"You know, the next game is the most important game," said senior wideout Matt Morris of this week's home opener for Marshall at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. "We won't take anyone lightly and will not overlook Hofstra. Any team can beat anybody on any given day." Truth is, three I-AA teams pulled an upset over the weekend over I-A teams: Montana State, went to Colorado this past weekend and upset the Buffalos, 19-10; Portland State beat New Mexico 17-6; and Duke was shutout by the Atlantic 10's Richmond Spiders, 19-0. "We will take (Hofstra) very seriously."
Morris, who caught his first career touchdown pass for the Herd's only trip into the end zone on Saturday, was still excited about about being an in-state player scoring in front of so many families and friends in Morgantown. "It was really enjoyable," said Morris of the catch. "I knew the ball was coming to me and when I got in the end zone, I had my hands up and came down with the ball. When I saw the ref (signal) no score, I fell to my knees, but I went right to coach Snyder and told him it was a touchdown." Snyder used the new challenge given to coaches this year in college football to take a time out and have the play reviewed, resulting in a score for the Herd and getting the time out back.
Matt Morris hauled in this TD pass from Bernard Morris to put Marshall on the board in the second quarter against WVU in opener for both teams in Friends of Coal Bowl.
On the defensive side, Marshall was disapointed with execution against WVU, as the Mountaineers ran for over 300 yards in the contest. Dennis Thornton thinks the adjustments, however, are basis football. "We've got to tackle better, get lined up and have a better idea of what we want to do," said Thornton. "You have got to give them credit, they have a great team and a great coach. We have got to go out this week and practice harder. We did somethings bad and some things good." Thornton believes the Herd will rebound at home this week, and discounts the fact that Marshall can overlook a I-AA team. "It's never had to get up for a football game. You can never take somebody lightly. You have to prepare like you are playing the No. 1 team in the nation."
Safety Curtis Keyes hopes that some of the new players got the first game out of their system and are ready to play at home this Saturday. "We got a chance for those young guys to get their pants dirty," said Keyes. "We'll come back next week and put it on the line." Keyes said the loud and rowdy fans last week were to be expected, but some players on defense had not experienced that in a game with the Herd. "We were expecting that. When we pulled up, they were throwing rocks at the bus, all those types of things, but you expect those kinds of things. We had a lot of cramping in the game, so we have to hydrate better, get ourselves ready both mentally and physically."
Marshall's home opener will be with The Pride of Hofstra, a I-AA team ranked in the Top 25 in the pre-season magazines. Hofstra topped Stony Brook, a first-year I-AA program, 17-8, in first-year head coach Dave Cohen's initial game at the helm. Cohen, whose last trip to Huntington was in 1996 for a I-AA first round playoff game with the Herd that went 15-0 that season and won the National Championship in Marshall's last year in I-AA. "The last time I was at Marshall was 1996, when they had Randy Moss," said Cohen of that playoff game with the Delaware Blue Hens in Huntington, where he was a long-time assistant to UD head coach Tubby Raymond. MU won that game 59-14, and Moss had three touchdowns on that day, Nov. 30, 1996.
Cohen has somethings to work on as well, including some injuries and a team that may have been flat to play a program they had out-scored 130-10 over the last two seasons in Stony Brook. "I was disappointed in our emotional state," said Cohen. "I thought we would be ready to play. We haqd better be ready where we are playing this week." HU was led by receiver Shaine Smith, who caught 12 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown on the way to being named the Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Week. "Shaine did a good job of going for the football. The guys he played behind last year, both of our starting receivers from '05 are playing in the NFL this year." Cohen has had a chance to look at the Herd already and is impressed. "Marshall is very good, both bigger and stronger than what we saw last week and what we will see for the rest of the year. They are a great opponent, although I would rather play (a D-IA) school closer to home." Hofstra has one West Virginia native on the roster in linebacker Greg Vineyard, who is from the town of Gary in the southern coalfields of the Mountain State. "Greg was a projected starter, but hurt his groin earlier this summer. He played a little last week. We hope to return two other starting linebackers this week," said Cohen, speaking of senior Chris Sebald and junior Chris Villante, who missed 2005 with an injury after having a I-AA All-American year in 2004 for The Pride.