NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- As soon as VU linebacker Chris Marve stepped on to the John Rich practice field last year, observers knew he was going to excel at Vanderbilt. Marve, who redshirted his first year, has compiled 26 tackles, 14 unassisted and two for loss, including one sack and a forced fumble in his first four collegiate games this season.
"I just love the game," said Marve. "A lot of people wish they could be playing college football right now and aren't. So, I'm thankful and just give my all every chance I get."
The redshirt freshman assembled possibly his best game at Ole Miss two weeks ago. The Memphis native totaled 11 tackles, seven solo, and forced a fumble on the 1-yard line preventing a Rebel go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
"He's playing like he's been here forever," Reshard Langford, senior captain safety, said. "He knows the defense, and he just goes out there and plays hard and aggressive."
Marve brings his tenacious, hard-hitting play to the gridiron every game. He attacks the offense like a bulldog, and leaves everything on the field.
"He's hungry," Langford added. "He has a lot of love for the game and he's really hungry, when he's out there on the field he does everything he can to get better. There's just a lot of fire in him."
Marve represents just one pawn in a strong, Commodore defensive attack. Patrick Benoist, a Nagurski/Bronko top defensive player finalist, joins Marve in VU's talented, young linebacker corps. Benoist currently ranks second in the SEC averaging 9.25 tackles per game with 37 total wrap-ups.
"He's a very intense player," Benoist remarked about Marve. "He brings hard hitting to the equation, a lot of power around all of his hits, and just gets around to the ball and makes plays."
Johnson's defense, thus far, has stalled the high-scoring Rice offense, which put up 21 first-half points against VU, and quelled an Ole Miss attack that scored 17 points in first quarter. The Commodores don't statistically lead the SEC in defense, but they have displayed a quiet confidence in themselves and the ability to rise to the occasion when they need a stop.
The `Dores will need more big plays and outstanding performances as No. 13 Auburn comes to Nashville for a 5 p.m. tilt today.
"This is a big-time game," said Marve. "I'm just focusing on the game, not really thinking about the press. I'm just working as hard as I can so we can get this W."