Green Tops White In Spring Game, 44-8

It was the perfect day for Marshall football on Saturday, April 26: warm, partly sunny with a strong cooling breeze as 6,107 filed into the Joan C. Edwards Stadium for a Green-White Spring Game. While the first and second teams, dressed in the home green, topped the third team squad (in white) by 44-8, the real deal was the significant progress the program made over the last 15 days.

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Mark Cann hit 16-of-21 passes for 181 yards with the green, while Johnathan Garner looked good in the two-minute drill by hitting 5-of-10 for 74 yards to drive the green team from its own two-yard line to a 47-yard field goal by new kicking sensation Craig Ranatanamorn to end the scrimmage on a high note.

Terrell Edwards displayed his talent in the Green-White game, rushing for three touchdowns. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

Kelvin Turner led the white with 10 rushes for 39 yards, then switched jerseys and carried five times with the green for 85 yards including a 59-yard touchdown. Combined, Turner had 125 rushes on 15 carries, 8.3 yards per rush. Terrell Edwards scored three touchdowns with 14 carries for 77 yards (5.5 ypc) and Chubb Small added six rushes for 39 yards (6.5 ypc). Combined, the three backs had 241 yards on the ground on just 35 carries, 6.8 yards per carry, and four touchdowns, plus a one-yard sneak by Cann for a fifth rushing touchdown for the green.

"I think a lot of our guys progressed," said head coach Mark Snyder, not just of today but the entire spring effort. "'The guys who sat out last year, like Terrell (Edwards), T.J. (Drakeford), DeQuan (Bembry), Corey Hart...I guess Corey played a little last year, but not much, C.J. (Wood), (Brenden) Curry, they probably grew the most and they needed to, to get us to where we want to be, but I'd say the guys who sat out came on the most." Snyder said one of the big moments of the day was finishing with the 47-yard field goal by Ratanamorn, which Snyder helped set up with two "penaties" that backed the offense up ten yards for the final kick.

QB Mark Cann looked downfield during the Green-White game on Saturday. Cann hit 16-of-21 for 181 yards in the game. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"We came into the spring hoping," said Snyder about special teams. "Hoping, because we didn't know what kind of product we had coming in. We had an alternative plan if it didn't work out, but it worked out perfectly." Still to come is freshman punter Kase Whitehead this fall.

Ratanamorn, who came to Marshall to play goal keeper for the soccer team, will be following in the footsteps of other MU soccer to football kickers like David and Willie Merrick who also starred for the football program. "I've heard a lot about that," said Ratanamorn about Willie's kick to win the 1992 National Championship for the Herd. But while Ratanamorn was perfect on the day, hitting 3-for-3 on field goals with a 23-yard and 33-yard field goals in addition to the final kick, he was happy for his fellow kickers.

Freshman tight end Andrew Skiles was stopped by this hit from linebacker Kellen Harris. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"Elliot had a big smile on his face," said Ratanamorn of sophomore Elliot Boyd, who hit 2-of-2 field goals, both from 37 yards. "I thought everyone kicked well today." Ratanamorn also had two punts for a 37.5 yards per punt average and while Calvin Purchase and Cody Ochoa did not match that average, they did put three of six punts inside the 20-yard line, including a perfect 31-yard punt by Ochoa that went out at the two-yard line to back up the green team for its final drive. Ratanamorn put one kick inside the 20, while hitting all five extra-points, while long-snapper Sean McClellan was perfect on every snap in the kicking game.

Quarterback was a position every Marshall fan was looking closely over at the Green-White Game, especially with only sophomore Brian Anderson actually having taken snaps in a game for the Herd. Anderson finished the day 7-of-15 combined (1-for-2 for the green for six yards), for 42 yards and an interception, by linebacker Phillip Gamble who returned the pick 28 yards. Garner was 9-of-21 with the white for 67 yards, then 7-of-14 for the green for 97 yards (16-of-35 combined for 164 yards), but was picked off by freshman "gray" safety Omar Brown. Wesley Beardain did not take a snap, while running back Tyler Shick was 0-for-1 on a halfback pass.

"I thought Johnathan came in and did a good job of driving us down the field," said Snyder of the two-minute drive, the final drive of an extended spring game. "There's no doubt, Brian struggled early, either one or two series with a three and out in the game. Johnathan did OK, but he made some mistakes. So did all of them."

New offensive coordinator John Shannon made special mention of the quarterback "competition," not a "QB controversy," but he wanted to establish the run early, then hit the defense with the hurry-up in the second half. Mission accomplished on both goals. "We wanted to come back out and hit the defense bing-bang-boom," said Shannon, the former Toledo coach. "I want to get in the end zone as fast as we can, and I thought the team responded and did a good job." Cann's opening drive of the second half was 12 plays, 80 yards and took five minutes to put the green up 31-5. Shannon also liked what he saw of his quarterbacks in just 15 days of work in the new offense.

A crowd of 6,107 came out for the annual Green-White game at Edwards Stadium on Saturday. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff

"The competition is continuing to develop. I thought Mark was really consistent through the first, second and third quarters. I thought Johnathan Garner did some good things for the white team in the first half, and we had already planed to flip him to the green in the second half. He came over and made some good players for me, too. Brian struggled some in the first half, he didn't do what he needed to do, but he came in the second half and threw the ball around."

While the receivers were rather quiet compared to the running backs, a couple stood out. Bryant Milligan continued to impress with his "yards after catch" with 65 yards on seven catches. All-American and All-Conference USA tight end Cody Slate was, well, Cody Slate with five catches for 62 yards, including a 26-yard effort. The long reception of the day belonged to senior E.J. Wynn, who caught a 38-yard pass to set up Ratanamorn for his 23 yard field goal to end the first half. Wynn also had a 21 yard catch and finished with four for a team-best 76 yards. Small caught two for 26 yards out of the backfield. Tight end Robert Henry, a former running back from Graham H.S., the same school as former Herd player and new Super Bowl champ Ahmad Bradshaw of the NY Giants, led the white with seven catches for 49 yards.

Turner, who was the Herd's designated short-yardage back last year and led Marshall with seven touchdowns, was very happy to be healthy and to be able to play like he knows he is capable by leading all rushers on the day. "It feels good. I've been banged up a lot, and had an injury earlier in the spring," said Turner. "I came back, worked hard in the training room, and it felt nice to have the long touchdown run. I had double-duty today, and that gave me the mental toughness to push through and play hard on both sides."

Turner and Small are the seniors of a very talented backfield, with sophomore Darius Marshall, who sat out today, and Edwards, who had seven touchdowns in the last three scrimmages combined. "We can run a lot of fresh legs at teams," said Turner of the depth, plus the three freshmen coming in, and possibly prop Jo Jo Cox. "It is a plus for us. We have good backs right now, good backs coming in the fall, and we are all competing, trying to get on the field. It's a fun competition for all of us."

Defensively for the white squad, local product B.J. Evans of nearby Tolsia High School led all tacklers on both teams with 11 stops for the white, plus a tackle for loss. Scott Gray, a sophomore linebacker from Union, Kentucky (near Cincinnati), played corner back and delivered nine tackles, all solo, and one pass broken up. There were eight tackles each for sophomore linebacker Howard King, who added a sack and three tackles for loss, and George Carpenter, a true freshman "gray" shirt linebacker who also broke up a pass. Sophomore defensive end Demetrius Thompson, from Capital H.S. in Charleston, had seven tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss, forced a fumble and scored two points when he tackled Anderson in the end zone in the first half. "Gray" shirt tackle Micah Carter of Beckley-Woodrow Wilson had two tackles, a tackle for loss and sack.

On the green defense, Gamble added six tackles and a pass broken up to his interception and the former senior safety, and largely special teams player, has found a home at linebacker in the 3-4 defense of new coordinator Rick Minter. Sophomore Antawn Booker picked up where he left off last season, when he had 22 tackles, 17 solo, in the final eight games, with six tackles, a sack, 1.5 tackle for loss (minus-13) and a pass broken up.

Junior John Jacobs had five tackles and a couple of quarterback hurries while fellow hybrid linebacker/defensive end Kellen Harris, a red-shirt freshman, had five tackles, a 0.5 sack and tackle for loss. DeQuan Bembry and T.J. Drakeford, both red-shirt freshmen corners, each had three tackles and broke up a pass while gray shirt Omar Brown officially had only one tackle assist to go with his interception, but had 4.5 tackles in the Herd Insider game log. Ashton Hall had three tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and a pass broken up at safety, but delivered the big hit of the day when he knocked the helmet off the head of receiver Chuck Roberts while trying to break up a sideline pass.

Marshall had no injuries of note in the game, and finished the spring with some players sitting out to recover from surgery, like starters Albert McClellan at defensive end, Montel Glasco at defensive tackle and Daniel Baldridge at right tackle. A few others were held out for injuries the coaches took precautions with, but who could have probably gone if a game had loomed, like starting running back Darius Marshall, starting linebackers Ian Hoskins and Maurice Kitchens and starters in the secondary like C.J. Spillman, Zearrick Mathews, J.J. Johnson and John Saunders. "The good thing is we had no major injuries," said Snyder. "Nothing we have to worry about over the summer and coming with concerns about in the fall. Now we will concentrate on finals, getting our grades, and then work hard this summer to continue improving for the upcoming season." Marshall opens the season at home September 30 against Illinois State, then travels to Wisconsin for a first-ever meeting with the Big Ten team the following week. C-USA play starts Sept. 13 when the Memphis Tigers visit, and Marshall will face nine teams on the 2008 schedule who played in the post-season after the 2007 season, including West Virginia, Cincinnati, Houston, UCF, Tulsa, Southern Miss, East Carolina, the Tigers and the Badgers.

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