By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The rest of the season starts today for Marshall.
With their sights still set on another strong finish and bowl-eligibility, the Thundering Herd (3-5, 2-2 Conference USA) will host Memphis at 2 p.m. today in a nontelevised game.
Head coach Doc Holliday’s squad is looking to move past last week’s 54-17 loss to Central Florida that, for all intents and purposes, knocked the Herd out of contention for the league’s East Division championship.
“Our kids were ready to play that game,” Holliday said. “We got out there that first series and just didn’t make the plays that we’ve made all year. There were throws that were made and the guy just didn’t catch the ball. There were guys that were open and throws weren’t made. There were some blocks we’ve made all year that weren’t made.
“We just didn’t execute. We have to get back to doing that and we will.”
On paper, Marshall should have little problem against a Memphis team that continues to struggle. The Tigers (1-7, 1-3) have lost their last five games against the Herd.
First-year Memphis coach Justin Fuente has used several different ball carriers this season. Jai Steib, a 5-foot-11, 225-pound junior, has a team-high 67 carries for 241 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Hayes has 42 carries for 223 yards and one TD.
Quarterback Jacob Karam, a Texas Tech transfer, actually has the second-most carries with 65, for 110 yards and a score.
But the Tigers have come to be known for their defensive line of late. Sophomore defensive end Martin Ifedi (6-3, 260) is tied for second in the league with seven sacks and is tied for fifth with 9 1/2 sacks.
“Their defensive front a year ago was really good,” Holliday said. “A lot of them are in the NFL now, but they’ve replaced them with other good players.
“What they do at Memphis is do a great job at creating chaos with what they do. They bring pressure off the edges and from everywhere. They’re constantly creating pressure for you, which creates some negative plays. They’ve given up some plays because of that, but they create negative plays because of what they do.”
But the Herd’s biggest concern will be avoiding the kind of uninspired effort that bit them last week.
“It’s important to our kids and we try to do a good job as staff to make sure that our kids understand what they do mean to the community and to the fanbase and how important it is for us to go win football games for them,” Holliday said. “They believe that.”
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