Marshall next came home for I-AA Hofstra, only one of two home games in the first six this year. The Pride, however, also jumped on the Herd with a 14-0 lead, just like the Mountaineers. Marshall would rally behind over 150 rushing yards each by Bernard Morris and Ahmad Bradshaw, but the defense would allow the Atlantic 10 team to score a bucket-load of points in a 54-31 win, but Marshall was now 1-1.
Next up was a trip to Kansas State, to take on the Wildcats of the Big XII. Marshall had won here in 2003, with guys like Johnathan Goddard (returning a fumble for a touchdown) and Jamus Martin (forcing that fumble) leading MU to a 27-20 upset of No. 6 KSU. Even the young team of first year head coach Mark Snyder almost made it two in a row in Huntington last year, when K-State escaped with a 21-19 win after an ill-thought pass by Jimmy Skinner was intercepted. Marshall threw the ball very well at Manhattan, but could not run the ball. The defense held K-State to 16 points through late in the fourth quarter before falling 23-7.
Then last week, Tennessee was held by the defense to just 36 yards rushing and 16 points through three quarters before the Vols won 33-7, with a late field goal and a touchdown with 25 seconds to play for "poll" considerations. Marshall's offense ran the ball much better, with over 150 yards gained in 47 rushed, and Morris hit for the longest pass of the season, 49 yards to Hiram Moore.
Now, the "pre-season" is over. Marshall will begin an eight-game schedule on October 4 when they open Conference USA play against UCF, who has a game Tuesday, September 26, on ESPN2 against Southern Miss at home. The Golden Knights are off to a 1-2 start and are 107th in the nation in defense after games with I-AA Villanova, at in-state rival Florida and with long-time rival South Florida.
Snyder will take this week to work on fundamentals and what the Herd has done, and not done right, in the first four games. Plus, the coach will take time to watch Central Florida and Southern Miss just like other MU fans. "I'm a college football junkie," said Snyder. "I love the midweek games, getting in my recliner and watching my big television. UCF is a well-coached football team, very physical. They don't beat themselves, they will make you beat them. We'll need a great effort to get the win. We'll retool and restructure this week, with a practice on Friday and Saturday like two Tuesday's, with Friday's following our "sub-varsity" game with Hargrave. Sunday will be a Wednesday and Monday a Thursday. We'll have a Friday practice on Tuesday, head to the motel and get ready for the Wednesday night game with UCF."
Marshall will host Hargrave Military Academy on Friday at 1:00 p.m. at Marshall's Joan C. Edwards Stadium. The cost is $5 per ticket. Marshall will only be able to use players who are not being red-shirted or players who have not appeared in the first four games, as even JV games can cost a player a red-shirt and players can only appear in 12 games for the season. Snyder thought some players who will appear will include receiver William Barber, linemen Zane Bruhin, James Burkes and Daniel Baldridge, quarterback Wesley Beardain and running back Kelvin Turner. Walk-ons and seldom used juniors and seniors will also play in the game, although the coaching staff will decide on the exact roster later this week. It is an enormous recruiting chance for the Herd coaches to bring in Hargrave for what is, in NCAA terms, a non-counted recruiting visit to Huntington. Marshall's current roster includes Chubb Small, Dennis Thornton, Cody Slate and Blake Merritt, who all prepped at Hargrave, and linebacker Mario Harvey was signed this spring by the Herd from Hargrave and is expected to join Marshall in January of 2007, when he finishes some additional community college classes.
Snyder was happy with quarterback to now, the running game and the improvement of the cornerbacks throughout the first four games. "Bernard has done a real good job. We have got to give him 3.8 seconds to throw downfield and we have not done that very much." Snyder promised the Quarterback Club he would be looking a personnel and this week, along with correcting mistakes in the kicking game, specifically with Anthony Binswanger missing two-of-the-last-three attempts badly versus Hofstra and Tennessee. "We are going to work on PAT (point-after touchdown) and field goals today, except there won't be any PATs. We'll back him up and work on long kicks. He has plenty of leg, he is trying to put to much on the ball. We'll have his teammates booing and yelling at him, trying to make him uncomfortable."
Doug Legursky and the offensive line were much happier with the running game against Tennessee, as the coaches at Marshall specifically planned to run the ball more to keep the more athletic Volunteers on the sidelines. The strategy worked for three quarters, as MU trailed by only nine and held the ball over 12 minutes in the third quarter. "We knew we were going to go down their and run the ball," said Legursky, a Remington Watch candidate for the best center in the nation. "A few mistakes took us out of field position and prevented us from scoring." Legursky and his teammates are also happy to be home in Huntington for the next two weekends and for four of the last eight ballgames. Marshall has lost six of its last seven games, with four of those games on the road.
"We are happy to be back home with the home crowd, not packing or setting on a bus or plane." Legursky also welcomes the 10 days between the UT game and the UCF game. "It will give some of us, including me, a chance to rest injuries and get well. UCF still has a game before us, so we'll also get a chance to watch them." Marshall is also after a bit of revenge, after watching UCF break a two-year losing streak at Marshall's expense last year. To a man, one Thundering Herd player after another mentioned the crowd rushing by them on the field, the goal posts coming down and the fireworks being shot off in the win. "We don't ever want anyone shooting fireworks off at our expense," said Legursky. "We hope to have some fireworks of our own on next Wednesday."