By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Of the many storylines surrounding Marshall’s season opener against Miami (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Saturday is a schedule that has a bit of a nostalgic feel.
Two of the Thundering Herd’s four non-conference opponents are former rivals from the team’s days in the Mid-American Conference. Not only were the RedHawks a bitter foe for Marshall, but Ohio — which the Herd will face on the road Sept. 14 — is a friendly rival that has won each of the last two meetings.
Games against such former MAC rivals are good for Marshall’s fans because they are more easily accessible than most schools in Conference USA. That, plus the rivalry aspect, was the thought process of Athletic Director Mike Hamrick in lining them up.
“I think Mike has done a tremendous job,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “The one thing about C-USA now is that it’s more regional as far as we’re concerned. It’s going to give our fans an opportunity to get to the games. With the addition of playing a couple MAC teams a year, whether it be Ohio or Miami (Ohio) along with, in the future Akron and Kent State, it’s teams our fans do relate to and places our fans can get to.
“With this conference becoming more regionalized, to keep playing a couple of MAC teams who are excellent football teams gives our fans a chance to see us when we are on the road. To me, that’s a good thing.”
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Much has been written and said about Marshall’s defensive struggles of a year ago, but Miami (Ohio) was even worse.
The RedHawks allowed 241.1 rushing yards per game last season, which was 119th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They allowed 463.5 yards of total offense, which was 104th.
Marshall was 104 and 101, respectively.
Holliday thinks the opponents - Ohio State, Boise State and Ohio among them - had a lot to do with that.
“They’re going to be better defensively,” Holliday said. “A lot of it is personnel-driven and they played some great rushing attacks. I’m sure they’ll be a lot better than they have been on defense and will provide us with a great challenge.
“We have to make sure our offensive line is ready to go. If they give us the run we’ll take it. If not, we’ll throw the ball. We’ll take what the defense gives us and hope to be prepared. In first games like this, you don’t know how they’re going to defend you. We have to see how they will play us.”
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Miami (Ohio) may be losing its top offensive threat in receiver Nick Hartwell (68 receptions, 870 yards, 8 TDs in 2012), but Dawan Scott will get just as much attention in 2013.
Scott, a 6-foot-1, 191-pound junior, had 57 catches for 851 yards and seven touchdowns.
“He’s extremely athletic,” Holliday said. “There’s not a whole lot of difference between Harwell and Scott. The other thing that gives us an issue is the other receivers because they are unknown. The redshirt freshman they have ( Rokeem Williams) is extremely talented.
“The two backs have played a lot. Spencer Treadwell is the starter, but they’re both (Jamire Westbrook is the other) very talented guys. Some are known, others are unknown. We know they are all very athletic guys."