HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Being a freshman nonqualifier, defensive end Gary Thompson was not with the Marshall football program last season, but he was in the Edwards Stadium stands for Marshall's heartbreaking loss to Ohio.
For his part, he'd just as soon leave that game in 2012, but he knows it's not that easy going into Saturday's game with the Bobcats in Athens, Ohio. Last year's 5-7 season provides no shortage for motivation for Marshall players, even for somebody who had to watch.
"The games that we know we should have won, we use that to our advantage, a chip on our shoulder," said the 6-foot-1, 227-pound native of La Mesa, Calif. "Brings motivation in practice, and stuff like that."
After two games, including extended shifts last week in the Thundering Herd's rout of Gardner-Webb, Thompson has become comfortable with playing college football. That has been the story for several reserves - for instance, reserve tackle Josh Brown is fifth on the team with eight tackles, including a 2-yard sack.
Thompson has six tackles and a half-sack, plus a fumble recovery and a quarterback hurry. He is still behind the Jeremiah Taylor-Alex Bazzie-Ra'Shawde Myers rotation, but he and Arnold Blackmon are getting tougher to keep off the field.
Thompson is finding the toughest part of playing is giving consistent effort - in the position's vernacular, keeping that "motor" going. Nonetheless, he is impressing coaches and teammates alike.
"He's looked tremendous," Taylor said. "I think I saw one play where he chased down a quarterback from the back side and got the sack. That tells you he can run, now. He can run, he can hold his own. I'm just excited to have those guys out there, keep it rolling on Saturday."
Both starting Bobcat guards, Jon Lechner and Sam Johnson, remain on the sidelines. They were injured in Ohio's opener at Louisville, Lechner on his 23rd snap and Johnson on his 34th. Lechner's absence may really hurt - he was a solid all-conference contender and led the O-line with 26 starts.
Mike McQueen has stepped in at left guard, with Mike Lucas at right guard. That leaves the three third-year sophomores manning the inside blocker positions, including center Lucas Powell. Both Lechner and Johnson are fifth-year seniors.
Saturday's game is expected to be a sellout and then some, but there are seats remaining.
Ohio media relations official Tom Symonds said about 400 seats remained as of Thursday morning. One factor: Marshall returned about 500 tickets before the season started, but Herd fans have triggered a recent surge.