Marshall Offense Wins Scrimmage Again

On a brisk August morning -with temps that started in the 60s and were up to 72 degrees at the start of practice at 11:30 a.m.- both ticket sales and Marshall football were going well with Herd fans' second cups of coffee. It was "Choose-A-Seat" Day and many MU fans did just that, trying to help Marshall sell out for the first time in school history for the 2007 season.

Marshall has 23,000 season tickets to sell for the 2007 season. Well over 100 additional season tickets were sold Saturday before and during the scrimmage, according to Marshall's Director of Athletic Marketing and Promotions, Isaiah Childers. The total of season tickets sold is now nearly 19,600, and an additional ticket plan will be announced by MU on Monday. No single game tickets will be sold to the West Virginia game. The Friends of Coal are also expected to make an appearance at MU this week with the new Friends of Coal Bowl trophy, for the winner of the MU-WVU game in Huntington on Sept. 8.

As for the scrimmage, the offense triumphed over the defense in the "Snyder Scoring System," used by head coach Mark Snyder, for the second consecutive Saturday. "It's hard for the defense to win without turnovers and tackles for loss," said the head coach. "I think our offense is figuring out not to turn the ball over. Look at the points the defense put up: fumble, fumble, interception for touchdown. Those are huge, but I have to temper it a little bit because we had guys out on defense, too.

Chubb Small (28) celebrated his touchdown run with left tackle John Inman at Marshall's Saturday scrimmage at Joan C. Edwards Stadium. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"We really won't know until we get to Miami (how good we are). I think were a little further ahead on offense than defense right now. We're a little bit more talented on offense than defense, right now. We've got some talent on the offense. We've got some young talent on the defense. They are still learning who they are, not why. I think our offense is a little bit further along." He noted a number of players on the offensive side who stepped up for the Herd today. "Ryan Tillman made some blocks for us today, he made some blocks that sprung those guys today. E.J. Wynn, continued to make some plays for us, which is good. I thought Lee Smith and Chubb Small had decent days, did some things I haven't seen them do."

Two weeks from the end of the scrimmage on Saturday, the Herd will be at about halftime of the Noon start in the Orange Bowl with the Miami Hurricanes on the September 1 opener. Snyder knows his team can take advantage of those two weeks in certain areas. "We have to get better in all phases of the game," said Snyder. "By no means are we there yet, we have to keep working. That's what these next two weeks are for."

Darius Marshall looked for running room during the scrimmage. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

On the downside of the scrimmage, attended by several hundred Marshall fans on a bright, sunny day, were the common mistakes a team finds itself making at the end of two-a-day camp when the legs, and the mind, are often tired. "Too many penalties for my liking," said the third-year coach to a question about what didn't go well, "and we have got to score in the red-zone (inside the opponent's 20-yard line). That's ridiculous that (our offense) falls apart when we reach the 30. Kind of like our defense last year on third and long. We weren't very good on third and 14 or fourth and ten. Those are the easy downs and the red-zone should be the easy downs. Again, that's why I'm so proud of Bins today."

Marshall place-kicker Anthony Binswanger was perfect on the day. He hit his only extra-point and made two field goals, one from 48 yards away and the other from 49, and both had plenty of leg to spare. Back-up kicker Elliott Boyd continued the good show he had in Wednesday's Special Teams scrimmage, when he made nine of ten field goals, by going 3-for-3 on extra-points with the second team. "We cannot ask Bins to do what we asked him to do last year, and that's kick from the 30 out the whole year. It's crazy, and not fair to him. We have got to get the ball to the 20 so, if we do have to come away with three, we'll give him a chip shot instead of putting all the load on him all the time."

The offensive line was once again without starters from last season like center Doug Legursky and guard David Ziegler, while starters from the spring like guard Josh Evans and right tackle Daniel "Buck" Baldridge, were held out with varying degrees of injury. The first team offensive line was senior John Inman at left tackle; red-shirt freshman Brandon Campbell, normally a tackle, at left guard; Brian Leggett, the starting right guard, was again at tackle; sophomore Matt Altobello, just returned from injury, was at right guard; and true freshman Brandon Curry was at the right tackle, as Baldridge is resting a sore shoulder. Ziegler returned to practice this week, Legursky will be held out until Monday of game week and Evans does not have a return date as of yet.

"We had a bunch of young guys up there, but they did pretty well for the most part," said Inman, a senior who played all four positions last season. "You never know when you'll be called upon so you have to be ready at any time. If your a young guy, don't come in to be red-shirted, come in to try and contribute to this team. I think we have a bunch of guys who will do that. Your offensive line blocks well enough, we should be able to put anyone back there (in the backfield) and make plays. The old saying is the team goes as the offensive line goes."

Antwan Booker returned this interception 26 yards for a TD in Saturday's scrimmage. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Still, the offense moved the ball well and gave up only two sacks of Bernard Morris and Brian Anderson. "They did OK, they moved the ball, except when we got to the red-zone," said Snyder. "Sacks, fumbles, miscues, we can't do those things. It was very, very disheartening and I promise you, we will come back and work on those things Monday."

Snyder was also proud of the receivers downfield blocking and others not used to doing much blocking. "How about our quarterbacks blocking?" said Snyder. "That was good." As far as individual performances, Chubb Small ran with the first team and had 56 yards rushing on just four carries, averaging 14 yards per touch including a 22-yard touchdown through a tremendous hole in the defense. Darius Marshall, the freshman who has been splitting time with Small on the first unit but ran with the twos today, led all rushers with 66 yards on 12 carries (5.5 yards per carry) and also scored on a 19-yard pass reception from freshman quarterback Chris Smith. Kelvin Turner continued to struggle in the backfield.

Turner gained 26 yards on seven carries (3.7 ypc), but had a turnover on a fumble at the 17-yard line going in on a reception from Morris. He also let a ball go off his hands from Anderson that was intercepted by linebacker Antwan Booker and returned for a 26-yard touchdown for the defense. That is the second defensive touchdown in two scrimmages.

On the passing side, Morris was almost perfect on the first drive, hitting 8-of-10 passes for 83 yards and moving the offense from its own 20-yard line to the other 17 before Turner turned the ball over on a good strip by linebacker Maurice Kitchens. The ball was recovered by safety Jon Moravec. Turner did end the day with a 43-yard reception from Mark Cann in the second half.

Morris finished 8-of-11 on the day and lost 10 yards on the ground including an eight-yard sack for linebacker Mario Harvey. "We did start pretty slow and when we turned the ball over, it seemed to be all down hill from there," said Morris. "The good thing was we had the twos to come in and pep us up a little bit and that's what they did. But being the ones, we can't let the twos out-do us especially in scrimmages when we need points." Morris also was impressed by the work of Altobello, Campbell and Curry, getting to work with the first unit on the line. "That's the good thing right now," said Morris, "if we have to play five, six or seven linemen this year, we will need some of those young guys to come in with experience they are getting in practice versus our ones. Down at Miami, or back here against West Virginia, you don't know who will be playing but I thought they did a real good job."

Anderson struggled today with the first unit, hitting just 3-of-8 for 50 yards and having the interception that went off Turner's hands. Wesley Beardain was 4-of-6 for 31 yards and Jonathan Garner, the transfer from Georgia Tech, hit 2-of-4 for 56 yards, including a 43-yard hookup with Taravis Thompson. In his first full-go scrimmage, Thompson had four catches for 70 yards to lead all receivers.

The young quarterbacks, freshmen Mark Cann and Chris Smith, threw for the only two touchdowns through the air. Smith was 2-of-5 for 36 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown to Marshall. Cann hit his first four passes and finished 7-of-10 for 85 yards, tops among QBs in yardage. He had an 11-yard touchdown pass to red-shirt freshman Bryant Milligan for his only catch of the day. Milligan rushed for 23 yards on four carries (3.9 per carry) and also had an 11-yard end around for a touchdown. New captain this week Brian Shope had three catches for 40 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Harvey led all tacklers with nine tackles. He had three tackles for minus-11 yards, a sack of Morris for minus-eight yards, a pass broken up and a quarterback pressure. Fellow linebacker Antwan Booker, who sat out last season with Harvey and Thompson over academic concerns, was tied for second with five tackles, a pressure and the interception for a touchdown. Also with five tackles was true freshman corner DeQuan Bembry, but his pass interference on Thompson led to the Cann-to-Milligan touchdown four plays later.

Marshall starting corner Zearrick Mathews was injured on a tackle of Darius Passmore, when safety Phillip Gamble slammed into Matthews trying to make the tackle of Passmore. Matthews was helped off the field and taken for X-Rays, so his status is unknown. Passmore was injured during the third series for the first team, but his status is a contusion on his arm and should not hold him out of practice on Monday.

Defenders with four tackles included Kitchens, who also forced a fumble; safety Aaron Johnson, who recorded a four-yard sack of Anderson; safety John Saunders, who also broke up a pass; linebacker Will Albin; tackle James Burkes; and defensive end Joe Bragg, who also had a tackle for loss and a pressure.

NOTES: The MU football team will be off until Sunday evening, when they will have a team meeting on academic concerns. Classes start Monday morning for all Marshall students and the Herd will practice every afternoon Monday through Friday as preparations continue for the opener at Miami, Florida, in two weeks…Kevin and Ellen Lavery were at the Saturday scrimmage, as their daughter is enrolling at MU as a freshman. Ellen was the women's trainer during the 1980s and early 1990s, while Keving was the head trainer at Marshall from 1987-1992. The live in the Durham, North Carolina, area…There was no punting during the scrimmage, but freshman Cody Ochoa continued to work on his game. Ochoa punted eight times in individual period, averaging around 35 yards per punt. Binswanger will kick and punt until Marty Biagi is released from rehab of his knee on his plant leg, hurt in the spring…Linebacker Josh Johnson did not play in the scrimmage and tight end Cody Slate also sat out, allowing new players to get more reps in a live scrimmage. Johnson will be the starting linebacker, while Slate was All-Conference USA as a freshmen and led all league tight ends in receiving…Coming up this week is the MU Football Women's Clinic, on August 23, at the Big Green Room of the Joan C. Edwards Stadium and the Quarterback Club Reverse Raffle, at the MU Memorial Student Union on Saturday, August 25. Call the football office for information, 304-696-6464. Also next Saturday, Putnam County will host its annual MU-WVU combined tailgate at Winfield, behind the Putnam County Courthouse.

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