Preview: Marshall

West Virginia opens its road slate against Marshall at 7 p.m. Friday in a momentum-building game for both teams. Game Scorecard
Fri 9/10/10 7:00 PM

Huntington, WV

Joan C. Edwards Stadium
Record: 1-0
Coaches Poll: 22
Last Game
Coastal Carolina W 31-0
Radio: MSN
Record: 0-1
Coaches Poll: NR
Last Game
Ohio St L 45-7
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2009 Schedule

Series: WVU 9-0
First Meeting: 1911
Last Meeting: 2009
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

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WVU – OL Nick Kindler (Out); DL Donovan Pearson, (Out) Toe Surgery; LB Pat Lazear, (Out) Knee; TE Tyler Urban, (Doubtful) Knee; Branko Busick, (Doubtful) Hand; Cole Bowers (Probable) knee

Marshall – None Reported.


WVU Offense vs. Marshall defense

West Virginia started with a sustained touchdown drive in its opener, then fell into an offensive lull in leading just 10-0 at the half against Coastal Carolina. The Mountaineers fared a bit better in the second half, and likely should have scored anywhere from 38 to 45 points if not for a series of turnovers and minor miscues even with the base play calling. Those mistakes can't be repeated, even against a defense that allowed 529 yards of offense against among the best teams in the nation in No. 2 Ohio State. The Buckeyes are a bit better up front than the Mountaineers, and have a more experienced and dynamic quarterback that aided in the shredding of MU, a pair of factors whose advantage will be lessened in this game. The Herd's multiple look under defensive coordinator Chris Rippon – formerly of Syracuse and Rutgers, among others – lacks the marquee lineman it would have enjoyed had Albert McClellan not exhausted eligibility. With James Burkes also gone, MU's front is in a semi-rebuilding state. Ends Vinny Curry and Michael Janac (listed as the starting tackle against WVU) are seasoned players, while none of the usual tackles (Brandon Bullock, Delvin Johnson and Donny Jones) are returning starters. Marshall has decent size, but it could be susceptible to physical running up the middle, especially with little depth at tackle. The movement of Janac to the interior as helped, but left freshman James Rouse on the outside. WVU is likely to test Rouse's side early despite not faring well running to the edge in the opener due to not picking up incoming blitzes and accounting for all eight Chanticleers in the box. Part of that, again, was scheme and keeping alignments and protections/run blocking off game film. But part was lack of execution. Marshall's line and linebackers are much better than CCU's, and strongside linebacker Devin Arrington is among the better young players on the Herd roster. The sophomore made five tackles against Ohio State, and though there is experience at the three spots, it's experience that is learning some new schemes and styles. An adjustment period is expected, and that could help West Virginia get its ground game going early.

If it can do that via a nice mix of Noel Devine, Tavon Austin and Ryan Clarke (and opening some holes up front), the passing game should come as needed. Marshall's secondary was beaten many times by Ohio State, and the corners especially appeared to struggle when forced to play man. Safeties Omar Brown and Donald Brown will play major roles in this game in helping the corners manage WVU's passing game. Strong safety Donald Brown is just a sophomore, and could get caught with his head in the backfield for run support if the Mountaineers gash Marshall early. Look for the Mountaineers to add a dash of the pass as needed while continually prodding the MU front seven with the run early. There's no secret the best player on the field for either team is Devine, and Jeff Mullen is likely to try to get the back to break a couple big runs early and try to establish some ball control to gain momentum and game flow in a hostile setting. The bet here is the play calling won't be as conservative as it was last week, and that Geno Smith will have to be more effective in finding downfield receivers and not locking onto primary targets. Smith was better in the second half last week, and he'll get as much help as possible in staying out of third and longs via Devine and Clarke. But there will be points when he has to make a play, and he must prove able to do so to keep Marshall from stacking the line and the entire field open for attack. For its part, MU needs to control the run as best it can and continually remind the secondary not to get caught keying too much on the run. A well-timed play action early could result in a big play. This is an edge for West Virginia, but it must get a hat on a hat up front and at least match Marshall's intensity and physical play.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Marshall
Scoring Offense 31 ppg Scoring Defense 45 ppg
Rushing Offense 184 ypg Rushing Defense 280 ypg
Passing Offense 216 ypg Passing Defense 249 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Defense vs. Marshall Offense

Marshall's abilities would appear to match well with West Virginia's weaknesses – notably tight end play, ability to throw crossing routes underneath across the face of the defense and an experience quarterback who shouldn't get rattled and misread too many blitz angles and players out of the odd stack. Brian Anderson has seen West Virginia before, and though he never had great games against the Mountaineers, the senior has never gotten much help as he and his backs were often harassed in the backfield. Anderson must get more protection up front and hope his sizeable, experienced offensive line plays much better than it has in the past two offensive debacles at West Virginia. The odd stack sliced through MU's fronts the last two years to stonewall the running game and effectively thwart any passing development because of a series of long yardage situations. This will be the key matchup of the game. Marshall has three seniors and two juniors starting, West Virginia has a pair of all-Big East players on its front three and a solid trio of linebackers who can run. It's strength against strength. The unfortunate thing for the Herd is that their tailback abilities aren't quite as good as they have been in the past with Darius Marshall. Still, Andre Booker and Martin Ward saw action last year when Marshall missed games and Ward scored two touchdowns to claim bowl MVP honors in a win over Ohio. Booker can fan out into the slot, and gives offensive coordinator Bill Legg a multipurpose threat. Legg, a former WVU player and coach, developed a stout offense while coordinator at Purdue, and won't hesitate to put the ball in the air as needed. Anderson will get his chances downfield to try and open some room for the backs. Look for Legg to toss a diet of crossing patterns at WVU early to see what its linebackers can cover, and for Anderson to be asked to complete some intermediate routes. If Marshall can get NFL tight end prospect Lee Smith (6-6, 267 lbs.) going, it should allow room for Booker and Ward even against a very solid run defense.

The old adage of stopping run first applies here, but it will be interesting to see if West Virginia can dial up workable blitz and coverage packages that will pressure the 6-3 Anderson enough while covering the crosses and intermediate routes. Antavious Wilson (6-0, 191 lbs.) and Aaron Dobson (6-3, 185 lbs.) handled most of the pass catching load last week, but that was against an OSU 4-3 look that doesn't allow completions down the seams and across the face as much as the odd stack. There are defensive holes on the vast majority of snaps. Can Marshall execute enough up front to give Anderson time and the backs room? Can WVU cover the tight ends and the middle of the field? And which team wins in the trench when the Herd has the ball? The three keys will go a long way in deciding the outcome. Because of schemes, a new Marshall staff, a Herd home game and more unknowns than usual, we'll call this a push. There will be much disagreement, especially with MU failing to score an offensive point last week. But head coach Doc Holliday likely kept a lot of what MU can do off film, seeing that Ohio State simply had too much talent. He won't do the same against the Mountaineers.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Marshall
Scoring Defense 0 ppg Scoring Offense 0 ppg
Rushing Defense 63 ypg Rushing Offense 44 ypg
Passing Defense 123 ypg Passing Offense 155 ypg

Advantage: Even

WVU Special Teams vs. Marshall Special Teams

West Virginia covered kickoffs well last week, and was exception in the punting game (currently ranked second in the nation in net). It will face much better units here, among them a kickoff team that blocked an OSU field goal and returned it to keep the Herd from getting shutout in the Horseshoe. Still, WVU has an edge at placekicker and in the athleticism and pure burst of the returners, and appears to have remedied a bit of what ailed it last year, namely staying in lanes, tackling well and kicking the ball deeper. Booker and Evans are very solid returners, and West Virginia must continue to hold their lanes and breakup the initial blocking sequences. The Mountaineers still don't appear to be able to boot the ball into the end zone on kickoffs, so the MU duo will get chances.

By The Numbers
West Virginia Marshall
Net Punting 48.7 yards Net Punting 36.9 yards per punt
KO Returns 15 yards per return KO Returns 24.7 yards per return
Punt Returns 5 yards per return Punt Returns 2 yards per return

Advantage: West Virginia


On Offense: Don Barclay, Jeff Braun.

On Defense: Anthony Leonard, Najee Goode.


Marshall is dealing with variations in alignment and approach by new coaches while facing a more-talented foe in its third year under essentially the same staff – a sizeable edge for West Virginia. The Mountaineers showed very little of their schemes last week, and are not likely to allow the same unblocked access to the backfield that troubled it in the opener. Look for better overall execution from WVU up front on offense and a decent mix of run and pass to utilize the entire field. Marshall must match that by finding the tight ends, getting good quarterback play and opening a few holes in the ground game. The Herd will be amped, and the Friday night kick should aid the home team. If West Virginia doesn't turn the ball over and executes reasonably well, the athletic and talent edge should carry it to a 2-0 start.

WVU - 27 Marshall - 17

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