Marshall coach Mark Snyder likes the fact that Marshall is playing Kansas State and even buys into a "rivalry" in the making. "I think it's a rivalry. We are a lot like Kansas State, where both programs came from. You look at the football teams and university and they are very much alike, there is a Karma about them. Our kids are excited to play, and I'm sure their players will be excited. That's a rivalry, or I don't know the word you call it." Snyder was also impressed with the continuing improvement of his junior quarterback Bernard Morris, who rushed to over 150 yards and had 300 yards of total offense in the win over Hofstra.
"Bernard continues to impress. This week will be a big test," said Snyder. Morris and Ahmad Bradshaw, who had four touchdowns on the day, became the first pair of backs in Marshall history to top 150 yards rushing each in a game. It was only the second time in Marshall history that a quarterback and a running back each topped 100 yards rushing, going back to 1975 when running back Bob Campbell (151) and quarterback Herman "Bud" Nelson (110) both rushed for over 100 yards each in a win over Illinois State. Morris is only the third QB in MU history to top 100 rushing, and the first since Danny Wright had back-to-back 100-plus rushing games in 1978 at Kent State (179) and against Furman (141) at Fairfield Stadium. They had a great game," said Snyder of his rushing game. "We did some good things, but looking at the film there are still things we've got to fix like turnovers and missed tackles."
Morris is aware of the challenge facing the Herd when they travel to Bill Snyder Family Stadium this Saturday to battle a Big XII team. "K-State, they're going to come to play every weekend," said Morris of the 2-0 'Cats. "I think they have a better team than they had last year. I know they have had a coaching change, but I think this guy has come in and put the best guys on the field. It seems like it is paying off for them. They had a tough win against Illinois State, but all you need is one point more than the other team. We would have been happy to take a one-point win over Hofstra or West Virginia, if we could have. Hopefully, we can go out there and get the Herd a win, like 2003."
Marshall QB Bernard Morris hopes for another big day at Kansas State, like he had rushing (153 yards) and passing (20-of-27 for 151 yards and two touchdowns) against Hofstra.
Ron Prince is the first-year head coach of Kansas State and has seen his team get off to a 2-0 start with a 24-23 win over I-AA Illinois State in week one, then roll over Florida Atlantic with a 45-0 win last week. Marshall is the third of four straight home games for K-State, with Louisville to follow the Herd into Manhattan, but Marshall will not sneak up on Prince who has played against the Herd back 15 years ago. "I'm pretty familiar with Marshall from my time at Appalachian State," said Prince, who played for the Mountaineers in 1990, a 50-0 MU win in Huntington, and in 1991, when ASU picked up a 9-3 win over MU on a 90-plus degree day in Boone, N.C. "Marshall was one of our big rivals at Appalachian. What they have achieved in the last 10-to-15 years, to play at such a high level, is impressive." Prince was the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia from 2003-05, and is also very familiar with Ahmad Bradshaw who originally signed with the Cavaliers. "I think he is a terrific player," said Prince. "Marshall has produced a lot of NFL players. They are very well coached and play very, very hard."
One of the keys this week could be special teams, and Marshall was good and bad on Saturday. Chubb Small fumbled a kickoff that set up a touchdown, while Emanuel Spann fumbled a punt. Two extra-points were blocked and a field goal was missed badly by Anthony Binswanger. On the other hand, Ian O'Connor punted three times for nearly a 45-yard average and had what Snyder called "the" play of the game. With the Herd down 14-0 and looking at a three-and-out on the first offensive series at the Marshall 30-yard line, O'Connor let loose a beautiful 69-yard punt that kicked left when it hit and went out of bounds at the one-yard line. The kick seemed to pick up the team and start Marshall's comeback. "Coach says the punting game is the most important part of the football game," said O'Connor, who had a poor start to the year at WVU with two short punts that helped the Mountaineers to get off to a 14-0 lead. "It's like you don't even feel the ball go off you foot when you hit it perfect, and my balls have a tendency to bounce straight up or kick left or right. I sometimes wish they would roll, but not this time."
O'Connor looked to be in a position to kick a winning field goal last season against K-State in Huntington late in that game, when quarterback Jimmy Skinner had trouble seeing the signal from the sideline after a big completion to get the Herd downfield. Coach Mark Snyder wanted a run to the middle to set up O'Connor, but Skinner's short pass towards the end zone was intercepted to save the game for K-State, prompting a Wildcat celebration at mid-field. "Things just didn't work out last year," said O'Connor "They are a great football team and I hope we can go there and have a great day like we did in 2003." O'Connor kicked off for the Herd that season. "It's one of the opportunities Marshall gives you, to play the No. 6 team in the nation. It was an incredible environment, by far the biggest game I had been in my football career and is still one of my best memories."
Ahmad Bradshaw edged the ball over the goal line for the first of his two touchdowns in last year's game against Kansas State.
Bradshaw or Morris did not win the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week, despite 151 yards rushing and four touchdowns for Bradshaw and 153 rushing and 151 passing on 20-for-27 and two touchdowns for Morris. Johnny Lee Higgins of UTEP caught a career high 13 passes for a career high 162 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime loss for the Miners at home to No. 24 Texas Tech. Defensive Player of the Week went to UAB's Chris Felder, who stripped East Carolina's Chris Henry at the goalline to save a 17-12 Blazer win. UAB's Will Evans recovered the fumble in the end zone. Houston's back-up kicker Ben Bell hit six extra-points and a 38-yard field goal in the Cougars' 45-7 win over Tulane to win Special Teams Player of the Week. UH is 2-0 in Conference USA to have a leg up in winning the West Division.