Hanshew: Darius will be game-day decision against SMU
HUNTINGTON -- At first glance, Marshall University's offense is stumbling at best entering Senior Day weekend.
Facing Conference USA West Division leader SMU, the Thundering Herd certainly will be without tight end Cody Slate. The senior team captain and All America and John Mackey Award candidate is sidelined for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Tailback Darius Marshall, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher, will be a game-day decision concerning his status. Like Slate, Marshall was injured during last week's game against Southern Miss.
The Thundering Herd's isn't lacking for options, however, during preparations for SMU. Marshall (5-5, 3-3 Conference USA) and the Mustangs (6-4, 5-1) kick off at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in a non-televised game.
Increasing offensive diversity was evidenced against Southern Miss. With Slate sidelined, redshirt freshman wide receiver Antavious Wilson established career bests with 13 catches for 153 yards. The versatile wideout has hauled in 44 passes for 523 yards and two touchdowns, ranking No. 2 behind Slate in each category, for the Thundering Herd.
"He is going to be a good player," Marshall head coach Mark Snyder said of the 6-foot, 191-pound first-year player. "He already is a good player. He will do nothing but get better. I like the whole group of wide-outs."
Included in that group is true freshman Aaron Dobson, who continues to develop. The 6-3, 185-pound former South Charleston High School standout is averaging 24.9 yards a reception. Against Southern Miss, Dobson totaled three catches for 52 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown.
"How about Aaron Dobson?" Snyder rhetorically asked the media earlier this week. "We need to get him more involved. He is playing extremely well for us, too.
"Antavious is more of a home run hitter. But Dobson can get behind you, too. He is so big and powerful and he can leap. He is that kind of guy."
Steadying an offense hamstrung by injury is junior quarterback Brian Anderson. He sustained six sacks and seven more knockdowns to throw for a career-best 337 yards against Southern Miss.
Anderson totals 2,001 yards and nine touchdowns with 10 interceptions in his first season as the full-time starter. Respect largely was earned during last week's physical matchup with the Golden Eagles.
"He has shown some maturity and is growing up," Snyder said. "I thought he played extremely well (against Southern Miss).
"He had five drops and some throwaways, so his numbers were better than what you saw on that stat sheet. I know he is looking forward to this week. He showed his toughness."
Aiding Anderson's effort this week should be an offensive line that returns intact after two weeks of mixing and matching because of injury.
"I am sure Brian will be happy we are healthy up front, too."
Anthony Hanshew covers Marshall football for The Herald-Dispatch. He can be reached at 304-526-2766. His e-mail address is email@example.com.