If you just look at today’s game on paper, Marshall doesn’t have a chance. In the nine previous matchups since 1997 there has always been at least one factor, on paper at least, that favored The Herd. In 1997, Marshall had Chad Pennington and Randy Moss, a couple of guys that went on to play in the NFL for a few years.
The game was played in Huntington in 2007, Jarrett Brown was knocked out of the game in 2009 and last year’s game was back at Joan C. Edwards Stadium and new Marshall Coach Doc Holliday had intimate knowledge of the WVU offense.
This year, there’s nothing. Odds makers are listing WVU as a three touchdown favorite and when you start to examine the stats, history is not on the side of The Herd.
Let’s start with new head coach Dana Holgorsen’s offense at Oklahoma State last year. The Cowboys averaged over 520 yards a game, 345 yards passing and 45 points per game. His offenses can move the ball to say the least.
Holgorsen’s offense is simple and designed to score quickly. The unintended consequence of such an offensive scheme is the opposing offense will also get plenty of chances to respond. With true Freshman Rakeem Cato at quarterback, don’t be surprised if Marshall relies heavily on its deep backfield. Tron Martinez, Travon Van, Essray Talifero and Martin Ward give Doc Holliday four backs that can be rotated into the game. Establishing the running game benefits The Herd by chewing some time off the clock, which limits WVU’s offensive opportunities, and opens up the passing game.
Marshall cannot let things get out of hand early. Holliday does not want to find himself in a situation where he has to solely rely on the passing game and the WVU defense can pin its ears back and attack Cato. Given the chance WVU’s Bruce Irvin will make Cato’s debut a rough one. He had 18 sacks, good enough for second in the nation.
Even with everything seemingly stacked against The Herd, the players are confident. They believe they are prepared and believe they match up well with the Mountaineers.
Do they? Well, I guess we’ll have the answer later this evening.