Herd seeks first-ever win against WVU
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall has played well against West Virginia, though the Thundering Herd have nothing to show for it since victories are not awarded for one half of play.
Decent starts, yes. Strong finishes, no.
Marshall hasn’t put together a solid overall effort against West Virginia, but gets another chance at bragging rights on Friday night. It’s in a rare home game for the Thundering Herd in the series between the state’s only Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
As bad as Marshall (0-1) looked in a 45-7 loss at Ohio State last week, that would be long forgotten if the Thundering Herd can knock off the 23rd-ranked Mountaineers (1-0) for the first time in 10 overall meetings.
“I told them after the loss that they can do something that no other team in the history of Marshall football has ever done,” first-year coach Doc Holliday said. “We have to win this game at some point. For it to be a rivalry, we have got to go win that game.”
As much as it means to Marshall, West Virginia is simply looking at it as the next nonconference game, not trying to keep an unbeaten streak going.
“We don’t think like that,” West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith said. “We don’t think about what’s happened in the past.”
West Virginia has outscored the Thundering Herd 141-43 since the series resumed four years ago. The Mountaineers are heavily favored again, but there’s a feeling this might be Marshall’s best chance yet.
Marshall is 119-19 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, although nearly all of those games were against lower-tiered schools. Marshall’s only home win against a BCS conference school came against Temple in 1999.
In its last trip to Huntington in 2007, West Virginia was held to three first downs and 118 total yards in the opening half and trailed 13-6 at halftime.
Any momentum Marshall had wilted in the 90-degree heat. The Mountaineers scored on their first three possessions of the third quarter and won 48-23, handing Marshall its worst home loss since its stadium opened in 1991.
“It’s loud. There’s name calling and it’s a hostile environment,” West Virginia’s Noel Devine said. “It was pretty wild.”
Marshall was ahead at halftime again last year in Morgantown but went scoreless after that and lost 24-7.
This time, Marshall has Holliday and other converts from the West Virginia camp.
Holliday was the Mountaineers’ recruiting coordinator the past two seasons. Former WVU offensive graduate assistant JaJuan Seider now is Marshall’s running backs coach and recruiting coordinator, while three ex-graduate assistants at WVU have similar roles at Marshall.
“The coaches are going to do a great job of breaking it down and hopefully (Holliday) can give us some extra insight,” said Marshall quarterback Brian Anderson, who will be making his 16th straight start.
Execution on both sides of the ball, even some of the time, might help the Thundering Herd.
Terrelle Pryor roughed up Marshall for 247 passing yards and three touchdowns.
Junior cornerback Rashad Jackson played in his first college game and sophomore safety Donald Brown got his first start at the Horseshoe last week. Jackson allowed Dane Sanzenbacher to score on a 65-yard pass play, while Brown picked up an unsportsmanlike penalty.
“Their secondary is not their strength,” said West Virginia slot receiver Jock Sanders. “We’ll have to exploit the secondary with the things that we do with our offense.”
Marshall didn’t score an offensive touchdown against the Buckeyes and faces a West Virginia defense that allowed just 186 yards in a 31-0 win over FCS Coastal Carolina.
“It’s always been said that the great trial for a team is between the first and second week and that’s just what we’re going to have to do,” Anderson said. “We’re going to have to come out and execute the way our coaches coach us and come out and make plays. We all feel good about the game coming up and we feel good about our season.”
West Virginia has that feeling, too.
Smith was effective in his first career start last week and will get another shot at Marshall. He played nearly the entire game against the Thundering Herd last year after starter Jarrett Brown got hurt on the fourth play from scrimmage.
Smith, who was recruited by Holliday, said this week’s game doesn’t hold any special meaning for him.
“What Doc did for me, getting me here, I can’t thank him enough for that,” Smith said. “He’s our opponent. He’s on the opposite team. We’re not adding any extra pressure that we don’t need.”
Devine will be looking for his third straight 100-yard rushing effort against Marshall.
“It’s all about state pride,” Devine said. “It means a lot to people here. We’re the 2010 version — it means a lot to us seniors.”