Grant Traylor: Consistency scarce along Marshall offensive front
HUNTINGTON -- When Marshall hit the field on Saturday to take on UAB, the Herd featured a new-look offensive front for the second consecutive week.
On Saturday, Jordan Jeffries started at left tackle, Alex Schooler at left guard, Cameron Dees at center, Chris Jasperse at right guard and Garrett Scott at right tackle.
Dees was making his first career start at center, Jasperse was shifted to the right guard spot after starting at center last week and Scott lined up at right tackle after playing right guard last week.
It's a musical chairs along the offensive front that has been a constant all season.
The lineup was the sixth different starting offensive line to protect quarterback Rakeem Cato and the running backs in 10 games.
With several players switching positions for the contest, it took a while for the unit to start to gain any traction.
UAB dropped eight players into coverage and rushed with only three, but the Herd offensive front still had trouble reaching blocks once those in coverage came down to converge on Marshall ball-carriers.
Marshall rushed for less than three yards per carry and Cato was sacked three times while being hurried on several others.
The Herd ended the game with three series that went three-and-out and another four -- all in the first half -- that resulted in one first down and then a change in possession.
For the Herd offense, it has been feast or famine this season.
There have either been a wealth of touchdown drives or lots of three-and-outs without much in the intermediate range.
That lack of consistency has resulted in a defense that has been forced into action for long stretches of time and, in turn, has worn down early during the course of ballgames.
There is a possibility the lack of consistency stems from inconsistencies in the starting lineup.
Whether it is due to injuries along the front or by design, it's taking its toll on the Herd's entire team -- especially in the running game.
Since rushing for 275 yards in the 59-24 win at Southern Miss on Oct. 20, Marshall has rushed for a total of 279 yards on 104 carries in its last three games.
CRAMPIN' CATO: This season has been a year filled with many firsts for Cato.
Saturday's loss to UAB provided another.
Late in the fourth quarter, Cato went down on the field holding his right leg, and he was still hobbling after the game walking to interviews.
Fear not, Herd fans.
It proved to only be a cramp.
"First time in my whole life," Cato said. "I've never caught a cramp."
Then again, he probably never had to scramble around as much as he did on Saturday either.
It wasn't necessarily due to initial rush pressure by the Blazers. After all, they were only rushing three linemen and dropping eight into coverage.
Instead, it was Cato trying to scramble around and make something happen because receivers simply weren't able to get open.
Late in the game, it started to work as the offense went to a strategy that was appropriately named.
"In the second half, we tried something - the scramble drill," Cato said. "It all started with Gator on the big catch (32-yard completion) and just took off from there. I told all the wide-outs, we have to play scramble drill. Now scramble, find somewhere and I've got you."
SINGLE-SEASON COMPLETIONS: WIth 25 completions on Saturday, Cato moved past current Marshall quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Petersen for the all-time Marshall single-season record.
Cato now has 343 completions this season, which eclipses Petersen's 340 set in 1987.
BLOCK PARTY: Brandon Sparrow's blocked field goal in the fourth quarter was the seventh blocked kick for Marshall this season.
That number ties last year's mark, which set a single-season record.
It was the first of Sparrow's career.
Grant Traylor is a sports writer for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (304) 526-2759. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).
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