During the Q & A I refer to myself as GC (GobblerCountry) and Marshall Thundering Blog as MTB. Enjoy, and GO HOKIES!
GC: Without re-opening too many fresh wounds, can you tell us what went on with the Thundering Herd a week ago against Ohio (Particularly in the turnover department, which includes an almost butt fumble-worthy kickoff return, if you could call it that)?
MTB: Last week Marshall out passed, out rushed, and simply out gained Ohio but, four turnovers doomed the Thundering Herd. Stewart Butler's muffed kickoff return for a Bobcats touchdown was terrible. I don't know if it was "butt-fumble" terrible but, things like that should not happen.
GC: What do you make of this year's team? Is Rakeem Cato the real deal, and how much has he progressed since these two teams faced off in 2011?
MTB: When Virginia Tech last saw Rakeem Cato, he was a true freshman quarterback starting his fourth collegiate game. Since then, Cato has blossomed into one of college football's best passers. Cato was named C-USA's 2012 MVP after passing for 4,201 yards and 37 touchdowns. This season the redshirt junior has completed 68 of 107 attempts for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.
In total, Marshall fans don't know what to make of this edition of the Thundering Herd. Riding into the season, people expected the Herd to compete for a C-USA championship but, last week's loss to Ohio has tampered expectations.
GC: The scariest thing about this Marshall offense (from an outsider's perspective) is how well they can pass AND run this year. Do you think that's something likely to continue, or just an anomaly so far this season? Why?
MTB: It is a common misconception that Marshall's offense does all of its damage through the air. Without a mobile quarterback, the Herd finished 2012 in the top half of team rushing yards among FBS schools.
With the understanding that two of Marshall's three games have come against weak opposition, the Thundering Herd has continued its strong rushing attack. This season Marshall is averaging 214.7 rushing yards per outing.
GC: Likewise, the defense (even with last week's game) is among the best in the nation. Why don't you think they're getting as much credit as they should be? Is it deserved?
MTB: The defense has improved under the leadership of first year defensive coordinator Chuck Heater. Again, it's hard to tell how good they are after blowout victory's over Miami (OH) and Gardner Webb. Not to mention defending a four turnover performance against Ohio.
GC: If you're Frank Beamer, what would you be attacking on this Marshall defense?
MTB: Ohio had a lot of success against Marshall's defense using short slant patterns that attacked the middle of the field. Until Heater and the Thundering Herd defense learn how to stop a slant route, Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech offense should take full advantage.
Also, the Herd had a lot of trouble with Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton when he extended plays outside of the pocket. Logan Thomas's legs could come in handy against a aggressive Marshall pass rush.
GC: Likewise, if you're calling the shots going up against Bud Foster's defense, what do you try to do?
MTB: I am glad it is not my job to figure out how to score against Virginia Tech. I think it is important that Marshall establish its running game on Saturday. That is easier said than done. The Hokies only surrendered 96 rushing yards to Alabama and ECU barley squeaked out two yards per carry.
Above everything else, Marshall can't be its own worst enemy. If the Herd ends up one the wrong side of the turnover battle it could be a very long day.
GC: Everyone is familiar with the 1970 Marshall football tragedy and the subsequent book, The Marshall Story, and the hit film based primarily on that book, We Are Marshall. That familiarity with the events goes even deeper for Virginia Tech fans, as two former Hokie football players were coaches on that team and died in the plane crash. However, since I'm guessing most of our readers are familiar with the film version only, could you tell us where the film hit and perhaps more importantly, where it missed? What was the reception by the Marshall community?
MTB: I don't want to speak for everyone else but, it is my perception that "We Are...Marshall" was well received by the Marshall and Huntington communities. Personally, I thought Matthew McConaughey played coach Jack Lengyel a little bit to goofy. Lengyel is a straight shooter and McConaughey made him out to be a eccentric. I also thought that McG was a poor choice as director, the guy has never directed a box office hit.
Don't get me wrong, I am happy the movie got made but, the execution on Hollywood's end could have been better.
GC: Back to the game, aside from the main players for the Thundering Herd, who should the Hokies and their fans be on the lookout for in this one? It could be as detailed as someone(s) who matches up well against Tech or as simple as a gut feeling. Feel free to be creative.
MTB: Here is an under the radar player you should pay attention to, wide receiver Devon Smith. The diminutive (5-foot-7, 155 lbs.) Penn State transfer is second on the team with 182 receiving yards on 9 catches and a touchdown. Smith is lightning quick and can be a big matchup problem. He has primarily been used as a outside receiver but, I think his skills would be better utilized in the slot.
Also watch out for Gator Hoskins, one of C-USA's best tight ends. He can be hell on linebackers running down the seam.
GC: Now down to final tribal council moment: who wins, why and by how much? (feel free to include a score if you feel so inclined)
MTB: I don't know about you guys but, I think this game comes down to turnovers. Virginia Tech caused three interceptions against ECU last week and Marshall was more generous to Ohio, giving up the ball four times.
Hopefully, Marshall removed the turnover bug from its system and If that is the case, I see a 24-21 Thundering Herd victory.
Thanks again to Marshall Thundering Blog for joining us for the Q & A. For all the news and coverage from the Thundering Herd perspective this weekend and throughout the season, make sure to check out Marshall Thundering Blog. For all the Hokie stuff you could ever want, don't move a muscle. YOU'RE ON IT here at Gobbler Country.