Deck stacked against Herd offensive unit

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Defense continues to be a staple at Virginia Tech, and Marshall University will experience it first-hand Saturday when it travels to Blacksburg, Va.

The Hokies enter the noon contest with a 2-1 record. Their only loss occurred on opening day when two-time defending national champion Alabama won 35-10 despite producing just 206 yards of total offense.

Other than the two touchdowns scored against Virginia Tech’s defense, the Crimson Tide manufactured scores on an interception return and a kickoff return.

Virginia Tech ranks second in the country in total defense.

“Defensively, they are as good of a football team as you’ll find in this country, and I’m not just saying that because we are playing them,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said. “Their stats prove that. Alabama moved the ball up and down the field against Texas A&M, but had a lot of trouble against the Virginia Tech defense.

“Their front guys are like clones. They roll them in and out of there, and they’re all like 6-foot-2 and 300 pounds and can run.”

Marshall is looking to recover from last week’s 34-31 loss at Ohio. Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato threw one interception and the offense fumbled the ball away three times.

“Bottom line is when you turn the ball over four times then you have no chance to beat a good football team,” Holliday said. “Chances are you won’t win no matter who you play. Take away the turnovers and we actually played pretty well. But you can’t turn the ball over.

“You have to eliminate turnovers. That’s part of the plan to win. It’s unacceptable and you can’t let that happen.”

Marshall also takes a 2-1 record into Saturday’s contest. Cato has completed 64 percent (68-of-107) of his passes with seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.

His counterpart at Virginia Tech is 6-6, 254-pound senior Logan Thomas, who has thrown for 517 yards with three TDs and four picks.

“He looks like a big tight end out there, but he can run,” Holliday said. “They say he’s 6-6, but he looks bigger than that when he gets on the field with the uniform on. He’s impressive and he makes all the throws.

“Arm tackles don’t work on him. You have to wrap him up. East Carolina had him sacked a couple of times and couldn’t get him him on the ground. He is a big, physical guy and you better wrap him up and better get more than one guy there.”

In the series between the two schools, Marshall owns just two wins in 11 meetings against Virginia Tech. Since defeating the Hokies 13-7 in Huntington in 1940, the Thundering Herd have dropped the last seven games.

In their most recent meeting, Virginia Tech limited Marshall to 6 yards rushing and sacked Cato five times in a 30-10 win in Huntington in 2011.

Odds are Marshall won’t shut out Virginia Tech. Dating back to 1995, the Hokies have scored in 233 consecutive games which is tied for the 13th longest in Division I-A history. Next on the list in 12th place is Tennessee, which is currently in the midst of a 237-game streak.

“I’ve probably played against Virginia Tech 20-plus times and it always starts with their defense,” Holliday said. “Nobody has been able to move the ball very successfully against them, so that will be a tremendous challenge for us.”