HUNTINGTON - Two days after Marshall backed itself into a bowl-eligibility corner with a 38-31 loss to Alabama-Birmingham, players talked about what went wrong and what they needed to fix.
But in the case of failing to slow down UAB runner Darrin Reaves, they just tipped their hat. Reaves rushed for 184 yards, with 94 of those and his second touchdown coming in the fourth quarter.
On Monday, several defenders called Reaves the toughest back Marshall has faced to this point.
"Kind of reminds me of my running back from Boston College [now at Temple], Montel Harris," said safety Dominick LeGrande. "That's what I thought when I watched him [on video] all week. I've got a lot of respect for that guy; he's going to be a great player."
"He ran extremely hard," said defensive tackle Marques Aiken. "Thick-legged guy, huge lower body. He didn't tip at all. When he sees it, he hits it and he hits it hard. He runs with a low center of gravity.
"I give him credit, regardless of whether we had 'fit' issues or not. He did a great job of carrying his team on his back."
Now, Marshall must turn its attention to another talented running back, Houston's Charles Sims, if indeed he plays. Sims missed the Cougars' 41-7 loss to Tulsa last week with an ankle injury, and failed to finish the previous two games.
Sims leads C-USA in rushing yardage per game, 106.1. But in playing just eight games, he ranks behind three runners in total rushing yardage - Southern Methodist's Zach Line (1,032), Reaves (928) and East Carolina's Vintavius Cooper (891).
With or without Sims, Houston (4-6, 3-3) takes on Marshall (4-6, 3-3) at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, with a noon kickoff Saturday. The loser falls out of bowl contention.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato has a suggestion for his teammates as the Herd tries to win its last two: Just have fun.
"That's one thing I've felt we've lacked all this year, just going out there and having fun," Cato said. "Everybody's playing uptight, everyone's listening to what's going on around us, not focusing on anything. Once we do that, go out there and have fun, we're going to be good."
Along those lines, he shared part of the formula on how the Herd's passing game finally clicked. He threw for 158 of his season-low 214 yards in the final 20 minutes.
He told his receivers this: I'll scramble a bit, you get open and I'll hit you.
"That's what they did, and the coaches called a couple of screen passes," Cato said. "After that, it was just all sandlot football."
In other words, he and his receivers had some fun.