HUNTINGTON - Perhaps more than any game this year, Marshall's offensive coaches must prepare for anything and everything the opposing defense throws its way.
As they have learned painfully, Alabama-Birmingham can and will give you a never-before-seen wrinkle. Or in the case of its 38-31 win over the Thundering Herd last season, essentially install a new defense.
That is about what the Blazers did, dropping eight defenders on every single down. Rakeem Cato and the Herd offense were baffled.
"Last year is last year, but it's got to log in the back of every coach's mind that was here because of the way it transpired," said offensive coordinator Bill Legg. "Now, we had worked versus that defense they played for third downs. We had not worked against that defense for first and second downs.
"And by them going to that defense on first and second downs, it caught us a little off guard. But then we didn't react very well."
You could say that. When Austin Brown torched Marshall's porous defense with a 32-yard TD pass, the Blazers were up 31-7 with 5 minutes left in the first quarter. Cato was 10 of 15, but for only 62 yards; the Herd was rushing for just 70 yards on 29 carries.
The rally fell well short - the Herd never had the ball with a chance to tie or go ahead - and it sticks with the players. They will try to rectify matters when the Blazers come to town for a noon game Saturday at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. MU (5-3, 3-1) will try to cement a spot in the bowl picture.
UAB (2-6, 1-2) has another wrinkle to consider - a new defensive coordinator. After the Blazers' 37-23 home loss to Florida Atlantic on Oct. 5, coach Garrick McGee demoted second-year coordinator Reggie Johnson and promoted inside linebackers coach Jimmy Williams.
It wasn't hard to see why that change was considered. The Blazers had just given up nearly 600 yards to FAU, and had fallen to last in Conference USA in total defense, 116th of 125 teams nationally.
Improvement has come in small steps, but it has come. The Blazers gave up 52 points to Texas-San Antonio and 24 points to Middle Tennessee, though it should be noted that both teams scored a defensive touchdown.