— By David Walsh
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — Many of the regulars sat out the game. That gave players behind them a chance to show their stuff for one final time in Marshall’s annual Spring Game held Saturday afternoon at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Head coach Charles Huff found himself in the role of evaluator and he liked what he saw. The game featured Black against Green teams and Black prevailed, 24-17. White jerseys weren’t available since they were given to players after the Thundering Herd’s win over Connecticut in the Myrtle Beach Bowl last December. Quarters were 12 minutes with a running clock except for the final two minutes in the second and fourth quarters. Regulation pace was used then.
“I feel like now we have a holistic view of where our roster is,” Huff said. “In the spring, it kind of felt good to step back and get the aerial view and see a little bit of everything.”
The game attracted 5,577 fans.
DeMarcus McElroy led the Black team with 66 yards on six carries, including a 48-yarder that set up his 10-yard TD run.
“We finally got to show our stuff in front of a lot of people,” McElroy said. “It felt good. I haven’t run the ball like that in a while.”
“Took big steps we need to get where we want to be,” Huff said. “Some of the new guys continuously improve, some have an idea and some don’t know what to do. I get to truly evaluate. I’ve got volumes of clips to watch. Try to get them better to make us better. All showed some flashes. Most of the focus has to be on what we have to have. I’m proud of how they played.”
The Spring Game was the 15th practice in Marshall’s spring session. Now it’s time to finish school work and then enter offseason workouts as the players get ready for the 2023 season that starts Sept. 2 at home against Albany. The Black team gets treated to steak today and the Green team has to settle for hot dogs and beans.
Coaches continue to recruit and also prepare to examine the transfer portal.
“Who can play for us? Huff said. “Does he have what it takes to play for us. Roster management is critical. There is a balance.”
Quarterback Cam Fancher, running back Rasheen Ali, linebacker Eli Neal and defensive end Owen Porter are some of the starters who sat out the game. So two plays in, quarterback Cole Pennington finds Bryan Robinson for a 62-yard strike and running back Isaiah Gordon scored later on a 10-yard run for the Black.
“All quarterbacks made some improvement,” Huff said. “Each weeks the guys battle and get better. What we seek is consistency, process the speed of the game. Cam got a lot of help last year on the scout team facing the No. 1s all the time. He’s head.”
“It was a great opportunity to get reps in live action,” said Pennington, whose dad Chad, former standout Herd quarterback and first-round draft pick of the New York Jets, took in the action. “Last year I was just observing so this year, to be able to play in it, it was a good experience. Coach (Clint) Trickett always tells us to know what you’re doing – your assisgnment, your alignment – and get our there and go through your reads. Once you know what to do, do it fast.”
Other Herd quarterbacks who played were Chase Harrison and Maddex McMillen for Black and Cade Cunningham and Colin Parachek for Green. Cunningham hit 9-of-16 for 106 yards. Pennington was 3-for-8 for 101 with one pick. Harrison also had a TD pass.
On the ground, A.J. Turner and Maurice Jones had 74 yards each rushing for Green. Jones had a TD as did Parachek. For the Black, DeMarcus Harris had two catches for 83 yards and TD (54-yarder) and Robinson caught two for 66.
All players enjoyed being in the spotlight for one day.
“The offensive line made me look god and I try to make them look good,” Jones said. “It’s a chance to get the eyes in the front of the camera. Being on the scout team last year helped me get used to the college level.”
Robinson rode his scooter into the media room.
“It’s one-on-one. Come to me. I’m ready,” Robinson said of his message to Pennington. “He’s a good quarterback, has a bright future. I’m more comfortable. It’s go out and make plays.”
“Worked all spring for this,” Turner said. “The game feeling is different The pace is there and you have to have it.”
On defense, defensive back Jadarius Green-McKnight said the unit made strides under new defensive coordinator Jason Semore, who came in to replace Landy Guidry.
“I want to set the tone for the defense,” Green-McKnight said. “We had the coordinator change. Scheme’s same, attack the ball more.” He had four tackles and quarterback hurry. For the Black, A.G. McGhee led the charge with four tackles, two for loss. Dyoni Hill also had four stops.
Reece Verhoof and Sean Meisler each had a field goal.
Saturday started with the Spring Fountain ceremony at the Memorial Student Center. Roger Hollis, one of seven four-year letterwinners who played for the Young Thundering Herd, served as guest speaker. He is from Hazel Green, Ala. Marshall president Brad Smith and athletics director Christian Spears also spoke.