HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - Three years ago as the Miami (Ohio) starting quarterback, Austin Boucher was perfect.
Since then, the native of Kettering, Ohio, has taken just a handful of snaps for the RedHawks and Marshall University is hoping he doesn't regain that magic when the two schools collide for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Huntington in the season-opener for both squads.
"Their quarterback is probably the best quarterback you've never heard of," Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. "He's capable of beating you with his arm and his feet, and will present a tremendous challenge for us."
In 2010, Boucher led Miami to four straight victories en route to a Mid-American Conference championship and a win in the GoDaddy.com Bowl.
"You have to contain him," Holliday said. "You would have thought he would have gotten more snaps. He's very capable. If you go back and watch his last four games, he throws extremely catchable balls. He's also very accurate."
Both programs seek to turn around their misfortunes from a year ago when Marshall finished 5-7 and Miami posted its second consecutive 4-8 record. The RedHawks are dominated by freshmen - 51 all told. Seniors and juniors combined account for just 26 players.
"Anytime you are going into a first game there are a lot of unknowns, regardless of who you play," Holliday said. "We have to be extremely sound in what we're doing. You have to be pretty simple.
"First games are always going to have adjustments that have to be made before the game ends. There's no doubt that we are going to see something that we haven't seen or prepared for. We just have to be able to adjust to all those situations and we have to do it pretty quickly."
Saturday marks Miami's first trip to Huntington since 2004. The RedHawks lead the all-time series 30-10-1.
Third-year coach Don Treadwell and his squad won three of their first five games last year but slipped into a tie for fourth place in the MAC's East Division. This season, the RedHawks are projected to fifth in the seven-team division.
Marshall is chomping at the bit to face a defense which allowed 467.7 yards per game and ranked 11th out of 13 teams in the MAC a year ago.
"They're going to be better defensively," Holliday said. "A lot of it is personnel-driven and they played some great rushing attacks. I'm sure they'll be a lot better than they have been on defense and will provide us with a great challenge.
"In first games like this, you don't know how they're going to defend you. We have to see how they will play us."
Holliday expects as many as four tailbacks to receive their share of the carries and seven or eight linemen to provide the openings.
The one constant that creates fireworks for the Thundering Herd is Rakeem Cato, who led Conference USA in 2012 in passing (4,201 yards), passing touchdowns (37) and total offense.
Marshall's non-conference schedule keeps them in the cozy confines of Joan C. Edwards Stadium next week against Gardner-Webb.
"Right now there are about 124 teams that think they're going undefeated," Holliday said. "Everyone is excited right now. The teams that handle the distractions and continue to prepare and be invested like they need to be, those are the ones that win.