HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- For all his trials, tribulations and injury rehabilitation, James Rouse will receive one of his rewards Saturday when he plays at Virginia Tech.
Rouse, the 6-foot-5, 268-pound fifth-year senior from Harrisonburg, Va., is one of nine players from the commonwealth of Virginia on the Thundering Herd roster. He has watched the Herd play the Hokies twice - emphasis on "watch."
When the Herd got overrun 52-10 in 2009 in Blacksburg, Va., Rouse was redshirting. The Hokies came to Huntington in the fourth game of the 2011 season, but Rouse succumbed to injury in the previous game.
Rouse may get a sixth year from the NCAA, but he isn't focused on that. He is simply ready to play the Hokies in his home state.
"Yeah, they paid a little attention to me. I committed to Marshall my junior year of high school," Rouse said of his recruiting process. "But it's always fun playing in Virginia; I have a lot of my friends and family come to the game, so it's going to be a good atmosphere."
As expected, Rouse has become an integral part of the Marshall defensive line since his comeback. Playing at the "three technique" tackle, he recorded the Herd's first sack of Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton, stalling a first-half touchdown drive in the process. In the second half, he combined with Corey Tindal on the second sack, though Tettleton recovered to finish the Bobcats' critical 18-play touchdown drive.
The Herd has had a good defensive tackle rotation, but Rouse got a workout in that game. He said he held up pretty well.
"I ended up playing 65 plays, and I didn't feel like I played that many," he said. "That's probably the most since I've been here."
Rouse and nose tackle Jarquez Samuel helped the Thundering Herd hold the Bobcats to 64 yards rushing and contained Tettleton's rushing prowess. But Rouse was unhappy with giving up two double-digit rushes and two rushing touchdowns - and with losing 34-31.
The Herd watched the video of the Hokies' 15-10 win last week over East Carolina, and watched the Hokies gain just 53 yards on the ground. Rouse no doubt noticed the Pirates often stacked eight in or near "the box," daring quarterback Logan Thomas to throw.
But Rouse no doubt remembers the afternoon in 2009 when the Hokies ran for 444 yards. He knows the task ahead when the Herd plays Tech at noon Saturday at Lane Stadium.
"They have a lot of different threats at every position," Rouse said. "The quarterback's [Logan Thomas] is a big quarterback, they have a lot of running backs, receivers are good."
Rouse had those 11/2 sacks against Ohio, but Samuel had nine total tackles - a figure even the best at the position rarely see. Of those nine tackles, four were solo.
Rouse said Samuel scored 30 "production points," an internal scale based on tackles, sacks, execution of assignments, etc. Not a bad job in relief of Brandon Sparrow.
"He wasn't nervous at all," Rouse said. "He came in free a lot more than I did."
Gator Hoskins got a little nervous at Ohio when Rakeem Cato motioned him toward the end zone, then threw a lob for what became an easy 38-yard touchdown pass.
"I looked up and the lights kind of got in my eyes,''Hoskins said, "so I really couldn't see the ball. So I'm thinking, 'Man, I've got to catch it, I've got to catch it. Where is the ball? Where is the ball?' And it got around my head and I finally saw it, and I just made sure I caught it."
Hoskins got outrageously open on that touchdown, which kept the Herd alive with a 31-24 deficit. It was an example of his experience, and that of Cato.