MU Notebook: Fast start fuels Herd
HUNTINGTON — All week, Marshall’s football players spoke about getting off to a good start.
On Saturday, they put that mindset to quick work.
After taking the opening kickoff out to the 45-yard line, the Herd started the game with a nine-play, 55-yard drive, capped by Steward Butler’s 9-yard touchdown run to get Marshall on the board quickly.
“We talked all week about starting fast and coming out and playing well early, and I thought our kids did that,” Marshall football coach Doc Holliday said. “The kickoff return with Butler kind of set the tone for the game and I thought for the most part, we played well.”
The drive’s biggest play came when wide receiver Craig Wilkins caught an 11-yard bullet from quarterback Rakeem Cato on fourth-and-10 inside Gardner-Webb territory.
The bulk of momentum carried throughout a first half in which Butler rushed for 120 yards on just seven carries with two scores. He finished with 151 yards and three touchdowns on just nine carries.
That momentum was not just limited to the offensive side of the football, however.
Marshall’s defense recorded three sacks and forced four turnovers in the first half, cashing in with points off of each.
In the first half, 24 of Marshall’s 34 points came off of turnovers, highlighted by Monterius Lovett’s 70-yard interception return for a touchdown.
After starting slow against Miami (Ohio) in the season opener, it was exactly what the Herd was looking for.
DEFENSE TO OFFENSE: For the second straight game, Marshall’s defense outscored the opposition’s offense in a half.
Lovett’s 70-yard touchdown return on an interception with 5:46 left in the second quarter made it 31-0 at the time and gave the Herd an interception return for a score in its second consecutive game.
Against Miami, Raheem Waiters returned an interception 27 yards for a score in the second half.
Lovett and Waiters’ interception returns not only give Marshall interceptions for scores in consecutive games, it also marks the first time since 2006 that the Herd has had multiple interception returns for TDs in one season.
That year, Zearrick Mathews and C.J. Spillman returned picks for scores.
HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES HONORED: Marshall University honored seven members of the 2013 Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame during Saturday’s game.
Those individuals include Casey Batey (Track and Field, 1999-2002), George Chaump (football coach, 1986-89), Erin Compton (Women’s Track and Field, 2000-03), Chris Crocker (Football, 1999-2002), Cecil Fletcher (Football, 1984-87), Buddy Graham (Men’s Golf, 1956-59; Assistant Athletic Director, 1962-69) and Glenn Hartway (Men’s Swimming and Diving, 1979-83).
HERD MILESTONES: With 10:19 left in the second quarter, redshirt freshman safety A.J. Leggett recorded his first career interception.
Leggett got the pass off a deflection from Jeremiah Taylor and returned it 18 yards to set up a score.
On the first play of the next series for Gardner-Webb, quarterback Lucas Beatty fumbled and Corey Tindal recorded his first fumble recovery.
Arnold Blackmon also recorded his first career sack when he got Beatty for a 12-yard loss.
Gary Thompson netted his first fumble recovery in the third quarter.
FEMALE UMPIRE: For the second-straight week, there was a female official on the field for Marshall’s football contest.
Amanda Sauer served as the umpire for Saturday’s contest against Gardner-Webb.
Last week, Maia Chaka took the field as the head lineperson.
Grant Traylor covers Marshall football for The Herald-Dispatch. You can reach him by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (304) 526-2860. Follow him on Twitter.
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