Aug. 28, 2006
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Marshall will travel to Morgantown on Saturday to open the 2006 football season against nationally-ranked West Virginia in the first Friends of Coal Bowl.
A sell-out crowd and an ESPN Regional (GamePlan) television audience will watch the Mountain State's two largest universities battle for bragging rights and the Governor's Trophy.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. with Dave Sims, John Congemi and Mark Martin calling the action. Stations carrying the game in West Virginia are: WCHS, WOAY, WTOV, STAP, WJAL, WTAE and WVFX.
Nearly 208 miles separate Huntington from Morgantown, however the two schools have met on the gridiron only five times, and only once in the modern era of college football (1997).
The 1997 Marshall-West Virginia game, played on August 30 at Mountaineer Field, was Marshall University's first game as a Division I-A program. Since the inception of the 1-AA classification in the 1970's, Marshall competed at the 1-AA level and built itself into one of the nation's premier programs at that level, winning national titles in 1992 and in 1996.
A crowd of 65,492, WVU's largest home crowd that season, watched as the Don Nehlen-led Mountaineers pulled out a 42-31 win victory over Bob Pruett's Thundering Herd.
WVU opened the contest with a blocked punt that Gary Thompkins returned 28 yards for a touchdown and built 28-3 lead early in the second quarter only to have the Thundering Herd storm back with 28 unanswered points to take a 31-28 lead into the fourth quarter. WVU answered two fourth quarter scores to pull off the victory. A sophomore quarterback by the name of Chad Pennington led Marshall that day by completing 19 of 48 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns, while Amos Zereoue led WVU with 174 rushing yards and three scores.
The game featured a talented group of players on both sides of the ball. In fact, more than 20 players in that contest went on to the NFL. Among them were Marshall's Rogers Beckett, Doug Chapman, Mike Guilliams, Chris Hanson, Giradie Mercer, Randy Moss, Andre O'Neal, Chad Pennington, Jason Starkey, Paul Toviessi, and John Wade. Among the future NFL players for WVU in 1997 were Amos Zereoue, Marc Bulger, John Thornton, Gary Stills, Solomon Page, Jerry Porter, Henry Slay and Anthony Becht.
Marshall vs. Ranked Opponents: Marshall is 3-9 all-time against nationally-ranked Division I-A opponents. The highest-ranked team ever to lose to MU, and the Herd's last win over a nationally-ranked opponent, was #6 Kansas State on Sept. 20, 2003 (27-20 in Manhattan, Kansas).
Brother vs. Brother, Father-Son, Hometown Return: Marshall and WVU feature several interesting connections. For instance, Marshall freshman defensive lineman Chad Clay, from South Charleston, W.Va., has an older brother that will be wearing Blue and Gold on Saturday - WVU sophomore WR Cody Clay ... Former Marshall standout linebacker Rick Meckstroth, who lettered at MU from 1971 to 1973, will see his son Aaron, a senior reserve safety suit up for the Mountaineers ... Marshall sophomore Cody Tominack (Wheeling) origonally attended WVU before transfering to MU ... Also, Marshall's roster features two Morgantown natives in junior safety Geremy Rodamer and sophomore tight end Joe Bragg.
At Home in the West Virginia Hills: Marshall's roster features 23 players from West Virginia. The Thundering Herd's 23 in-state players are:
Geremy Rodamer* (Morgantown), Hiram Moore (Huntington), Nick Newell (Wayne), John Saunders (Huntington), Paco Jones (Bluefield), Austin Peters (Beckley), Antoine Cabarrus (Huntington), Cody Tominack (Valley Grove), Will Albin* (Princeton), Daniel Wells (Bluefield), Josh Evans (Fayetteville), Matt Altobello (Keyser), Doug Legursky* (Beckley), Zach Hensley (Chapmanville), Bradley Roberts (Poca), James Burkes (Charleston), Seth Cook* (Gilbert), Brett Traylor (Wheeling), Chad Clay (South Charleston), Marcus Moresea (Ravenswood), Joe Bragg (Morgantown), Matt Morris* (Beckley) and Shavar Greer* (Beckley).
* - denotes projected starters.
Rodriguez Knows the Herd: While WVU head coach Rich Rodriguez has never faced MU as a head coach, he has seen the Herd up close. Rodriguez was offensive coordinator at Clemson under Tommy Bowden in 1999. That season, Marshall opened the year with a 13-10 win in Death Valley to start a perfect 13-0 season that ended with a win over BYU in the Motor City Bowl and a Top 10 national ranking.
Season Openers: Marshall is 20-6 in season openers since 1980. The Thundering Herd is also 2-2 in season opening road games since moving to Division I-A status in 1997 with wins over Akron and Clemson and losses at WVU and Florida.
Marshall vs. WVU: Marshall and WVU will renew their football rivalry this season, however the two schools annually do battle in several other sports. Last year, MU and WVU faced off in team competition in five different sports, with the Herd holding a 3-2 edge. The Marshall men's basketball team downed then No. 9 WVU in the annual Toyota Capital Classic in Charleston (58-52). Marshall also defeated WVU in women's tennis (6-1) in Huntington and in women's volleyball (3-1) in Charleston. WVU won in women's basketball (72-58) in Charleston and in women's swimming and diving (159-135) in Huntington. The two schools did not meet in baseball or men's and women's soccer.
Mountain State Match-ups: Marshall University will be playing the Mountaineers for only the sixth time this season, however Marshall has a long record of playing in-state schools in its history. Marshall has played Bethany, Concord, Davis & Elkins, Fairmont State, Glenville State, Charleston (Morris Harvey), Salem, WVU, West Virginia State, West Virginia Tech, and West Virginia Wesleyan. While MU has not played many of the schools since the 1930s and 1940s, Marshall holds an all-time record of 71-31-7 against other West Virginia schools.