By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
Since he made his debut as Marshall coach in the 2010 season, Doc Holliday has not shied away from playing freshmen. At times that has been because individuals earned playing time. Other times it came about from necessity.
Last Saturday’s win over Memphis was a case of the latter.
When senior receiver Aaron Dobson was injured on the first play of the game, someone had to take his place. Holliday had no problems calling on the likes of Davonte Allen and Demetrius Evans to pick up the slack.
Neither of them disappointed, combing for 11 receptions and 137 yards in the 38-28 victory.
Allen, a redshirt freshman, had his first career touchdown catch and finished with 87 yards on four receptions. Evans, a junior who has seen action in every game but has no starts, had seven of his 19 catches against the Tigers for 50 yards and a score.
“We had to have the same production that we’ve been getting out of Dobson and that happened,” Holliday said. “You have to be prepared when your number is called. We talk about that constantly.”
It wasn’t just Allen and Evans. True freshman Devon Johnson, who has seen action as a fullback at times, had a nine-yard touchdown catch, the first of his career.
When Marshall (4-5, 3-2 Conference USA) visits UAB (2-7, 1-4) at 4:30 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, the Thundering Herd will face a possible up-and-coming quarterback in Austin Brown.
The true freshman is completing nearly 58 percent of his passes and has thrown for 2,086 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the Blazers’ second-half comeback in last week’s 27-19 win over Southern Miss.
He has thrown for 300 yards in four of his five starts this season.
“He is dynamic,” Holliday said. “He’s a redshirt freshman. Just like all freshman quarterbacks, it’s his first year in the system and he’s getting better as the season goes on. They found a way to win that game and you have to give him credit. He is a tough kid. You see him sitting there taking some shots, but he just gets right back up and goes right at it. He’s a good player that is managing that offense very well.”
Holliday said Brown’s situation is comparable to that of Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato’s last season, when Cato was a true freshman.
“There probably are some parallels because he has a new coach and it’s his first year in that system,” Holliday said. “You see the improvement he’s made from game one to now, just like you saw from Cato.”
Cato continues to be one of the nation’s top passers statistically. He is first in completions (318) and passing yards (3,290), fourth in total offense (3,292), fifth in touchdown passes (27) and ninth in completion percentage (69.1).
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