MORGANTOWN -Message received and understood.
Marshall University's 545 yards of total offense and 34 points in a 69-34 loss to No. 9 West Virginia has been a constant point of discussion during defensive meetings over the past two weeks.
"Stopping the run," junior linebacker Doug Rigg said. "That and our tackling, We (the defense) just didn't make the plays that we are supposed to make."
Not all was doom and gloom for the prevent unit as freshman Isaiah Bruce returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown, recorded 10 tackles for loss-accounting for 30 yards-and sacked Thundering Herd quarterback Rakeem Cato (Terence Garvin) once for a 6-yard loss.
"We did a good job on first and second down, but we couldn't seem to get off the field at times," co-defensive coordinator Joe DeForest explained following the game. "We have to learn to play as hard on third down as we do on first and second down."
Making that more of a critical issue on Saturday is the Mountaineers' matchup with a No. 6 (FCS) James Madison ballclub that relies on a ball-control offensive attack spearheaded by quarterback Justin Thorpe and junior tailback Dae'Quan Scott.
James Madison at No. 9 West Virginia
Game time: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Place: Fed-Ex Field, Landover, Md., (85,000)
Series History: West Virginia leads, 1-0.
TV/Radio: Root Sports will broadcast the game live. Radio - Mountaineer Sports Network - (Tony Caridi - play-by-play, Dwight Wallace - analyst, Hoppy Kercheval - host, Jed Drenning - sideline). Satellite Radio Broadcast - The West Virginia - James Madison game can be heard live on Sirius Channel 138 with the MSN broadcast. Live Statistics - WVUsports.com. Twitter Updates - Twitter.com/WVUSportsScores
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The duo accomplished a feat that had not been done by the Dukes since the 2010 campaign-rush for over 100 yards apiece. And, they did it in the first half of action.
"Their quarterback is a run-first type of guy," continued Rigg. "We are going to have to play our game and make some plays so that they have to do some things on offense that they don't want to do."
Scott, who leads the Dukes with 180 yards on 20 carries, is listed as questionable for Saturday's 4:30 p.m. kickoff at FedEx Field, home of the NFL's Washington Redskins, with an ankle sprain he suffered during the first half of JMU's 42-3 demolition of Alcorn State.
"We've watched a bunch of film and the coaches have come up with a plan," said the linebacker. "It is up to the players to make the plan work and you do that by making plays."
In his most recent outing, Thorpe finished with 101 yards on the ground and completed 14-of-18 passes for 140 yards. He accounted for three touchdowns before leaving at the 3:06 mark of the third quarter. The first came on a 32-yard run in the second quarter, the second was a 10-yard pass to Scott and the final came on a 31-yard pass to junior tailback Jordan Anderson.
Scott finished with 107 yards on the night, averaging 13.4 yards per carry. His first touchdown came on a 1-yard run and he followed that up with a 67-yard scamper with 5:56 remaining to be played in the first quarter.
Looking to make sure the duo don't repeat that feat this weekend will be a Mountaineer defense led by redshirt freshman Bruce. In his first collegiate action with the old gold and blue the Florida-native accumulated a game-high 16 tackles to go along with his touchdown. Garvin chipped in with 12 stops and forced the fumble that Bruce picked up at the Marshall 43 and rambled in for his first-ever touchdown.
"There were some bright spots," said DeForest. "And, we aren't going to look at the numbers, but who made plays. Right now, we are in the process of finding which players we can depend upon to make plays when we need to get off of the field."
West Virginia (1-0) will likely go with senior Jorge Wright and juniors Will Clarke and Shaq Rowell up front in its new 3-4 alignment with Garvin (Star), Bruce (Sam), junior Tyler Anderson (Buck) and sophomore Jared Barber (Will) at the linebacker slots.
The secondary will have senior Pat Miller and junior Brodrick Jenkins at the corners with junior Darwin Cook and freshman Karl Joseph at the safeties.
"We are definitely taking them (JMU) seriously," added Rigg. "There has been more than one time that a team has been upset by a team from a lower division. It's already happened this year."