Five points to ponder
1. Is this game personal for the Herd?
In a nutshell, yes. Not only is it a rivalry game for Marshall, but last year’s fourth-quarter collapse left a bitter taste in the mouths of many of the players. While they tried to stay correct and classify it as just another game, the body language and the demeanor of the players suggested otherwise when they spoke of their memories of last season’s 24-21 loss — a loss that ultimately was the difference in a bowl game and staying home at season’s end. They certainly haven’t forgotten it.
2. What does Marshall have to change in order to end a two-game skid against Ohio?
The zeroes. In each of the last two games against the Bobcats, the Herd has as many rushing touchdowns as sacks — zero. Offensively, the success in the early part of the season has been predicated on the Herd’s ability to run the ball for chunks of yardage, which has opened up the passing game as well. Defensively, the line’s ability to stuff the opposition’s rushing attack has turned teams into a one-dimensional attack, which has resulted in defensive stops. No one knows better how difficult it is to win with a one-dimensional offense than the Herd...that’s exactly what they’ve been in each loss to Ohio in the past two seasons.
3. How will the Herd handle its first road game of the 2013 season?
While the Herd has built considerable momentum in its first two games at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, the team will have to adjust to life on the road. Especially with so many new pieces on the defensive side of the football, it will be interesting to see how that is handled. The good news for Marshall is that Herd fans often travel well to Peden Stadium, so there should be a good, enthusiastic mix of fans for the game.
4. Who will be a crucial factor for Marshall in Saturday’s game?
This week, I’m going to go with Marshall linebacker Jermaine Holmes. He has been a force in stuffing the opposition’s running game and Ohio likes to punish opponents with the big-back tandem of Beau Blankenship and Ryan Boykin in the backfield. Boykin has played well, but Holmes’ early involvement could go a long way toward forcing the Bobcats out of their game-plan of salting the game away with the rushing attack. For Holmes to be able to do so, the defensive front is going to have to occupy the offensive line.
5. What is one aspect to watch closely in this game?
There’s a reason that this is called the “Battle for the Bell” and it’s not just about the Ohio River. It’s because the physical nature of the contest is sure to leave players with their bell rung. It will be interesting to see which team is able to assert its physical nature in this contest. Despite running a fast-paced offense, the Herd has been out to prove that it is a punishing offense by nature that, as lineman Gage Niemeyer put it, “punches you in the mouth more times than any other team.” Of course, Ohio coach Frank Solich has made his name on a physical attack, so the battle of physicality may decide who wins the overall war in the Battle for the Bell.
— Grant Traylor
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