Herd has room for improvement
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Marshall has room to improve on all sides of the ball tonight, and doing so should allow the Thundering Herd to make quick work of Gardner-Webb.
The first order of business at 6:30 tonight is to not let the Runnin' Bulldogs build confidence and stay in the game, like so many Championship Subdivision teams before it - eight FCS teams scalped one of the "big boys" last weekend.
This probably isn't a team set up to kneecap an FBS squad - the Bulldogs have scored 18 points in their last three such games while yielding 133.
So if Marshall simply out-athletes these foes, winning should not be an issue. But this Herd team must improve in several areas before that Sept. 14 game at Ohio.
To the casual fan, improvement might be a minor issue after the Herd throttled Miami (Ohio) 52-14 a week ago. But with 10 to 12 games after tonight, coaches are no doubt taking the short and long views from this game.
Some of the items to look at:
Coordinator Chuck Heater isn't worried, though.
"Guys get rid of the ball pretty quick these days," Heater said. "We hit him, we were around him, pressured him a number of times. Pressures sometimes are as significant as the actual sacks.
"The sacks will come in time, in my opinion."
Will Cato continue to refine his run-vs.-pass decisions, or leave that for the Ohio game?
"As quarterback, you can't jam it in there [to covered receivers] if it's not there," said offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "You've got to take what the defense gives you and allow your playmakers to make the plays. And his feet are part of the offense, and he's doing a nice job with that."
So yes, depth at the wide receiver spot is a question that must be answered in the weeks to come. Shawney Kersey's departure this week opens one door at the "X" position, though reserves will audition for snaps, at any position.
"A lot of things we can improve on - we broke a lot of coverages," Heater said. "I liked their approach, their mindset, their competitiveness."
That pretty much wraps up the Herd's mission tonight: Beat an upset-minded FCS school, correct mistakes, get ready for bigger missions in the coming weeks. Do that, and the fans will have a good time.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.