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Behind Enemy Lines, Bowl Edition: Marshall

Ahead of Friday's Military Bowl, Testudo Times corresponds with Grant Traylor, who covers Marshall for the Huntington, W.Va., Herald-Dispatch.

Behind quarterback Rakeem Cato, the Marshall Thundering Herd will meet the Terrapins in Friday's Military Bowl.
Behind quarterback Rakeem Cato, the Marshall Thundering Herd will meet the Terrapins in Friday's Military Bowl.
Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout this football season, Testudo Times has previewed every opponent on the Terps' schedule through quick-hit email conversations with the journalists and bloggers who know them best. To wrap up 2013, Marshall writer Grant Traylor, of the Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, W.Va., writes in.

TT: The Herd put significant beatings on several teams this year, including a 59-point outburst against a good Eastern Carolina team at the end of last month. In sum, they've scored more than 40 points per game. What makes Marshall’s offense so explosive?

Traylor: The thing that makes Marshall's offense so explosive is quarterback Rakeem Cato's ability to read defenses and the variance of tempo that the Herd runs. The ability to do a multitude of things at a quick pace makes it hard for a defense to key on what the offense is doing.

TT: What’s Marshall’s identity under head coach Doc Holliday?

Traylor: In one word: athleticism! Holliday is a terrific recruiter, and the ability to get high-caliber athletes to come to Marshall has served him well.

TT: Statistically, the Herd’s offense has been very balanced. They boast a 3,500-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver and several guys not far behind. Which offensive members of the Herd should the Terps be most weary of?

Traylor: Cato is who makes the offense go. Playmaking ability and leadership are his strengths. However, Tommy Shuler and Gator Hoskins are a pair of receivers that simply make plays. Essray Taliaferro (RB) is the tough guy - churns out hard yards after contact and has the bulldog mentality every team needs.

TT: What should the Terps expect in the way of defensive looks from Marshall, especially as it relates to countering C.J. Brown running with the ball?

Traylor: Marshall will vary its looks and bring pressure in an effort to keep Brown uncomfortable in the pocket. Whether a nickel look or a standard 4-3, expect the Herd to be aggressive in coming at Brown.

TT: The Maryland defense has been at its best, unsurprisingly, when Andre Monroe, Marcus Whitfield and and company have generated a strong rush. Will Marshall’s offensive line be able to insulate Rakeem Cato?

Traylor: Marshall's offensive line has been a strength this year and Cato normally gets the ball out quickly. Biggest key will be picking up blitz reads, which Herd has done well behind center Chris Jasperse.

TT: On the other side of the ball, do you expect Brown will have much time to throw? Maryland’s offensive line has never been much better than "shaky" in 2013.

Traylor: Brown will undoubtedly feel heat in passing situations as the Herd look to be aggressive. James Rouse is Marshall's catalyst up the middle. His ability to get pressure forces mobile quarterbacks wide instead of allowing them to step up into the pocket and take off.

TT: Is there a particular individual matchup that you think could be game-defining?

Traylor: I think the key will be the job of the Herd's offensive guards to block rushers, whether it is second-level blitzers or possibly Monroe, when tackles have to pick up the outside rush. It will be critical for the Herd offense to sustain success.

TT: Can I take you for a score prediction?

Traylor: I don't do predictions. I will say this: I don't think this is a game anyone will be leaving early!