The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

September 18, 2013

Herd simply cannot turn the ball over vs. Hokies

No offense to Ohio, but the Bobcats are no Virginia Tech.

Ohio turned three Marshall turnovers into 17 points in last Saturday’s 34-31 win over the Thundering Herd. As the Herd prepares for its noon Saturday game at Virginia Tech, ball security is priority No. 1.

Not that it wasn’t before.

“That’s something we do every day and it’s not going to change,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “The skill players are always working on ball security and good players will come back and respond and not let it happen again. That’s what good players do. Those kids are good players and I expect them to be better this week.”

The Hokies defense is already one of the best in the country. No need to make it easy for them.

Tech (2-1) has not recovered a fumble through games, but has intercepted seven passes. The secondary is talented and deep — freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson is tied for the nation’s lead with three picks, two in last Saturday’s 15-10 win at East Carolina.

“I’ve probably (coached) against Virginia Tech 20-plus times and it always starts with their defense,” Holliday said. “They are second in the country in total defense. Nobody has been able to move the ball very successfully against them so that will be a tremendous challenge for us.”

The Hokies have only turned their seven interceptions into 10 points, but giving the ball away hurts whether or not it resultss in points for the opponent.

“Bottom line is when you turn the football over four times then you have no chance to beat a good football team,” Holliday said. “Chances are you won’t win no matter who you play. You can’t win a football game turning the ball over.

“Take away the turnovers and we actually played pretty well (against Ohio). But you can’t turn the ball over. You have to eliminate turnovers. That’s part of the plan to win. It’s unacceptable and you can’t let that happen.”

Opponents have had trouble establishing their offense against Tech, in particular the ground game. The Hokies are allowing just 84.3 rushing yards per game, have sacked the quarterback 12 times and have 29 tackles for loss.

For anyone who doubts how good Tech’s defense is, Holliday points to last Saturday’s Alabama-Texas A&M game.

Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel moved the Aggies up and down the field on the two-time BCS National Champions, but the Crimson Tide victimized the defense of coordinator Mark Snyder — the former Marshall head coach — in a 49-42 win.

Alabama beat the Hokies 35-10, but three touchdowns were scored on returns — one punt, one kickoff and one interception.

“Defensively, (the Hokies) are as good of a football team as you’ll find in this country,” Holliday said. “I’m not just saying that because we are playing them. Their stats prove that. Alabama ... had a lot of trouble against the Virginia Tech defense.

“They’re extremely well coached. Their front guys are like clones. They roll them in and out of there and they’re all like 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds and can run. They’re good players.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

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