Aug. 26, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Aaron Dobson will play in the last Marshall-West Virginia football game, at least for the foreseeable future. He can’t wait for it to start.
The Marshall senior wide receiver also has a hard time believing his home state’s major college series is going to end.
“It is kind of sad,” Dobson said after the Thundering Herd finished preseason camp Saturday at Edwards Stadium. “It’s always a big game. I feel like the state always looks forward to West Virginia-Marshall and this being last year, it kind of stinks.
“But whatever, first or last, we’ve still got to get a win, then I’m hoping they’ll renew the contract. It definitely is going to be a big game, and I do feel kind of sad we’re not going to play each other anymore for a while.”
Dobson, from Dunbar, figures to be one of two Mountain State starters for Marshall when the Herd visits 11th-ranked West Virginia at Mountaineer Field at noon Saturday (FX telecast) for the last date in the seven-game Friends of Coal Bowl contract. The other is strongside linebacker Raheem Waiters, of Quincy.
WVU’s depth chart, revealed last week, also lists two in-state starters on offense and defense – left guard Josh Jenkins of Parkersburg and linebacker/defensive end hybrid Tyler Anderson of Morgantown. Mountaineer punter and kickoff man Corey Smith is from Inwood.
And while the rivalry and its stoppage will be punted back and forth from zealous fans of both teams, Marshall players seem to be more focused on what this opener could mean to them under third-year Coach Doc Holliday, a former WVU player and assistant coach.
“Ha-ha,” Waiters started when asked about the end of the rivalry. “You know, I don’t know if it’s much of a sad feeling, but it’s more of – thinking in my head – that I want to go out and get this win.
“I definitely always rooted for Marshall to win (the Coal Bowl) because they were the underdog, or seemed to be the underdogs. I just always wanted Marshall to win. I think it’s a great game, but I went to some camps up there, didn’t like it anyway. I’m glad to be here.
“It would be great (if the Herd could end WVU’s 11-0 domination in the series). We walk around campus all of the time, and people notice football players, obviously, and they support us so much and they want us to get this win real bad.”
The Herd has 13 West Virginia natives on the 2012 preseason camp roster, and that number could grow a bit this week as invited walk-ons who have their required paperwork completed could join the team since classes begin Monday.
One of those who has been through three weeks of camp is a walk-on himself, fullback Zach Wellman of Huntington and Spring Valley High. Wellman, a redshirt sophomore, seems of a mind that it doesn’t matter whether the Herd is playing West Virginia, Western Carolina or Western Michigan in the opener.
“Not really,” Wellman said when asked if he were unhappy about the end of the Marshall-WVU series. “I came here to win games and play ball, and I’m not really worried about a rivalry. It kind of stinks, but I’m just going to go with the flow.”
Dobson, who is on preseason watch lists for the Senior Bowl and Biletnikoff Award, wasn’t recruited by West Virginia when he starred at South Charleston High. It was the same for Waiters at Riverside High.
“They didn’t look at me at all,” Dobson said of the Mountaineers. “To me being in-state, it kind of got to me a little bit that they didn’t show any interest or anything like that. But I’m at a place where I don’t regret coming here at all.
“I’ve had a good career and I’m looking forward to my last season. I feel like this was the right choice, this place was for me and I can’t wait to play in the game, because it’s bigger for me because I’m from the state, and I feel like I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.”
Dobson has 10 receptions for 142 yards in his last two meetings with West Virginia, after playing as a backup in the 2009 game, his freshman season. His 96-yard scoring reception from quarterback Brian Anderson in the Herd’s home overtime loss to WVU in 2010 shares a Mountaineer opponent record for longest reception with Marvin Harrison’s 96-yarder from Donovan McNabb of Syracuse in 1995.
Meanwhile, the 2012 opener figures to be the first career start at linebacker for Waiters, a sophomore who played primarily on special teams a year ago.
That’s why his first Coal Bowl – he didn’t play in last season’s rain- and lightning-twice interrupted loss in Morgantown -- is special to him.
“It’s so exciting,” Waiters said, “to have the chance to go out and be a starter, to get to show I can play the position.”
Yes, for a lot of reasons, this last football “Rivalry Week” for a while should be interesting in the Mountain State.