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Marshall football: Herd prepared to battle elements

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. -- Marshall's football players aren't strangers to crazy weather.

They slogged through a rainstorm of biblical proportions last year in Orlando against Central Florida.

Defensive end Jeremiah Taylor remembers a practice late one season where the temperature was 13 degrees.

What they may face starting today, though, might be a little different ... and more difficult.

Hurricane Sandy barreled through the eastern seaboard and its effects could be felt as far as Huntington. It probably won't be the mountains of snow predicted for West Virginia's higher elevations. Yet it might be a combination of precipitation and wind that could throw a wrench into Marshall's preparation for Saturday's 2 p.m. game against Memphis (1-7, 1-3 Conference USA).

After the Thundering Herd's disappointing showing in a 54-17 home loss to UCF last Saturday, quarterback Rakeem Cato said the team must literally weather the storm to be as ready as possible for the visiting Tigers.

"All of us know what football's all about," Cato said. "It's an outdoor game. We've got to prepare ourselves the best way we can to go out there and have a great practice, no matter what the weather is."

It was an optimistic outlook Cato had Monday, but the Herd will have to wait until it takes the field at Edwards Stadium this afternoon to know if it was a realistic one. Sandy will smack West Virginia with varying degrees of power, depending on where you live. Residents near Snowshoe may see as much as two feet of snow, while Beckley residents could see a foot or so. Charleston could get an inch on the ground.

Huntington is on the far western edge of the storm, so snow wasn't in today's National Weather Service forecast as of Monday afternoon. But there's a 100-percent chance of rain and winds predicted at 15 to 21 miles per hour, with gusts as high as 41 mph. So while the Herd may not have to get to practice via sled dog, it will almost definitely be wet and kick and punt return practice might have to be shelved for at least one day.

There are few alternatives to the Edwards Stadium turf for practice.

Ground has not yet been broken on a proposed indoor practice facility that could open in 2014. And while a practice in the elements wouldn't be optimal, the players don't want to toss out a day to prepare.

"It'll be frustrating if we don't get out there to practice," sixth-year guard John Bruhin said. "It definitely gets our mind off losses and helps us push forward through the week."

If the weather is so bad that practice won't work outdoors, the Herd (3-5, 2-2) will get by however it can. The players might have to crowd into the locker room and do walkthroughs there.

That's happened before when lightning has struck, Taylor said. The offense goes to one side of the room and the defense goes to the other. And if on-field work can't happen, the players can double down on film analysis.

They can still work the plays out in their heads.

"We still have to go out there and get those looks and mental reps," Taylor said. "When you have weather like that, the mental reps are just as important as the physical reps. You get the mental reps and see what you're doing and the plays you're going to get, that helps out as much."

*  *  *

MARSHALL PUNTER Tyler Williams was included in the final list of 69 candidates for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to college football's best punter. Williams, a freshman, is ninth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a 45.97-yard-per-punt average. Twelve of his 29 punts this season have been placed inside the opponent's 20-yard line.

The list of 69 will be pared down to 10 semifinalists on Nov. 9. Three finalists will be named Nov. 19 and the winner will be named at the Home Depot College Football Awards on Dec. 6.

Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at derek.redd@dailymail.com or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall.                                                                                                                                                                                          

 


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