Fast-paced, high-powered offenses meet
Both Bobcats, Herd averaging well over 500 yards per game
By Lonnie McMillan / Contributor
Thursday, September 13, 2012
HUNTINGTON, W. Va. – Two of the nation’s highest-powered offense through the first two weeks of the season meet Saturday in the Battle for the Bell.
Marshall leads Conference USA in yards per game (580.0) and points per game (43.0), while Ohio is second in the Mid-American Conference in both categories at 37.5 points and 541.5 yards per contest.
Both offenses like to push the pace and regularly aim for 90 snaps per game on offense.
“We’re used to running a fast-paced offense now,” Ohio coach Frank Solich said. ““We’re used to running a fast-paced offense now; it’s our second season with it. We’ve faced our guys in practice, there’s no better conditioning than doing that. So I suspect both teams will be in excellent condition and there will be a lot of snaps in the ballgame. ”It’s our second season with it. We’ve faced our guys in practice; there’s no better conditioning than doing that, so I suspect both teams will be in excellent condition and there will be a lot of snaps in the ballgame.”
The Thundering Herd’s production has come primarily through the air with an average of 421.5 passing yards per game. Quarterback Rakeem Cato leads the nation in passing yards with 790 and he has done it efficiently by completing 72.9 percent of his passes for five touchdowns with only one interception.
“He’s getting the ball to his receivers and they’re catching it,” Solich said. “And they’ve got some outstanding receivers. I think their skill positions overall are really very, very good in terms of the passing game and the thrower and the guys catching it and what they can do with the catch in getting yards after the catch.”
Cato has spread the ball around with four players tallying eight or more receptions and all of them with at least 95 yards receiving. Aaron Dobson is first for Marshall with 13 receptions for 153 yards and a score, but Tommy Shuler (11 catches for 126 yards, 1 TD), Antavious Wilson (9 catches for 138 yards) and Eric Frohnapfel (8 catches for 95 yards, 2 TDs) are not far behind.
Twelve other players have at least one catch.
Marshall has seen mixed results running the ball, averaging 3.4 yards per carry as a team. So far, the Herd has employed a running back-by-committee approach, with Kevin Grooms leading the team with 85 yards and a 5.0 yards-per-carry average. Travon Van has the most carries, 26 of them, for 78 yards.
Ohio has used more of a balanced approach to put up its huge offensive numbers, but it, too, is led is led by its quarterback Tyler Tettleton. He has completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 581 yards and four touchdowns and has rushed for another 65 yards and two scores.
But running back Beau Blankenship has proven to be another game-changer with 277 yards rushing and two scores to go with seven catches for 72 yards.
Donte Foster, who is questionable with a hand injury, leads the Bobcats with 10 catches, good for 89 yards. Landon Smith is tops on the team with 122 yards and two touchdowns, despite having made only four receptions.
Ohio’s defense has risen to the challenge so far this season, allowing only 19.0 points (tops in the MAC0 and 279.0 yards (fifth in the MAC ) per game.
Like Marshall is sure to do, New Mexico State challenged Ohio with a potent passing attack. The Bobcats rose to the occasion last week against the Aggies.
“I thought New Mexico State had a very good throwing game,” Solich said. “And at times I think that showed. We were able to hold them down in terms of making big plays, that’ll be key in terms of controlling their offense as best we can and not let them have a lot of explosive type of plays -- where you’re getting the 25, 30, 40-yard plays.”
Middle linebacker Keith Moore leads Ohio with 16 tackles. Safety Gerald Moore has 10.
Dominick Legrande leads Marshall’s defense with 20 tackles. Alex Bazzie has 15.
The Thundering Herd struggled against West Virginia’s high-octane offense in their season opener and have not recovered statistically, allowing averages of 43.0 points and 495.0 yards per game.
After Ohio’s 44-7 blowout last year, Solich said he is sure Marshall and its fans will be ready to try to make amends.
“You’re going to be facing that,” he said. “But you do face it a fair amount on road games. Sometimes more than others, and this will be one of those times where it is I’m sure at a very high level in terms of crowd participation.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.