Marshall Gets Wednesday In On Saturday

Marshall got its normal Wednesday practice in on Saturday morning and will start to scale back on Sunday and Monday with Thursday-type practices. The Herd will open C-USA play against the Golden Knights of UCF on Wednesday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m., on the only game in the nation for that evening in college football. ESPN2 will lead a huge national media group to Huntington to cover MU-UCF.

It will not only be the normal sporting media associated with a college football game. With Matthew McConaughey and McG in town to promote the upcoming "We Are Marshall" movie from Warner Bros., in which McConaughey stars at Young Thundering Herd coach Jack Lengyel and McG has directed, the Marshall stadium will have the likes of the syndicated nightly show Entertainment Tonight, E! Entertainment Channel, Entertainment Weekly magazine and other outlets who normally cover the Hollywood scene. "I think its going to be great," said Head Coach Mark Snyder of Marshall. "We will be the only game on the country...it's what we are all about here."

The movie will have a world premier in Huntington on December 12, when McConaughey and McG will be joined by other stars of the movie about the crash of the Marshall football plane in 1970, killing 75 persons including most of the football team and coaches, and the rebirth of the program in 1971, culminating with the last-second win over Xavier in the first home game following what is still the worst air disaster in American sports history. The movie also stars David Straitharin, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara and David Fox as MU assistant coach "Red" Dawson.


"We Are Marshall" movie director McG kicked field goals at halftime of the Marshall Green-White game in the spring. He and Matthew McConaughey will return October 4 for the Marshall-UCF nationally televised game in Huntington to promote the movie and cheer for the Herd.Herd Insider photo by Greg Perry

Both coaches are aware of how important this game is to both programs, sitting at 1-3 on the season. If the Herd has an edge, it will open Conference USA play with this game. UCF may have an edge, however, having broken a 17-game losing streak with a win over Marshall last year in Orlando. That win sparked the Golden Knights to the C-USA East Division title and a berth in the Hawai'i Bowl against Nevada.

Central Florida dropped a 19-14 game at home to Southern Miss on Tuesday, its third loss in a row since beating I-AA Villanova in the opener. "Before the game, I said that there are six or seven plays that make a difference in the game, the problem is that you do not know when those plays are going to occur," said UCF Head Coach George O'Leary in his weekly press conference after the game. "Right now my concern with this football team is our specialists. Obviously, missing field goals, we cannot continue doing that, so I have opened that job up to both kickers and we will go with the one that is more consistent in practice. Obviously, it was a game of points and we had 10 points on the board that we did not get." Kevin Smith rushed for 129 yards and one touchdown, but fumbled near the goal line on another attempt. "We left them all on the field with the fumble on the one. Kevin was trying to get more yardage than the play dictated, but I will never take that away from a kid. I think he was trying to score and he was trying to score and basically those things are going to happen in a game.


Marshall receiver Marcus Fitzgerald finally put The Herd on the board with this TD reception from QB Jimmy Skinner against UCF last year. photo by Rick Haye for Herd Insider

"There is no question, the run game improved in that game against a good defense that has played well. I think our defense played much better than they have played. We missed some tackles, but for the most part we tackled better and we were closer in coverage concepts. We will build on those concepts and move from there." O'Leary and his team is looking forward to Wedensday's game with the Thundering Herd. "We have a lot of conference games to play here. Believe me, I doubt that anybody is going to win the conference without any losses. Each and every week, you better bring our `A' game and our minds right now are set on Marshall and getting ready to play that game. I think that's what I am looking at as a head coach - are we improving? Yes, we are. We had opportunities to win that game, both games, last week and this week. That's how I see it, we just have to take advantage of the opportunities."

Snyder was very happy with practices for the Herd on both Friday night, the best of the week he said, and on Saturday morning. "We are touching up the game plan and getting ready for a lot of loud crowd noise. UCF is very sound on offense and they are going to try to establish the run. That opens up their passing game. (Stephen) Moffitt, their quarterback, has played very well and they have a new receiver who has stepped up for them and has made some plays." Javid James is a 6-foot-3, 195 pound junior college receiver who has caught seven passes for 70 yards and one touchdown in his first year of action at UCF. He is complimenting 6-2, 200 pound senior receiver Mike Walker, who is second in receptions (28) and third in yards receiving (324, 81.0 per game) in Conference USA.

"Our kids are focused and we are hoping for a big, big crowd Wednesday night," said Snyder. Marshall is promoting "Keep It Green" for the UCF game and asking all fans to wear green jerseys, shirts and jackets to the game. MU will distribute 10,000 McConaughey trading card to fans coming into the game, as well as give out 5,000 "We Are Marshall" t-shirts to the first 5,000 fans in the gate. "This is going to be new for all of us, how crazy this game is going to be," said Snyder of what is expected to be a huge crowd for the game and the large media pool covering the contest and "We Are Marshall" movie promotions. "Our administration has done a great job to make sure it is very non-distracting for us (off the field). We have had a tremendous week so far."

Marshall has been trying to develop additional depth on the offensive line. Chris Barnes, the 6-foot-5, 280 senior tackle from Riverside, Calif. has been getting reps at both left and right tackle. "I think we have to get Chris involved," said Snyder. "He can help in a couple of positions." John Inman, a 6-5, 302 junior, is also playing both tackle spots and both guard spots. "We have to get some rest for our other guys," said Snyder speaking of starting tackles Seth Cook and Wesley Jones, guards David Ziegler and Brian Leggett (who will also play center) and starting center and Remington Award watch list candidate Doug Legursky.

Snyder and the Herd are determined to quiet a UCF team that celebrated with fireworks and tearing down the goalposts after beating the Herd in 2005. "They are a little bit like us, 1-3. They are going to do what they need to do to get on track and so do we." A theme for the week among the players has been no more fireworks. "We are all competitors," said Snyder, "and anytime a celebration is at your expense, it rips at you, I've got to be honest. Let's leave it at that."

NOTES: Marshall and UCF are not the only Conference USA on national television in this week. Over the weekend, Tennessee at Memphis was on ESPN; Rice at Army was on ESPNU; Houston at Miami, Fla. was on ESPN2; SMU at Tulane was on CSTV; and Tuesday, Southern Miss is at Tulsa in a meeting of pre-season favorites in the East and West Divisions, respectively...former Marshall center John Wade, who was an All-Southern Conference pick in 1996 and All-Mid-American Conference pick in 1997 for the Thundering Herd, had his high school jersey No. 52 retired last night at Harrisonburg (Va.) High School. Wade, the starting center for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after also starting at the Jacksonville Jaguars, told the Daily-News Record Online, "It's a great honor. I was really surprised when coach Joe Carico called and told me they wanted to do that." Wade played for the Blue Streaks from 1990-92 before being signed by former Herd assistant, and current James Madison head coach, Mickey Matthews to play in Huntington for the Herd...Wade is the second player from the 15-0, 1996 National Championship team at Marshall to have their jersey retired at their former high school this fall. Cornerback Melvin Cunningham, an All-American for the Herd on that team, had his number retired at Matewan (W.Va.) High School earlier this fall, where Cunningham was the West Virginia Player of the Year in 1991...Marshall's Sub-Varsity lost to Hargrave Military on Friday, 26-0, but at least one member of the Tigers was impressed with his visit to MU. Ben Finney, who is ranked No. 46 in the nation by Rivals.com, told Anthony Hanshew of The Herald-Dispatch in Huntington, "I like it here. It's a nice campus and nice facilities." Finney, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound receiver who caught two passes for 24 yards and a 13-yard touchdown on Friday, told the H-D he was adding Marshall to a list that includes Virginia Tech, Florida State, Virginia and Indiana.


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