Heater's defense starting out hot
HUNTINGTON -- There wasn't much to pick on from Marshall's defensive performance last week, but that didn't keep Marshall head coach Doc Holliday and defensive coordinator Chuck Heater from finding room for growth.
For the Herd pass defense, it was a tale of two halves as Miami's early successes were trumped by constant struggles in the second half.
The Herd gave up just 239 yards of total offense with nearly 100 of those yards coming on a pair of big plays in the passing game.
"You're going to give up a play or two on defense, but you don't worry about it," Holliday said. "Pick up and go play the next play. If you eliminate those two plays, their offense doesn't get a whole lot. I think our kids have done a great job at playing the next play and not looking back and overcoming adversity."
There were two distinct things that Marshall's staff looked at when observing the film from Saturday's 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio).
First, the Herd did a much better job on third-down than in 2012, limiting the RedHawks to a 2-of-13 performance on third down.
Therein lies the praise. Herein lies the lesson.
Both times the RedHawks converted third downs came on the opening scoring drive of the game when quarterback Austin Boucher scrambled for a first down to keep a drive alive before hitting tight end Steve Marck for an 8-yard touchdown on 3rd-and-goal after Marshall had bowed its back following a long pass play.
A pass interference penalty on a third-down attempt gave Miami another first down on the Herd 2-yard line prior to their final scoring play of the game -- a Spencer Treadwell 2-yard run that knotted the score at 14 at halftime.
More importantly, the aforementioned big plays preceded those third downs which were converted for scores.
"I would've liked to have battled back and held those to field goals because you need to do that in those situations, but they made big plays," Heater said. "In the second half, they didn't have those plays, so that was the difference in the game."
In the second half, that all changed as Miami (Ohio) went just 1-of-7 on third-down attempts with the lone conversion coming on a roughing the passer penalty.
It was a much better performance and one the Herd faithful had been longing to see after 2012, but there were still lessons to be had.
Austin Boucher completed his first eight passes and the two third-down conversions late in scoring drives led directly to points.
Other than that, there was not much offense at all for the RedHawks, who finished averaging just 2.2 yards per rush and completing two of their last 14 passes in the game.
"I kept telling them 'We are playing a lot of good football here. There's a lot of good football being played,'" Heater said. "The guy (Miami wide receiver Dawan Scott) made a play and we broke a coverage. We can fix all that. Let's just keep playing. The second half (breakdowns) didn't happen."
Those will be some of the things the defense looks to shore up when they take on Gardner-Webb at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
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