Marshall visits rival West Virginia

Published 4:10 am Friday, September 26, 2008

Marshall coach Mark Snyder and West Virginia coach Bill Stewart were complimentary of each other and admitted that they were good friends.

Saturday’s Marshall at West Virginia intrastate rivalry might seem friendly between the coaches, but don’t bet on it to show much camaraderie from the 3:30 p.m. kickoff until the final whistle.

Snyder said Stewart is a great coach and recruiter, but their friendship won’t enter into Saturday’s game at Mountaineer Stadium.

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“It’s not going to be friendly Saturday. The governor stepped in and made this thing happen. It’s great for our state and I think Bill understands that,” said Snyder.

West Virginia has won all seven meetings between the two schools including 48-23 last season after the Herd led 13-6 at the half. But Snyder said the gap is beginning to narrow.

“Our deal was to make this game competitive. I think we’re getting closer to that. Talk is cheap, but I think we are getting closer to catching up with them. That’s when it becomes fun,” said Snyder.

Stewart, a former assistant coach at Marshall, took over the program just before the Fiesta Bowl last year when Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan. WVU won the game with a stunning upset of Oklahoma.

He had nothing but praise for Snyder who took over the Herd four years ago with the team entering a new league and riddled with NCAA probation that stripped the program of 16 scholarships.

“I think Mark Snyder is one of the best character men in the game today,” said Stewart

“I’m happy for the success he’s had after the mess he took over … the attitudes and things and problems and probation.”

Although Stewart said he still has friends in Huntington and harbors fond memories, he wasn’t letting sentiment get in the way of his goal.

“You always want to beat your instate rival. I hope (Snyder) wins them all but this Saturday. This is the most important game on our schedule because it’s our next game on our schedule.”

WVU lost last week in overtime at Colorado and were upset by East Carolina the previous game. A missed short field goal in overtime proved costly as the Mountaineers lost 17-14.

“Our special teams did a tremendous job. Everything went well with our kicking game until overtime. It was a very tough loss,” said Stewart.

Marshall put up impressive offensive numbers last week in a rare win at Southern Mississippi. Snyder said the Herd must move the ball against the WVU defense.

“They are about a yard or a half-yard from being the same as last year,” said Snyder.

“I thought I would turn on the film and see a bunch of differences and I don’t. They are just a foot away from breaking it the distance on a whole bunch of football plays.”

WVU still has quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Levine, but Snyder was equally impressed with the defense.

“The (3-3-5) is a good system. You are going to have the ability to pop a couple of big plays, the question is, can you sustain a drive? That’s what I don’t see happening against West Virginia,” said Snyder.