MU had new plan on 'radar'
HUNTINGTON — Give a team two weeks to prepare and who knows what the opponent will see.
Marshall University football head coach Doc Holliday unveiled a wrinkle Saturday against UTSA at Joan Edwards Stadium. The fans in the seats and visiting Roadrunners had to wonder what was happening in the second period when the Thundering Herd defense took its position with just one lineman down in a stance and the remaining players on the line, along with the linebackers, staying upright and moving around at will.
The Herd had been idle since a 29-21 triple overtime loss at Virginia Tech on Sept. 21. The two-week break gave the Herd a chance to make some additions to the playbook and one was called “Radar.”
That meant one down lineman and remaining defenders upright and ready to come at UTSA”s offense from many directions. That wrinkle, plus the overall play of the defense, led to a 34-10 victory in the Conference USA opener and sent the green-and-white backers here for Homecoming home happy.
“Give coach Heater (defensive coordinator Chuck Heater) and the staff credit,” Holliday said. “We got some packages installed. That created some concern for the offense going in.”
Having that many defenders upright made it difficult for Roadrunners quarterback Eric Soza to find windows to get the ball to his receivers. He had several passes tipped, two turned into interceptions and he managed to complete just 10 of 26 attempts for 130 yards.
UTSA entered the game ranked No. 2 in Conference USA in total offense (431 yards per game), and managed just 254.
“You have to identify Mike (linebacker position),” Holliday said. “That leads to slide protection. You constantly change and that forces protection issues.
“You can’t ID the front. You’re caught off guard.”
Heater said the Herd’s had “Radar” available and decided Saturday would be an ideal time to show it off.
“The coaches said let’s try it and I said I’m OK with it,” Heater said. “It does help disrupt the offense.”
Free safety A.J. Leggett said the defense enjoyed giving the Roadrunners weird looks. He knows UTSA offensive linemen had to be confused. Leggett had one of the three interceptions.
“You get caught up in the look,” Leggett said. “It messes with the offense, the quarterback, the line. Something’s different out there. You know the quarterback had to be scratching his head.”
UTSA was coming off a 59-28 home loss to Houston last week, so the Roadrunners had some trying preparation issues since they faced a long trip.
“It’s a sudden change. People have the ability to handle it, but if they’re not prepared for it, it’s a tough thing to do,” Heater said. “You have to decide what you want to take away.
“You draw it up and ask players to do it. You wonder if they could do it. We had the time. They gave the answer.”
Heater said the players had fun with the alignment during practice and got excited knowing it would be used in the game.
“It’s new and it looks like fun until something goes wrong,” Heater said.
“It’s funny. Thing go full cycle. You have players in good position, they get their hands up.
“You’ve got to have playmakers to get off the field. If you don’t, you won’t. We had guys make plays today.”
Marshall (3-2, 1-0 Conference USA) has nine interceptions after five games, tying the total of the 2012 Marshall defense.
Linebacker Evan McKelvey also had an interception. He talked about his teammates having fun with the special defense during practice.
“Me and Rouse (defensive tackle James Rouse) collided a few times,” he said. “Guys tripped over one another. But it was a fun situation. The offense had to wonder what’s going on?”
Marshall returns to action Saturday against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla. Game time is 5 p.m. The Owls, and remaining C-USA opponents, know “Radar” is in the Herd’s defensive package and that adds to the preparation list.
“We’ll take it one day at a time,” Heater said.
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