By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
The first test of how much improvement Marshall’s defense really made in spring ball and in the preseason will come in the form of a quarterback the Herd is familiar with.
Marshall never has actually faced Austin Boucher, who will start for Miami (Ohio) Saturday in both teams’ season opener in Huntington. But his skill set puts Marshall coach Doc Holliday in the mind of another Mid-American Conference quarterback — Ohio’s Tyler Tettleton, who owns two wins over the Herd.
“You look at his stats from the games he started and he threw for (nearly) 1,000 yards,” Holliday said of Boucher Monday on the Conference USA coaches teleconference. “He can make every throw and he can beat you with his feet. When you have a quarterback like that, he creates problems for you.”
Boucher, a 6-foot-1, 213-pound redshirt senior, is going into his first season as the full-time starter, but he’s no stranger to opening a game. He started four games in 2010 when then-starter Zac Dysert was injured, and won all of them.
In those four appearances, he completed 88 of 141 passes for 990 yards and five touchdowns. Two of his victories came against Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game and then against Middle Tennessee — a 2013 entrant into C-USA — in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
Boucher was named the game’s Most Valuable Player — for which he received a kiss on the cheek from GoDaddy spokeswoman and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick — after going 22 of 35 for 289 yards, two touchdowns and two interception in the RedHawks’ 35-21 win.
Boucher has never lost a game as a starter — he was 30-0 in two seasons at Alter High School in Kettering, Ohio.
“He is extremely talented and knows how to win,” Holliday said.
When Dysert — who was drafted by the Denver Broncos in April — came back, Boucher went back to his reserve role and didn’t see much action over the last two seasons. He totaled 158 yards and one touchdown in 10 games combined.
“He only threw 13 passes last year. That’s a little unusual (after his big 2010),” Holliday said. “We don’t have a lot to draw from.”
Holliday expects Boucher to present a challenge to his defense, which will be a focal point as it tries to improve on a disastrous 2012. The fourth-year coach said there was no one reason why the defense struggled.
“We just didn’t play well at all defensively,” Holliday said.
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