— By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Marshall’s football team is four days away from opening the 2022 season when it plays host to the Norfolk State Spartans on Saturday, but the Thundering Herd has already rehearsed what game day will be like.
Second-year head coach Charles Huff prepared his team for this week’s contest by conducting a mock game last Saturday. It wasn’t a normal scrimmage, but dealt with situations such as how to react after a turnover or a touchdown, replacing players who lose their helmet during a play and even participating in postgame press sessions.
“With 48 new guys and some new coaches and staff members, we needed to run everyone through a game day process,” Huff said. “It allows us to eliminate some game day anxiety and we got a lot of work out of it.”
Marshall has yet to officially announce a starting running back in place of Rasheen Ali, who remains away from the team and expected to miss the early portion of the season.
Florida State transfer Khalan Laborn is expected to get the bulk of the carries in place of Ali, along with sophomore Ethan Payne.
Regardless of who becomes the primary ball carrier with Ali out of action, Huff believes a lot can be learned from Ali’s position at this point last season.
“A year ago, he was on the third team and he didn’t start at Navy,” Huff said. “You never know when your opportunity will come and what you will do with that opportunity is up to you.
“These guys are chomping at the bit.”
Marshall coaches are warning the team to not overlook Norfolk State, an FCS opponent from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference coming off a 6-5 season in 2021. The Herd travels to No. 5 Notre Dame next week for a nationally-televised contest on NBC.
“It doesn’t matter who you play, but if you want to win a championship, you can’t overlook anyone,” Huff said. “If you do, you have inconsistencies in performance so you must take advantage of all opportunities since you have only 12 guaranteed chances to do this each season.”
As the week proceeds, Huff is confident that his team will be ready for the 3:30 p.m. affair at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
“We’ll use this week to maximize what we’ve done in fall camp,” Huff said. “I feel like we’re in a really good spot.”