By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor
It doesn’t matter how many plays a team runs, nor the amount of yards or points it accumulates. If you give the ball away, winning becomes that much more difficult.
Marshall is 2-3 this year and, except for the loss to West Virginia in the season opener, turnovers have proven costly. A fumble and interception led to a loss to Ohio, and Purdue returned two interceptions for touchdowns in last Saturday’s 51-41 win over the Thundering Herd.
For all that has been said and written about Marshall’s up-tempo offense, coach Doc Holliday can — and does — point to the gifts as reason to not be satisfied.
“I’m happy where we are on offense, but we have to take better care of the ball,” the third-year coach said. “Our third-down and fourth-down conversions have been good. We are where we want to be offensively. The only thing we have to do is take care of the football, and if we continue to do that we can get better in other areas. The tempo creates issues for a lot of defenses.”
Which will be the issue for Marshall, when it hosts Tulsa at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Homecoming game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
While Marshall (2-3, 1-0 Conference USA) has shown it has the offense to hang with any team the rest of the way; the Golden Hurricane (4-1, 2-0) will bring one of top defenses into Huntington.
Tulsa leads the nation in tackles for loss at 10.6 and sacks at 5.2, and is No. 1 in the league in run defense at 104.6 yards per game.
Marshall’s offense has been predicated on quarterback Rakeem Cato getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. That approach will be put to the test this week.
“About 50 percent of the time they’re coming after you in one way or another, whether it is pressure from the edges or the backers,” Holliday said. “They do put a lot of pressure on your offense as far as blitzing is concerned. Their defensive guys move around a lot because of the blitz packages they have.”
Linebacker Deaundre Brown and end Jared St. John both have five sacks through five games. Brown, who has 7 1/2 tackles for loss, has moved from the outside to the middle because of injuries.
“They’re very aggressive on defense and are very well coached,” Holliday said. “We have to do a great job at preparing for the pressure that we are going to get.”
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