Preview: West Virginia - Marshall

The West Virginia Mountaineers will return home to Milan Puskar Stadium to take on instate rival Marshall. The Herd enters the game fresh off a road victory against Southern Mississippi.






BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Series: WVU 7-0
Sat 09/27/08 3:30 PM
Morgantown, WV

FMountaineer Field
Record: 1-2
USA: NR
Last Game
CU L 14-17

TV: Big East Local
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Web: BlueGoldNews.com

Record: 3-1
USA: NR
Last Game
S Miss W 34-27
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule
First Meeting: 1911
Last Meeting: 2007
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


INJURIES

WVU - Brantwon Bowser (Knee) Doubtful, Zach Hulce (Knee) Out

MU - Craig Ratanmorn (Undisclosed) Questionable

GAME OUTLOOK

WVU offense vs. MU defense

Rick Minter took over this year as defensive coordinator and has installed an aggressive 3-4 attack. The 3-4 system makes great use of the speed and athleticism that Marshall has at linebacker and is designed to get pressure on the quarterback. The Marshall defense has allowed 104 points this season and if it weren't for a 51-point yielding in a road game at Wisconsin that number would be a lot lower. Minter is an excellent defensive tactician and given the tools to worth with, has fashioned solid defenses at every stop in his career.

Marshall severely missed Albert McClellan along the defensive line last year when he tore an ACL in the preseason and was lost for every game. Last season Marshall finished last in Conference USA in tackles for loss as well as sacks, but McClellan is back and looking to recapture the form that led to the Conference USA Defensive Player of the year honors in 2006. McClellan will likely get most of the attention on the line which will free up space for senior Ian Hoskins on the other end. Hoskins has good size at 6-2, 256-pound and if given some space has the ability to get to the quarterback.

The two defensive tackles are 6-5, 289-pound sophomore Johnny Jones and 6-1, 311-pound junior James Burkes. Jones is inexperienced but has the quickness and talent to be handful upfront. The defensive line's strength is in the pass rush, but because of the experience at the ends but they have a very leaky run defense. Look for the Mountaineers to give Marshall a steady dose of Noel Devine and Pat White in the game on Saturday to try and take advantage of the weak run defense.

Holding down linebacker position is 6-0 252-pound junior Mario Harvey. Harvey is a rugged run defender with a solid base, he's able to shed larger blockers and still make a play. In the middle is senior Maurice Harvey. Last year he had a break out year and turned into a very solid defender racking up 90 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and four sacks. Well-sized at 6-3, 247 pounds, he also has the range and closing speed to be a factor on the blitz. Brandon Burns plays on the strong side at linebacker weighting in at 6-4 204 pounds and played some safety last year. This line backing core is fast and agile and are well suited for a blitzing 3-4 scheme.

At strong safety, 5-10, 197-pound junior Ashton Hall is eyeing a big season in his second as a starter. As a seven-game starter, he finished fourth on the team with 66 stops, 2.5 of which were behind the line. He possesses the right blend of agility and physicality, but is not the best pass defender of the group. The star of the defense is C.J Spillman. Last season Spillman posted a team-high 131 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, and three forced fumbles en route to the All-Conference USA Second Team. Spillman is a big hitter who can cover at 6-0, 193-pounds. The weakness in the secondary is at cornerback. The two starters will be T.J Drakeford and DeQuan Bembry. Both are inexperienced and not great in pass coverage.

The Marshall defense hasn't seen the type of speed on that WVU has on offense. While the defense has had good showings, it was torched by Wisconsin. The WVU offense hasn't been the same high powered offense Mountaineer fans have been used to, but its 311-yard rushing performance against Colorado is encouraging. This is a weak run defense and another 300-yard rushing performance by the Mountaineers isn't out of the question.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Offense 21.7 ppg, Rushing Offense 213 ypg, Passing Offense 106.7 ypg, Total Offense 319.7 ypg

MU Scoring Defense 26.0 ppg, Rushing Defense 118.2 ypg, Passing Defense 308.5 ypg, Total Defense 426.8 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU defense vs. MU offense

This offense is different than in years past. First year coordinator John Shannon is installing an up-tempo, one-back offense that performed very well at Toledo. The weakness on offense for Marshall is on the offensive line. They are inexperienced and are getting better as the season goes on but there is nobody in that unit that should strike fear in the hearts of the West Virginia defense.. Marshall is, however, very deep at the skill positions and have gotten good quarterback play thus far this season.

Mark Cann will be under center for Marshall on Saturday and has played well this year. Cann is completing 53% of his passes and has thrown five touchdowns compared to three interceptions. Cann comes into the game hot. Against Southern Mississippi on the road, he threw for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the team's victory. Cann is not really a threat to run but is a good passer and has a strong arm and has the ability and playmakers around him to mmove the ball if given time. A redshirt freshman, he has performed above expectations and doesn't appear easily rattled.

Darius Marshall has been the go-to guy at running back this season for Marshall. Marshall has rushed for 417 yards so far this season on 92 caries for 4 touchdowns. Marshall is a darting, cut-back runner, he'll wait patiently until a play develops and follow his blockers through the hole. He also has 14 receptions out of the backfield this season.Chubb Small provides solid backup services and gives the Herd a solid one-two punch in the backfield.

At receiver senior Darius Passmore is a gifted overall athlete. Passmore weights in at 6-3, 186-pounds and posses legitimate 4.3 speed to get behind a secondary. He is Marshall's game-breaker in the passing game and can stretch the field as well as clear out the congestion for the underneath receivers. Passmore already has 412 yards receiving to go along with four touchdowns, and leads the naiton in receiving yards coming into the game. The other weapon in the passing game is tight end Cody Slate. Head Coach Bill Stewart referred to Slate as one of the best tight ends in the country earlier in the week and rightfully so. Slate only has one reception for 35 yards this year, having missed a chunk of the Herd's season due to injury, but he is dangerous and a big concern for the WVU defense.

Starting at tackle for Marshall will be Ryan Tillman and C.J Wood. Both tackles are freshmen and check in at 6-5, 280 pounds and 6-5, 300 pounds respectively. Starting at guard is 6-1, 301-pound senior Matt Altobello, a program guy and a former walk-on with limited game experience. Although he's been around for a while and knows the system, there's a reason it's taken this long for him to crack the regular lineup. At center replacing one of the best centers to play for Marshall is 6-1, 287 pound Brain Leggett who is a two-year starter at guard making the move inside. While not very big, he's quick off the snap and has the right level of experience and intelligence to make this transition work.

The Herd have some weapons that can hurt the Mountaineers but the major difference in this matchup will be upfront. While the defensive line of West Virginia hasn't been dominating this year they will have the edge on a rather inexperienced and less talented offensive line. If they can slow down Passmore in the passing game the Mountaineers should stop this offense consistently.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Defense 20.7 ppg, Rushing Defense 154.3 ypg, Passing Defense 229.3 ypg, Total Defense 383.7 ypg

MU Scoring Offense 25.0 ppg, Rushing Offense 171 ypg, Passing Offense 213 ypg, Total Offense 384 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU special teams vs. MU special teams

The kickers this year for Marshall are Craig Ratanamorn and Tyler Warner, who replaced the injured Ratnamorn in the Southern Mississippi game. Ratanamorn doubles as the goal keeper on the Herd soccer team. While leg strength isn't an issue, his accuracy and ability to deliver in the clutch are complete unknowns. Thus far this year is 1-1 in field goal attempts. Warner stepped in nicely nad made all of his kicks against USM, giving the Herd options for this week's game.

Handling the punting for Marshall is freshman Kase Whitehead who was one of the best punters in the country coming out of high school last season.

The return game is in the capable hands of Emmanuel Spann and sophomore Darius Marshall. Spann is the primary return man on punts and kickoffs, averaging 10.2 and 19.5 yards, respectively. While he's the steady option, Marshall provides breakaway potential on kickoffs, averaging almost 30 yards in his first season. Redshirt freshman DeQuan Bembry also returns punts and has the ability to go the distance.

WVU's kick coverage was excellent against Colorado, and will need to continue to excel to hold down opposing returners. Punter Pat McAfee is a huge weapon int he field position battle, averaging 41.8 net yards per punt.

By The Numbers
WVU Net Punting 41.8 yards per punt, Kickoff Returns 24.1 yards per return , Punt Returns 15.5 yards per return

MU Net Punting 36.8 yards per punt , Kickoff Returns 21.1 yards per return, Punt Returns 12.8 yards per return

Advantage: West Virginia

PICKS TO CLICK

On Offense: Noel Devine

On Defense: Scooter Berry

PREDICTION

I understand that West Virginia lost to Colorado last week, but there were some positives to take out of that game. The special teams played exceedingly well with the exception of the missed field goal, and the defense shut down Colorado for the bulk of the contest. On offense WVU certainly ran the ball well enough to win, but more balance is still needed Look for the Mountaineers to get back on track against Marshall as they take advantage of a weak run defense and pick up where they left off against Colorado on defense. Look for more play action out of the Mountaineer offense, especially on third short, which should help to loosen the defense.

WVU - 35 MU - 17


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