Holtz leery of Marshall ‘trap’

Published 10:24 am Tuesday, November 6, 2007

By Staff
By KEVIN TRAVIS, Sports Editor
GREENVILLE — While East Carolina sits atop the Conference USA East standings and Marshall resides in the basement, third-year ECU coach Skip Holtz said his Pirates can’t afford to take the Thundering Herd lightly.
The Herd is 106-13 in games played at John C. Edwards Stadium.
The Pirates (6-4, 5-1), who became bowl eligible with Saturday’s 56-40 win over Memphis, will play for the C-USA championship with two more victories. After Saturday’s game at Marshall (1-8, 1-4), ECU closes out regular season play Nov. 24 at home against Tulane.
The Pirates will be looking for a school-record sixth consecutive C-USA victory. While Marshall might not have much to play for, Holtz said the Herd will likely take the role of spoiler.
Somebody who has been putting his best foot forward each week is senior running back Chris Johnson, who was named the C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week after running for 301 yards and four touchdowns against Memphis.
Johnson finished with a career-best 408 all-purpose yards.
Johnson’s rushing performance was the second highest in school history. Scott Harley set the record with 351 yards against N.C. State on Nov. 30, 1996.
The senior, who was named the C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week on Oct. 8, scored on runs of 70, 50, 44 and 16 yards.
Joining Johnson as Players-of-the-Week were Chase Clement (QB, Rice), Phillip Hunt (DE, Houston) and Justin Estes (K, Southern Miss).
While Johnson will go into Saturday’s game healthy, the same can’t be said for a number of other Pirates.
Defensive lineman Brandon Setzer and linebacker Nick Johnson both had an MRI Sunday evening after suffering knee injuries against Memphis. Safety Chris Mattocks also has an injured knee. While Holtz said he didn’t know the extent of the injuries, the third-year coach said Setzer and Nick Johnson are unlikely to play Saturday against Marshall.
Linebacker Danny Muhwezi, who had one tackle Saturday, broke his leg against the Tigers and is out indefinitely.
Defensive back Leon Best, who is tied for the team-lead with two interceptions, is dealing with an ankle injury.
Johnson and Muhwezi were a part of ECU’s “Dirty Dozen” special teams unit. Losing those players will impact how Holtz approaches Saturday’s game.
Offensive tackle Willie Barton (ankle), offensive lineman Fred Hicks (ankle) and defensive end Marcus Hands (shoulder) are already listed as out for Saturday’s game.