Marshall notebook: Herd glad to have Roberts back on corner
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - On the final play of Marshall's second spring scrimmage Saturday, the team simulated a 2-point conversion in overtime. Stop it and the defense wins the game.
Third-string quarterback Gunnar Holcombe took a rare shift behind the first-team offensive line, against the top defensive unit. He threw toward the corner of the end zone to Andre Scott, the safety trying his hand at wide receiver.
The throw was good, but the defense was better. Cornerback Darryl "Swagg Dee" Roberts broke it up, and his fellow defenders ran across the field to mob him.
With each pass disruption, the 5-foot-11 native of Lakeland, Fla., is showing that he is back and should be better than he was two seasons ago as a sophomore. Earlier in the morning, Roberts denied Demetrius Evans of catching an otherwise perfect pass from Rakeem Cato, and then intercepted Cato on a third-and-4 play.
Part of the Thundering Herd's many defensive problems in 2012 can be linked to Roberts' season-robbing ankle injury. As he tells it, he was "just hanging, and just made a mistake and landed on it the wrong way, playing around and stuff like that."
Roberts was not perfect in his lockdown efforts on Saturday, though. Cato zinged a throw to Evans for 29 yards, splitting double coverage and topping Roberts' fingertip by maybe an inch.
"That was a good throw, good catch," Roberts said. "He just put it right over my fingertips. That was a good throw; we were just talking about that."
It's uncertain how safety Shawn Samuels graded out overall, but he proved he has a good set of wheels when he came across the field to deny Chris Alston Jr. of a 99-yard touchdown reception.
Alston beat walk-on Chris Yamoah down the left sideline, snaring a rainmaker of a long pass from Blake Frohnapfel. Yamoah appeared ready to run down Alston from behind before abruptly tiring and hitting the ground, leaving Alston nothing but green turf ahead.
With a long run but a proper angle, Samuels knocked Alston out at the 4, forcing him to settle for 95 yards.
"Shawn, he's one of the fastest on our defense," Roberts said. "So I can believe it. He's fast, he's got good running form."
Marshall has three practices remaining, culminating in the Green-White Game at 2 p.m. next Saturday. Tuesday's workout will be on the heavy side, with the team scaling back to shorts on Thursday.
"The game is going to be very similar to what you saw today," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "We're going to get as much as we can out of that game. We'll have the different field positions, but we'll play a game with a clock and we'll move the chains. We'll play 'good on good,' just like we did today."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.