By Woody Woodrum,
Senior Editor, Herd Insider (goherd.com) --
HUNTINGTON - Take four superstar former Marshall players, add in the biggest and best-ever Big Green Banquet/Hall of Fame Induction, mix in a little Gloriana with over 11,000 Herd fans and stir in some soggy Herd players, what you have is a great weekend for the first-year head coach of the Thundering Herd, Doc Holliday, and his 2010 MU football program.
Sure, it could have rained less. But hardy Herd fans enjoyed a pre-game and half-time show by the band Gloriana, a CMA nominee in the new group category in 2010 and especially enjoyed 469 yards of offense, four touchdowns and a 30-yard field goal by Tyler Warner in a 17-14 win by the Green over the White.
The offense was bottled up by the defense in last week’s scrimmage, but came out as quickly as the sun disappeared over the tailgaters who began to gather well before noon.
Quarterback Brian Anderson drove the first unit 70 yards in six plays in just 2:34, pushing the first touchdown in on a 19-yard scoring pass to South Charleston sophomore receiver Aaron Dobson.
Dobson would lead all receivers with 76 yards receiving on four catches, and senior Tavaris Thompson also caught four. Wayne Bonner had five catches for 65 yards and running back Julian Poindexter had four catches for 46 yards.
Aaron Dobson caught this 19-yard touchdown pass to start the scoring in the 2010 Green-White game on Saturday in Huntington. photo by Greg Perry/HI staff.
Graham came right back and moved the No. 2 offense 70 yards in nine plays, taking just 2:36 to get a score in quick-scoring drives reminiscent of those by Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich, who were joined by Randy Moss and John Wade in entering the MU HOF at Friday night’s banquet.
Graham ran for a five-yard touchdown to finish the drive. In the series, he ran for 16 yards and hit Bonner on a 32-yard pass.
“We’ve got several different ways we can hurt you,” said Graham, a redshirt freshman from Tallahasse, Fla.
Anderson was a combined (for both green and white teams) 11-for-18 for 131 yards. He led the green down the field to start the third quarter for what were the winning points when Warner nailed a field goal as the skies really opened.
The scrimmage went just eight more plays after the Warner field goal set the final.
"I thought, offensively, we went in there and executed well at times," said MU coach Doc Holliday. "Again, you win with defense, and the first couple of series, they didn't play real well. They played a little better later on.
"There toward the end, we've had a good spring. We probably got as much out of these kids as we possibly could. It got sloppy out there, and I just didn't want to get a kid hurt in those conditions."
Mark Cann and Press Taylor got a couple of snaps each in the worst of the rain. Cann hit 1-of-2 for 12 yards, finding Bonner for a first down, and was tackled for a two-yard loss by James Rouse. Taylor threw to Billy Mitchell for a five-yard gain in his only pass.
Graham was 14-for-20 for 166 passing, and rushed 10 times for 22 yards, including three sacks. The redshirt freshman has gotten better each time out under the tutoring of MU quarterback coach Tony Petersen, a MU HOF member himself at QB for the Herd in 1987, throwing for over 4,000 yards.
Quarterback A.J. Graham launched this throw toward Antavious Wilson (82) that ended with a 20-yard touchdown (see photo, below) - photo by Greg Perry/HI staff.
The ground game saw 66 rushing yards for sophomore running backs Andre Booker and Martin Ward on 15 carries. Combined, the offensive players rushed 36 times for 127 yards, 3.6 yards per carry with the defense taking some yards back on five sacks and 11 tackles for loss.
Also running well was red-shirt freshman Essray Taliaferro, who had 29 yards on four carries.
“After what happened last week, we made the adjustments, had the focus and showed what we can do,” said Anderson, a senior and starter in 2009. “It was another learning day for us.”
Ward scored over from two yards out to give the Green a 14-7 lead with 5:42 left in the second period. Graham drove the Green on a 10-play, 80-yard drive.
Back came Graham for the White in the last drive before halftime. The frosh pushed the team 52 yards in nine plays before finding wide out Antavious Wilson for the 20-yard TD just 15 seconds before halftime.
Antavious Wilson caught this 20-yard touchdown from A.J. Graham in the Green-White game on Saturday - photo by Greg Perry/HI staff.
The crowd was good up until the big rains started during halftime, while Gloriana fans mixed with Herd fans used to a little rain on their football.
Tyler Warner’s 30-yard field goal with 3:25 left in the third quarter wrapped the scoring. Anderson moved the offense from its own 30-yard line to the 13-yard line where the drive stalled when tight end Billy Mitchell dropped two passes in the drive and let Marques Aiken knock away a third and 11 after Gale tackled him for a one-yard loss on second and ten.
Booker led MU runners with 44 yards on 10 carries while Graham finished with 43 yards on 10 carries on the day, sacked three times for 21 yards in losses that taken away would have had the quarterback at 64 yards running the ball.
On defense, Derek Mitchell had eight tackles for both sides and George Carpenter had seven while Tyson Gale recorded six. There were no turnovers.
"Last week, as you all know, the defense beat us," Anderson said. "All through the week, we made it a point to focus, and show what we could do today, and come back with a win."
Anderson and Graham were both impressed when Leftwich and Pennington sat in with them in the meeting room on Saturday morning, watching film and giving tips on QB play.
"They were talking about how the small things are so important," Anderson said. "At this level, everybody can throw a ball very well. They were telling about a lot of the small things, like reading defenses and footwork."
Defensive end Vinny Curry did not play, and was simply held out on a coach's decision.
"He had a knee injury in that bowl game, and he was healthy, had 14 practices and I just took him out," Holliday said. "I didn't want to take a chance on injuring him in the 15th practice; that's my call."
Marshall coach Doc Holliday watched as his team battled during the Green-White game on Saturday in Huntington - photo by Greg Perry/HI staff.
Injured players held out included linebacker Howard King (knee), DE John Youboty, RB Troy Evans - who fielded punts and limping off like Fred Sanford after each catch, centers John Bruin and Chad Scofield, WR Michael Rhynes, RB Marquel Ali and safeties Omar Brown and Pete Culicerto.
Senior tight end Lee Smith drug defensive tackle Johnny Jones downfield on a four-yard catch, turning an ankle. Smith waived Mitchell back to the sidelines, not about to come out of the game.
His quarterback was impressed by his toughness, but hopes Smith will also learn to listen in these situations.
“He’s a big guy. He's pretty stubborn, too," Anderson said. "I think he probably should have gone off the field, personally, but it's good to know you've got somebody out there like that who's tough and can drag some guys around." Smith had three catches for 33 yards, dragging fellow players on each catch for extra yards.
The game capped off a tremendous weekend for Marshall alumni and fans. NFL stars Moss, Pennington, Wade and Byron Leftwich were inducted into the Marshall University Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night in front of a record crowd of 1,200 at the annual Big Green Scholarship Foundation Dinner Presented by Pepsi and Sheetz.
A crowd of 11,819 - second-biggest ever at Marshall for a spring game - enjoyed the concert by Gloriana both before -and at halftime- of the Green and White game on Saturday - photo by Greg Perry/HI staff.
Saturday morning more than 100 former letterwinners attended a town hall meeting at the Cam Henderson to discuss the future of Marshall Athletics and thousands turned out for pre-game tailgating and the spring game later in the afternoon.