Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

October 12, 2013

Herd defense looks to stop Fla. Atlantic running attack

BECKLEY — Straight out of the broken record department: Marshall will be facing another running quarterback today.

One of the challenges for the Thundering Herd (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) will be containing Florida Atlantic signal caller Jaquez Johnson when they meet at 5 p.m. today in Boca Raton, Fla.

The game will air on Fox College Sports Atlantic, which is channel 509 on Suddenlink.

Judging by the quarterbacks the Herd has faced in 2013, the days of the dropback passer are long gone.

“It looks like it may be,” fourth-year Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “We have to face it again this week. It will help us that we’ve played a lot of this style of quarterbacks.”

Holliday credited true freshman Kevin Anderson for doing his best Eric Soza impression last week in getting Marshall ready for UTSA, a game the Herd won easily, 34-10. Anderson is a native of Boca Raton but, as a scout teamer, did not make the trip on Friday.

“I told the team the other day that the reason we were so good against UTSA last week is because the scout team prepared us for those two weeks (including a bye week) really well,” Holliday said. “It’s critical that it happens again.”

Johnson is coming off a C-USA Player of the Week performance that saw him account for 404 yards of total offense in the Owls’ 37-23 win at UAB. It was the first-ever conference win for newcomer FAU (2-4, 1-3).

A 6-foot-1, 225-pound sophomore, Johnson ran for 105 yards and a touchdown, while also completing 23 of 36 passes for 299 yards and two more scores. On the year, Johnson has 263 yards and four touchdowns on the ground this year. Through the air, he is 84 of 137 for 873 yards and five touchdowns, and has been intercepted four times.

“I think he’s a little different (from UTSA’s Soza),” Holliday said. “Eric Soza was more about perimeter runs, and this guy (Johnson) is more of a power quarterback. He’s a guy that they’ll run on inside zones and run sweeps to get the ball not only on the perimeter, but inside on the power game. He’ll be a challenge for us.”

The Owls are also second in C-USA in total defense, holding opponents to 361.3 yards per game. Marshall, an 11-point favorite today, is first at 278.8, and is coming off arguably its best performance of the season.

“We had six missed tackles (against UTSA),” Holliday said. “They are tackling very well and are very athletic. Four of the five games we’ve played we have had single-digit missed tackles. The only game we had more was against Gardner-Webb.

“We have to get more athletic in the linebacker position and in the secondary to defend. Darryl Roberts has become a tremendous tackler there on the perimeter. Corey Tindal gave us more athleticism, A.J. Leggett and Taj Letman.

“For the most part I know we did a great job at defending that.”

Marshall will be off next week before traveling to Murfreesboro, Tenn., to take on Middle Tennessee on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. The game will air on Fox Sports 1.

— E-mail: gfauber@

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