Virginia Tech-Marshall Preview
By KATE HEDLIN
(AP) -- While Virginia Tech's defense is a big reason for the team's 3-0 start, running back David Wilson is putting up some impressive numbers on the other side of the ball.
Wilson and the 13th-ranked Hokies meet Marshall on Saturday in their first trip to Huntington since 1940.
Virginia Tech hasn't started 4-0 since 2006, but the Hokies have to like their chances after another impressive defensive performance in a 26-7 win over Arkansas State last Saturday in which they allowed 269 yards of offense.
Virginia Tech is giving up 224.7 yards per game - eighth in the nation - and it's been particularly stout up front, holding opponents to 55.3 rushing yards, which is tied for fourth-best.
"We want to get back to that dominant defense," cornerback Jayron Hosley, who had two interceptions Saturday after leading the nation with nine in 2010, told the Hokies' official website. "The defense fought hard, the front four came up big with three sacks, and the back end, we had to hold up our end. We did well, and this was a good win for us."
Defense was a major focal point going into this season. The Hokies ranked 52nd in the nation last year after giving up 361.5 yards per game - their first finish outside the top 12 since 2003.
With the defense surrendering 30 points in three games, there's not been much pressure on the offense. However, with ACC play beginning next week, Virginia Tech will look for a better performance from the offense this weekend.
So far, Wilson has carried much of that load. He ranks sixth in FBS with 129.3 yards rushing per game and has scored four touchdowns. Wilson, who is averaging 6.2 yards per carry, ran for 88 yards and a TD against the Red Wolves.
Marshall saw Wilson as a freshman in 2009, when he rushed for 165 yards and one touchdown in Virginia Tech's 52-10 win.
His success has helped ease the transition for quarterback Logan Thomas, who has completed 52.8 percent of his passes in his first year starting under center. He threw two interceptions this week, but also passed for 292 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"I want to be perfect," Thomas said. "That's how most quarterbacks want to be. I threw two interceptions, and I'm not happy about that, but it comes with time. I'm slowly but surely getting to the point where I want to be."
Thomas' confidence could get a boost facing Marshall's defense. The Thundering Herd (1-2) have given up 846 passing yards through three games, including 288 yards and three scores in a 44-7 loss to Ohio last Saturday.
The Hokies, though, won't have their career receptions leader available to exploit Marshall's secondary. Jarrett Boykin, who has 133 catches in his four seasons and can also break Ricky Scales' school record with 57 more yards, suffered a hamstring injury in practice and will miss the first game of his career.
While Marshall's defense has plenty of issues to work on, it especially won't stand a chance if the offense keeps turning it over. The Herd gave the ball away six times in the first half against the Bobcats, including four interceptions by Rakeem Cato.
Cato's struggles and the defensive breakdowns overshadowed the team's season-high 172 rushing yards. Tron Martinez had 72 yards on nine carries while Travon Van had 68 yards on 16 attempts.
Martinez leads the team with 72.3 rushing yards per game, but Marshall doesn't have a rushing touchdown - something coach Doc Holliday said needs to change.
"You have to have a good mixture," Holliday said. "The one thing we can't do offensively is we can't become one-dimensional. We're not good enough to beat you throwing it all the time. ... If we become one-dimensional against Virginia Tech, we'll have major issues."
Virginia Tech leads the series 8-2, winning six in a row. The Hokies lost visits to Huntington in 1939 and 40.
Marshall has lost 12 straight games against ranked opponents since a 27-20 win at then-No. 6 Kansas State in 2003.
Updated September 22, 2011