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Herd no strangers to So. Miss assistant

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One of these days, Tommy West will coach somewhere other than a Conference USA school. Maybe.

West is serving as defensive coordinator at his second C-USA school since his 2009 firing at Memphis. After spending 2011 at Alabama-Birmingham, he was hired at Southern Mississippi by new coach Ellis Johnson.

Marshall will play a West-coached team for the 10th time when the Thundering Herd takes on the Golden Eagles at 7 p.m. EDT Saturday at Hattiesburg, Miss. CBS Sports Network will air the game.

The Herd, 5-4 against West, first saw him when he was an assistant at Appalachian State in 1980 and 1981. In the latter year, Marshall broke its long winless string of Southern Conference games, winning 17-10 in Boone, N.C.

West was in his lone season as a head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga in 1993, when the Moccasins won 33-31 over the Herd in Terrell Owens' sophomore year. West was 2-3 against Marshall as head coach at Memphis, winning in 2005 and 2007.

Last year, West's UAB defense was hammered in a 59-14 Herd rout. In fairness to the Blazers, Marshall scored five touchdowns on drives of 55 or fewer yards, and added two defensive touchdowns. Still, A.J. Graham threw for five TDs.

Saturday night, West will try to keep MU's Rakeem Cato under five passing TDs. Then again, he has seen a few Conference USA offenses, so the Herd's rapid-fire attack isn't new.

"Our system is 'let's get lined up fast and force them to get lined up fast,' and hopefully we see less defense [adjustments] as a result of it," said Bill Legg, MU's offensive coordinator. "At the same time, Tommy's used to seeing no-huddle offenses. It's not his first rodeo."

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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