Herd kicking game must step up against UCF

Published 1:43 am Friday, November 14, 2008

If the Marshall Thundering Herd doesn’t win the Conference USA East Division or make a bowl game, don’t expect them to be kicking themselves.

They might miss.

Marshall’s kicking game has been sore spot lately in the losses to Alabama-Birmingham and East Carolina.

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The Herd could have won both games, but Craig Ratanmorn missed a chip-shot field goal that would have beaten UAB and last week against East Carolina his missed extra point in regulation that would have meant a 17-16 win forced the game into overtime and the Herd lost 19-16.

Unhappy with Ratanamorn’s performance, Snyder inserted freshman Tyler Warner to attempt a 42-yard field goal in overtime that had the distance but sailed wide of the goalposts.

“Gotta get better,” said Snyder. “Our kicking game was not that bad, our kickoff returns were outstanding if you talk about all of our special teams, but if you are talking about kicking, we have to get better.”

The Herd hopes the kicking game won’t be a factor or even needed on Saturday when they host the Central Florida Golden Knights in a C-USA East Division game.

Marshall is 4-5 and 3-2 in the division. The Herd must win two of its final three games to be bowl eligible and probably all three games to have a chance at winning the division and playing in the conference championship game.

Even though UCF is just 2-7 and 1-4 in the division, don’t expect an easy homecoming game. Central Florida coach George O’Leary said Marshall is becoming the biggest rival for his team.

The Knights — C-USA champions last year — roughed up the Herd 47-13 last season. This year, two of their losses have been in overtime, and one loss was just 20-14 on the road to the Miami Hurricanes.

“If I had to pick a rival in our division, it would be Marshall. We have played them three times and gone up there also. The last time we went up there is was another homecoming deal and we are looking forward to going back up there again,” said O’Leary.

“That is where (Michael) Torres went down and made the field goal, then took his helmet off and got us a penalty and I got caught on TV saying something that I shouldn’t have.”

Whether or not the game is a rivalry, O’Leary said the Marshall offensive receivers are his biggest concern.

“They have a couple of good receivers in (Darius) Passmore and (Cody) Slate. They also have some running backs playing well that are good, quick-footer guys. They threaten you vertically and horizontally in the passing game,” said O’Leary.

“Our defense will have their work cut out for them. We just cannot leave them out there the whole game.”

Snyder said teams are gearing their defenses to stop Passmore and the running game, thus allowing Slate to run free.

“The flavor of the last couple of weeks seems to be to double Passmore and make it so we can’t run the ball outside, and that’s why Cody Slate has been such a factor,” said Snyder.

“I think Cody is going to be a big key this week. I read in some good articles, if you’ve got an athletic tight end, you’ve got an advantage because it’s hard to cover them.”

Having good receivers is one thing, but getting them the ball is another.

The quarterback position has been similar for both teams. Marshall red-shirt freshman Mark Cann and UCF quarterback Rob Calabrese have had their ups and downs.

Cann is 137-of-266 with 12 touchdown passes but 10 interceptions. His immobility shows in his rushing numbers with 28 carries for minus 36 yards.

The Knights have tried to adjust to the quarterback problem by utilizing both Calabrese and Michael Greco.

Calabrese is 53-of-128 for 575 yards. He has five interceptions and four touchdowns. Greco is 52-of-107 for 571 yards with four picks and five TD passes.