In or out of natural positions, Thundering Herd plays to win
HOUSTON -- Who?
Those questions were pondered Saturday across the Herd Universe during Marshall's, uh, rather unusual 54-51 double-overtime win over Rice before an announced crowd of 14,204 sun-burnt fans at blistering hot Rice Stadium.
That's because several members of the Thundering Herd played positions that challenged the roster, the depth chart and, yes, the imagination.
It all started when word leaked out about 90 minutes before kickoff that Travon Van, who had started all three Marshall games at running back and was the Herd's leading rusher with 93 yards on 39 carries, had been moved to cornerback.
That's right, cornerback.
The Herd confirmed the rumor when Van made his first appearance at cornerback with 7:59 remaining in the second quarter.
"I was a little nervous with him out there playing corner only being there three days (in practice)," said head coach Doc Holliday during his post-game press conference. "But he had to play. We lost Derrick Thomas in the first half. We ended up with just (Keith) Baxter and Pac (Monterius 'Pac-Man' Lovett) and just him.
"I called Travon in the office on Monday and I said, 'I need you to move to corner because we don't have enough.' And he said, 'I'll do whatever I have to do to help this team win.'
"You can't say enough about the unselfishness. He goes from starting tailback to playing a little bit of corner this week. But you know what? He'll be a heckuva corner or safety for us, before it's all said and done.
"Travon's unselfishness and team attitude helped us win this game today."
In Van's absence, redshirt freshman Remi Watson started at running back.
But that was just the beginning of the personnel carousel.
Thomas, a transfer from Penn State, got the first starting assignment of his Marshall career, getting the nod at boundary corner over Baxter, who had missed practice time last week because of an injury.
Baxter did play, however, entering the game on Rice's third possession.
Then, late in the first quarter redshirt freshman Armonze Daniel received his first meaningful playing time of the season. Perhaps, because Ra'Shawde Myers, who was credited with only six tackles in three games including one start, didn't even make the trip to Rice.
The interesting part about Daniel, however, is the former linebacker, who had been moved to defensive end early in preseason camp, reprised his former role by lining up at weak-side linebacker.
But, then, on the very next play, Daniel had his hand on the ground as a defensive end.
Apparently, he's a hybrid.
It appears the same is true of Demetrius Evans.
Besides catching two passes for 25 yards in his usual position of wide receiver, Evans also turned up as a defensive back when Marshall went to a prevent on the last play of the first half. In fact, Evans had a hand in breaking up a Rice "Hail Mary" pass to end the half.
And don't forget Garrett Scott.
You remember, Marshall's best offensive lineman. Although the junior right tackle hadn't appeared in a game since injuring his left leg on just the 18th play of MU's season-opener at WVU, Scott finally returned to action here with 5:44 remaining in the first half.
That's not all, either.
The eye-brow raising personnel moves continued in the second half. For example, linebacker Deon Meadows, who hadn't taken a meaningful snap on defense this season, suddenly appeared late in the third quarter.
Why, at one point in the fourth quarter, Meadows was at linebacker, Daniel was at defensive end, Van was at cornerback and Malcolm Strong was the other defensive end.
Talk about needing a roster.
Marshall really increased game program sales at Rice Saturday.
LEAVE YOUR HAT ON: But gloves? It was time to take ' em off Saturday.
Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato played without gloves for the first time in the Herd's four games. It didn't seem to affect him, as Cato completed 28 of 39 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Even Rice quarterback Taylor McHargue got rid of a glove. But only one. Interestingly, McHargue played with a glove on his left, non-throwing hand, but didn't wear one on his right hand.
RECORD BOOK: The 105 combined points were the most in Marshall regular-season history. It betters the 101 combine points in the Herd's 101-0 win over Kentucky Wesleyan in 1916.