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Thunder In The Air

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Don’t let the Subdivision label fool you. Read the ingredients closely.

The Marshall Thundering Herd opens its season at 4:30 p.m. Saturday against the Southern lllinois Salukis, a NCAA Subdivision program. Subdivision is just a new name for NCAA Division I-AA.

While Marshall is a I-A program, fifth-year head coach Mark Snyder is leery of the Salukis. Having coached at I-AA Youngstown State when the Penguins were winning three national titles, Snyder knows what to expect from SIU.

“When I was back in that division at Youngstown State, the thing that hurt us against the big schools a little bit was the numbers. They had so much more depth. There’s not that much a disparity between talent,” said Snyder.

“They have the core kids. The quarterback is back, they have their wide receiver, but they have a new tailback. The defense returned lot of people is very active and they’ve got a lot of speed. It’s going to be a formidable challenge for us. The thing hurt us was depth in fourth quarter.”

The quarterback is Chris Dieker who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 227 and passed for 2,083 yards. His favorite targets are Joe Allaria and Bryce Morris. Taking over the running back job will be Richard White.

The Salukis are ranked No. 7 in the Division I-AA preseason poll, the 82nd straight week SIU has been ranked in the top 20. In two previous meetings with Marshall, SIU has won both games including the last meeting 15-14 on Nov. 11, 1978.

Two years ago Marshall played Div. I-AA New Hampshire and lost. Snyder said the two teams are similar.

“It’s very close. That’s a good analogy. These are very good I-AA teams. The exchange film we had was New Hampshire and New Hampshire is still a good team,” said Snyder.

“Most of the guys playing for us were here. There are a lot of guys here that played in that game whether it was special teams. We’re little bit more veteran team.”

Southern Illinois returns 18 starters from last year’s 9-3 team that reached the playoffs for the sixth straight season, second only to Montana. The Salukis have won seven straight openers by an average of 43.1 points.

“This team beat Indiana and Northern Illinois (last year). Film doesn’t lie. They’ve got our attention. (Watching the film) it was a wake-up call,” said Snyder. “This is a very good I-AA team. They’re a very athletic team that’s very well-coached.”

The Herd will be without last year’s leading rusher Darius Marshall. The junior running back has been suspended for the first game due to an off-season incident.

In his place will be sophomore Terrell Edwards with backup help coming from redshirt freshman Jordan Taylor.

“(Edwards) has been waiting for his time. He was a highly recruited kid. He wanted to come in and beat out Darius Marshall. He hasn’t had that opportunity. Darius had the first crack and went for over 1,00 yards. He’s up for the challenge,” said Snyder.