CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- FIRE THE defensive coordinator. Fire both coordinators. Fire Doc Holliday. Fire the graduate assistants. Burn down the Shewey Athletic Building.
That's what a number of Marshall fans were demanding after a win.
I get this, to some extent. After watching their team give up 69 to West Virginia and lose 54-17 to Central Florida, I understand the sentiment.
After seeing their Thundering Herd lose to Alabama-Birmingham - Marshall should never lose to UAB in football - I understand the outrage. Add that one to agonizing losses to Ohio and Tulsa, and you have a season that could have been, instead of this repeat of 2010 (5-7) or 2011 (7-6).
(By the way: Memphis 46, UAB 9. Really?)
Whether the Herd pulls out a bowl bid with an upset Friday afternoon at East Carolina, or it loses to finish 5-7, there will be some soul-searching after Year 3 of the Holliday regime. There should be.
Doc's not going anywhere, but there is no shortage of grumbling over defensive coordinator Chris Rippon, who presides over one of the nation's most porous defenses. Scoring defense is 116th at 41.09 points per game, rushing defense is 106th at 211.0 yards per game and the Herd is 89th in pass efficiency defense rating.
And Rippon hasn't swayed the green-clads in the last three games, even with the Herd winning two. Second-half near-collapses against Memphis and Houston have played a role - the Herd saw a 31-7 lead over the Tigers melt to 31-28 before winning 38-28, and saw Houston wipe away a 38-17 deficit before the Herd prevailed 44-41.
You can cite a still-young defense that has put together good halves recently, including the first half against Houston. You can point to 13 takeaways in the last five games, which is what that defense needs on a consistent basis. D.J. Hunter's move to linebacker (look for him to go back to safety for 2013) was the best position move in the Holliday/Rippon era.
But it's a tough sell. Holliday's Marshall tenure probably hinges on what he does with his defensive staff, no matter which way he goes with Rippon. Consider this: If Holliday lets Rippon go, does he improve matters with the replacement? (Yeah, I noticed Rick Minter is likely available after Kentucky finishes the season. I mention that without further comment.)
I understand the sentiment on the defensive side. The really strange idea from some fans is canning both coordinators.
Really? I hope that's a puny minority. I had an all-time first on Saturday, seeing a fan call for the offensive coordinator's head on the same day his unit rolls up 650-plus total yards.
On the whole, Bill Legg has done a whale of a job installing the breakneck offense and bringing quarterback Rakeem Cato along. After years of enduring the Herd's "dead ball" era, I find this such a welcome development.
Marshall averages a cool 39.3 points and 525.3 yards a game this season, and here is what you should remember about those numbers:
Now, there was much to pick at against Houston. I thought it needed to score more than 10 points off the defense's four three-and-outs, and the two interceptions (one a receiver's fault, the other Cato's) crushed scoring drives. The surprising trouble at the UAB game has been much discussed.
With this offense, you almost have to have a risk-reward defense that banks on big plays. I'm not sure how close Marshall is to succeeding with that formula, but there have been several examples in the last eight seasons in Conference USA.
For now, remember this: If you're going to be a .500 team, at least be entertaining. This is the most entertaining Marshall team in nearly a decade.