HUNTINGTON - Approximately 52 weeks ago, Marshall had its first football scrimmage, and the ravaging of the Thundering Herd's defense began.
Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the few hundred Big Green-donating, season-ticket buying patrons saw that unit fight back against one of the most potent offenses of the 2012 college season.
Only one touchdown was scored, none by the first- or second-string offenses. All four quarterbacks had one pass picked off, there were four tag "sacks" and the offense gained an aggregate 446 yards on 86 plays - a substandard 5.19 per play.
And that was inflated by big plays late, such as No. 3 QB Gunnar Holcombe's 51-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Josh Knight.
It was a signal that Chuck Heater might be getting somewhere as the new defensive coordinator. But Heater threw a caution flag on the performance.
"Offense is a little down. They've got four of their top receivers not even practicing, so we don't want to get too far over the top of our skis," he said. "I'm sure if they had those guys back, they'd be executing at a higher level."
That group is led by Tommy Shuler, whose foot is still healing from surgery. "X" receiver Davonte Allen watched again, "Z" receiver Craig Wilkins was sidelined and jet-quick slot receiver Devon Smith caught Rakeem Cato's first pass and was not heard from again.
In the backfield, Kevin Grooms remained out, leaving the bulk of the running to Essray Taliaferro and Steward Butler.
Still, the much-deeper defense is showing it wants to avenge its season-long beatdown of last year.
"Way, way much better," said defensive end Alex Bazzie. "Since we've got a coach named Heater, I like to say 'we've got the heat going.' A lot of guys feeling that vibe, kind of feeling it within themselves.
"So they're coming out here with a lot of energy, and they're just running around. You know, we're just all having fun."
"At this point in camp, if the defense isn't a little ahead of the offense, than we've got problems," said coach Doc Holliday. "A year ago, I couldn't say that and we had problems. Now, I think they're where they need to be and they've got to continue to get better.
"The offense, we're wanting to see some things and experiment. We'll be fine."