Match-Ups: WVU - Marshall

Marshall has several marquee players capable doing damage on Saturday. How will the Mountaineers combat the Herd's playmakers? Game Scorecard
Sat 10/17/09 3:30 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 4-1
Last Game
Syracuse W 34-13
TV: Big East Network
Radio: MSN
Record: 4-2
Last Game
Tulane W 31-10
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2009 Schedule

Series: WVU 8-0
First Meeting: 1911
Last Meeting: 2008
Press Release
Season Stats
2009 Schedule

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WVU offensive tackles Selvish Capers and Donny Barclay vs. Marshall defensive end Albert McClellan

McClellan, quite simply, is a difference maker for the Herd defense. When healthy (and he's expected to be back to full strength after suffering an ankle injury earlier this year), McClellan disrupts opposing offenses from his spot at the end of the Herd defensive front. Against the pass, he is an excellent rusher, leading the team in sacks with three. He also gets upfield and disrupts rushing plays, as his 5.5 tackles for loss attest. McClellan has an excellent first step that enables him to turn the corner on pass rushes, and when he engages blockers he uses his long arms to his advantage in creating leverage.

West Virginia figures to use several different tactics to combat the all-conference defender. In passing situations, look for West Virginia's tight ends to chip against McClellan at times before releasing into routes. Running backs will also likely stay in to provide extra protection for West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown. In most situations, however, it will come down to the man-to-man battles between West Virginia's tackles and McClellan. WVU must be fundamentally sound in order to keep Marshall's all-league defender at bay.

West Virginia will also likely use several different tactics in playcalling to try to blunt McClellan's aggressiveness. Outside screen passes, always a staple of WVU's attack, should get a look, and some inside traps are also likely to get a test. On those plays, which are designed to use a defender's aggressiveness against him, West Virginia will try to invite McClellan upfield and kick him out wide, then run inside him. Of course, he is a savvy veteran who has seen such plays before, so it won't be easy to catch him with these tactics.

WVU pass defense vs. Marshall tight end Cody Slate

Marshall no doubt has been studying the West Virginia – Colorado game film, and noted the success the Buffaloes had in throwing the ball to their tight ends.

Sidney Glover
The Herd figures to use Slate in a couple of different ways against the Mountaineers. First, it will certainly use him on crossing patterns between the linebackers and defensive backs – an area of the field that WVU has struggled to defend consistently. It will also try to get Slate matched up against West Virginia's linebackers in man coverage, where he has a decided speed advantage. Even getting WVU's strong safeties into the coverage act might not be as much of an antidote as is needed, as Slate has the speed and savvy to get open against all but the fastest of defensive backs.

Slate's biggest attribute is the fact that he can run any sort of route. He can post up on the sideline, run short routes underneath the coverage, and get downfield in a hurry. That makes him very difficult to defend, and almost impossible to cover with the same player consistently. In order to slow him down, WVU will have to disguise its coverages and confuse Marshal quarterback Brian Anderson, and perhaps force some misreads as Slate tries to find openings in the coverage. However, just like McClellan, Slate is an experienced player who has pretty much seen it all in terms of different coverage schemes.

West Virginia's linebackers and safeties will have to try to disrupt Slate's timing on deep routes and tie him up off the line as much as possible. If he gets free releases into his pass routes, he is even more difficult to cover.


Of course, containing Herd running back Darius Marshall is a primary concern for West Virginia's defense, and one of the key methods of doing so will be to tackle crisply. WVU has been hit and miss in this area in 2009, and too many of the latter will see the Herd's star runner getting extra markers against the Mountaineer defense. Marshall is very good at shedding tackles and getting yards after contact, so this aspect of WVU's rushing defense looks to be one of the key factors in the contest. If the Mountaineers can limit Marshall's second chance yardage, it will have a much better chance of winning the game.

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This match-up of strengths (WVU's run defense vs. Marshall's running game) leads to an interesting strategic question. Will the Herd keep trying to run the ball if West Virginia is successful in shutting down the run, or will it throw the ball more, even though that hasn't been their strength to date?

Of course, the Herd isn't without weapons in the passing game, and it was very efficient (18-24 for 207 yards) in its win against Tulane. Will it continue in that direction, or will it test its running game early and often? It won't be a surprise to see the Herd spread the ball around in the passing game early and try to keep West Virginia from ganging up against the run. The Mountaineers, however, have shown the ability to keep their defensive focus and achieve their primary goal of forcing teams to be one-dimensional.

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With the anticipated battle of the running backs (Marshall and West Virginia's Noel Devine) and the other face-offs highlighted above, there's one position that hasn't been discussed a great deal. That's Marshall's quarterback, Brian Anderson. Despite the lack of attention, his play could wind up being one of the biggest factors in the contest. It won't be a surprise to see Marshall and Slate be productive, or McClellan to make some plays. But if Anderson can have the same sort of performance he had against Tulane, the Herd will have a chance of gaining its first-ever win in the series. West Virginia will need to keep Anderson off balance and generate a pass rush, if not actual sacks, to keep Anderson from setting his feet and getting comfortable in the pocket.

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