Offense finds rhythm during scrimmage
HUNTINGTON -- In less than two weeks, Marshall University's football team opens the season with a 7 p.m. home contest against Miami (Ohio) on Aug. 31 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
On Saturday night, the Thundering Herd went through a game day simulation with a 7 p.m. scrimmage in front of Big Green Scholarship Foundation members and students who presented their I.D. cards.
The offense got into a bit of a rhythm with quarterbacks Rakeem Cato and Blake Frohnapfel both having success in front of the crowd of 1,537 announced by Marshall associate athletic director of external operations Aaron Goebbel.
In the end, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday was pleased to see the effort and execution on both sides of the football -- especially defensively.
Both quarterbacks fared well with Cato and Frohnapfel leading the team into the end zone during their time on the field.
Following the scrimmage, however, Holliday spoke more about the defense than the offense.
"I thought the defense was physical and I thought they ran around," Holliday said. "Overall, defensively, I was happy with the way they ran around out there."
The defense was able to limit the rushing attack to less than three yards a carry -- a stark contrast to the 2012 year when the Herd struggled in that category.
There were also three turnovers -- a pair of interceptions by Raheem Waiters -- including one returned for a touchdown -- and a fumble recovery by Monterius Lovett after Taj Letman forced the ball loose from Dameon Garrett.
"Raheem Waiters is a guy that keeps showing up," Holliday said. "He's playing several different positions for us and he's providing a lot of depth at that linebacker position, which is great to see."
In addition to Waiters' efforts, the defense was also able to get a solid pass rush up-field quickly and get hands in the way of the quarterbacks.
Defensive linemen Jeremiah Taylor, Alex Bazzie and Gary Thompson registered pass breakups -- Thompson with a pair -- after getting an initial surge.
"To be able to go against our offense and get that preparation to face teams in Conference USA, it doesn't get any better than that," Taylor said. "We'll see that style of offense a lot and they are one of the best in the nation at it. It will do nothing but get us better."
While the defense made its share of plays, the offense showed it has plenty of weapons in the passing game -- some of which Herd fans have never seen.
Slot receiver Devon Smith caught 10 passes for 103 yards with his final catch a 27-yard touchdown from Cato into the corner of the end zone.
Smith's speed gives the Herd a solid dynamic and two very talented inside receivers -- the other being Tommy Shuler, who did not participate, but is expected back at practice next week.
"I can't wait to see him just get a ball, (make a defender) miss a tackle and everyone in the world can see his speed down the sideline," Cato said. "He's going to be a great player for us. He's going to help us a lot."
The other offensive standout performance went to Devon Johnson, who started his day with a 45-yard catch-and-run from Frohnapfel and ended with five catches for 93 yards.
On the 45-yard play he caught a post route over the middle and made two guys miss before three defenders had to bring him down along the sideline.
Later, Johnson electrified the crowd when he caught a pass from Frohnapfel in the flat and stiff-armed safety D.J. Hunter before rumbling for a first down.
As has been the case throughout camp, Johnson caught the eye of Holliday.
"He's got a great part in this offense and we have to make sure we get him involved," Holliday said.
Cato finished the day 13 of 21 for 141 passing yards and a touchdown while adding a 6-yard touchdown run. Frohnapfel ended nearly identical to Cato, finishing 12 of 20 for 136 passing yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Frohnapfel connected with Jazz King on a 14-yard touchdown for the scrimmage's first score. Garrett caught a touchdown pass from Gunnar Holcombe, who was 6-for-14 for 79 passing yards.
Defensively, Hunter and Neville Hewitt both had six tackles.
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