Mark Snyder, Marshall's head coach, explained how the 1-1 Herd had taken the open week following the loss to Kansas State (21-19, 9/10) to work on Marshall. "We worked on us," Snyder said, "the basic fundamentals of offense, defense and special teams. We corrected our mistakes from the first two games. You know, I didn't have spring ball with my team, so we had three days of special teams." Snyder was hired the day before MU's last spring drill back in April."
Snyder expects a "whale of a ballgame" with UCF in Orlando. "Coach (George) O'Leary is laying a foundation there," said Snyder. "They'll be tough down there." Snyder also thinks Stephen Moffett, the junior quarterback for the Golden Knights, is playing well in the system. "He is running their offense efficiently. Moffett makes checks at the line of scrimmage. He can look at one receiver, then throw across his body to another well. If I know Coach O'Leary, he is taking this season like we are, just one game at a time."
Coach O"leary was not happy with his team's effort in Saturday's loss at in-state rival South Florida in the two team's first meeting, as the Knights losing streak stretched to 17 games in a row with a 31-14 loss in Tampa. "We didn't play well," O'Leary said. "We blocked and tackled poorly and you're in for a long night when you don't do those things." O'Leary's young team, with only six seniors starters entering 2005, can shake off the USF loss to take on a talented Marshall team in the UCF home opener.
"Marshall has a multiple offensive philosophy. The run and pass well and are playing with a sense of urgency. I thought they came into their own against K-State." O'Leary expects to see both MU quarterbacks, junior Jimmy Skinner and sophomore Bernard Morris (an Orlando native, who played high school football at the Citrus Bowl and lived only 10 minutes away), in the game. "It's pretty much the same offense, the one guy may run more," said O'Leary. "Same passing attack, although 14 (Morris) gives you more flexibility with the things you can do in the backfield." He is also high on the Herd's Ahmad Bradshaw. "He has good vision, good feet. He has excellent exceleration. Bradshaw has the whole package, he catches the ball well, he lets those big guys up front create gaps then he has the vision to find those gaps."
Chris Royal returns an interception of a Stephen Moffett pass for an initial Herd score in last year's 20-3 Marshall win over UCF in Huntington.
Other games in C-USA this weekend include Southern Miss, who beat I-AA McNeese State 48-20, at Houston and Memphis, a 59-14 winner over I-AA UTC, is at Tulsa, who may have had the biggest shocker of the weekend, beating Sun Belt favorite North Texas 54-2 on the road. Tulsa's Anthony Germany was C-USA Defensive Player of the Week with a career-best 10 tackles, seven solo, five tackles-for-loss and two sacks, forced a fumble and recovered it for a 25-yard touchdown.
Other games include Tulane, who lost its first game 21-14 to Mississippi State of the SEC in Shreveport, Louisiana, at SMU who were beaten up at Texas A&M 66-8. Out of conference, East Carolina takes it 1-1 record to Morgantown for a matchup with the undefeated 3-0 Mountaineers of WVU, while Rice tries to regroup after back-to-back routs at the hand of Texas and UCLA to host 0-2 Navy. UTEP, who had both the offensive player and special teams player of the week in the league in running back Johnny Lee Higgins (251 all-purpose yards, who had six receptions for 158 and three touchdowns) and kicker Reagan Schneider (career-best five field goals, including a 42-yard kick for the win in the second overtime), will host New Mexico of the Mountain West Conference at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, where 48,000 made their way in Friday night at 6:00 p.m. Central time for a nationally televised game with Houston last week.