders hounded him throughout the game, and that kept Jackson on his heels.

"I think the clock in his head sped up after a few hits from our linebackers," said defensive end Arnold Blackmon, who recorded one of those sacks. "They were destroying him. It was exciting to see those guys flying around."

Marshall's defense is now allowing just 322.2 yards and 16.3 points per game. Of the two touchdowns, the first came on a 17-yard drive following a Rakeem Cato interception. The second came with 5:16 left in the game. The unit made a believer out of Rice coach David Bailiff.

"They didn't look undersized to me," he said. "I would put that defense right up there with Notre Dame and (Texas) A&M. They have a good, solid defense that I don't remember a year ago."

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THE HERD got an extra prize following Saturday's game - the Conference USA East Division crown.

Marshall's win, coupled with Middle Tennessee's 38-28 loss to Florida International, gave the Herd the East for the second straight year. With that comes a berth in the C-USA Championship game on Saturday, Dec. 6. The site of that game has yet to be determined.

Both Marshall and West Division leader Louisiana Tech are 6-0 in the conference, and both have two conference games remaining. The division champion with the best record hosts the title game. That honor went to Rice last season, and the Owls beat the Herd 41-24.

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CATO ADDED another record to his resume Saturday, becoming Marshall's career leader in touchdown passes. He threw four against the Owls to bring his career total to 117. That bests the old record of 115 held by Chad Pennington.

Cato now holds Marshall's career records in completions, attempts and touchdowns. He sits just 355 yards away from breaking the career passing yards record following Saturday's 23-for-37, 297-yard performance. Cato now has 12,789 passing yards to Pennington's 13,143.

He said he couldn't have reached this point without the cast around him.

"Football's not a one-man sport," Cato said. "When I found out I broke the record, I made sure I went to the whole (offensive) line and shook their hands and said, 'This one's for you. Y'all are the guys who make this happen.' They're blocking for me and the wideouts are out there catching the ball. I'm just trying to to my job to the best of my ability."

Holliday said Marshall fans should enjoy what Cato has been able to accomplish while the senior is still under center.

"People probably won't appreciate what he's done until he's gone," Holliday said. "That's the way it works. What he's accomplished is unbelievable."

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PENNINGTON GOT a front-row seat to Cato's record-breaking day. The Marshall Hall of Famer was the guest of honor at the Chris Cline Athletic Complex earlier that day, as the university dedicated its new Hall of Fame facility in his name.

The Chad Pennington Hall of Fame houses memorabilia from many Herd sports, including a display honoring the 75 football players, coaches, staff and boosters who died in the 1970 plane crash. It also features two interactive screens that allow visitors to watch highlights of several Hall of Famers.

Pennington said the new facility is a wonderful way for visitors to learn about the university's unique story and how it has persevered through tragedy to find great success.

"Forty-four years ago at this time, the prevailing thought around our community, around our area and probably the nation was that our story at Marshall University had ended," Pennington said. "But little did they know that our story had only begun because of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears of so many within this community and so many within our university."

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RUNNING BACK Devon Johnson wasted little time reestablishing himself as one of college football's most prolific rushers. After missing Marshall's win over Southern Mississippi to rest his swollen left knee, he gained 199 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.

Johnson now has 1,402 yards and 16 touchdowns on the season. That is the sixth-best single-season yardage total in school history and, with Marshall bowl-eligible and clinching a C-USA title game berth, has four more games to play.

As he normally does, Johnson said he couldn't reach those milestones alone.

"My (offensive) line, all the credit goes to them," he said. "They provide my holes for me and when I get an open field, I try to take advantage of that and make people miss and just get up field."

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: CFP committee can't ignore Herd any longer http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119359 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119359 Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:02:54 -0500 By Chuck McGill HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - In last week's College Football Playoff teleconference with committee chair Jeff Long, the Arkansas athletic director said that he and the 11 other committee members "compare teams, we contrast them and we vote them."

That happened here at Joan C. Edwards Stadium on Saturday after Marshall pummeled yet another team, 41-14 over defending Conference USA champion Rice, to move to 10-0 and escape the weekend as one of only two remaining undefeated teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

In two of the first three CFP polls - the fourth will be released Tuesday and the final poll, on Dec. 7, is the one that really matters - Notre Dame was ranked No. 10 by the committee. Last week, the Irish were slotted at No. 18 and Texas A&M debuted at No. 24.

Rice coach David Bailiff and the Owls' leading receiver, Jordan Taylor, did some comparing of their own after a four-touchdown loss to the Thundering Herd. You see, Rice opened the season with a 31-point loss to Notre Dame and 28-point defeat at the hands of Texas A&M. They've seen teams the committee has previously evaluated as worthy of the CFP top 25. They've now seen the Herd, which hasn't yet nudged its way into the same poll.

The visitors from Rice compared. They contrasted. They voted.

"They deserve to be ranked," Bailiff said of Marshall, which outgained the Owls by 401 yards Saturday. "We have played A&M and we have played Notre Dame. Marshall is right up there with those guys."

Taylor, who had nine receptions against the Herd on Saturday, concurred.

"Standing on the sideline watching, I don't see much difference at all," Taylor said inside the Shewey Building after the game. "These guys are 21 in the country right now and in my opinion should move up a little bit."

Marshall did just that in the polls released Sunday. The Herd is No. 18 in the Associated Press top 25 and No. 18 in the Amway coaches poll. The timing wasn't so fortuitous for comparisons to Notre Dame and Texas A&M. The Irish and Aggies both lost Saturday. The perception of the teams isn't what it was a week ago, much less earlier this season when Notre Dame peaked at No. 5 in the AP poll and A&M reached as high as No. 6 in the media rankings.

But the Herd's work stacks up against power conference teams. Let's compare, let's contrast.

Marshall is 9-0 against the FBS portion of its schedule. Power conference schools (including Notre Dame and Brigham Young) are 14-1 against those same nine opponents. Pittsburgh lost to Akron, 21-10, for the one blemish. Marshall routed the Zips, 48-17, for one of the Herd's eight wins this season by 25 or more points.

Scoff at the strength of schedule, but Marshall has been more impressive against those opponents than the teams in the so-called power five.

The Herd's margin of victory against its nine scheduled FBS teams is 29.7 points. Power conference schools have outscored those same nine opponents by 25.1 points in 15 games this season.

"Certainly scores of games are a factor," Long said last week. "We do not reward teams' excessive scoring, but we certainly have to take into effect the scores of the game."

Will Marshall, the only FBS team with at least 35 points in each game this season, the only college football team with 10 double-digit wins this season, finally get the attention of the committee when they meet Monday and Tuesday to decide this week's CFP top 25?

"I could care less if they listen, to be honest," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "We can only worry about what we can control. Just keep winning and they won't have any choice but to recognize us."

Saturday's performance deserves a closer look.

The Herd didn't score a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time this season, but dominated Rice in every facet of the game. In fact, if not for one of the poorest throws you'll ever see from Rakeem Cato and Holliday emptying the bench in the fourth quarter, the Owls might not have scored.

Rice scored its first touchdown on a four-play, 17-yard "drive" after Cato's interception. The other touchdown came on the Owls' final possession, an 11-play, 75-yard drive against a mostly second-string defense.

Rice only managed 180 yards on 58 plays, but its offense had generated 105 yards on 47 plays before that final drive. The Owls averaged 424.0 yards per game against Notre Dame and Texas A&M. The Herd nearly outgained Rice by that margin, a 401-yard difference, far and away the biggest disparity between MU's offensive output and an FBS opponents' total yardage during Holliday's five years at the helm.

Ever since Southern Mississippi decided to start its game with Marshall with multiple onside kicks and built a 14-0 lead before MU touched the ball, Holliday's Herd has been near perfect.

Marshall has outscored its C-USA opponents 104-17 since falling behind by two touchdowns in Hattiesburg, Miss. In the past seven quarters, the Herd has 1,020 total yards of offense compared to 364 allowed. Marshall has 55 first downs and four punts in the past two games.

For the season, the Herd is first nationally with 63 touchdowns, and No. 126 out of 128 in number of punts (28). There's no shortage of mind-boggling statistics like that, and now they're coming against the reigning league champs.

"There's always been the gripe all season that we don't have the strength of schedule," Marshall senior tight end Eric Frohnapfel said. "This is what we needed to do. To win by this big margin, eventually we're going to get the attention we deserve."

If the CFP committee compares teams, contrasts them, then that time should be Tuesday.

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MARSHALL BASKETBALL: Defense pushes Herd past Savannah State http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119365 DM03 http://www.charlestondailymail.com/article/20141116/DM03/141119365 Sun, 16 Nov 2014 20:56:40 -0500 By Derek Redd HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall men's basketball coach Dan D'Antoni has said that, for him, it starts with defense. The Thundering Herd lived up to those words Sunday afternoon in a 66-47 win over Savannah State at the Cam Henderson Center.

Marshall (2-0) held the Tigers to under 33 percent shooting and blocked 10 shots.

"Defensively, we're not bad," D'Antoni said. "We're long. If you look at our guards, I thought (Aleksa Nikolic) did a great job in there defensively. We're long and we're very capable, defensively, of playing the passing lanes and making it tough on you."

Shawn Smith led all scorers with 19 points, while Ryan Taylor scored 13 with 11 rebounds and six assists.

The Herd started Sunday afternoon's game with the same solid shooting with which it finished Friday's win over Jacksonville State. Marshall hit six of its first 11 shots, but suffered a stone-cold stretch through the middle of the first half, hitting just one of 13 shots. That slump finally ended when Ryan Taylor scored a fast-break layup off a Nikolic pass.

As poorly as Marshall shot in that streak, the Herd stayed ahead thanks to Savannah State's own scoring problems. The Tigers finished the half shooting just 9 for 34 from the floor, including 1 for 9 from 3-point range, which allowed Marshall to enter halftime leading 33-22.

"The defense has to be on a string this year," junior Jay Johnson said. "Everybody's got to talk and everybody has to have each other's back on help-side. The fact the defense was there, that opened up our style of play, which is transition buckets. Get the ball out, get it out and go."

The Herd actually got some help from the spot that had been its fatal flaw - the free-throw line. Marshall, which finished next to last in free throw percentage last season, made 9 of 12 from the line in the first half.

Two quick Taylor layups and a Smith layup in the first 91 seconds of the second half extended Marshall's lead to 17 and the Herd cruised from there. Marshall led by as many as 21 in the game despite finishing with more turnovers than the Tigers (0-2). It was what Marshall did with those turnovers that made the difference. The Herd scored 18 points off 12 SSU turnovers, while the Tigers only scored eight points off of Marshall's 14 turnovers. Savannah State made just 21 of 64 shots (32.8 percent) for the game.

The Herd regained some of its shooting touch in the second half, making 14 of 27 shots (51.9 percent) to end the game shooting 42.9 percent overall. Johnson and Cheikh Sane each pulled down 10 rebounds, while Nikolic finished with five assists. Marshall played all but 10 minutes of the game without Tamron Manning, who was hampered with a pulled groin.

Javaris Jenkins and Khalen Pinkett led Savannah State with 12 points each.

Marshall returns to the court at 7 p.m. Tuesday versus WVU Tech, and D'Antoni likes what he's seen from his Herd so far.

"All in all, for a young ball club, 2-0 ... I think you guys might have penciled us in for them, maybe not," D'Antoni said. "And they weren't close ball games. We put up a winnable margin in both games. It's nothing to rest your laurels on, but it is a start."

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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