Butler improves with new approach
HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s Steward Butler is still 5-foot, 9-inches tall. What he packs on that 178-pound frame now compared to his freshman year is a difference maker when it comes it comes to challenging defenders or outrunning them to the end zone.
Butler carried just nine times, but racked up 151 yards and scored three times to power the Thundering Herd past Gardner-Webb, 55-0, Saturday night in front of 26,317 fans at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“Size is the difference,” Butler said. “I go out and focus. I used to play around a lot. That goofiness is gone and the performance shows that. Give the O line a lot of credit. You can’t do it without them.”
Butler’s first TD came on a 9-yard run in the first quarter. He made a quick move left and sprinted to the goalline and dove in the end zone just ahead of Gardner-Webb defenders.
“Got to be decisive,” Butler said in explaining the bounce. “Make a decision and live with it. I should win those runs to the pylon.”
On the second score, Butler raced 46 yards down the left sideline and he got a nice block downfield from tackle Gage Niemeyer to clear the way.
“I didn’t see it,” Butler said of Niemeyer’s block. “I’ll see it on film. I knew I had one guy to beat and did it.”
Butler found the end zone for the third time with 7:19 left in the third quarter when he scored from 13 yards out on a 4th-and-1 at the Gardner-Webb 13. The Herd came in determined to make a fast start and show its dominance regardless of the situation. Marshall finished 2 of 4 on fourth-down attempts.
“That’s how coach (Doc Holliday) is,” Butler said. “We don’t slow down for anybody. It felt good to get that last touchdown. That kind of sealed their fate. We did what’s expected of us. You don’t think it’s going to be easy.”
Butler added one catch for 18 yards and returned a kickoff 45 yards to give him 214 total yards. The Runnin’ Bulldogs finished with 184 yards. Competition in the backfield helps Butler, too. Essray Taliaferro had 44 yards rushing and Kevin Grooms will add more punch when fully healthy.
“It helps make us better,” Butler said.
Butler said having Thomas Brown as backfield coach has been a blessing.
“He makes us play hard,” Butler said. “I haven’t had a coach like that. On contact, we used to be the nail, not the hammer. Now we accelerate on contact.”
Holliday said a year’s experience and off-season workouts have paid off for Butler.
“No. 1 he’s a good player. No. 2 is he has practiced hard and plays and played extremely well. He plays like that on Tuesday and Wednesday. We try to practice as hard as we can on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday throughout the week so that when we come to game time, the games are easier. That’s our philosophy as far as practice goes. Stew has practiced extremely hard the last couple weeks. He’s living right and making good decisions. It’s great to see him get rewarded for that.”
Butler and the Herd will try to make it three straight wins when it takes on Ohio University next Saturday night in Athens. Game time is 8 p.m.