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Dr. Saturday

Marshall targets Case Keenum for an early exit

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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The goal of every college football defense is to get to the quarterback, but few are as outspoken as Marshall about actually wanting to knock the quarterback out of the game. And the quarterback in their sights this weekend is Houston's Case Keenum.

"As a defense, that's our key to the game," Marshall nose tackle Delvin Johnson told the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. "We try to kill the head of the snake every game. Putting out the quarterback is a real big deal for us."

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Brazen talk for a defense that's facing the nation's top offense and a quarterback who's carved up opposing defenses like Thanksgiving turkeys this season. And not to get all preachy, but it's also unsportsmanlike.

"He's the first-string quarterback for a reason," Marshall free safety Omar Brown. "And a second-string quarterback doesn't bring as much to the table as the first-string. So, it kind of slows them down in a way, which is a good thing for us.

"He's one of the top quarterbacks in the nation. For them to lose a guy like that. ... they won't have a backup to compare to him."

Added linebacker Tyson Gale: "We want to punish those guys. Nothing dirty, but we do want to find out who the backup quarterback is every game."

Marshall has the credentials to back up its smack talk. It's put punishing hits on several quarterbacks this season, including Southern Miss' Austin Davis, who had to be helped to the sideline, Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, who left the game because of a bruised shoulder, and Central Florida's Jeff Godfrey, who also had to miss a play.{YSP:MORE}

Marshall ranks first nationally in tackles for loss with 9.6 per game and 32nd in sacks with 2.4.

Keenum is no stranger to having a target on his back and after two major injuries last season — a concussion and a season-ending knee injury — he's also learned to stay out of the fray. Houston allows just 1.50 sacks per game and Keenum is averaging 435.50 passing yards per game, which has helped the Cougars to a 6-0 record.

Because of how well the Cougars have played this season, backup Cotton Turned has actually gotten a great deal of work, completing 67.4 percent of his passes for 286 yards a touchdown and an interception.

And, unfortunately for Marshall, its unabashed attitude toward knocking out the starting quarterback hasn't netted wins. In fact, even though the Thundering Herd did put big hits on the aforementioned quarterbacks, they only won one of those three games. Overall, Marshall is 3-4 this season.

Still, Marshall's quotes should provide some good vitriol and bulletin board material for a much-anticipated Conference USA game. Just hope it doesn't provoke more of the ugly scenes or suspensions we've seen over the last week.

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Graham Watson is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow her @Yahoo_Graham.

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