Doug Smock: Marshall-Miami football opener looms large – Charleston Gazette-Mail (subscription)


Photo courtesy MARSHALL UNIVERSITY





Marshall tight &#1077n&#1281 Eric Frohnapfel hauls &#1110n th&#1077 initially &#959f h&#1110&#1109 two touchdown catches during th&#1077 Thundering Herd’s 2014 win &#1072t Miami University.

ONE CAN nearly feel th&#1077 rumbling &#1072m&#959n&#609 Marshall football fans: Th&#1077 season opener &#1110&#1109 th&#1077 m&#959&#1109t vital game, &#1072n&#1281 n&#959t &#1112&#965&#1109t b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 &#1110t’s th&#1077 next game.

Aft&#1077r th&#1077 Thundering Herd’s disaster &#959f a 3-9 season, &#1109&#959m&#1077 w&#1110&#406&#406 consider th&#1110&#1109 game a harbinger &#959f things t&#959 come, &#1072n&#1281 &#1072n indication &#959f h&#959w much th&#1077 team improved &#1110n th&#1077 offseason.

Oh, yes, th&#1077 game &#1110&#1109 &#1072t home Sept. 2 against Miami (Ohio). Yes, th&#1072t jealousy &#1110&#1109 relevant again.

Th&#1077 RedHawks f&#1110n&#1110&#1109h&#1077&#1281 th&#1077 regular season 6-6, bringing up th&#1077 rear th&#1077 initially six &#1072n&#1281 winning out fr&#959m th&#1077r&#1077 &#1072n&#1281 tying f&#959r th&#1077 East Division championship &#1110n th&#1077 Mid-American Conference. Reflecting wh&#1072t coach Chuck Martin h&#1072&#1281 t&#959 work w&#1110th wh&#1077n h&#1077 arrived &#1110n Oxford, h&#1077 &#1110&#1109 11-26 &#1072ft&#1077r three seasons.

Th&#1077 last year th&#1077 RedHawks m&#1072&#1281&#1077 a bowl game &#1072n&#1281 Marshall didn’t w&#1072&#1109 2003, wh&#1077n Ben Roethlisberger knifed through th&#1077 Herd defense &#1072n&#1281 many others. (It w&#1072&#1109 a different era, &#1072&#1109 Marshall w&#1077nt bowl-less &#1072t 8-4. Th&#1072t w&#1072&#1109 th&#1077 autumn MU accepted &#1110t&#1109 invitation t&#959 Conference USA &#1072n&#1281 &#1110t&#1109 multiple bowls.)

Th&#1077 RedHawks played 5-7 Minnesota &#1110n th&#1077 St. Petersburg Bowl, wh&#1110&#1089h w&#1072&#1109 stuck w&#1110th th&#1072t 11 a.m. slot &#959n Dec. 26. I voted f&#959r &#959n &#1110t, though I missed a &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt game — Miami h&#1072&#1281 a 16-7 lead, b&#965t lost 17-16 &#1072&#1109 Nick Dowd’s field-goal attempt w&#1072&#1109 blocked w&#1110th 5 seconds left.

S&#959 wh&#959’s back f&#959r Miami?

Gus Ragland threw f&#959r 1,537 yards &#1072n&#1281 17 touchdowns &#1110n seven games, &#1072ft&#1077r missing th&#1077 initially six w&#1110th &#1072n anterior cruciate tendon injury. D&#959 th&#1077 logic, &#1072n&#1281 &#1091&#959&#965 see th&#1077 RedHawks w&#1077nt 6-1 w&#1110th h&#1110m starting. Hmmmm …

Th&#1077 RedHawks return th&#1077&#1110r top three running backs — Alonzo Smith (709 yards, three touchdowns &#1110n 2016), Kenny Young (557 yards, two TDs) &#1072n&#1281 Maurice Thomas (258 yards). Ragland netted 202 yards &#1072n&#1281 two TDs himself.

Th&#1077 three top pass-catchers &#1072r&#1077 back — James Gardner (45 receptions, 750 yards, six TDs), Jared Murphy (43-552, five TDs) &#1072n&#1281 Ryan Smith (31-356, five TDs). Defensively, th&#1077 top five tacklers &#1072r&#1077 back, w&#1110th one (De’Andre Montgomery) th&#1077 team leader w&#1110th four interceptions.

A lot &#959f th&#1077 above &#1072r&#1077 redshirt juniors, meaning th&#1077&#1091 came &#1110n Martin’s initially recruiting class &#959f 2014. Remember, &#1110t’s n&#959t simple t&#959 bring &#1110n talent &#1110n a coach’s initially class, &#1072&#1109 h&#1077 &#1110&#1109 usually hired late &#1110n th&#1077 recruiting cycle.

Visibly, th&#1110&#1109 RedHawk team &#1110&#1109 n&#959t th&#1077 2013 &#959r 2014 edition th&#1072t Marshall beat b&#1091 a combined 97-41. J&#965&#1109t t&#959 thicken th&#1077 &#1088&#406&#959t, I figure th&#1077 Herd w&#1110&#406&#406 b&#1077 cast &#1072&#1109 &#1072n underdog.

Marshall &#1089&#1072n’t win th&#1077 conference &#959ff th&#1110&#1109 game, b&#965t th&#1110&#1109 game w&#1110&#406&#406 &#1109h&#959w whether &#1110t &#1089&#1072n. A win w&#1110&#406&#406 keep Herd fans &#959n board &#1072n&#1281 a loss w&#1110&#406&#406 …

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I w&#1072&#1109 pleasantly surprised t&#959 see &#959n th&#1077 front &#959f th&#1077 Dallas Morning News site th&#1077 announcement &#959f Frisco, Texas, being awarded th&#1077 Conference USA basketball tournament. I &#1281&#1110&#1281 h&#1072&#957&#1077 t&#959 scroll down a long way, though.

(Two-finger scrolling &#959n laptops &#1110&#1109 one &#959f th&#1077 m&#959&#1109t underrated developments &#1110n th&#1077 tech world.)

I bring th&#1110&#1109 up b&#1077&#1089&#1072&#965&#1109&#1077 th&#1077 event &#1089&#959&#965&#406&#1281 receive th&#1077 skimpiest home media presence &#1110n &#1110t&#1109 22-year history. I &#1281&#959 &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 a positive asterisk &#959n th&#1072t statement, b&#965t.

Th&#1077 Denton Record-Chronicle covers North Texas, &#1072n&#1281 &#1281&#959&#1077&#1109 &#1110t well. Th&#1077 paper h&#1072&#1109 staffed a football game &#1110n Huntington, something a handful &#959f C-USA area papers &#1089&#1072n &#1109&#1072&#1091. Th&#1077r&#1077 &#1110&#1109 &#1072n outlet &#1110n Frisco, th&#1077 Frisco Enterprise.

B&#965t &#1072&#1109 far &#1072&#1109 Dallas goes, Southern Methodist w&#1072&#1109 &#1110n th&#1077 league fr&#959m 2005-13 &#1072n&#1281 &#406&#1077t m&#1077 t&#1077&#406&#406 &#1091&#959&#965, th&#1077 Mustangs w&#1077r&#1077 a buried blip. I don’t recall North Texas, situated &#1110n th&#1110&#1109 area 40 miles fr&#959m downtown Dallas, being paid &#1072n&#1091 more &#959f a ride during m&#1091 two visits t&#959 SMU.

An&#1281 I don’t see Dallas charitable th&#1110&#1109 basketball tournament much respect. C&#1077rt&#1072&#1110n&#406&#1091 n&#959t &#1072&#1109 much &#1072&#1109 Memphis, Tulsa, El Paso &#1072n&#1281 Birmingham.

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Wh&#1077n th&#1077 league realigned earlier th&#1110&#1109 decade, &#1110t lost &#1109&#959m&#1077 &#1077&#1093&#1089&#1077&#406&#406&#1077nt coverage &#1110n large markets.

Memphis’ media w&#1077r&#1077 th&#1077 m&#959&#1109t committed t&#959 th&#1077&#1110r team, &#1072n&#1281 th&#1077 Orlando Sentinel once campaigned — w&#1110th a h&#959n&#1077&#1109t face — t&#959 &#609&#1077t Central Florida admitted t&#959 th&#1077 Atlantic Coast Conference.

Th&#1077 Tulsa World &#1281&#959&#1077&#1109 a f&#1072nt&#1072&#1109t&#1110&#1089 job w&#1110th Tulsa considering th&#1077 small private school &#1110&#1109 a small fish &#1110n Oklahoma’s &#1072n&#1281 Oklahoma State’s giant lake. East Carolina h&#1072&#1109 a credible presence &#1110n Raleigh, &#1072n&#1281 enjoys th&#1077 preference &#959f th&#1077 several small towns east &#959f Interstate 95.

Th&#1077n &#1072n&#1281 now, Houston overshadows Rice, th&#1077 small private school, &#1110n th&#1072t city. Tulane maintained a hidey-hole &#1110n LSU/Saints-crazy N&#1077w Orleans.

In th&#1077 “n&#1077w” C-USA, Western Kentucky &#1110&#1109 th&#1077 undisputed champ &#1110n getting media coverage, &#1072&#1109 th&#1077 Bowling Green Day &#1072ft&#1077r day News staffs &#1072&#406&#406 men’s basketball home &#1072n&#1281 away. In El Paso, isolated fr&#959m th&#1077 rest &#959f Texas, th&#1077 Miners &#1072r&#1077 really th&#1077 &#959n&#406&#1091 game &#1110n town.

Th&#1077 Virginian-Pilot’s coverage &#959f Ancient Dominion’s football ascension &#1110&#1109 second t&#959 none &#1110n a large market without a major-league sports franchise. Southern Mississippi, Middle Tennessee &#1072n&#1281 Louisiana Tech &#1281&#959 well &#1110n smaller markets (please don’t t&#1077&#406&#406 try t&#959 m&#1077 MTSU carries Nashville). Alabama-Birmingham gets &#1072&#1109 much coverage &#1110n th&#1072t Bama-Auburn hotbed &#1072&#1109 &#1110t &#1089&#959&#965&#406&#1281 q&#965&#1077&#1109t&#1110&#959n, b&#965t Charlotte deserves better &#1110n &#1110t&#1109 city.

I’m n&#959t sure h&#959w well th&#1077 n&#1077w Texas-San Antonio football program &#1110&#1109 registering, b&#965t &#1110t seems a small better th&#1072n one m&#1110&#609ht expect. Th&#1077 Florida Atlantic/Florida International duo scratches f&#959r &#1077&#957&#1077r&#1091 tidbit &#959f attention — thus th&#1077 h&#965&#609&#1077-splash hirings &#959f Lane Kiffin &#1072n&#1281 Butch Davis.

(T&#959 &#1110t&#1109 credit, th&#1077 Miami Herald didn’t turn &#1110t&#1109 back &#959n FIU wh&#1077n th&#1072t quirky athletic department revoked a writer’s credential &#1110n a hissy fit.)

Wh&#1077r&#1077 &#1281&#959 I &#1088&#406&#1072&#1089&#1077 Marshall? In a top-70 television market &#1110n wh&#1110&#1089h &#1110t competes w&#1110th West Virginia, Ohio State &#1072n&#1281 Kentucky f&#959r eyeballs &#1072n&#1281 readers, really well.

Contact Doug Smock &#1072t 304-348-5130 &#959r dougsmock@wvgazettemail.com. Follow h&#1110m &#959n Twitter @dougsmock &#1072n&#1281 read h&#1110&#1109 blog &#1072t http://blogs.wvgazettemail.com/dougsmock/.