By GARY FAUBER
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The football coach in Doc Holliday always looks to the last Saturday in April with dread.
“To be honest with you, I don’t like spring games,” said Holliday, who completed his fourth spring session as Marshall’s head coach with Saturday’s Green and White Game.
The risk of injury to any player that comes with the 15th and final spring practice causes Holliday to cringe. That’s why Saturday’s game was somewhat devoid of star power.
Quarterback Rakeem Cato played in four series before calling it a day. He spent most of the game wearing a cap and coaching up backups Gunnar Holcombe and Kevin Anderson.
Receiver Tommy Shuler, Cato’s teammate since their senior season at Miami Central High School, didn’t play at all.
“We didn’t play some of those guys for a reason,” Holliday said after the Green team (offense) defeated the White (defense) 55-38 in front of 5,115 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. “We know what Cato can do, to a certain extent.
“We know what (running back) Steward (Butler) can do, (defensive lineman) Jeremiah Taylor and a couple of those guys. We wanted to take a look at some of the younger guys. I thought they did a good job.”
Marshall was known last fall for its rapid approach on offense, often running more than 100 plays in a game. That approach did not change for the spring game, but everything was crammed into two quarters.
“You don’t want that in a spring game,” Holliday said.
Cato, last season’s Conference USA Most Valuable Player after passing for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns, seemed to add a new dimension to his game. The first touchdown of the day came on an 8-yard keeper by Cato, who ran three times for 15 yards among his 19 snaps.
Cato anticipates defenses adjusting to Marshall’s pass-happy attack in 2013, creating the need for a more effective running game.
“We’re going to do whatever it takes to win,” Cato said. “Knowing we had a great passing season last year, teams are going to start dropping eight (defenders) and blitzing more, so all the quarterbacks know we have to use our legs more to be two-dimensional.”
Cato completed 7 of 10 passes for 74 yards and had a 20-yard touchdown pass to Craig Wilkins.
Sophomore Jack Gammon caught six passes for 31 yards, while junior Dameon Garrett (72 yards) and junior tight end Eric Frohnapfel (61) both had four receptions.
Frohnapfel caught a 32-yard touchdown from his brother, Blake Frohnapfel, who was 10-of-17 for 155 yards and two TDs. He also threw 19 yards to Essray Taliaferro for a score.
Butler wasn’t held out completely and showed the same ability as he did last season. He ran 11 times for 60 yards and was followed by Taliaferro with 48 yards on 11 carries.
While the offense scored points with traditional touchdowns, as well as first downs and plays of 20 yards or more, the defense scored via a number of ways, including sacks and tackles for loss.
Defense, of course, was the area of most concern going into spring. There were some missed tackles and some long plays allowed, but first-year defensive coordinator Chuck Heater was encouraged by the defense’s progression over the last 32 days.
“I’m really proud of how far they have come. I told them that today,” Heater said. “They’ve been taking the coaching; it’s been hard coaching. The (position) coaches have done a good job with them. I think they have confidence now that they can get something done.”
Heater mentioned sophomore lineman Steve Dillon, freshman linebacker Stefan Houston and cornerback Corey Tindal as players who stood out this spring.
The defense had 11 tackles for loss and five sacks Saturday. Houston had seven tackles, linebacker Jermaine Holmes six tackles (two for loss) and Cortez Carter six stops as well. Sophomore safety Chris Yamoah had five tackles (one for loss), two pass-breakups and a fumble recovery. The fumble was forced by lineman Armonze Daniel and was the only turnover of the game.
The team will be on its own for summer drills before reporting for the preseason the first week of August. The 2013 season will begin Aug. 31 at home against Miami (Ohio).
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