Thursday, Sept. 2
7:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
Ohio Stadium; Columbus
Ohio State and Marshall are separated by only about three hours of highway, but the two programs have met only once before on the gridiron.
However, the Thundering Herd program and OSU head coach Jim Tressel are quite familiar with one another. Marshall won two Division I-AA championships in the 1990s, beating Tressel's Youngstown State squad in 1992 and completing a perfect 15-0 season with a win against Montana in the '96 game. The Herd also made the title game in '91, '93 and '95, losing to YSU in the first two of those years.
Upon moving up to Division I-A in 1997, Marshall won four straight Mid-American Conference championships and added another in 2002. Along the way, stars Chad Pennington, Randy Moss and Byron Leftwich made NFL scouts a common sight at the school.
That tradition of winning has made Huntington mad for Marshall.
"I also know, having played there, played them at home, so forth, is that football is very, very important to the culture of the young people that go to school there and the fans and there is Herd hysteria," OSU head coach Jim Tressel said. "They just love the game and it's very important to them and that's the way they play."
The Thundering Herd
Head coach: Doc Holliday, first year
2009 record: 7-6 (4-4, 4th Conference USA East)
Series mark: Ohio State leads 1-0
School location: Huntington, W.Va.
Colors: Green and White
Stadium: Joan C. Edwards Stadium
Fight songs: "Sons of Marshall"
Marshall Players To Watch
RB Martin Ward: Though he's not listed as the starter on the depth chart, Ward is the most experienced rusher back on the team. The sophomore was named MVP of the Thundering Herd's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl victory over Ohio thanks to two rushing touchdowns and 75 yards on 10 carries, and he's expected to take over the starting job after the loss of leading rusher Darius Marshall. He averaged 4.8 yards per carry in 2009 and had 136 yards when pressed into starting action vs. SMU.
WR Antavious Wilson: Named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team a season ago, Wilson was the Herd's leading receiver with 60 catches a season ago. He is expected to lead a deep crew at wideout, and the hope is he can pull in a few more balls with another year of experience under his belt.
DE Vinny Curry: Curry is tough to block coming off the edge. With good size and speed at 6-4, 252 pounds, Curry made 59 tackles a season ago and showed he can make plays with 8½ tackles for loss and 3½ sacks.
LB Mario Harvey: Known as "Thumper" because of his ability to deliver big hits, Harvey weights 250 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds. Harvey led the team by a wide margin last year with 117 tackles and can rush the passer as well, piling up seven sacks.
"He's a hard hitter and I think he definitely deserves all the credit he's gotten," OSU running back Brandon Saine said. "We're definitely going to have to pay attention to him."
Projected Starters (12)
QB 12 Brian Anderson, 6-3, 212
RB 19 Andre Booker, 5-10, 178
Z 82 Antavious Wilson, 6-0, 191
H 84 Chuck Walker, 5-10, 197
X 11 Wayne Bonner, 6-3, 199
*Y 4 Troy Evans, 5-9, 196/TE 16 Lee Smith, 6-6, 267
LT 73 Ryan Tillman, 6-5, 289
LG 68 Landis Provancha, 6-5, 314
C 71 Chad Schofield, 6-4, 304
RG 75 C.J. Wood, 6-5, 305
RT 78 Brandon Campbell, 6-5, 312
DE 99 Vinny Curry, 6-4, 252
NT 91 Johnny Jones, 6-5, 301
DT 98 Delvin Johnson, 6-3, 300
DE 92 James Rouse, 6-5, 231
SLB 25 Devin Arrington, 6-2, 207
MLB 47 Tyson Gale, 6-3, 234
WLB 30 Mario Harvey, 6-0, 250
CB 5 Ahmed Shakoor, 5-11, 203
SS 18 Donald Brown, 6-0, 182
FS 31 Omar Brown, 5-11, 194
CB 15 D.J. Wingate, 6-2, 191
Five Fast Facts: 1. Eight Ohioans are on Marshall's roster, including starting center Chad Schofield (Strongsville) and backup linebacker George Carpenter (Lancaster), the younger brother of Bobby Carpenter. There are only eight West Virginians listed on the Marshall roster. There are 26 players from Florida on the roster, the most of any state.
2. The Thundering Herd is 2-12 against ranked foes since moving to Division I-A, beating No. 25 BYU in the Motor City Bowl in 1999 and knocking off No. 6 Kansas State in September 2003. Marshall is also 5-25 in road games the last five seasons.
3. Holliday has made a mark when it comes to discipline already. In addition to dismissing the cornerbacks, he kicked true freshmen Antwon Chisholm, Fred Pickett and Mike Fleurizard off the team in early August. Fleurizard, a defensive tackle, had been charged with robbery.
5. The school is named after John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States. Marshall was friends with John Laidley, a local attorney who hosted the meeting that led to the founding of the university, which was known as Marshall Academy at its founding.
Offensive Personnel Report
Holliday has brought a spread offense with him to Huntington, hoping to revive an attack that finished ninth in the league with 349.1 yards per game and 10th with 21.77 points.
"We're going to do what our kids can do," he said. "We're typically going to be a one-back, spread offense, but that being said we're going to do what our kids can do and get the ball in our playmakers' hands."
That idea sounds like music to the ears of the team's presumed starting quarterback, Brian Anderson, who said he played in a similar system in high school at Louisville (Ky.) Male. Anderson was declared the winner of a four-man derby in August, pulling ahead of two freshmen in Eddie Sullivan and A.J. Graham as well as Clemson transfer Willy Korn, who then left for a Division II school.
Anderson will be the starter for the second year in a row. Last year, he completed 58.0 percent (231 of 398) passes for 2,646 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, and his passing efficiency of 118.96 placed him 10th in the league. On the ground, the senior posted 20 rushing yards and a touchdown.
"He was pretty good," Rolle said of Anderson's 2009 performance. "He's not a very mobile guy but he looks like he made pretty good decisions."
Sullivan was named the No. 2 quarterback, and the true freshman dual-threat signal caller from Boca Raton, Fla., has been called special by Holliday and offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. He was a three-star prospect according to Scout.com.
Marshall lost reading rusher Darius Marshall, who placed 16th in the country with 113.1 yards per game, to the NFL draft. According to the preseason depth chart, sophomore Andre Booker, who ran 15 times for 73 yards as a freshman a season ago, will get the first chance to replace him. Booker is known for his breakaway speed and can break off chunks of yards at a time.
Sophomore Martin Ward ran 82 times for 393 yards and three touchdowns and was named MVP of the bowl game thanks to 75 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries.
The Herd also could play true freshman Tron Martinez, a 5-9, 186-pounder with good speed and power.
Marshall returns three of the four receivers from 2009 that caught more than 10 passes, led by Antavious Wilson. A possible All-Conference USA candidate, Wilson had a breakout freshman season a year ago with 60 catches for 724 yards and three touchdowns.
Another returning starter is Chuck Walker, a JUCO transfer and a quick target who pulled in 33 balls for 350 yards and three touchdowns last year. The third starter is senior Wayne Bonner, who had eight catches for 89 yards last year, and the fourth wideout is junior Troy Evans (four catches last year).
Senior Courtney Edmonsoin is back after missing last year because of a hamstring injury, while sophomore Aaron Dobson had 15 catches for 362 yards (24.1-yard average) and four touchdowns last year.
Departed tight end Cody Slate caught 50 passes last year, and senior Lee Smith is expected to match that in 2010. A year ago, the Tennessee transfer caught 23 passes for 335 yards, and he's a preseason all-conference choice. True freshman Harold "Gator" Hoskins (6-2, 200) is a threat as a pass catcher after having been converted from wideout during camp.
The leader of the line is senior center Chad Schofield, who has 18 career starts under his belt. Marshall also has experience in its bookends with in junior left tackle Ryan Tillman, who has 22 career starts, and senior right tackle Brandon Campbell, who has 16 starts.
The guards are two new starters in junior C.J. Wood (right side) and senior Landis Provancha.
Defensive Personnel Report
Marshall boasts a solid defense that placed third in the league in scoring defense last year at 24.3 points allowed per game, and with six starters returning the Herd could have solid stop troops again.
A pair of returnees in senior Michael Janac and junior Vinny Curry were honorable mention all-conference choices last year. Janac, a 6-5, 294-pounder, holds down the middle, and he had 44 tackles and two forced fumbles a season ago.
On the outside, the athletic 6-4, 242-pound Curry made 59 tackles, 8½ for loss, with 3½ sacks. At the other end spot, the starting job has gone to freshman James Rouse.
Janac is joined in the middle by senior Johnny Jones and junior Delvin Johnson. The latter started three games with five tackles last year, while Jones had two starts with nine stops. Bullock, meanwhile, is listed at 6-3, 361 pounds but has dropped from 400 pounds to around 335. He had eight tackles last year.
Linebacker Mario Harvey, a first-team All-Conference USA pick a season ago, is an unquestioned leader.
"Mario Harvey has to be the leader of our football team," Holliday said. "He has to have a great year for us. He's had a great offseason. We asked him to lose weight, and he's done that."
Harvey was picked to earn all-league honors again, and the 6-0, 250-pounder led the team with 117 tackles and seven sacks last year. The senior weakside ‘backer has 28 career starts.
Kellen Harris, meanwhile, is a junior who picked up 71 tackles last year as the middle linebacker with six TFL and two forced fumbles, but he's not listed as a starter on the depth chart. The other spots have gone to sophomore Devin Arrington (10 tackles, fumble recovery) and junior Tyson Gale (nine tackles).
Senior D.J. Wingate, a reserve last year, and junior Ahmed Shakoor, a junior who started 10 games at safety last year, are the starting corners. Shakoor made 36 tackles last year.
Starter Omar Brown is welcomed back at free safety. Last year, the captain started nine games and finished third on the team with 73 tackles while adding two interceptions.
Two possibilities existed coming into the year to fill the strong safety job in senior Kevin Perry and sophomore Donald Brown. Perry had 25 tackles and a pick last year, while Brown's redshirt was burned midway through the year and he finished with six tackles in seven games. Brown won the starting job in camp.