The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 4, 2013

Thundering Herd defense looking much improved

BECKLEY — So far, so good.

Marshall’s defense will be scrutinized all season after its abysmal showing in 2012. Last Saturday’s 52-14 win over Miami (Ohio) in the season opener will go a long way in making people forget all about that.

The Thundering Herd (1-0) held the RedHawks to 239 total yards and nine first downs. Like the offense, which went the first 18 minutes without a first down, the defense took a while to develop.

Miami quarterback Austin Boucher completed his first eight passes, including a pair of bombs that set up each of the team’s two touchdowns. The RedHawks gained 184 yards in the first half, which ended with the score tied 14-14.

“(It came down to) everybody coming together, knowing that Coach (defensive coordinator Chuck Heater) made a game plan,” junior linebacker Neville Hewitt said. “We just made adjustments to what they were doing. We really didn’t know much about what they were doing, coming in. We made adjustments, forgot about the first half and just did what we were supposed to be doing.”

Once they did, the results were impressive.

The RedHawks were completely bottled up in the second half. Marshall’s defense not only kept Miami out of the end zone, but allowed just 55 yards and two first downs after the break.

Boucher suffered his first loss as a starting quarterback at Miami. He was just 2-of-14 after those first eight completions.

“We know him as a winner. He won in high school and he won (in 2010 at Miami),” Hewitt said. “We just tried hard. We run to the ball and play hard, and the chips are going to fall where they are supposed to fall.”

It was nice to see the defensive improvement, fourth-year head coach Doc Holliday said.

“I thought the defense played with a lot of confidence,” he said. “They’re playing well. We rolled a lot of kids in there. We have a lot of room for improvement and have to get a lot better for next week.

“I think it’s a good start on both sides of the ball. I’m happy about where we are, but we have a lot of work to do between now and next weekend.”

Hewitt, who came to Marshall from Georgia Military, tied with Jermaine Holmes for the team lead with eight tackles.

“I just gave it my all,” said Hewitt, who had 65 tackles last season at Georgia Military. “I know as long as I go hard, everybody else is going to go hard. I’ve just got to keep giving that energy for the rest of my teammates.”

Hewitt knows the defense will have to keep it going this Saturday against Gardner-Webb. Kickoff for the non-televised game is set for 6:30 p.m.

“We know we’ve got to come out and play better defense,” Hewitt said. “We’ve got a good defense this year, so we’re ready. We’re ready, man.”

—E-mail: gfauber@register-herald.com

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