Herd closes drills on up note
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall's up-tempo offense scored, the retooling defense put up a respectable fight, fans showed up and a fraction of the band played at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
But the most important thing about the Green-White Game, according to Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday, is that the spring season has ended. As a bonus, it ended with most of his players remaining upright and healthy.
"To be honest with you, I don't like spring games," Holliday said. "I thought we had an excellent spring; I thought those guys did some excellent things out there today. We didn't play some of those guys for a reason - we know what [Rakeem] Cato can do, we know what [Tommy] Shuler can do, Jeremiah Taylor and a couple of those guys."
For the record, the offense won 53-38 in that crazy spring-game scoring system, used for the first time since the Mark Snyder era. Alternating the first and second strings, the offense scored touchdowns in half of its 10 possessions.
There were several concessions made. Cato was pulled early, as expected, allowing backup quarterbacks Blake Frohnapfel and Gunnar Holcombe extra work. Shuler, the 110-catch slot receiver of a year ago, and defensive end Taylor were healthy scratches.
Two 15-minute quarters were played for points, with a running clocked used in the second quarter. Some unscored scrimmaging was conducted after a five-minute intermission, largely to give No. 4 quarterback Kevin Anderson some work.
The show was neatly packaged into 75 to 80 minutes, with a 30-minute autograph session afterward.
"We want to take a look at some of the younger guys, and I think they'll play," Holliday said. "The problem we have a little bit is we go so fast on offense, we want to run a certain number of plays. And if you run two full quarters, you run 250 plays, and you don't want that in the spring game."
Indeed, there were 84 plays run, with the offense gaining 435 total yards. That works out to 5.17 yards per play, which was the norm in the Herd's two previous scrimmages and about 2 yards lower than the MU defense's 2012 average.
Steward Butler dashed up the middle for a 20-yard touchdown and Cato pulled off an 8-yard score on a read-option keeper. Cato threw a 20-yard touchdown to Craig Wilkins and Frohnapfel fired a 32-yard shot to brother Eric in the back of the end zone.
The latter play probably triggered the most reaction from the 5,115 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
"That play usually does not go to [the tight end]," said the 6-foot-6 Eric Frohnapfel. "A two-by-two 'go' concept, so we're usually the distraction guy. But it just worked out with the way the defense was playing - they were just sitting on me and flat-footing me, so I broke open and I was hoping Blake would see me and he made a great read to look over to me and make the throw."
Blake Frohnapfel went 10 of 17 for 155 yards, playing with both the second and first units. Butler gained 60 yards on 11 carries, and Dameon Garrett gained 72 yards on four receptions.
Defensively, linebacker Stefan Houston led with seven tackles, and had one of the unit's nine pass breakups. There were five tag "sacks" and 11 tackles for loss, with linebacker Jermaine Holmes getting two.
Defensive end Armonze Daniel forced the only turnover of the day, a Kevin Rodriguez fumble that Chris Yamoah recovered. Yamoah, a walk-on safety who has received many contact reps this spring because of injuries to A.J. Leggett and Shawn Samuels, had five tackles, one for loss.
The single turnover continued a theme of the spring. Except for the four interceptions in the second scrimmage a week earlier, the offense has protected the ball very well.
"Knock on wood. You know what I mean?" said offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "That's been a huge emphasis. From 2011 to 2012, we cut eight turnovers, it might have been seven [it was, from 27 down to 20], and this year we want to take an equivalent step."
On the other side, the Herd defense wants to increase its slim total of 18 takeaways.
"Never had a great answer for that over the years," said defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. "It's unbelievable, but guys have got to make great plays. Catch the ball when it's thrown to you, get pressure on the quarterback and all those things.
"But those will come when the guys take coaching, get where they're supposed to get, operate the way they're supposed to operate. I believe we have good enough players."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
Cato 8 run
Wilkins 20 pass from Cato
Taliaferro 19 pass from B. Frohnapfel
Butler 20 run
E. Frohnapfel 32 pass from B. Frohnapfel