Oct. 8, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - You're driving toward a college football stadium, and often it's a familiar sight:
Someone - or more than one - will be waving a sign that reads, "I NEED TICKETS."
This Saturday, when fans approach FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, Fla., those people holding the signs might be dressed in green garb. They might be Marshall football players ... only kidding.
Coach Doc Holliday wouldn't allow that, of course, but the clamor from Sunshine State natives - there are 34 of them on the Thundering Herd roster -- this week is loud for the meeting with the Florida Atlantic Owls (2-4, 1-3) , the first of two Conference USA trips to south Florida this season for Marshall (3-2, 1-0).
Veteran Herd defensive end Alex Bazzie, who got his degree this May and is taking graduate school classes, admits he has studied the dealing for ducats this week, and laughs about it.
"It's fun just watching all these guys scramble all around like chickens with their heads cut off, looking for tickets," Bazzie said Monday during the Herd players' interview session. "It's hilarious. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that problem.
"They've got mom, dad, brother, sister in the stands. I hope they're as aggressive on the field as they've been with these tickets. I sure do."
Easy for Bazzie to say ... He's from Silver Spring, Md.
Each Herd player receives four comp tickets to each game. Four isn't enough for most of these guys, some of whom were thinking way ahead for a schedule that includes games at FAU (Saturday at 5 p.m.) and Nov. 23 in Miami against FIU.
Evan Florida Atlantic coach Carl Pelini addressed the impending "Herd homecoming" - a first Marshall venture to FAU Stadium, a future C-USA bowl venue -- at his Monday news conference.
"They are probably excited," Pelini said in what is a major understatement. "It seems like they will have a large contingent here supporting them. A lot of our guys know them. We were watching films last night and a number of our guys were saying I know him and him and I played with him. It will be a good game in that respect."
Some of the Herd hustlers - so to speak - aren't even from Florida. Take defensive tackle Jarquez Samuel, who is from Valdosta, Ga., which is 16 miles north of the Florida state line and some 400 miles from FAU Stadium.
He was badgering Bazzie about FAU seats months ago.
"Ha-ha-ha," Bazzie said when asked about distributing his tickets. "He said, `I hope you don't forget. Believe it or not, this goes way back to the summertime. We've got guys like Jarquez Samuel. He made a list and he comes up to the guys this week, and says, `It's on my list, pass it over.'
"No choice about it, you've got to pass it over. It's funny, they've been looking forward to this game, they get to go home and see their families, put on a show for their home state, and I'm happy they get a chance to go home."
Yeah, but redshirt sophomore Samuel is an out-of-stater, right?
"He's from Georgia, but he's so close he's like, `My family's not missing this one. I got your four tickets, right?' And I said, `You got `em, you got `em.' At first it was just a first-come, first-serve thing with me.
You give tickets to one guy and it's, `Oh, I'm not your friend, too (from another player)? I can't get a ticket?' ... Jarq beat `em all, he went ahead and got me on his list."
From two lines back on the Herd defense, Miamian A.J. Leggett tried to pull a safety squeeze.
"A.J. came up to me and said, `Yeah, remember you told me to write the name down on the tickets.' I said, `Hah, I told Jarq to write the name down on the tickets. And (Leggett) started laughing, `I thought I could get you.'
"I said, I remember Jarq because Jarq would ask me every single day. `So those four tickets are legit, right?' And I'd tell Jarq, `Yeah, I got ya.' ... I've got to take care of my boys up front. I told A.J, `Maybe if you give Jarq two of your FAU tickets and you want another interception (Leggett has two), he can help you get one."
Only Louisville, with 39, has more Sunshine Staters on the roster than Marshall among out-of-state FBS programs. After the Herd's 34, Troy has 28, Wake Forest 27 and Navy 25.
While Leggett tried to buffalo Bazzie out of his four seats, another Miamian was just disappointed in the delivery to the aggressive Samuel.
Junior slot receiver Tommy Shuler said he will needs "20-25" tickets, if he can get them. It seems he's behind the curve, with only six ... and he blames some of that on Bazzie's deal with Samuel.
"I don't even know why," Shuler said of the ducat-dealing. "(Bazzie) comes up to my house every day, so that means I've got to start kicking him out because he didn't even give me those tickets."
And it's still early.
"It's only Monday, so we've got about four more days to go," Shuler said. "I know they're about to get crazy about the tickets ... I haven't even gotten the high school coaches and my park coaches and the neighborhood. Some of them are going to have to pay their way in."
That might not be a problem. FAU Stadium seats 29,419, but the Owls drew only 13,911 for their only home game (in six outings), a Sept. 21 overtime loss to Middle Tennessee.
# # #
Holliday said at his Tuesday news conference that the Herd is prepared for this homecoming of sorts.
"The one thing, and we started talking about it on Sunday, is fortunately -- and unfortunately -- we have 34 kids from Florida on the roster. That's a good thing - because they're good players - but the one thing when you go on the road, and you go home ... you have to eliminate distractions.
"Distractions are one thing anytime you go on the road, you've got to make sure you eliminate. Their going home will be a little bit of an issue for us, but what we'll do on that is we've got a two-hour window, from 7-9 (p.m. Friday) we'll set aside -- I'll be in there -- and they can come (to the team hotel) and see their families ... After that, it's all business and it's all football..
"I can't take those kids down to Florida and they can't see their families? What are we talking about? So, they'll get a chance, maybe they haven't seen mom and dad for a long time and (maybe) mom and dad have never seen them play in college, so this is the first time.
"It will be a great opportunity for them to get a chance to see them and we'll do it the right way. Our kids understand this is a business trip and we're going down there to try and find a way to win a game."
# # #
Holliday and his staff selected captains for the FAU game, and while the offensive captains are repeaters from earlier this season - center Chris Jasperse (fourth game in a row) and quarterback Rakeem Cato (three times) - the defensive captains are new faces in linebacker Neville Hewitt and end Ra'Shawde Myers.
# # #
Jordan Jeffries' long Marshall football career is over, Holliday announced. The 6-foot-8, 310-pound left offensive tackle from Oswego, Ill., has missed the last two games, after playing only nine snaps as Gage Niemeyer's backup in a loss at Ohio.
"He got a hip (injury), and doctors told him every time he steps back onto that practice field, it's going to affect him as far as his quality of life down the road," Holliday said of Jeffries, an MU engineering major who has 15 career starts and was the 2012 regular. "He's made that decision, the right decision."
The lineman played 28 games in a Marshall uniform.
Jeffries' loss and the recent of backup guard Josh Lovell to leave the team diminishes the Herd's offensive line depth. Holliday said Beckley native Clint Van Horn is expected back with the group this week after sitting out (concussion) the Homecoming win over UTSA.
Holliday said starting right tackle Garrett Scott will also back up at left tackle when Van Horn subs in at right tackle. True freshman Michael Selby is backing up at both guard spots.
Jeffries and starting defensive end Jeremiah Taylor, out indefinitely with the back injury, will have similar roles now, although the latter may return later in the season.
"Unfortunately, we've lost JT and we've lost Jordan, but somebody else has to step up and fill the void, and they will," Holliday said. "Jordan will be no different than JT.
"He'll be at practice every day; the only difference is instead of a uniform, he'll have a whistle and a hat on. He's a great kid, going to be an engineer someday, and he'll be fine."
Jeffries' departure from the field leaves only four Herd players who were 2009 scholarship signees under former MU coach Mark Snyder - defensive linemen James Rouse and Matt Pickett, cornerback Monterius Lovett, and offensive guard Alex Schooler.