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Chuck Landon: Holliday and staff asleep at the switch

Nov. 13, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

Three days later, Marshall's offensive meltdown is still baffling.

The official culprit -- agreed upon by both Herd coaches and players -- was UAB's defense dropped eight into coverage and rushed only three on every play.

I repeat, every play.

"Every play," insisted quarterback Rakeem Cato. "From the first play to the last play. I've never seen it before -- ever."

That's somewhat understandable for a guy just two years removed from Miami Central High School.

But why did Marshall's offensive coaches also act as though they'd never seen it before?

That's where it begins getting baffling.

I mean, it's not like dropping eight and rushing three is some wild, avant garde concept. It's not. Why, Marshall's defense employed the very same premise in the 2012 season opener against West Virginia University.

The difference is WVU's coaching staff knew how to handle the scheme. The Mountaineers simply took the running lanes the Herd defense was providing and parlayed it into 331 yards on 35 rushes.

Why couldn't Marshall do that?

Instead, the Herd called 28 rushing plays compared to only 13 pass plays during the first half, resulting in a paltry 68 yards rushing (2.4 yards per carry), 53 yards passing and a 24-7 halftime deficit.

And the baffling continued.

How could UAB's defense drop eight into coverage, yet still limit Marshall's running attack to a bunch of 2- and 3-yard gains?

Geez, the Blazers' front three must be a trio of Jason Pierre-Paul clones.

Or, more likely, Marshall's running scheme proved it is still just as poorly designed conceptually as it was during the 2011 season.

Here's another baffling question.

If UAB were indeed dropping eight on each and every play as the Marshall camp fervently asserts, then how did the Blazers manage to sack Cato three times in the first half and chase him out of the pocket several other times?

Either UAB had too many players on the field and the officiating crew couldn't count past 11, or the Blazers have the quantum physics ability to be in two places at one time.

I doubt both.

Instead, it appears the "dropping eight and rushing three" defensive scheme that was the linch-pin in UAB's stunning 38-31 victory over Marshall is simply an excuse for a poor job of coaching.

Should that scheme have created a coaching meltdown for Marshall? No.

Should it have caused the No. 2 passing attack in the entire nation to curl into the fetal position and start sucking its collective thumb? No.

Should it have taken Marshall's coaches over two hours in real time or nearly 40 of the 60 minutes in football time to make adjustments to counter-act the drop eight, rush three scheme? Goodness gracious, no.

Yet, that's what happened.

Just ask around.

"It took longer than it should have for us to adjust to them dropping eight," admitted left offensive tackle Jordan Jeffries.

And, remember, players are limited to making minor adjustments. Schematic adjustments are what coaches are paid to do.

That's certainly what UAB head coach Garrick McGee did.

"We really wanted to make it hard on the quarterback mentally," said McGee, "and make him have to figure out what coverages we were in and get him to bounce around. If you give him time to figure out what coverage you're in, he has shown he will tear you apart for 400-plus yards."

That's good coaching.

So, what's it called when Marshall's staff gets bamboozled and is tardy adjusting?

There's only one name for it.

Poor coaching.

Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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