The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 29, 2012

Marshall’s focus is on run defense at Purdue

Final nonconference game for Herd

By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor

ATHENS — Last week, Marshall was coming off a game in which it ran for just 59 yards. So the question was, can the Thundering Herd run the ball?

They answered that resoundingly, rambling for 334 yards in a 54-51 double-overtime win at Rice.

On the other side, Marshall gave up 301 to the Owls on the ground. Through four games, Marshall is allowing an average of 243.8 rush yards.

Marshall has proved it can run the ball. But the question now, as the Herd (2-2) visits 2-1 Purdue today (3:15 p.m. EST), is can they stop the run?

“We have to stop the run. There’s no doubt in that,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I’m happy with our defense because I’m not. We have to get better in that, and we’re working extremely hard to get that done.”

Marshall will be on the road for the second straight week, facing a Boilermakers team that statistically is better in the passing game. But Purdue undeniably relies on carrying the football, evidenced by its 219-yard average.

The Boilermakers’ top two rushers go by the same first name. Akeem Shavers is averaging 55.7 yards, running for 167 and a pair of touchdowns. Behind him is Akeem Hunt, who has 138 yards and a score on 11 carries (46.0).

Quarterback Caleb TerBush will start. He was suspended for Purdue’s season opener against Eastern Kentucky, then split the duties with Robert Marve against Notre Dame. But Marve was hurt against the Irish and will likely not play against the Herd.

TerBush has completed 24 of 43 passes for 237 yards and three touchdowns. He has been intercepted three times.

The Herd focused on its ground attack against Rice, but still leads Conference USA in passing offense (383.5) and total offense (561.0).

Quarterback Rakeem Cato still leads the nation with 370.2 passing yards per game. He has completed 142 of 200 passes for 10 touchdowns and has been intercepted just twice.

“He did some good things as a young quarterback last year, but he’s much more experienced and efficient at running their offense,” Purdue coach Danny Hope said. “They air it out, they have the option to pass the ball or run the ball on any given play, and they will take what the defense gives them.”

Today’s game will be Marshall’s last nonconference meeting of the season. The Herd returns home next Saturday to host Tulsa.

— E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com