MU Defense Has Upper Hand On Tuesday

The Herd had one practice on Tuesday, full gear and raring to go. With the temperature at 87 at the start of practice (and, according to weather.com, the feels like at 84 degrees, with 25 percent humidity), the workout was spirited to the point that middle linebacker Josh Johnson mixed it up with both tight end Lee Smith and left tackle John Inman on seperate plays during the workout.

During pass skeleton out near mid-field, both Bernard Morris and Brian Anderson were near perfect, mis-firing on just four of 20 attempts, three for Anderson and one for Morris. Of those, one was a drop by Cody Slate, two were broken up by Zearrick Mathews and Ian Hoskins (one for each QB) and Brian Shope was the only real miss, just inches from his hand. Morris had the big play of skel when he hit Tavaris Thompson on a deep ball and the sophomore made the catch with a defender actually knocking his helmet off. He rambled into the end zone with the ball in one hand, the helmet in the other. "We got Tavaris back today, although he has been back," said Sndyer of the sophomore who sat all last season with NCAA Clearinghouse issues. "He went the whole practice today, but he's still a little out of shape so we have to get him into shape." Thompson gives the Herd a big (6-foot-2), strong receiver who is fast and physical. "He's different than the rest of the guys. He's like Shawn Lauzon, but faster. I don't know if he is the toughest guy in the United States yet, but he has some talent. Taravis has some talent."

The defense stepped it up a bit during skel in the red-zone (inside the 20-yard line), although Anderson had three scoring strikes and Morris two touchdown throws. Matthews had an interception on a ball Anderson intended for Darius Passmore, and on the next play broke up a Morris pass for Thompson. DeNathian Robinson also had a nice pick on a throw that looked like money to Thompson until the young corner reached in to steal it away. Scoring were Passmore (twice), Shope, Thompson and Smith.

In the team blitz portion of team, the defense was getting the upper hand. Byron Tinker and Maurice Kitchens teamed up for a sack of Morris on the first series, after he had hit Emmanuel Spann for 22 yards and E.J. Wynn for a six yard reception. Wynn spent all day with the first team. "He has been consistent lately," said Snyder, "that's the sugar you get when you are consistent." Wynn led all receivers last Saturday with five receptions. Anderson was with the ones next, and Johnson introduced himself to Darius Marshall on first down by leveling the young tailback on a swing pass. Then Johnny Jones sacked Anderson and Joe Bragg broke up a pass for Thompson from Wesley Beardain. The sophomore QB then found Bryant Milligan for a short gain that Milligan, breaking free of two tacklers after the whistle, ran to the other end zone. Beardain was sacked by Shane Moore on the next play, followed by Jones tackling Terrell Edwards for a three-yard loss.

The defense continued to press the offense when Kitchens forced his way past Chubb Small and forced Anderson into the waiting arms of Michael Janac for a sack. Aaron Johnson broke up the next pass by the red-shirt frosh, then Johnson stopped Edwards at the line. With the twos back in, Mark Cann got the offense going with a short gain to Thompson, a short gain to Kelvin Turner and then a 15 yard gain on a pass to Antoine Cabarrus. Anderson found the going rough on his next series, dumping a short pass to Spann under a heavy rush, then sacked by Janac and two more incomplete passes. Morris ended the blitz period with a short gain on a pass to Marshall. The offense had better going in the second-and-distance, with Morris running for and passing for a first down. He was followed by Beardain going 25 yards with the twos on a nice read on an option, then Beardain hit Turner in the flat three plays later and the junior running back turned it into a 70-yard touchdown. Anderson recovered in his final series to run for nine yards, then give it to Passmore for 15 yards. After another breakup by Matthews, Marshall froze the linebackers to turn a short gain into a long run of about 20 yards.

Snyder continues to rave about the freshmen running backs, Marshall and Edwards. "They are talented, no doubt about that," said Snyder. "If they can kind of learn what to do, and we can be smart with what we ask them to do…You are not going to ask a guy the size of Darius Marshall to go in there and pass protect ten times (in a row). But they have some talent, him and Terrell." In the final series, the first team ran the two minute drill to end practice and once again it was all defense. Slate dropped a pass from Morris on first-and-ten at the defense's 38-yard line. Morris was then sacked by John Jacobs on second down. He found Small for an 11-yard gain on third-and-17, but was sacked by safety Johnson to end the practice.

NOTES: It is moving day for the Herd, as the upperclassmen move out of the Twin Towers East into their own rooms or apartments. Assistant Athletic Director for Football Operations Mark Gale was returning car keys after the practice so the players could move. The dorms reopen on Friday with school starting Monday at Marshall…Matthews has not had a day in pads he has not broken up at least one pass in skel or team. Today, he had an interception and four passes broken up…Herd continued to work on kicking and punting. Reserve kicker Elliott Boyd was given more kicks, hitting almost all field goals from various distances, but his kickoffs are still falling between the 10-and 15-yard lines. As far as punting, Jake Fields and Cody Ochoa had pretty good days when at the 30-yard line, but struggled as they did last Saturday in the shadow of their own goalposts. Fields averaged 38.3 during punt, while Ochoa had his best day, averaging 40 per kick and both had fair hang times. Neither was able, however, to punt further than 35 yards with the ball at the three-yard line. Also in the kicking game, Sean McClellan and Jeremy James have been joined by sophomore tight end Cody Slate and senior guard Marcus Moresea in long-snapping…Snyder may have had the longest pause in a little over two years at the Marshall helm when Chuck Landon of the Charleston Daily Mail asked him if the punters would be allowed to tackle at the special teams scrimmage on Wednesday. That was how punter Marty Biagi was hurt this past spring, trying to tackle Spann on a return and injuring his plant leg. Snyder, pausing almost seven seconds, then said, "I don't know. First things first, let's get them to punt the ball then we'll worry about tackling."…Chuck Roberts, just moved this week to wide receiver from corner, was getting some reps with kick returns today…Still out is both left guards, Josh Evans and David Ziegler, as well as Doug Legursky, who is expected back later this week. Also still out was receiver Courtney Edmonson, tight end Hunter Hamrick and defensive tackle Ryland Wilson. Back full go today was wide out Thompson as was defensive end Vinny Curry…Wednesday's afternoon kicking scrimmage is open to the public, at about 3:20 p.m. Later tomorrow evening, the Paint The Capital City Green event in Charleston is sold out, there will be no tickets at the door. There will be an auction of a "We Are Marshall" signed movie poster, MU-WVU tickets and a trip with the team to the game at the University of Houston.


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