At the end of the Friday morning session, head coach Bob Pruett challenged his offense to step it up in Saturday's scrimmage, scheduled for 2:00 p.m. "The defense is not that good," said Pruett, who quickly added, "nothing against our defense, but they are not good enough to dominate you in a two-minute drill like that." In a first offense versus the first defense in the two-minute drill at the end of practice, quarterback Graham Gochneaur (getting most of the snaps with the ones while Stan Hill rests a fatigued elbow) was sacked on play one, by Jamus Martin and Reggie Hayes; had a pass dropped by Tremel Guillory; short-hopped a pass to Guillory; had a pass-broken-up to Ahmad Bradshaw by staring linebacker Kevin Atkins; threw a ball behind receiver Shawn Lauzon, who could not make the catch; then Gochneaur had a bad throw not really to any receiver for an 0-for-5, with a sack, performance.
Jimmy Skinner was then put in at quarterback and he did move the Herd offense to a touchdown. His first pass was high to Lauzon, but then he hit senior Brad Bates for a 15 yard catch and run and a first down. Skinner hooked up with Lauzon for an eight yard gain then struck on back-to-back passes to true freshman receiver Emanuel Spann for five and three yard gains. From the two-yard line, Tank Tunstalle ducked through a hole behind center Jesse Saito and left guard Toby Bullock for a touchdown. Skinner was 4-for-5 for 31 yards and drove the Herd offense to a score to end practice.
Pruett encouraged his team to hustle. "You've got to quit walking around," said Pruett at the end of practice. "You have got to quit feeling sorry for yourself is you mess up a play and get back in there." Coach Mark McHale, the offensive coordinator, and coach Bill Wilt, the defensive coordinator, were vocal throughout the team period as well. Players who stood out during team included: Jeff Mullins catching the ball well at tight end; Tunstalle running well after his return from an early injury; Clarence Stanfield making a couple of nice catches; defenders Chris Royal, Blake Merritt, Floyd Wright, Shavar Greer, Dennis Thornton and Roger Garrett getting in for "sacks" (cannot hit QB, just a hand on same); nice, hard shots by linebackers Matt Couch and Adam Lee; Royal, Lee, Wright and Willie Smith breaking up passes and interceptions by Roberto Terrell and Geremy Rodamer. Running back Donte' Newsome went down with a hyperextended knee, but was up walking without assistance later in practice.
Thursday was more of the same, as the defense gave up little and delivered big plays throughout team. One downer in the practice was guard Zac Elcess had a defensive lineman fall across his leg during extra-point and field goal, but is only expected to be out a day or two, according to McHale. "I don't sleep nights, worrying about our offensive line," said McHale after Friday's workout. The Herd went with red-shirt John Inman at right guard Thursday, but Friday Ryan Baynes was at right guard and David Ziegler was at right tackle for the ones. The group does seem to be making progress on timing, which is key for the offense to click. Thursday, Gochneaur did hook up with quarterback-come-receiver Bernard Morris, who traded in his red QB jersey for a green one with Davis on the shelf for a few days. They hit for a 20 yard gain early, followed by a 10 yard gain late. Also making some nice plays were Hiram Moore, who had two 15 yard receptions from Skinner, and Tunstalle ran well in the team period on Thursday as well as Friday. Terrell had an interception on Thursday, recorded a tackle-for-loss and broke up a pass. Jamaal Whyce tipped a ball and Hayes and Atkins, who had another tackle-for-loss, combined for a sack in the drill.
Marshall is still preparing for Troy, with the opener set for September 4 at 4:30 p.m. It appears there will be no local television for the game. However, four to five stations in Alabama will carry the game through Comcast Sports Southeast/Charter Sports Southeast. There is a chance Fox Sports-Pittsburgh may add the game as well. This will be the first "home" opener for Marshall against a Dvision I-A opponent since Ohio came to Marshall on September 10, 1988. Marshall is hoping history will repeat in the opener with Troy, who beat Marshall last season in Alabama, as the Herd revenged a 23-15 loss at Ohio in 1987 by beating the Bobcats 31-14 on the way to eight straight wins, a number one ranking and an 11-2 season for the I-AA Herd. In 1988, MU won the Southern Conference for the first time since joining the league in 1977. Marshall hopes to win the Mid-American Conference for the final time this year (having done that five times in seven years since 1997) before moving onto Conference USA in 2005.
MU will practice in a "Game Week-Thursday" type workout Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. The team will not use their pads, going out in helmets and "non-contact" shoulder protectors (almost a faux-shoulder pad, if you will). The offense will work on the grass, while the defense will go on the turf in Edwards Stadium.