Chuck Landon: Marshall backfield tearing up the track
Even the wind is envious.
That's because Marshall's Kevin Grooms and Stew Butler, a pair of breezes masquerading as running backs, don't just run like the wind.
They race the wind.
And sometimes they win.
Why, they actually create gusts of wind at times when they blow by would-be tacklers.
Just ask the Southern Miss defenders who got first-degree wind burns during Grooms' electrifying 64-yard touchdown run and Butler's shifty 54-yard TD jaunt Saturday in Marshall's dominating 59-24 win in Hattiesburg, Miss.
Their faces are still red ... for several reasons.
So, just how fast are these two freshmen?
Officially, Grooms is the fastest player on Marshall's team with a 4.29 seconds clocking in the 40-yard dash.
In this case, "dash" is an apt description.
Next, is senior wide receiver Aaron Dobson at 4.30 and Butler is third at 4.31 seconds.
Just don't tell Butler that Grooms is faster. That's when a debate occurs that, perhaps, isn't as compelling as Romney vs. Obama, but is certainly more entertaining.
"It's fun," said Garrett Scott, the Herd's starting left offensive tackle. "We joke about it every now and then. We'll talk about who is faster between Stew and Grooms.
"That's the funniest thing you'll ever hear ... those two going back and forth. Stew will say, 'I'm faster than you.' And Grooms will go, 'No, I'm faster than you.'
"And I'll say, 'Both of you are fast and both of you help us.' So, that's the end of the argument."
After all, there's certainly no argument about their speed. Both showed that during their long, touchdown runs.
But Grooms' touchdown, in particular, stood out. After reaching the far sideline, it appeared he would be tackled after about a 25-yard gain because a Southern Miss defensive back had the angle and was drawing a bead on Grooms.
That's when Grooms exploded into another gear of speed and actually out-ran the angle. How often does that actually happen? Seldom.
In fact, I've witnessed it only one other time.
When former Marshall star Randy Moss was playing center field for now defunct DuPont High School's baseball team, he once ran down a drive in the gap against Herbert Hoover that nobody else could have caught.
Moss actually out-ran the baseball.
Grooms showed his speed isn't far below Moss during that touchdown Saturday.
"You don't see that much, but he's a fast guy," said senior right guard John Bruhin. "He's real fast. It was wild that he was able to do that."
That's what Grooms' and Butler's offensive line is beginning to expect from the speedsters.
"It's a little different," said Bruhin, a sixth-year senior. "You make your initial block and you look up and they're already 30 yards down the field and you say, 'Wow.'
"It's nice. You barely see what's going on and, then, you look over and they're already flying past you. So, it's a good feeling."
The best part is that speed gives the offensive line a margin of error.
"We always try to make the best blocks we can," said Bruhin, "but if they make one good cut it's house call. So, it's nice. It definitely makes our jobs a little bit easier. Hats off to them. They make us look good at times, too."
Marshall hopes Grooms and Butler continue to make the Herd look good when it hosts rival UCF at 8 p.m. , Saturday, in a crucial Conference USA East Division showdown at Edwards Stadium.
Chuck Landon is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Call him at 304-526-2827 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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