Marshall's head coach said his team learned something about its self in the 33-7 loss in rainy Knoxville on Saturday against No. 15 Tennessee. "I think we grew a little bit as a team," said Snyder. "We played a good, athletic football team in Tennessee, but we took some steps. Our mistakes cost us." Snyder was referring to one interception late in the game, one fumble on an option pitch and just four penalties, but three on tackle Wesley Jones at times it appeared the Herd was driving against the Vols.
"We moved the chains and saw some execution against Tennessee. It was exciting and fun to play, but they finished their drives and that's what good teams do." Tennessee had only rushed for 36 yards in the game and had only 2:25 of possession time and two first downs in the third quarter, but Marshall saw two long drives end with a poorly kicked field goal attempt by Anthony Binswanger and a fumble when fullback Matt Parkhurst lined up wrong and was too wide in an option play, causing Bernard Morris to hit him in the back instead of finding Ahmad Bradshaw.
Snyder was much happier, however, with the running game, which gained nearly 150 yards against a very quick UT defense. "When a team has superior talent, like Tennessee, you have got to slow the game down. If you try to throw the ball all over, it would have been even a longer day than it was," said Snyder of 48 running plays to just 14 passes. "Looking back, I wish we would have done the same at Kansas State. The combination of the offensive line, AB (Bradshaw) and Chubb Small gave us a chance." Marshall was in a 9-0 hole to start the game, but was only down 16-7 entering the fourth quarter versus the No. 15 Volunteers, before a big 89-yard run by LaMarcus Coker, the third-longest scoring run (and longest in 19 years) in UT history, opened up a 17 point final period for Tennessee.
The Marshall defense played well for the second consecutive week, and the younger players on the squad continue to get more comfortable in the scheme and with each other on the field. Marshall recorded five tackles for loss out of its defensive ends, three by Albert McClellan who had the only sack of Erik Ainge. Also in on the action was senior captain Shavar Greer, who knocked down a pass, and red-shirt freshman John Jacobs. "We are coming along real good on our front seven," said Jacobs. "People are battling some injuries, but we are coming along, learning to rely on each other, where we are going to be in gaps." Marshall's run defense held K-State Thomas Clayton to under 80 yards rushing and had stopped UT until the big play early in the fourth quarter and Jacobs likes where the Herd is right now.
"We are trying to be really hard nosed. If people come off and hit us in the nose, we hit them right back. If you can stop the run, you will be a pretty good defense by default." Jacobs and the rest of the Herd still are very excited about the season at hand, despite the slow start at some very good opponents. "We have played one of the toughest out-of conference schedules, but we are dissapointed with our record. We feel like we are taking steps every week and think we are gelling together."
"It's not a favorite of everyone to have fireworks to be let off on you and everyone remembers and brings it up," said Jacobs. "It was the end of their big losing streak and we want to take care of business this week." Will Albin, the Herd's starting fullback, echoed his defensive teammate regarding the Golden Knights coming in for the C-USA opener. "I will never forget. They were coming over the walls, running out on the field, acting like idiots," said Albin, a junior from Princeton, W.Va. "The big thing is, no more fireworks. Hopefully, we will be able to put off our own fireworks." Albin is also ready to play just the second home game of five this year in Huntington. "It's nice to be home. You don't have to worry about all of that stuff, get focused and be in front of all of your fans."
Will Albin hauled in this short pass from QB Bernard Morris in the 33-7 loss to Tennessee. Marshall will have 10 days to work and rest for the Conference USA opener with UCF on October 4, including a JV game this Friday.
The Thundering Herd will take this week to also work on some young players and look at some possible future Marshall players when the MU junior varsity meets Hargrave Military Academy on Friday at 1:00 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. JV games were a staple at Marshall and other schools in the NCAA until the freshman-ineligible rule was dropped in 1972. Marshall did have a number of JV games with Potomac State, Hargrave and Fork Union under Jim Donnan 1990-95 in the Herd's I-AA era. The games were played mostly in Huntington on Sunday mornings or Monday afternoons, although the Herd did travel one time to Fork Union for a game when Randy Moss's brother was playing at FUMA before moving onto Ohio State. As a matter of fact, the final game for Marshall University at Fairfield Stadium was not Eastern Kentucky to close out the 1990 season at home, but was in fact a JV game against Fork Union. The younger Herd rallied from a two-touchdown deficeit to beat FUMA, behind the 120 yards of rushing of future Herd All-SC linebacker Shannon King.