The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

August 23, 2012

Mountaineers can’t take opener with Marshall lightly

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia, ranked 11th in the Associated Press preseason football poll, should be a solid favorite in the Sept. 1 season’s opener against Marshall.

But the Mountaineers can’t afford to take the Thundering Herd lightly. Doc Holliday could have a few surprises up his sleeve.

Who can forget that just two years ago, West Virginia had to go overtime for a 24-21 victory over Marshall in Huntington.

That was Holliday’s first year as a head coach at the college level. And he probably feels Marshall played well enough to have won that nail-biter.

Forty-eight lettermen returned from last year’s Marshall team that lost 34-13 to WVU in Morgantown.

Hopefully, the Mountaineers won’t take James Madison lightly either in that Sept. 15 meeting at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. That will be “Sam Huff Day” in honor of the all-time Mountaineer and NFL legend.  

James Madison went into Blacksburg, Va., two years ago and upset nationally ranked Virginia Tech. The Dukes were 8-5 last year.

Coach Mickey Matthews has 50 lettermen returning, including 17 starters.

But coach Dana Holgorsen and his WVU staff are pleased with what their players accomplished in fall camp.

“No question, I am satisfied,” defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said about his group’s performance. “We are exactly where I thought we would be.

“There have been some players that have risen to the top. We have so much healthy competition that the guys are fighting for playing time.”

But DeForest hastened to add that all jobs are open, pending the selection of  starters.

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said, “I think we’re better everywhere. If you look at our first group, our O-line is solid and we have four good receivers.

“We wanted to find the best four guys to put on the field, and I feel like we’ve got that. And quarterback Geno Smith is what he is.

“And our running backs have been great. Our first group is solid and I feel like they’re all better than they were the first day of camp.”

WVU coaches have indicated that they will be making definite personnel decisions before this week is out. At the same time, they will be mapping a game plan for the Marshall lid-lifter.

Dawson said, “We don’t ever game-plan anybody the week before the game. Some people game-plan all summer, and I’m just glad I don’t work for people like that.”