Inside Marshall Sports

Rich Rodriguez’s new role

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Can’t make this one up:

<<CBS SPORTS PRESENTS COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S NATIONAL SIGNING DAY

Wall-to-Wall Content Spread Across CBS Sports’ Television and Digital Properties Featuring Recruiting Expert Tom Lemming

Former Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez in Studio to Offer Insight and Analysis

CBS Sports is providing fans the most extensive multi-media coverage of college football’s annual National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 2 with in-depth content across CBS COLLEGE SPORTS NETWORK, CBSSPORTS.COM, MAXPREPS.COM and the CBSSPORTS.COM COLLEGE NETWORK. CBS College Sports Network offers seven hours of live television programming featuring recruiting expert Tom Lemming and guest analyst former Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.

CBSSports.com and MaxPreps.com will provide exclusive online coverage leading up to signing day along with breaking news and in-depth analysis on February 2.

>>

Tempting to record it for giggles … probably won’t, though.

Midnight Herd-WVU thoughts

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Ohhhhhh, what a night at the Civic Center. Where do I start?

— Tirrell Baines worked hard for four long years to get this one. Five offensive boards in this game was a manly accomplishment.

But I’m feeling he hasn’t gotten his due as a master at drawing the charging foul. He anticipates the driver’s path, gets himself planted in plenty of time and doesn’t worry about the contact. And I don’t recall him flopping very much in four years.

That charge he drew on Casey Mitchell with 1:26 left was as big as any. DeAndre Kane then got fouled and hit two at the other end to make it 67-58, allowing the Herd to absorb those silly 3-shot fouls.

— I swear I nearly voted Aundra Williams and his one point as the Herd’s MVP. He played a career-high 23 minutes — he had never played more than 16 against a Division I foe — and helped hold Deniz Kilicli scoreless in the final 28:28. When Kilicli scored four baskets in 21/2 minutes, I thought the Herd was in deep doo-doo.

— I wondered if Damier Pitts would rebound from missing the fall semester. I never dreamed he would do so this well!

— Do not, I repeat do NOT, get worked up about losing most of a 24-point lead. Not that is wasn’t appropriate to get worried while you’re watching it go to single digits, but don’t dwell over it now. You won. That is why you get 24-point leads if you can. The other team gives scholarships (in this case, Big East scholarships), and 24-point leads don’t guarantee a 40-point win.

One way I look at it: Did the trailing team ever have possession with a chance to tie or take the lead? In this case, no. Herd had ’em all the way.

— Do get worked up over this: Marshall’s record in games after beating WVU. I’ll have to add it up again, but I know it’s not good. And next up is Jeff Lebo’s East Carolina team, which just buried UCF in Orlando.

— The Knights are 1-3 in Conference USA. Guess Donnie J. needs to jack up the heat in his arena on everybody.

Reaction to Da Boss’ column

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If you haven’t seen it, Mitch Vingle’s column on the near-certain end to the Herd-WVU series.

And here is a sample of the reaction from Herd fans, as seen on Herdfans.com.

My question to the green-clad masses: Should MU officials even *bother* pursuing it?

Herd-WVU: Well, what do we have here?

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In this rare instance, I direct you to today’s Daily Mail, where WVU’s Mike Parsons tells us how tough it is to schedule nonconference opponents.

So let me get this straight: Parsons and Ed Pastilong give the “gas chamber” look when the WVU-Herd series is announced at the Capitol, WVU partisans scream to high heaven about the governor sticking his nose into it, the hoodlum element of the fan base come to Huntington to verbally abuse Marshall fans, wreck their tailgates, let air out of tires, etc., and calls for the series to end grow louder after the Mountaineers are put in jeopardy.

All this, keeping in mind that WVU dug deep, deep, deep into the Big South to schedule a team that is currently 1-4. And I see concern about filling the schedule?

No, no, no, no, no, no. I can’t let that one go.

Of course, I’m waiting for somebody to actually defend the practice of scheduling Coastal Carolina, paying them a few dozen used helmets and a Wal-Mart gift card … You know, the “self-sustaining” athletic department has to save a buck here and there. (By the way, I’d rip MU for scheduling that game. I like the Herd’s 2010 schedule because it lacks any FCS foe.)

It’s too common a practice. A whopping 71 FCS teams have taken the field in major-college stadiums, and Appalachian State would mop the turf with about 63 of them. More than a few are worse than WVU — Alabama should be disqualified from the BCS national championship game for bringing in *Georgia State* on *Nov. 20*, ostensibly under the guise of “homecoming.” As you may know, the Panthers are just getting off the ground under coach Bill Curry, who should know better himself.

I think this would be a great time for mid-major conferences that can to go to nine-game schedules, putting more guarantee-price pressure on the big boys. Probably won’t happen, but it’s a heck of a thought.

This issue may surface in my Monday column. We’ll see.

***

Haven’t written about it yet, but I did attend Marshall’s basketball practice. I have no idea, and I mean none, how well the Herd will do this season, but I know this: The coach isn’t boring … and he may have the most physical team in Herd history.

He ran practice Wednesday, and wore me out just watching him. At one point, he teaches his team about toughness, diving on loose balls, etc.

“Here we are right now.” (gently rolls ball along court, when walks over and picks it up)

“Here’s where we went to be in 9 days!” (rolls ball along court, then dives on it like a lion)

And then he gets the ball and starts yelling about last year’s team falling short of its goals. The last word I make out is “CBI” before he punts the ball over the seats in one corner. Got better hang time than Kase Whitehead, too.

Back to football, bad news for Herd fans: UCF beat the hell out of a better-than-average UAB team Wednesday night, 42-7. They looked so good, they impressed Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Bianchi, which isn’t easy to do.

Here is the Birmingham News account.

Grades for WVU game

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OFFENSE: B
Flagged late, but 203 first-half yards almost exceeded 2009 game total and blew the 2008 mark away. And get this: There were actually big plays. The one fumble hurt, and there were just two first downs afterward.

DEFENSE: B-
Flagged late, obviously, after forcing two turnovers and having a fourth-down stand. But damn, Vinny Curry and Mario Harvey were beasts, weren’t they? Look for Curry to be Conference USA player of the week in a losing effort.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Johnny Jones had his second blocked FG in two weeks, and has six in his career, and it gave the Herd a short field for another score. Kase Whitehead had a very good day in punting, and WVU didn’t hurt the Herd on returns.

But… returns were not good (is it me, or is Andre Booker running tentatively?). Kickoffs were better after the ill-advised pooch kick (aren’t they all ill-advised?). But the overriding factor: the game ended on a missed field goal. You can’t phrase that any other way.

QUARTERBACKING: B+
This grade may be too low. BA didn’t do much wrong, really. Three TDs, no picks, no sacks and a 96-yard TD. But … take the one long pass and you have 19-of-28 for 133 yards … solid but unspectacular.

COACHING: C-
Give the staff major props for preparation, and for fostering major improvement from the Ohio State game. The emotion was there, certainly.

I will forever shake my head at Tron Martinez getting his first carries as the Herd was trying to put WVU away, and then fumbling. On a lesser note, I’m not sure why George Carpenter was there to whiff on Noel Devine on third-and-goal at the 4.

OVERALL: D
I saw a lot of encouraging things, as far as Marshall’s ability to contend against the rest of the schedule. But I also saw the Thundering Herd’s star-crossed fan base taken another kick in the … ribs. Doc Holliday is right about one thing: That’s unacceptable.

Boise State, The Game and other thoughts

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I’ll say it: Congratulations on Boise State for making the upper crust of college football uncomfortable again.

It was funny to hear all last week on how the Broncos had not played before big crowds and how they were going to be overwhelmed by the Hokie faithful at FedEx Field.

I knew one thing, whether or not they had the horses to win: THEY DIDN’T CARE.

All their supposed small crowds last year were above average at the respective schools, and I’m sure they were jacked up over the thought of knocking off the WAC’s Godzilla. That’s the way it is, and it prepared the Broncos for anything.

(By the way, that Kellen Moore guy? He can run the two-minute offense, can’t he?)

The bad news: We are sentenced to a full season of people whining about Boise State’s schedule. I can recite it now, but I don’t have the energy.

But here’s the deal: I blame the hoity-toity BCS schools, not Boise, for that. Yes, I do.

If the big schools were more interested in giving their fans a good product instead of fattening up on cupcakes, Boise could have another beefier nonconference game or two. I see about a half-dozen SEC schools who could have invited the Broncos to play, and should have.

But instead, we have late-season “homecoming” opponents such as:

  • Georgia State (Alabama should be DQ’d from the BCS title game for that)
  • Chattanooga (Auburn)
  • Louisiana-Monroe (LSU)
  • Louisiana-Lafayette (OK, maybe it’s not a gimme for Ole Miss)
  • Idaho State (c’mon Georgia)
  • Charleston Southern (C’MON Kentucky)
  • Eastern Michigan (Vandy)

Outside the SEC, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the opportunity for one school to bring in this team instead of Coastal Carolina. Would have created a nice buzz around the state, don’t you think?

——————————

It might be the same caller I cited in my Monday column, but some genius got on Hoppy K’s show to say WVU should drop Marshall and pick up Virginia Tech. Nobody seems to mention the Chanticleers in this discussion, do they?

You know, adding Virginia Tech would be a wise move … IF THE HOKIES WANTED TO PLAY. Last time I heard, Frank Beamer got tired of the poor treatment in Morgantown and wanted the series to end. … From experience, I can’t blame him.

It was tough to listen Hoppy while out in my car this morning, because the callers were quite the bit whiny. But give the host kudos for vigorously defending his decision to air Friday’s show from Huntington, at the Student Center fountain. As he said, that’s where the story is, whether you like it or not.

Little hoops, some more footy

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Catching up on basketball … I guess the Herd didn’t get LeBron, right? Hey, his clock hasn’t started yet!

The big news is this: Much of the Henderson Center projects have  been finished including the lighting. There is NO MORE BUZZING! That was the only thing more abominable than the pooch kickoff at UCF.

The 14 scholarship players could get down to 13 in a hurry. Things may or may not work out for one of the juco imports. As you know, issues can and do pop up with those … Johnny Higgins is said to be fine, though.

… Summer school went well, with players racking up a 3.1 combined GPA, but there may be a touchy issue or two among the returning crew. We’ll see…

Looks like coach Tom Herrion and AD Mike Hamrick are going to have to take a deep breath and bring in two non-Div I foes to the Cam. Good news: I’ve heard who and I can safely bet they’re better than Rio Grande, Brescia and Salem International. … and they won’t cross state lines to get here.

Back to football. I wondered where Marshall was on its opponents’ schedule — in other words, what game they’ll come off of and who they play next. The chart follows:

Sept. 2 at Ohio State (Opener. Next: Miami, 9 days later.)
Sept. 10 West Virginia (Short week, but after Coastal Carolina. Next: Maryland)
Sept. 18 at Bowling Green (At Tulsa. Next: At Michigan.)
Sept. 25 Ohio (At Ohio State. Next: At Eastern Michigan.)

Oct. 2 at Southern Miss (At Louisiana Tech. Next: East Carolina)
Oct. 13 Central Florida (UAB, on Wednesday the 6th. Next: Rice, 10 days later)
Oct. 23 East Carolina (N.C. State. Next: at UCF … wow)
Oct. 30 UTEP (Tulane. Next: SMU)

Nov. 6 at UAB (at Southern Miss. Next: East Carolina, 5 days later)
Nov. 13 Memphis (Tennessee. Next: at UAB, the Battle for the Bones)
Nov. 20 at SMU (OFF WEEK after at UTEP. Next: at East Carolina, 6 days later)
Nov. 27 Tulane (UCF. Next: Season over.)

By my count, six MU opponents will be coming off tough games. WVU is certainly not one of them — I would perforate MU officials for scheduling Coastal Carolina. East Carolina will be slogging through it when the Herd arrives in Greenville, so that makes it very interesting. Worst break: SMU getting two weeks before the Herd’s seventh trip to the Lone Star State. Ugh.

Hey, WVU: Are you kidding me?

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You’ve probably already dissected this, but here is Dave Hickman’s recap of WVU’s latest NCAA infraction, allowing players to wear extra padding at the Mountaineers’ first preseason workout.

Are you kidding me? I really don’t care how minor this is, but WVU’s upcoming penalties should be doubled on grounds of general stupidity.

The rules on practices do not require an aeronautical engineering degree … which brings me to a Mark Snyder story I’ll let loose after four years.

It was Snyder’s first spring pratice, March 2006. In contrast to later years, he wanted a he-man, high-testosterone, survival-of-the-fittest spring. After Tuesday’s workout in sweats, he wanted to go all out for Thursday’s second practice, “Hoot ‘n’ Holler” drill and all.

The MU press regulars discussed this in the press box, wondering if that were legal. One writer was anal enough to have a pdf of the NCAA Division I Manual on his desktop, so we looked it up. Lo and behold, the first two spring drills are helmets, no other pads.

Sure enough, kickers and others got on the field Thursday afternoon fully equipped, in violation of the NCAA rule.

Nice, eh?

The writer with the NCAA manual on his desktop thought it over and decided he wasn’t in the mood to report on a rules trangression, no matter how minor. He picked up his phone and lobbed a call to David Reed in the compliance office.

Within minutes, somebody yelled out of the door in the Shewey Building and players bolted from the field. Everybody reported in helmets and sweats and all was well.

MU women getting *blasted*

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WVU took a 32-14 lead and are up 42-19 as I type this… I know the Mountaineers are ranked and all, and the Herd has a key injury, but … sheesh … you have to wonder if the new AD won’t take a long look at that program.

Before the UAB game

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First off, I jump in my car and the good folks on the MSN are having a long, drawn-out discussion about the officiating. I’m guessing they’re still hollering about Jarrett Brown getting knocked out. I figure if the jerseys were flipped, they’d be saying “clean hit.” And really, it was called correctly.

Montel Glasco is on the sidelines… searching for Jimmy Rogers and found him. He’s stretching doesn’t look bad.

Smallish crowd expected… one writer is muttering 16,000, though I’m not sure where he gets it. Aaron Goebbel, director of ticketing, did not return my call Friday (thus risking bad karma).

We were talking about the Tulsa-UTEP game, wondering if the Steelers could beat the Miners in El Paso … or if the Miners could beat Lincoln County on the road. (And that was my Friday night, watching Lincoln County score two touchdowns in the final three minutes to beat St. Albans).