New Thundering Herd football coach Mark Snyder, just introduced to Marshall fans on Thursday, was pleased with the effort of his new charges. "This was a great practice today," said Snyder, who was beseiged by Marshall fans wanting to congratulate the return of the former Herd safety and get his autograph. "They did exactly what we asked them. The coaches got them ready and they came out here, on a hot day and gave great effort. We handcuffed the (assistant) coaches, because we wanted to see who could play base, fundamental football. In the end, we turned them loose, let them have some fun and we got a lot done today."
A big crowd, estimated at between 4,000-7,000 by various media outlets, sat in the perfect conditions for the 2005 Green-White Game at Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
As has been the case all spring, both under Snyder the last two days and under offensive coordinator Larry Kueck, who was interim coach for the first 13 spring practices, the offense and defense traded momentum in the practice finale. The coaching change occurred after nine-year head coach Bob Pruett retired two days before the start of spring practice on March 9th.
QB Bernard Morris lofted this pass downfield for receiver Marcus Fitzgerald (foreground) during the Green-White game.
"That's competition," said Snyder, who returned to his "dream job" as MU's head coach after spending 2004-05 as defensive coordinator for The Ohio State University Buckeyes football team. "That's what spring ball is for, it's all about competing. We don't have a game to play right now, so this is as close as we can get and it all came together today, the guys are done and we had a good spring."
Running back Will Albin literally pushed his way into the endzone for this TD in the Green-White Game.
Snyder still sounded a bit like a defensive assistant when asked to evaluate his quarterbacks, who combined to pass 31 times, completing 18 with one interception, for 230 yards and four touchdowns, the best numbers of any of MU's three scrimmages. "I think you have to temper that. We controlled the scrimmage, but when they started getting heat defensively, we have to work on that. The one thing is, I think their fundamentals are in place. But as a defensive coach I would blitz them every play. The ball was on the ground some and they have to get used to handling the pressure. That comes with experience and we don't have that at quarterback."
Chris Royal, one of Marshall's returning starters in the secondary, also thinks his new head coach is still thinking -three days in- like a defensive assistant. "One thing I'm really happy about in the new head coach is coach Snyder is a defensive-minded guy. I don't think he has quite shaken that defensive assistant mentality, because he was right in the middle of our practice, even Friday, and that really excited me." Snyder stated on Friday that Royal and Curtis Keyes, MU's starting safeties, were better than the same position at Ohio State. "Those are big words," said Royal, "but right now, we've got to step up and lead this team, make some big plays, and feed off coach Snyder's energy. Curtis, me and Willie (Smith, the Herd's returning starter at corner) have got to be leaders defensively."
WR Nate Manns scored the final TD of the Green-White game on this 8-yard pass from Bernard Morris.
Offensively, the Herd did run and throw the ball well. Bernard Morris hit 5-of-11 passes for 76 yards and ended the scrimmage with a eight-yard touchdown to senior Nate Manns. Manns electrified the crowd earlier in the scrimmage when he got behind cornerback Chris Hawkins, who bit on Derek Devine's great play-fake, and caught a 60-yard touchdown from Devine on the 79th snap of the 86-play scrimmage. "I think we did good this spring as a team," said Manns. "I'm glad we had a great team effort; I'm a receiver, I am supposed to catch the ball and score the touchdowns when the other guys do their job, when the quarterbacks get me the ball." Manns, who is a 6-3, 220 pound receiver from Beckley (W. Va.) Woodrow Wilson High School, is happy to be healthy for the first time this spring. "The last couple of springs, I had nicks. I sprained my ACL (knee ligament) one year, hurt my shoulder another. This is really the only spring I've been healthy enough to show people what I could do. I'm glad Devine found me on the long touchdown."
Also having long plays were the Herd's "Dynamic Duo," running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Gerwin Williams. Bradshaw broke a reverse for 21 yards and finished with seven carries for 39 yards. He also caught six passes for 93 yards, including a 12-yard score from Jimmy Skinner. Williams, who struggled on the grass at Oakes Field last week in South Charleston, found the James F. Edwards Astroturf much more to his liking with nine carries for 81 yards, a 43-yard carry early in the practice and a touchdown of eight yards. "Last scrimmage, I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Williams. "You get out there and you want to compete, you want to stand out or break the big run." Coach Ernie Purnsley has been trying to get Williams to let the blocking develop and then hit the hole and today it all came together for the red-shirt freshman from California. "On the big play today, I just hit it and turned it into a race. The O-line stepped it up today and as a group, they did a great job of keeping the heat off the quarterbacks and opening holes for us. I salute my linemen."
The Herd players saw this scrimmage like a tryout for their new head coach, this being the only live action Snyder will see out of the Herd until August. "Most definitely, you've got to show what you've got to the head man," said Williams, who compared the players to knights. "If you don't bring it to the head man at the Round Table, then you are going to be left somewhere behind. In order to be on the field, we laid it on the line today. I tried to do a good job for coach." Senior tight end Jeff Mullins, who got to practice late after taking his MCAT, or entrance exam for medical school, echoed Williams. "It's nice to come in and help out on a day I wasn't even supposed to be here," said Mullins. "He's looking at everybody and, being a senior, it's like starting all over. Nothing is set in stone and there are great tight ends behind me, so you've got to keep your intensity up." Mullins made a great catch in traffic of an eight yard throw by Skinner.
Marshall coach Mark Snyder addressed the team moments after the end of the 2005 Green-White Game on Saturday.
Marshall will now turn its attention to finishing up strong, both in the weight room and in the classroom, with the three weeks left in this semester. The Herd will gather again in early August to prepare for year one in Conference USA in 2005, with home games against William & Mary, Kansas State and C-USA foes SMU, UAB, Southern Miss and East Carolina. The Herd will travel to UCF to open conference play, just as MU and UCF did when the Knights joined the Mid-American Conference. Other road trips include nationally ranked Virginia Tech in October and other C-USA road games at UTEP, Tulane and Memphis.
RUSHING: Williams 9-81, TD; Bradshaw 7-39; Will Albin 11-37; Tank Tunstalle 4-5, TD; Morris 3-(-10); Skinner 1-1; TOTAL 35-116 (3.3), 2 TD.
PASSING: Skinner 15-10-1, 82, 2 TD; Morris 11-5-0, 76, TD; Devine 5-3-0, 72, TD; TOTAL 31-18-1, 230, 4 TD (58 percent completions).
RECEIVING: Bradshaw 6-93, TD; Manns 2-68, 2 TD; Albin 2-19; Mullins 1-8, TD; Hiram Moore 1-7; Matt Parkhurst 1-7; Mike Nolan 1-7; Brian Shope 1-6; Marcus Fitzgerald 1-6; Joe Bragg 1-5; William 1-4; TOTAL 18-230, 12.8 yards per catch.
FIRST DOWNS OFFENSE: 18.
PUNTS: Ian O'Connor 1/34; Marty Biagi 2/90, 45.0 ypp; Danny Urrego 1/34; TOTAL 4/158, 39.5 ypp.
FIELD GOALS/EXTRA-POINTS: O"Connor 2-3 FG (Good- 31 & 36), 1-1 Ex-Pt.; Urrego 1-1 FG (38), 2-2 Ex-Pt.; TOTAL 3-4 FG, 3-3 Ex-Pt.
PUNT RETRNS: Royal 1-15.
DEFENSE: Matt Couch 11 TKL, TFL (-1); Floyd Wright 6 TKL, QBP; Scott Wilks 6 TKL, TFL (-4); Maurice Kitchens 5 TKL, TFL (-3), .5 QBS (-8); Keyes 5 TKL; Geremy Rodamer 5 TKL; Kaminski 4 TKL, 1.5 QBS (-8), QBP; Jeremy Frazie 3 TKL; Jon Moravec 3 TKL; Demarcus Thomas 3 TKL, TFL (-3), QBP; Hawkins 3 TKL, 3 PBU; Roger Garrett 3 TKL, TFL (-3); Ivan Clark 2 TKL, PBU, INT; Ian Hoskins 2 TKL; Royal 2 TKL, PBU; Shavar Greer TKL, QBS (-7); Terick Thomas TKL; Joe Bragg TKL; Adrian Davis QBP (Key: TKL-tackles; TFL-tackles-for-loss; QBP-quarterback pressures; QBS-quarterback sacks; INT-interceptions; PBU-passes-broken-up).