Inside Marshall Sports

As I watch this butt-kicking …

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I wonder how ECU won down in Greenville (well, besides 9 3-pointers). Also, I believe I misstated ECU’s road losing streak… It’s just short if *three* calendar years. I’m still writing 07 on my checks. ­čÖé

Mack McCarthy is coming …

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Great guy, really… Ran into him a lot the year he was the analyst on the Thundering Herd TV network (may it rest in peace). He often joked that he learned the hard way about his odd little predecessor, Murray Arnold, and told stories about the MU student section back in the day.

As you may know, he’s serving in an interim capacity, though ECU doesn’t use the “i” word. His status will be determined at season’s end. Shoot, that’s a nearly impossible gig — he has doubled last year’s conference win total at two.

For a little trip down memory lane, here are Mack’s previous 12 trips to the├é┬áHenderson Center, all with UT-Chattanooga:

1/25/86 — UTC 81, Herd 74
1/24/87 — Herd 94, UTC 81
2/29/88 — Herd 93, UTC 77 (UTC later knocks out Herd in So. Conf. semifinal in infamous 71-70 game)
2/12/89 — UTC 79, Herd 78
1/13/90 — Herd 86, UTC 83 (OT)
1/12/91 — UTC 77, Herd 72
2/10/92 — UTC 76, Herd 75
1/9/93 — Herd 78, UTC 77
2/14/94 — UTC 81, Herd 77
1/7/95 — Herd 95, UTC 83
1/22/96 — Herd 86, UTC 69 (Later, MU knocks out UTC in SC quarterfinals … Billy D was 4-1 against the Mocs)
12/23/96 — Herd 90, UTC 83 (MU later hands UTC the SC championship game)

About that kicker …

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After the signing day stuff, I chatted briefly with the soccer player who is joining the football team for spring practice. Turns out I did identify him correctly from the pressbox, goalkeeper Craig Ratanamorn.

He is a junior from Wichita, Kan., and I guess he would have 2 years eligibility in football. He is a scholarship player (that schollie gets charged to the football team if he sticks around) who hasn’t kicked in competitive football since high school. Says soccer was getting a little stale for him, and he picked up a football and kicked a little. The├é┬áweight coaches saw him and encouraged him to chase the dream.

You may have read a note I had last fall about the kicker, banging 50-yarders and sneaking one over from 60. You never know how he’ll do in live fire, but the leg is there.

I couldn’t resist the fun of telling him about the Merrick brothers, etc.

Yes, John Shannon’s in the house

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Already in Huntington, on the job. Full announcement in the morning, but there it is. … A spread maestro who has put up good numbers the last three years at Toledo.

Much more on that for Thursday a.m., plus the recruits and everything else.

The morning after

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So much for my Super Bowl prediction, right? But the upset scenario happened the way I thought it might: The Giants’ defensive front positively whipped the Patriots’ O-line. If you could ever logically pull it off, that D-line should have been named the game’s MVP.

A few former Marshall opponents came into play here: You may remember Troy State’s Osi Umenyiora, who was a senior in 2002, and Toledo OT Nick Kaczur. Kaczur once blew me off for an interview before the ’02 MAC championship, so I’m glad the negative karma is still coming into play. (yuk, yuk)

You think Ahmad Bradshaw is rethinking his decision to turn pro now? Of course not… Wow! The├é┬ávision that will be planted in my head forever is Bradshaw wrestling the football back after his fumble. Really, the Patriots recovered, but the officials did not catch it — and having once been a zebra, I can testify that fumbles aren’t easy to call. Sometimes, you peel the players off the pile and whover has the ball, that’s what you go with.

This play illustrates the fight Bradshaw has in him, even more than I realized. This man really, really earned his ring, IMO.

A Darius Watts sighting

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He has signed with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena league… Here’s another interesting note: Phil Elmassian has been├é┬áhired as co-offensive coordinator at Louisiana-Monroe.

You may remember Elmassian from when he coached outside LBs at Marshall, a year after serving a tumultuous 2001 as WVU’s defensive coordinator. Stunningly enough, he stayed four years in one place, getting let go at Nebraska when Bill Callahan was canned.

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Best development: A consistent hook shot off the glass from Tyler Wilkerson, which he used to beat 7-footer Jerome Jordan a few times. It’s about time he started showing up on a consistent basis, and will be the lead item from my Friday column in the a.m.

Word from the Herd camp is he’s simply practicing a lot better these days. It makes me wonder: Is Donnie Jones’ workouts that much more intense than those of Ron Jirsa? Hmmmmmm…

Worry du jour: Rebounding. Tulsa had 18 offensive rebounds, and WVU had 17 against the Herd. Much can be pinned to Markel Humphrey being absent, then playing at less than 100 percent, but his teammates must hit the boards with more fervor.

Saturday’s rematch with UAB will be a big barometer in that department. The Blazers are no doubt being reminded about getting drilled on the boards in their loss in Huntington.

The upcoming road swing to UAB and UCF is not for the faint of heart. Assuming the Herd loses both, here’s a bit of good news: It probably will not fall below its current 7th spot, perhaps getting tied by Southern Miss. If it picks off a win, a run at the top four suddenly looks possible.

After the UCF game, Marshall is home for four of five, with the roadie at SMU.

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Did hear from an official source that Rick Minter has been offered the job as defensive coordinator, which wouldn’t be a bad catch for Mark Snyder. The deal is not final, I am told.

The offensive coordinator post should be filled in about a week, I am told, perhaps coinciding with or just after signing day.

Later tonight, I’ll chime in a little bit about Marshall’s much-needed win over Tulsa…

In response to James’ comment, it looks more and more like Bernard Morris will get drafted. I saw one projection that he might go in Round 6, but stay tuned … we haven’t even gotten to the Combine yet.

B. Morris heading to Combine

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While I await a chat from Donnie Jones, here’s a little tidbit: Bernard Morris is headed to the NFL Combine. Not a big surprise, but he continues to stick it in his detractors’ collective ear … I’m trying to see if Doug Legursky is getting a Combine invite, and he needs one. One projection I saw has him going in the 7th round, much lower than we were looking at way back in the preseason.

Still flabbergasted over MU-WVU

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OK … the Herd has Robbie Jackson and Jesse Oglesby on the floor at the same time and it has a chance to beat WVU. Even with WVU’s wretched free-throw shooting, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Donnie Jones has had a very, very impressive week. Without Markel Humphrey, the Herd really shouldn’t have beaten UAB, even at home.

Some thoughts that may creep into print in some form, in the days and weeks ahead:

  • I wondered if Adam Williams’ defensive specialist role was a one-time thing for UAB. Wrongo… Question is, who does he chase Saturday night at Houston? Those guys really like to yack it up!
  • Don’t bust on Williams too much over Da’Sean Butler’s game-winning basket. He had to worry about Butler taking it to the rim, not to mention the officials.
  • There were 52 fouls called by the itchy-whistled officiating crew. If you get the guys who called the MU-UAB game, you get half that. Trust me — that was a 40-minute rugby scrum.
  • One thing about Jesse Oglesby, who played a whopping 13 minutes: He’ll give it a go defensively. And when he fouls you, you’re going to know it.
  • I still think Darryl Merthie can end up being very, very good. Still capable of an ugly turnover or hideous miss, but the man can create havoc on the way to the hoop. His development is a good test for Jones and his staff (most notably, Brett Nelson).
  • If you’re wondering why Oglesby got all that late time instead of Jean Francois Bro Grebe, I point to Bro Grebe’s first time on the floor. He looked very lost on defense on two WVU possessions.
  • I feel sorry for the fans who had to exit through the Civic Center lobby. A little ice-melting material goes a long way there. Thankfully, I’m about the last person out of the building and I never have to worry about traffic.