Coach Doc Holliday
I was beginning to doubt Coach Holliday's ability to turn the running game around. Let's face it: The Herd had been getting stuffed on the run, putting Rakeem Cato in serious jeopardy.
Against Rice on Saturday, Cato threw the ball less and enjoyed it much more, completing 28 of 39 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. That's a 72 percent completion rate with no interceptions.
That's a very good day for a quarterback if you can run the ball. But Marshall can't run the ball! How did the Herd win with only two touchdown passes?
It appears the Doc had the prescription to help out Cato with a running game. He moved his primary running back so far to defense.
Way to go, Doc. The defense needed help, but now what about the running game? Who's left?
He answered the question against Rice. Watson, Grooms and Butler put on a show. As Cato took the pressure off them, these three returned the favor. And then some.
Let's take a look at just how well these three backups answered the call:
Remi Watson, the bruising 5'11" 202 lb. freshman from Lakeland Florida, started. His contribution as a backup in the previous three games consisted of 14 carries for 59 yards and a touchdown.
An average of 4.2 yards per carry. Not too bad for a backup. But not enough to take away the starting job, or so I thought.
The running game had gone nowhere the first three games. All of the running backs were frustrated. Watson was quoted by Derek Redd of the Charleston Daily Mail:
"We just felt like people were sleeping on us, thinking we were just some mediocre, average guys," Watson said. "We were like, let's show them."
When Doc moved starter Travon Van to defense, it opened the door for Watson to start. It would be more accurate to say three freshmen backups busted the door wide open. And it started with Watson.
The bruiser of the three gained 84 yards on only 14 carries and scored two touchdowns. That doubled his number of carries for the season. Watson is now averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Watson topped off his first start by scoring the game winning touchdown in overtime on a five-yard run. Not a bad beginning!
Kevin Grooms, a 5'10" 165 lb. freshman speedster from Hollywood, Florida, had seen some playing time as a backup and showed promise.
Grooms had gained 85 yards on 14 carries with no rushing touchdowns in the first two games. He also caught one pass for 20 yards against Western Carolina.
He entered the Rice game with a bang. Grooms gained 103 yards on only 12 carries for three touchdowns rushing. He also caught another pass, this one for a five-yard touchdown.
That's four touchdowns and 8.6 yards per carry in relief! Grooms scored the first Marshall touchdown against Rice with a 17-yard run in the first quarter.
Grooms didn't get a carry against Ohio University after being the leading rusher for the first two games. Maybe that was the motivation he needed.
He told Derek Redd: "It made me feel like I had to prove a lot, I didn't feel right sitting on the sidelines knowing I can help my team win and knowing I can make plays. It gave me the opportunity, I had to take off and show everyone what I can do."
I guess he did. Nice resume he's submitted for starting the next game!
Here comes Steward Butler, 5'9" 165 lb. freshman from Lakeland Florida. Up until the Rice game, Butler had carried 19 times for 76 yards and one touchdown in a backup role.
Butler also caught a 10-yard pass against WVU, but was limited to one carry for two yards against Ohio University. I guess he was also a little motivated.
Butler had 166 yards on 18 carries including a 57-yard touchdown against Rice. That made it the first time two Marshall players had rushed for over 100 yards in a game since 2009.
Marshall had 334 yards and six touchdowns rushing. No one appreciated it more than Cato, who told Derek Redd:
"They couldn't stop the run all night. I told Coach Legg to forget about the pass plays. I'll be a decoy if I have to and just hand the ball off if I have to. He wanted to call a few more pass plays, but I said no, just keep running the ball."
Good advice coming from a sophomore quarterback. Let's hope they can keep it going against Purdue's No. 25-ranked run defense next Saturday!
Still the question remains, but for a much better reason: Who you going to start at running back, Doc?
Comments welcome and appreciated!