—By Bill Cornwell
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — After a month of practices and scrimmages, Marshall’s football team is gearing up to go against unfamiliar faces across the line of scrimmage.
That starts Saturday night when the University of Albany come to Huntington to face the Herd.
Game time at Joan C. Edwards Stadium is 6 p.m., and the game can be seen on ESPN+.
This is the first meeting between Marshall and Albany.
“I loved the way guys were consistent and the way they showed up every day during fall camp,” third-year Marshall head coach Charles Huff said. “Every day, they showed up with the right focus and intensity. When you show up with those things consistently, then you’ll improve. We stayed healthy and that’s a big piece moving into the season. Now, we’ve got to put it all together.”
Although many jobs were settled for the Herd coming into fall camp, Huff said veterans and youngsters brought intensity into battles for playing time that he believes will pay off later this season.
“Them having a competition gives them a little bit of an edge because they know what they’re going to do in a game situation,” Huff said. A lot of our guys are brand new so we think we know how they’ll do. It’s all going to come down to how we prepare and how hard we play on Saturday. The new guys are buying into that and the older guys understand it.”
Marshall’s defense was one of the nation’s best last year, particularly in points allowed and stopping the run.
That defense is led this year by three key returnees that earned preseason All-Sun Belt Conference 1st Team honors —defensive end Owen Porter, linebacker Eli Neal and defensive back Micah Abraham. The unit is now led by defensive coordinator Jason Semore, who came to Marshall from Georgia Tech.
“We talk about standards,” Huff said. “If you aren’t practicing, preparing or playing at that level, our veterans will let you know about it. That helps our coaches focus on teaching techniques. Now we have to go out and execute.”
Marshall is on a five-game win streak coming into the 2023 season after going 4-0 in November last fall and winning the Myrtle Beach Bowl against Connecticut.
“It means nothing because a lot of the guys on that team are gone,” Huff said. “This team needs to establish its identity, although we can learn a lot from the past. What we’re creating will be owned by this team.”
The Great Danes protected their home field in last Saturday’s season opener by beating Fordham, 34-13.
Quarterback Reese Poffenbargar threw four touchdown passes and wide receiver Roy Alexander caught six balls for 58 yards and two touchdowns.
Anton Juncaj and AJ Simon dominated on defense as both finished with three sacks, while Juncaj added a forced fumble in the first half.
There is plenty of anticipation among Herd fans for the 2023 season, evidenced by the fact that the September 23 home game against Virginia Tech has already been declared a sellout.
“We love the passion and energy of the fans,” “The traditions here are great such as the Thunder Walk and tailgating in the West Lot. Our program brings the community together.”