Herd Has Extra Days To Prepare For Memphis

While the Memphis Tigers are in the midst of playing three games in 11 days, Marshall's football team is enjoying some much needed time off. The Herd will work on itself for a few days and try to recover from numerous injuries for a game at the Liberty Bowl on Tuesday Night, October 2, on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. EST. Memphis will play at Arkansas State Thursday, then host the Herd, to make up a game.

Lightning forced the Tigers to have the game moved from September 8 to this Thursday with Arkansas State, a team that beat Memphis in Memphis last season and that nearly beat Texas earlier this year. "No," said Coach Tommy West on Monday, when asked if he had ever heard of a team playing two games in six days and three in 11. "In modern football, I have never heard of this. Saturday was the worst possible game we could have had to start this stretch. It was humid, the game was physical and we lost. That's not a perfect way to go into this. We'll work on ourselves, worry about us, instead of the opponents, but I don't know if that's the right way. I don't know anyone who knows if it is."

In Coach Mark Snyder's Tuesday press conference, the Marshall coach is also worried more about his own team than its next opponent as the Herd tries to heal up more injuries from Saturday's loss at Cincinnati and get ready for the Conference USA opener at Memphis next Tuesday.

"Heal, and get healthy," said Snyder of the extra-time. "We'll also get some extra reps for the young guys. We'll have to play some young people because we're going to have to play them. Rest up and get healthy, though. Marshall will meet Memphis in college football's only game next Tuesday, and it will be the Herd's third appearance on the ESPN family, including ESPNU for Miami and ESPN2 against West Virginia. "We're excited about that," said Snyder of playing on Tuesday night. "We have a chance to go play on national television again. We're the only show on that night. I think the guys are excited about that. It's a new season, we have eight games to play and we are 0-0 in league play."

John Bruhin, a true freshman, was moved from center to defensive line last week and may have to play against Memphis, depending on how the injuries come along. "We'll see how Shane Moore comes this week, but we are going to have to prepare (Bruhin) to play. Ryland could move inside, and we could move Johnny Jones down there, but I hate to do that to him." Jones is a true freshman who is splitting time at end with red-shirt freshman Michael Janac and senior Ryland Wilson. Last week, both Joe Bragg, a converted tight end who moved to offense last spring and defensive late in August, and James Burkes, a former walk-on who also moved from offense in the spring to defensive tackle for the fall, both played significant minutes in the game. Burkes recorded a tackle and an assist just six days after having an outstanding game for the Herd's sub-varsity against Hargrave where he had six tackles, a sack, a tackle for loss, forced a fumble and recovered two, including one for MU's only score in a 13-9 loss for the sub-varsity against the No. 1 prep school in the nation, according to some recruiting sites.

Injuries during the Cincinnati game included ankle sprains for middle linebacker Josh Johnson (who is also nursing a quad injury), starting right tackle Daniel Baldridge and Moore. John Inman, who suffered a foot injury at his left tackle position against New Hampshire, was not scheduled to play at UC, but when Baldridge went down, he told Snyder to put him in. Red-shirt freshman Brandon Campbell, who started against the Bearcats after coming in for Inman against the UNH Wildcats, stayed at left tackle for the game.


Memphis QB Martin Hankins (13) had one shot at Marshall's C.J. Spillman, but Spillman slipped the tackle and returned the interception 85 yards for a score in the fourth quarter of Marshall's 41-27 win over the Tigers last year at the Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Marshall also will get a second-starter back in the secondary in consecutive weeks. Starting corner Zearrick Matthews, who broke an arm in camp, returned against Cincinnati. Aaron Johnson, a starter at safety or nickel the first two games, is also slated to return at Memphis. John Saunders, who replaced A. Johnson at UC, suffered a broken nose in that game but is still expected to play. "If we get Aaron back, we can tighten down that coverage some," said Snyder. He also wants Matthews to tighten up a bit over his first game back. "Z can play tighter than he did, and we need him to." Punter Marty Biagi was released to "pooch" punt last week, but the Herd was not really in that situation in the game last Saturday. Anthony Binswanger was the special teams player of the week for Marshall, hitting eight punts for a 37.1 average. He placed four of the eight inside the 20-yard line and three of the eight were downed inside the 10. UC only had one punt return for three yards.


Marshall senior captain in 2006, Shavar Greer (91), went up high over Memphis QB Martin Hankins in last year's game in Huntington, won by the Herd 41-27. photo by Greg Perry, Herd Insider

The other players of the week were defensive tackle Byron Tinker, who had his best game at an opportune time with Montel Glasco gone for the season and Moore hurt in the game. Tinker had eight tackles, three solos, a sack and a tackle for loss. "Tink stepped up big for us," Snyder told the Huntington Quarterback Club on Tuesday. "He had his best game. If he continues to play at that level, he could play at the next level (professional football). We needed that effort last week." Winning the offensive award was junior wide out Darius Passmore, who had a team-best seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.


Marshall tight end Cody Slate looked behind him during his 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first quarter against Memphis last season in Huntington. photos by Greg Perry/HI staff

Snyder is also happy with the way the passing game has come around. "It has. It would be nice if everyone in the stadium didn't know the pass was coming," said Snyder, alluding to the fact Marshall is having to throw because the team finds itself in the hole points-wise. "We have put ourselves behind the eight ball with them knowing we have to throw the football, and we have still completed those throws. That's a good thing." There were other positives in Saturday's game, but Snyder keeps coming back to penalties and turnovers. "We need to get that corrected, and we'll keep working on it. Our scout team is giving us a good look each day and we have 'running reminders' every time they jump, but we have got to get that fixed. Procedure is the most irritating penalty of all, suddenly you are first-and-15. You have to have confidence in your ability to block the man in front of you. You have to do your job."


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