Chuck Landon: Bobcats draw ire of friendly Jasperse
Chris Jasperse is a big, ol', friendly bear of a guy.
He's a Winnie who will knock the Pooh out of an opponent.
Ask Marshall's veteran center about going head-to-head with Gardner-Webb's standout nose tackle O.J. Mau last week and a big grin splashes across his face like waves on the isle of Samoa.
That's because Jasperse dominated the Runnin' Bulldogs' best player, who is billed as an NFL prospect.
Mention that he was credited with three knockdown blocks and Jasperse smiles some more.
"I had twice that many," said the 6-foot-4, 289-pound junior. "I had two on one play. But that's OK, it's not about me."
Tell him that offensive coordinator Bill Legg says Jasperse is the one guy who knows what the assignments are for each of the 11 players on every play and he smiles sheepishly with a humble shrug of his big shoulders.
Yep, Jasperse is usually a happy guy.
But want to wipe that smile off his face? Want to make that grin disappear? Want to make this happy guy unhappy?
Bring up Marshall's running game, as in lack thereof, during the Herd's 27-24 loss to Ohio a year ago in Edwards Stadium. Marshall managed a paltry 59 yards on only 22 rushing attempts. That's all. Meanwhile, quarterback Rakeem Cato was throwing 65 passes.
That's nearly three times as many passes as rushes.
And that's nothing for an offensive lineman to smile about.
"That's not what we want to do," said Jasperse firmly. "Nobody needs to be throwing the ball 65 times. We've got to get it done upfront. We want to run the ball 65 times. That's how I feel.
"That takes some pressure off Cato to be able to run the ball well."
That's why establishing a ground game is such an essential element of Marshall's game plan when it takes on nearby Ohio at 8 p.m. Saturday in Peden Stadium at Athens, Ohio.
"This year we're going to try to come out physical and just try to punch them in the mouth and run the ball like we've been doing the last two games," said Jasperse. "That's really our identity."
It certainly has been during Marshall's 2-0 start.
Instead of being a pass-happy offense like in 2012, the Herd actually has nearly as many yards rushing as passing - 528 to 572.
"Just get the ball running and that opens up the passing game for us," said Jasperse. "It's a lot more open now. Our receivers are doing a great job blocking down-field, which gets us to the next level.
"Like on the perimeter ... Stew Butler runs for all those long runs. Well, it's not only us, it's the wideouts doing it and, then, Stew hitting the right hole. We've been doing a good job of that lately."
It's called balance.
And that just might be the key to success against Ohio.
"Now, on third-and-long we might run the ball," Jasperse pointed out. "It's not automatic pass. Last year on third down we were passing the ball every down, every time we had a third down.
"Now, it doesn't matter. We can run or pass. Whatever the defense gives us, we take."
That's a recipe for winning football games.
And if that happens Saturday night in Athens, Ohio?
A big, ol', friendly bear of a guy named Jasperse will be smiling like Baloo.
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Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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