Herd Begins Prep For First C-USA Game At UCF

Coach Mark Snyder told reporters earlier this week he would have liked to play Saturday, September 17, to get the "bad taste" of the Kansas State loss out of the Herd's mouth. As good coaches do, however, Snyder used the time off to his team's advantage, working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday on Marshall's early season shortcomings. The Herd began this morning working on Marshall, but beginning to put in the game plan for next Saturday's Conference USA opener at UCF's Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Marshall also saw the return of quarterback Bernard Morris to practice, as the Orlando sophomore put on a gold, limited contact, jersey and took snaps in both individual drills and passing drills. Jimmy Skinner continued to take the team portion of practice snaps with the first team while Derek Devine took the second team snaps. Morris got in some extra conditioning with his teammates at the end of practice. "Bernie can run all day," said Snyder. "One practice starts, we don't get as much conditioning as the other skill positions," said Morris after his first practice since injuring his shoulder in the K-State game. "I just had to suck it up at the end, because I am a tad bit out of shape."

Morris also felt his shoulder responded well to today's practice. "I'm just working my way back into the mix right now, to see how far I can push myself," said Morris. "I still can't take my arm across my body as much as I want to throwing, but it's feeling pretty good compared to when it got hurt. On a scale of 1-to-10, I would give it an eight."

If ever a player wanted to return from injury to play in a game, it would be Morris. He played his high school football in the Citrus Bowl and has battled UCF quarterback Stephen Moffett before. "I call this game my homecoming," said Morris, "to get a chance to play Moffett again. You know, he got two wins in those meetings. I just pray I can get on the field versus UCF, in front of a home crowd, which it would be a home crowd for me in Orlando." Morris is trading comp tickets with players from Virginia, who want MU-Va Tech tickets later in October. "I got a list of 35 friends and family. Guys like Derek Devine, from out in Oregon, guys like that I can get tickets from."

Jimmy Skinner still getting the reps with the first team despite the return of Bernie Morris to practice. (file photo).

Snyder was happy with today's workout, coming after two days off for his team. "We try to take a day to work on ourselves and some on UCF and we had a good practice. Right now, I'm just concentrating on Marshall, whether they win, lose or draw tonight (in the UCF-USF game). Our focus was pretty good, special teams got it going and we went from there."

Larry Kueck, the Herd's offensive coordinator was especially vocal at practice today, becoming more animated than the Marshall media is used to seeing from the Herd QB coach, as he got after different players for mistakes in team period against the scout team. Marshall's offense had freshman Brian Leggett playing center quite a bit today, with sophomore center Doug Legursky moving to right guard, with Nate Howard as the number two center when Legursky is at guard. The OL was also moving junior tackle Seth Cook inside to guard beside Legursky at center, with juco tackle Wesley Jones getting reps at right tackle, as they did in the K-State game. Marshall has receivers Marcus Fitzgerald and Emanuel Spann, as well as running back Gerwin Williams, in full-go, white jerseys today, while Morris, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brian Shope were the only starters in gold jerseys on either side of the ball. John Inman, who sat out game one and hurt his knee days before K-State, returned to work on the offensive line in a blue, no contact, jersey. Defensively, Adrian Davis and Blake Merritt were running with the one's at defensive tackle, backed up by juco Chris Terrell and senior Floyd Wright. Ian Hoskins and Scott Wilks shared time at linebacker with starters Dennis Thorton and Donte Newsome. Chris Hawkins and Chris Royal broke up passes during ones-vs-ones, but saftey Curtis Keyes, one of the most feared hitters on the team, was steamrolled on a block by senior tight end Jeff Mullins in the same period. Chubb Small got the bulk of the carries with the one offense.

Marshall will take Sunday and Monday off, getting back to practice on Tuesday afternoon. Game week practices are closed to the public. The Herd will board buses on Friday at 9:00 a.m. to travel to Tri-State Airport, where Marshall will charter to Orlando, Florida, for Saturday's 6:00 p.m. kickoff. It will be the initial Conference USA game for both the Herd and the Golden Knights; Marshall hosted UCF in Huntington on September 20, 2002, in the Knights first game in the Mid-American Conference, with MU winning 26-21. Marshall is 3-0 against UCF all-time, winning 21-7 at UCF in 2003 and 20-3 in Huntington last season.

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