With no additional match-ups between the schools scheduled at this point, the Mountaineers will look to keep their undefeated record against the Herd.
West Virginia University Head Football Coach
Dana Holgorsen said the clash could feature strategies from both sides that opponents
“Who knows what we’re going to do
offensively right, nobody knows for sure, but we may throw something out there
that they haven’t seen before, defensively it’s widely known we’re running a
3-4 defense, but what’s that mean and I’m sure their defensive coaches have
been studying football across the country for the last 6-7 months and came up
with some different things that they’re going to do against us,” Holgorsen
WVU enters the
season opener with Marshall fresh off a 10-3 record that culminated with a
70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. Marshall finished last season with a 7-6
record and a Beef O’Bradys Bowl victory against Florida International. For Marshall's head football coach Doc Holliday, there is only one certainty in the
matchup: that’s the explosiveness of WVU’s offense which ranked in the top 20
in almost every important category.
“They got great players at every
position, Geno Smith is probably the best quarterback in the country, has a shot
at winning the Heisman and is picked to be player of the year in the Big 12
conference and if it wasn’t him, it would probably be Tavon so we know we’ve got
a great challenge ahead of us and our preparation will continue till noon on
Saturday,” Holliday said.
In 2011’s season opener the Mountaineers
took down the Herd 34-13 in a contest shortened because of lightning storms.
WVU is 8-0 since 2003 in home openers, and enters the season ranked 11th in
both USA Today and Associated Press preseason polls. Holgorsen expects a
challenge from a Marshall squad rejuvenated by a bowl victory and its first
7-win season since 2003.
“They won some close games last year
like we did and got themselves to a bowl game and won their bowl game which is
always a positive from a momentum stand point, so I would expect them to be a
better football team than they were last year,” Holgorsen said.
The Herd is led by senior wide receiver Aaron
Dobson, a Biletnikoff Award candidate for best receiver in the country. Marshall
will also depend on sophomore quarterback Rakeem Cato who gained valuable
experience as a true freshman last year in the season opener against WVU. Coach
Holliday’s biggest worry though is slowing a quarterback he recruited while an
assistant at WVU under former coach Bill Stewart, Geno Smith.
“I think defensively we played pretty
well, but unfortunately you have to be able to get them off the field on third
down and we didn’t do a very good job of doing that. I think at times Geno hurt
us when he got out of the pocket and broke containment and ran a little bit. Hopefully this year we’re a little more athletic on that second level at safety
and other positions where hopefully we can run him down and tackle him and get
him on the ground,” Holliday said.
Changes Holliday mentions are the
addition of two transfer safeties from Boston College along with a transfer
from Penn State that will fit in as cornerback. The changes at safety have
allowed the Herd to shift some of last year’s safeties to linebacker and become
more athletic at the linebacker position.
“The thing is they’re going to get their
catches and they’re going to make some plays, but the thing you have to try to
do defensively is limit the big plays and when they do catch it try to
eliminate the yards after catch, tackle them and get them on the ground and do
a good job there because if you think you’re going to go out there and stop
that offense you’re not, you just have to try to eliminate big plays and tackle
them when they get the ball in their hands,” Holliday said.
WVU’s Holgorsen said his team is just
ready to hit and tackle someone else besides themselves.
“We’ve played a lot of football against
each other here over the last four weeks. We’ve probably played more live
situations in the last four weeks than I’ve ever been a part of, so I think
we’re as fully prepared as we possibly can be,” Holgorsen said.
The Herd and Mountaineers kickoff at noon
tomorrow on FX.