High-scoring Rice offense another test for Marshall

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 29, 2007

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. —Conference USA can certainly talk about its offensive fireworks.

It can also talk about its head coaches being on the verge of nervous breakdowns.

Marshall Thundering Herd coach Mark Snyder can be counted among those coaches scratching his head and trying to slow down a different offense each week.

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Saturday’s challenge is the Rice Owls, a team that’s only 1-6 but is averaging 26 points a game including a 56-48 loss to C-USA favorite Houston.

“It drive me crazy,” said Marshall coach Mark Snyder. “As I look at the big picture, we are going to be good on defense here eventually. I think the team with the best defense is going to win this league consistently. Everybody is putting up points.”

Rice, 1-2 in C-USA, stunned Southern Mississippi 31-29 a few weeks ago. Marshall lost to Southern Miss 33-24 last Sunday.

“They are putting up a lot of points. I just watched the Houston game before I went to my quarterbacks’ meeting. It was 56-58. That is crazy. We’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game,” said Snyder.

Igniting the Rice offense is quarterback Chase Clement is 130 of 230 for 1,451 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has suffered 10 interceptions.

“He is a little bit like Paul Smith at Tulsa. He is athletic, calls plays at the line, and is a little sneaky,” said Snyder. “They do a lot of what New Hampshire did on offense. They throw the ball a little bit more. They roll and have the same kind of running game and trick plays.”

Jarett Dillard has 33 catches for 486 yards and seven touchdowns. He had three TD catches last week in a 38-35 loss to Memphis.

Toren Dixon has 22 catches for 237 yards and Tommy Henderson 22 receptions 191 yards.

Unlike Southern Mississippi and Damion Fletcher, the Owls’ running game has struggled. Justin Hill had 180 yards, C.J. Ugokwe 178, and Clement 146. The team total is just 675.

Marshall remains winless in seven games and 0-3 in C-USA. Snyder said the team remains upbeat despite the record.

“I think everybody in this room wants to win. It makes all of our jobs easier,” said Snyder.

“We’ve got to win. I think it would give us a bit of confidence and you’ve heard me say that football is a game of confidence. I haven’t lost my confidence in my abilities or those of this team. We’ve just got to keep getting better one day at a time.”

Snyder said Rice is better than its record and knows the Herd offense must play at the best of its abilities.

“We need to respect everybody and bring out best game every week. These kids do. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us,” said Snyder.

Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m.