CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- IT'S FUNNY. We follow spring practice and preseason camp in August and project who will do this and that and from which position.
By the autumn solstice, the script already has unraveled. By November, you might not recognize your favorite team, for better or worse.
At Marshall, a new character seems to emerge every week by now, thanks to injuries major and minor. Recent appearances have been made by Deon Meadows at linebacker, and the Glades Central (Fla.) duo of Demetrius Evans and Davonte Allen at the marquee "X" wide receiver position. And you can throw in Devon Johnson, the former linebacker who caught a touchdown pass out of his fullback spot.
Given his first start in Marshall's 38-28 win over Memphis, Meadows got in on 10 tackles and received credit for 11/2 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. It's a shame he fumbled on his attempt for a defensive touchdown on the last play of the first half, but stuff happens. It fit the game's general weirdness.
Meadows is playing in place of the injured Devin Arrington, and his effectiveness can be questioned. After all, he's playing on one of Conference USA's shakiest defenses.
(Accuse me of optimism if you will, but I must point this out: The Herd defense turned in one of its best halves of the season, yielding seven points and 113 total yards in the first 30 minutes. Add in a three-and-out to start the third quarter, and that effort allowed the Herd to compile a 31-7 lead. ... OK, so the wheels nearly fell off afterward, but still ...)
On the other side of the ball, I am reminded of coach Doc Holliday on multiple occasions saying he really wanted to see Evans, or saying he wanted to see what Allen could do.
In the Memphis game, we saw both after Aaron Dobson went down on the very first play from scrimmage. Both came up big.
We had seen quite a bit of Evans, enough to leave fans wondering why Dobson took so many snaps off, even important downs. But that experience paid off when Evans caught his second touchdown pass of the season, a 25-yarder that gave the Thundering Herd a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter.
Allen has been an "X" factor at "X" for some time. He redshirted as a freshman last year, and injuries pretty much wiped out his spring and preseason camp. He said muscle pulls brought him down - a quadriceps in the spring, a hamstring in August.
For the longest time, those following the team on a day-to-day basis jokingly knew him as "the man in the red jersey," referring to the non-contact designation. He got enough work in to be used in the season opener against West Virginia, catching two passes for 18 yards. He had two more for 16 against Purdue, an 11-yard catch at Southern Mississippi and a 3-yard catch against Central Florida, stuff you would expect from a bit player.
But Allen's role was jacked up considerably when Dobson went out Saturday. Evans had more catches (seven, for 50 yards), but all five passes thrown Allen's way resulted in first downs.
There was a 20-yard catch on third-and-7 to the Memphis 5-yard line. On another drive, he made two first downs - 31 yards on a third-and-8 and 8 yards on a second-and-7. He drew a pass interference on a third-and-6, giving the Herd the ball on the Memphis 31.
All those came on scoring drives, and so did his final - and finest - catch.
When Marshall's lead dwindled to 31-28 and the home fans were anguished, Allen had his finest moment. From the Memphis 31, he streaked down the left sideline, jostled with a defender and finally got open for a perfect pass from Rakeem Cato.
The catch itself was no issue, but two officials had thrown their hats to mark where Allen went out of bounds during his route. They ruled that Allen was bumped out, allowing him to return immediately.
Evans thought something special was going to happen: "Once the play was called, I knew what the play was, I saw what coverage they were in, I just knew it was one of those great moments a great player has to make. He made the play."