Pre-Season Peeks: Game 1-Troy; Game 2-Ohio State

As August approaches, Herd football fans are itching to get the 2004 final season in the Mid-American Conference underway. Marshall returns eight starters on the defense that led the MAC in 2003, as well as starting quarterback Stan Hill (on a rebuilt knee), 1,000 yard rusher Earl Charles and sure-to-set records receiver Josh Davis. But what of the teams waiting for the Herd? This week, the Herd Insider will take a daily look at two opponents per day, starting with Troy and Ohio State.

Game One: Troy University-September 9 Huntington 4:30 p.m. (THN-The Thundering Herd/ISP Television Sports Network, shown on Huntington's WSAZ TV-3 and other stationa)
Nickname: Trojans
Colors: Black, Silver and Red
Conference: Sun Belt Conference (League games noted with asterick*)
Last: Troy (State)-33 MU-24 (at Troy, AL 9/27/03)
All-time Series: Marshall leads 3-1.
2003 Record: 6-6
Head Coach: Larry Blakeney 108-48-1 (13 years); 1-3 vs. Marshall (1-1 in D-IA games)
Defensive Watch List (9 starters return):
Sr. DE Demarcus Ware, 6-5, 240; 72 tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss and nine sacks last season
Sr. FS Derrick Ansley, 6-1, 170; 94 tackles, 9 interceptions and 10 passes-broken-up last season
Offensive Watch List (8 starter return):
Sr. RB DeWhitt Betterson, 6-0, 218; 4.5 speed, rushed for 1,161 yards last year, Troy's first 1,000-plus rusher since 1996 in I-AA (4.8 ypc).
Sr. WR Jason Samples, 6-0, 196; 12 starts with 48 catches last year (12.9 ypc)
Stadium: Movie Gallery (seats-30,000; surface-Astroplay artificial turf)
2004 Schedule: 9/4 @Marshall; 9/8 Missouri; 9/18 @ New Mexico St.*; 9/25 @ South Carolina; 10/2 Utah St.*; 10/16 @ Arkansas St.*; 10/23 @LSU; 10/30 Idaho*; 11/6 Florida Atlantic (HC); 11/13 @ Louisiana Lafayette*; 11/20 MTSU*.
Of Note: Blakeney interviewed for Marshall head coach job in 1990, when Jim Donnan was hired; First quarter scoring in 2003: Opponents 100-Troy 33. Troy, formerly known as Troy State, joins the Sun Belt Conference in 2004, after five years as D-IA independent, eliminating schedules like 2003's at Kansas State, at Minnesota, at Nebraska (3rd year in a row) and at Virginia while playing only four home games (five for 2004). Nose tackle Alfred Malone is eligible after sitting out transfer from Georgia Tech. Derrick Ansley had 70 yard interception return for touchdown against Herd last season. New defensive coordinator is former Wyoming head coach Vic Koenning. Phil Steele's magazine rates Troy as being the ninth-most improved team in the country this season and picks the Trojans to win the Sun Belt.

Game Two: The Ohio State University-September 16, Columbus, Ohio 3:30 p.m. (ABC-Regional Broadcast/WCHS TV-8)
Nickname: Buckeyes
Colors: Scarlet and Gray
Conference: Big Ten Conference*
Last: N/A (first meeting)
All-time Series: N/A (first meeting)
2003 Record: 11-2/6-2; won Fiesta Bowl 35-28 over Kansas State
Head Coach: Jim Tressel 32-7 (3 years) /167-64-2 (19 years); 2-3 vs. Marshall (at Youngstown State, where he was 137-57-2)
Defensive Watch List (4 starters return):
Jr. LB A.J. Hawk, 6-2, 230; last year had 106 tackles, 4 sacks, 9 tackles-for-loss, 5 passes-broken-up and 2 interceptions (1st team All-Big Ten)
Sr. DE Simon Fraser, 6-6, 265; last year had 34 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 t-f-l and 5 p-b-u Offensive Watch List (5 starters return):
Sr. PK Mike Nugent, 5-10, 170; last year 38-38 extra points, 16-19 on field goals (2-2 50+) and had a long of 53 yards
So. WR Santonio Holmes, 5-11, 185; last year 32 catches for 549 yards (17.2 ypc) and 7 scores
Stadium: Ohio Stadium (seats-101,568; surface-natural grass)
2004 Schedule: 9/4 Cincinnati; 9/11 Marshall; 9/18 @ NC State; 10/2 @ Northwestern*; 10/9 Wisconsin*; 10/16 @ Iowa*; 10/23 Indiana* (HC); 10/30 Penn State*; 11/6 @ Michigan State*; 11/13 @ Purdue*; 11/20 Michigan*
Of Note: Head Coach Jim Tressel won three DI-AA National Championships at Youngstown State, beating Marshall for the title in 1991 & 1993 (& Boise State in 1994), but losing to MU in 1992; won 2002 National Championship with Buckeyes, beating Miami in the Fiesta Bowl 31-24. Tressel is 2-1 in bowls, losing to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, 31-28, in 2001. Ohio State is tied with Iowa in the Big Ten by returning the fewest starters (9), but last time OSU started a new QB was 2002, when they were national champs. The Buckeyes had 14 players drafted by the NFL this spring, breaking the old mark of 11 in 7 rounds. Only two starting offensive linemen return for OSU, the same as the Herd. Former Herd safety Mark Snyder, who set the MU record with 10 interceptions in the 1987, first DI-AA finalist season, is now the Ohio State defensive coordinator after Mark Dantonio (who held the job for three seasons at Ohio State) took the head coaching job at Cincinnati (the Bearcats were 5-7 last year); UC opens with the Buckeyes on September 4. OSU has had close calls with MAC teams over last few years, beating Bowling Green 24-17 in 2003; Akron by 28-14 in 2001; Miami, Ohio, by 27-16 in 2000; and getting away from Ohio in the second half in 1999 to win 40-16 (OSU did crush Kent State 51-17 in 2002). Bucks last home loss was 2001 to Illinois (34-22), but have won 17 in row at "The Horseshoe" and are 30-6 since 1999 at home.

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