Wednesday, April 12, 2006
AN ABSURDLY PREMATURE ASSESSMENT OF: MARSHALL
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SMQ spins the wheel for a hastily-rendered, too-soon look at a random school's prospects for the fall, sans inevitable academic and criminal suspensions, sudden transfers, debilitating injuries and other miscellaneous misfortunes of the long summer
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Thinning of the Herd's NFL-worthy ranks on offense has driven it off the postseason prairie - for good?
PAST FIVE SEASONS: 40-21 (31-11 MAC/C-USA) - 2005: 4-7 (3-5 C-USA)
STARTERS BACK, ROUGHLY: 19 (10 Offense, 9 Defense)
WHAT'S CHANGED: In a mere two years, the high-flying dominance that made Marshall the most consistently dominating mid-major/minor in the country has dissolved into a conservative, run-first unit that lost almost as many conference games (5) in its first season in Conference USA than it did in four previous seasons in the MAC combined (6). SMQ would love to tout the superior mid-majorness of C-USA here, but...more likely, the Herd just hasn't had a Moss, Pennington or Leftwich anywhere in sight.
WHAT'S THE SAME: Like, everything, outside of the secondary, your opinion of which serves as a kind of Rorschach test for your personality: hooray for lots of experience (the glass is half-full), or boo for the same old schlubs who went 4-7 and lost to East Carolina (I don't see any glass)?
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19 returning starters...who averaged 18 points per game.
THE WAITING GAME: The unspoken pall over Spring practice is the impending doomsday of May 15, when lone star Ahmad Bradshaw is set to be sentenced for the otherwise hilarious crime of stealing a PlayStation2 from another student's dorm room in January. He faces up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine; the team faces the prospect of starting a little-used sophomore named - really - Chubb Small.
The fall from squadron of death to sadsack afterthought on offense was officially cemented with 2005's mostly poor quarterback play, which is largely accountable for twice failing to score a touchdown against unranked opponents (UTEP and Memphis) and always failing to score 30 points against a I-A opponent. For SMQ's money - and one of these guys is about all poor SMQ could afford, really - Bernard Morris is preferable to Jimmy Skinner entirely because of his scrambling ability, though it was Skinner who almost brought the Herd back from two touchdowns back for a debilitating victory over Southern Miss, the only time SMQ actually watched Marshall last year.
VERY SPECIAL TEAMS: Which brings him to the sorry state of UM kicking, which cost it not only the USM game in devastating fashion, but also the two-point loss to K-State - a two game difference that would have been good enough for another winning record and probably some postseason bucks. At 8-17 kicking for the season, it's fortunate that's all they lost. Freshman David DeFatta only played in the USM game, and went 1-3 with the two crucial misses from point-blank. In every other contest, Ian O'Connor went 7 of 14, and just 1 of 6 beyond 40 yards. If the offense isn't going to put up points galore, a few of those kicks are going to have to go through on the way to a bowl game.
OVERLY OPTIMISTIC SPRING PRACICE-BASED CHATTER: According to rivals.com Marshall beat writer Aaron Perkins' consistent updates, the weather has been amazing in Huntington this week.
Otherwise, Herd fans are being held hostage wih anticipation by countdowns: in addition to rivals' "Who Will Play [insert position]?" series, the school's media site is setting the ticker to the season-opening bloodbath at West Virginia. "A Rivalry Renewed," indeed, and then quickly discontinued again following Steve Slayton's game-icing third touchdown. Only 142 days, 01 hours, 29 minutes, 11 seconds to go! 10...9...
REASON(S) FOR HOPE: Judges used to crystal meth and couch-burning cases are likely to go easy on the PlayStation2 thing...
REASON TO BE AFRAID, VERY AFRAID: ...or are cynical hard-liners, unfeeling in the ways of potential reliance on lousy quarterbacks.
IF THIS TEAM WERE ANY POP CULTURAL, HISTORICAL, POLITICAL, LITERARY OR OTHERWISE NOTABLE FIGURE, IT WOULD BE... The United States Postal Service, which, like the hard-nosed Herd, allows neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night to stay its couriers' appointed rounds, or lightly-attended Spring scrimmages, respectively.
HONESTLY, WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE SCHEDULE, SMQ'S THINKING: 6-5, teensy minor insignificant bowl. One year does not a trend make - Marshall was close enough in '05 to think that, getting almost everybody back, it can maintain some semblance of tradition, however dilluted.
Previous absurdly premature assessments:
April 3: Central Michigan...April 4: Brigham Young...April 6: Kentucky...April 7: Bowling Green...April 8: Southern Cal...April 11: Rutgers
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