In the shadow of the Third Avenue McDonald's in Huntington, just beyond Marshall's south end zone, it was the return of the "Big Mac Attack" in the former of Albert McClellan and the defense. "They (the offense) are implementing every day just like the defense," said the head coach after practice. "We have got our base in, and some other things offensively but it is a work in progress."
That was never more true than this morning, as the Marshall defense sacked, attacked, stripped and recovered balls and ball carriers throughout the team periods. In the early team, the offense's best play was a short run by Darius Marshall for about five yards against a defense in "thud" (hitting, not actually tackling, to prevent injuries). Michael Janac and Kellen Harris had tackles for loss and quarterbacks Mark Cann and Brian Anderson either missed receivers or had passes broken up, including a pretty break by Josh Miller on Bryant Milligan.
After working on goal line on Tuesday, the Herd put the ball at the 5-yard line going out for the offense and the defense continued to pressure the other side. The one big play was a Chubb Small pitch back to Cann, who found Darius Passmore behind the safeties for a 95-yard "flea flicker," but it wasn't a good sign the offense's big play had to be a trick play.
Back came the defense, holding the offense to short gains except for a couple of big runs by Terrell Edwards, who might have even had big gains against full go tackling. John Jacobs, Delvin Johnson, Brandon Bullock, Harris and Johnny Jones made stops at or behind the line and brought pressure throughout the ten-minute period.
Moving out to mid-field, the defense turned it up a notch. Albert McClellan made a stop on Small after a one-yard gain, Passmore dropped a pass thrown early by Cann on pressure from Ashton Hall and then McClellan came clean up the middle for a big sack, untouched by the middle of the line. Cann went ahead and threw the pass to Milligan, who then had it stripped away by C.J. Spillman and returned 15 yards the other way, a double win for the defense.
"He sure did," said Snyder when a reporter asked if McClellan looked like the "old" McClellan, the C-USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2006 before sitting out all of 2007 with a knee injury. "He looked like Albert again. Our experienced tailbacks had a tough time blocking him, Rick (Minter, the defensive coordinator) is doing some good things with him, mis-match wise. He looked good today, he is the one guy who stood out today. Good burst, woo! He flashed today, I thought."
On the next play, Spillman made a perfect break-up of a ball to Emmanuel Spann, on pressure from John Saunders. Harris and McClellan sacked Cann again on the next play and Cann overthrew Matt Parkhurst on his final play, rushing the pass to the open tight end. After Edwards was stopped at the line by Miller, DeMetrius Thompson and Hall combined for a sack of Anderson. In came Jonathan Garner, but his draw play was stopped by Michael Janac for a three-yard sack. Saunders sacked Cann on the next play, and the pass thrown was dropped by Courtney Edmonson. Janac then sacked Cann, forced a fumble by batting the ball from the QB's hand and recovered the same. Edmonson, open on the final play, dropped the last pass from Anderson.
Snyder is still happy with the way the quarterbacks are doing so far in camp. "They are coming along, progressing, and they are getting a lot thrown at them right now. I think they are handling themselves well," said Snyder. "I think John (Shannon, the offensive coordinator) is doing a good job of heating them up, and so is the defense. I don't see any sense of panic (in the quarterbacks)."
NOTES: The Herd is featured in an article in USA Today on Conference USA, with a picture of McClellan making a tackle at Tennessee and a smaller picture of Snyder. Danny Sheridan makes the Herd a 25:1 choice to win the league and ahead of only UAB(100:1), Rice and SMU (250:1). UCF and Tulsa are the favorites at 2:1, while East Carolina and Memphis (3:1) are next, followed by Houston and Southern Miss (5:1) and Tulane/UTEP (15:1)...T.J. Drakeford dressed out, but wore only sneakers and did not participate today, after slightly tweaking knee late Tuesday...other injurires remain the same for Zearrick Matthews, Jo Jo. Cox, Pete Culicerto, John Bruhin (who lost the boot, however), Maurice Graham and Charles Walker...USA Today says McClellan missed after the first two games, but that was of course starting DT Montel Glasco, who will miss two or three games to start 2008...Cody Slate also was dressed but held out of workouts today with support hose on right leg...DeQuan Bembry got work with ones with Drakeford out...team went out a little early, so Snyder enjoyed first six periods from press box bereft of press until about period seven when HI was the first to arrive, even ahead of MU SID Randy Burnside.