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Ball State running back Marcus Merriweather closing in on 4,00

by Chris Vannoy

ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

HUNTINGTON -- If the Marshall defense needs any motivation heading into Saturday's game against Ball State, it needn't look farther than Cardinals running back Marcus Merriweather.

Merriweather, the nation's No. 4 rusher heading into Saturday's game at Marshall University Stadium, needs just 85 yards to pass the 4,000 yard mark for his career.

And don't think Herd defenders aren't aware of it.

"If we can hold him to less than 85 yards, that'd be great," Marshall outside linebacker Charlie Tynes said. "That's definitely something that will motivate us heading into this game."

Merriweather has already set five career school records and sits within one touchdown of setting another Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 215 pound senior from Fort Wayne, Ind., is the Cardinals' leading rusher, both for yards and touchdowns, and is the only Ball State player in history to have three 1,000 yard rushing seasons.

Merriweather is averaging 139.2 rushing yards this season.

"Marcus is a really good football player who's played very well for us over the years," Ball State coach Bill Lynch said. "He's very consistent and durable back there. He's not a breakaway back, usually.

"Until last week against Buffalo, you didn't see him break a lot of long runs."

Merriweather's 67-yard touchdown run in the Cardinals' 41-21 win over the Bulls was a career high. Still, the running back Lynch describes as "tough and hardnosed" averages just less than five yards per carry.

The Herd, coming off a 24-21 win over Ohio that saw the Bobcats rush for 50 yards below their season average, think they might have just the recipe for slowing Merriweather down.

"We've got to attack their running game," middle linebacker Duran Smith said. "Then, we've got to just stand him up and smash him the mouth."

Assistant Sports Editor Chris Vannoy can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at cvannoy@exponent-telegram.com